Speaking Arts Conference

8th Annual Speaking Art 2011

Each year, our Speaking Art Conference for Jewish and Arab professionals in the performing arts gets better and better. This year, the 8th annual conference opened on November 16, which was also International Tolerance Day, and was held for two days at the Jerusalem International YMCA, the Beit Masia Theater and the Vertigo Studios at the Blaustein Civic Center. About 70 Jewish and Arab artists came together from all over Israel. This year, for the first time, 70% of the participants came from the Jerusalem area, the highest it’s ever been.

We’d like to thank the Dear Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of the conference. The conference started with a workshop led by social activist Elad Vazana and renowned American choreographer Donald Byrd, followed by a guest workshop with famous singer Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) and guitarist Gili Dor. As part of the workshop, the participants engaged in a discussion with Nini and Dor about using music as a tool for dialogue between the Arabs and Jews.

After the opening, the conference participants engaged in either music, theater or dance workshops led by professional artists in their respective fields. In the workshops, the participants not only had the opportunity to take part in professional enrichment, but were also able to unite with their Jewish and Arab colleagues to learn from them and to create dialogue through art and creativity.

The Jerusalem YMCA hosted the music workshop led by composer, musician and singer Sameer Makhoul. The group played a variety of songs together and explored other cultures through the songs.

The theater workshop was held at Beit Masia in conjunction with Jerusalem’s Psik Theater. Led by Hisham Suleiman, a director, actor, playwright and founder of the Nazareth Fringe Theater, and Shmuel Hadjes, actor and founder of Psik, the participants developed short pieces based on personal stories of conflict, discussing everyday encounters between Jews and Arabs.

The movement and dance workshop was hosted by the Vertigo dance group at the Gerard Behar Blaustein Civic Center, and was led by Ilanit Tadmor, a professional dancer and teacher of improvisation and composition. Donald Byrd, Tony Award nominee and Bessie Award winner, participated in the conference as part of his research project at the Foundation for Jewish Culture, in which he is studying the role of the performing arts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

As part of the Conference, two concerts were open to the public. The first took place at Beit Masia and featured the Jewish performers Achinoam Nini and Gili Dor together with Arab dancer Mona Mashi’l. The conference closed with a performance by well-known Arab singer Amal Murkus to an audience of 500 a new record for closing concert attendance.

Here is a link to a short film taken at the rehearsal for the concert.

We are especially proud of the ongoing activities that have sprouted as a result of Speaking Art. The first is the Jewish – Arab theater group that meets at the Jerusalem International YMCA, Freeze, which was started by Speaking Art ‘graduates’ in 2009. Also of special mention is a core of some 6 musicians who continued to meet in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem after the 2010 conference. Instances of additional cooperative work that have resulted from this past Speaking Art conference include:

  1. Achinoam Nini and Mona Mashi’l are exploring possibilities of working together further.
  2. The director of the Jewish – Arab Center in Jaffa is seeking to work with the music group that formed at Speaking Art.
  3. The Jewish-Arab music ensemble, Na’am, is seeking to add musicians from the music group to its ranks.
  4. The Jewish and Arab facilitators of the theater group, Shmulik Hadjes and Hisham Suleiman, have met to discuss further work together as well.

Some of our participants’ feedbacks:

“It was the best Speaking Art conference yet”

“Thank you for creating this conference, which provides an excellent platform for acquaintance and mutual activity! May we continue having dialogue and making art in the coming years!!!”

“Many thanks to you at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center and your partners: Dear Foundation, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem International YMCA for holding this conference. For Jews and Arabs who wish to listen and cooperate it was a blissful event”.

“This time the event was so much emotional for me that I found myself crying while watching some of the acts. The workshop with Samir was fantastic and the live performances were phenomenal! The standard of the conference this year was highest than ever. Bless you!”

“I want to express my appreciation to the center’s staff. The big effort put into the conference is very evident. Well done!”

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2014-07-11T09:13:24+00:00November 20th, 2011|Arts, Blog, Jewish-Palestinian/Arab, Speaking Arts Conference|

Speaking Art Conference: Triggering Activity year-round – Follow-up Meeting on June 2011

By Naomi Roff Kohn, The Jerusalem Foundation:

Published at the Jerusalem Foundation site.

Understanding Each Other Through Music
June 2011

The Speaking Art Conference, held every December for the past seven years, is an opportunity for Jewish and Arab artists in the field of music, theater and dance to work together, thus getting to know other performing arts projects from different cultures and groups throughout Israel.

In order to strengthen the impact of the conference and to increase continuity from year to year, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem Intercultural Center (JICC), have begun to hold mid-year meetings, bringing the artists together for shared activities, to strengthen their bonds and friendships, and to discuss suggestions for the next festival.

On June 16, 2011 some 20 Jewish and Arab artists participated in the mid-year meeting with a jam-packed day. It started with a workshop by Shmuel Hadjes, founder and director of the Jerusalem-based Psik Theater, and Hisham Suleiman, founder and director of the Nazereth Fringe Theater, entitled “The Internal Conflict.”

Speaking Arts workshop at the JICC house - June 2011

Speaking Arts workshop at the JICC house – June 2011

Musicians continued their work on a text they prepared during the last conference while other participants discussed how their religious and national identity influenced their work as artists.

After lunch the group visited the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, to broaden participants’ familiarity with the art scene in east Jerusalem. Since many of the participants were not from Jerusalem, the group also toured the Christian and Jewish Quarters of the Old City and visited holy sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Discussions were held on how the November annual event can be improved, expanded, and strengthened.

The day ended with an one-hour concert of the Jewish-Arab band Na’am in the JICC’s garden. The participants gathered around the band, listened to the music and it was a wonderful end to an enriching day.

Evening Concert at the JICC garden - June 2011

Evening Concert at the JICC garden – June 2011

A clip of the afternoon concert at the JICC beautiful garden (thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation):

Original at: http://youtu.be/wdt3eUPn9xY

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The Jerusalem Foundation’s quarterly publication (December 2010) focuses on the JICC

We at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center have had a very close and fruitful relationship with the Jerusalem Foundation since day 1. Indeed, they were among our founding partners and continue to be one of our important strategic partners today. In 2003, in recognition of our expertise and experience, we and the Jerusalem Foundation formulated a strategy that responds to the diversity challenges in the city. A critical element includes leading new initiatives that seek to train strong leaders and agents of change, who will be able to lead widening circles of children, youth and adults – each in their own context – toward a livable future in Jerusalem, regardless of future political realities. This has included training grassroots and project leaders, providing language and communication skills and acting as a resource for all. This past summer the Jerusalem Foundation also renovated our historic building on Mt. Zion, enabling participants in our programs to enjoy our special facility with modern comforts and safety.

Jerusalem Foundation Windows December 2010 - Cover

Jerusalem Foundation Windows December 2010 – Cover

This December’s edition of the Jerusalem Foundation’s quarterly publication, Windows, featured its leading coexistence projects, nearly all of them under the leadership of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center. The articles focus on our community work in East Jerusalem, our Cultural Competence in Health Program and our annual Speaking Arts Conference. These are, of course, are just a few examples of the work of the JICC in Jerusalem. On the cover, there is a picture of our building, newly-renovated by the Jerusalem Foundation through the generous support of Professor Dr. Jan-Philipp Reemtsma, the Hamburg Foundation for the Promotion of Science and Culture.

We appreciate this partnership with the Jerusalem Partnership and are excited to see it grow.

Link to the Windows publication (Acrobat – PDF) – click here.

For Acrobat 5 compatible version of the publication (in case the above does not open properly) – click here.

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Speaking Arts 2010

We held our 7th Annual Speaking Arts Conference on November 24 – 25 in Jerusalem, thanks to the continued support of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Dear Foundation of Switzerland. A record-breaking 72 artists – actors, dancers, musicians, from all over Israel and Palestine – participated. “This is the first time I’ve heard Hebrew in an everyday context,” said a participant from Nablus. “and not from a soldier at a checkpoint.”

After an opening session with contact improvisation expert Noam Carmeli, the participants split up into master workshops according to discipline. Actors and theater professionals worked with veteran actress Salwa Nakara; musicians worked with internationally-renowned musician Sameer Makhoul; and dancers worked with dancers and choreographers, Raba’a Mourkous and Ilanit Tadmor. All worked with the theme Quiet, which was the theme of the entire conference. “Quiet is what allows us the freedom to create, to dream,” said the JICC’s conference organizer, Hanan Ohana

This year for the first time the artists took greater advantage of Jerusalem’s rich cultural resources, holding many activities at venues outside the Jerusalem International YMCA. The dance workshops were held at the studios of the internationally-acclaimed Vertigo Dance Troupe in downtown Jerusalem. The music workshop held its second day at the Paley Arts Centre in east Jerusalem. On Wednesday evening, Arkady Zeides performed his dance performance, Quiet, to conference participants and guests at the Lab theater and performance space in southern Jerusalem.

Additional distinguished presenters at the conference included Eyal Danon, curator and director of the Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon. He lectured to dancers and actors on Thursday morning on using the arts to advance a political agenda, based on his experience on the project, Liminal Spaces. Shmulik Hadjes, of the Psik Theater, gave a workshop on commedia dell’arte (characterization using masks), in which the theater troupe specializes. Raida Sa’adeh, Director of the Paley Arts Centre, lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and internationally-recognized artist in her own right, spoke to the music group about the state of the arts in East Jerusalem.

The peak of the Conference was the closing concert, performed by Mira Awad and Shlomi Shaban. Both artists brought their own unique music, and their own unique musical virtuosity, to a wonderful joint collaboration, in their first time performing together. This was covered in the press (see examples, with some video clips here and here).

Here is an article that appeared in the English version of Ha’aretz newspaper on December 3, 2010 (click here for PDF version) ; Hebrew version (PDF)

Article on Speaking Arts at the December 2010 edition of the Jerusalem Foundation Windows magazine (PDF – Acrobat version)

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Speaking Art Conference: Triggering Activity year-round – Follow-up Meeting on June 2010

By Naomi Roff Kohn, The Jerusalem Foundation:

Year after year participants in the Speaking Art Conference for Jewish and Arab arts professionals, held every December for the past 6 years, respond that they wish to stay in touch with the friends and contacts they meet at the conference. Responding to this feedback, and in an effort to expand the impact of the Conference to continue throughout the year, on June 17, 2010, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center hosted a full-day seminar for dozens of Jewish and Arab Speaking Art participants at the JICC main office on Mt. Zion. Participants from all 6 previous Speaking Art conferences were invited to attend.

In the morning some 25 Jewish and Arab participants – musicians, actors, movement professionals – took part in a photography workshop, led by Yoram Peretz, a professional photographer, instructor at Kaye College in the Negev and experienced group facilitator, especially in multi-cultural settings. Participants, working in 3 smaller groups, raised questions such as: ‘How do I view the ‘other’? How do I want the ‘other’ to view me? How does each of us translate the concept, ‘meeting / encounter’?’

Photography workshop - June 2010

Photography workshop – June 2010

After lunch they enjoyed a tour of David’s Tomb, the room of the Last Supper, and Dormition Abbey, all of which are located near the JICC offices on Mt. Zion. For many it was the first time they were introduced to these unique sites, which are holy to Jews, Christians as well as Muslims. David’s Tomb is noted in both Jewish and Muslim tradition and has religious significance for both religions. Christian tradition notes that Jesus’ Last Supper took place in a room above David’s Tomb. In addition, the Virgin Mary is supposed to have fallen asleep on Mt. Zion for the last time; on this spot the beautiful Dormition Abbey now stands.

“This seminar came about as an effort to expand the impact of the Speaking Art Conference, and explore possibilities to strengthen it for the future,” said Nadim Sheiban, Director of the Projects Department of the Jerusalem Foundation and one of the initiators of the conference. “For example, we tried the photography workshop today and, because it is an important medium that enables dialogue between Jews and Arabs, we are considering adding that to the Conference. I know participants were enthusiastic about their experiences today; we will bear this feedback in mind when we get to the detailed planning stages.”

After the informative tour of the Mt. Zion area participants went to work. One group discussed the macro – they worked together to examine the overall vision for the conference and how to create a synergy between professional development for artists and Jewish-Arab dialogue. A second group discussed the micro – specific suggestions for new disciplines, different kinds of workshops, different moderators and guest facilitators, etc. for the upcoming Speaking Art Conference. In future meetings of the Speaking Art Steering Committee these suggestions will be discussed and implemented, if feasible.

Evening Concert - June 2010

Evening Concert – June 2010

The day came to a close in the JICC’s charming garden, with a Oud and Canoun concert, led by renowned oud musician, Sameer Makhoul. As the concert progressed, participants joined in, the fruits of informal practice gatherings since the last Speaking Art Conference. Some contributed on their musical instruments (violin, guitar, darbouka drum), some in song, and some in dance.

Evening Concert - June 2010

Evening Concert – June 2010

“A number of the participants [of Speaking Art] make contacts at the conference and they wish to continue to meet throughout the year,” said Hagai Agmon-Snir, Director of the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center. “Many indeed meet on an informal basis. I’m glad that we were able to bring together a strong core of people, most of whom have participated in the conference for several years, to get people excited and thinking about the one to come.”

This report was published at the Jerusalem Foundation website.

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Speaking Arts 2009

In the last two days, December 9 and 10, we held the 6th Speaking Art Conference in Jerusalem. The conference is organized annually by the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center (read here about last year’s conference) and was conducted this year once again at the Jerusalem International Y.M.C.A.

The Jerusalem Foudnation wrote a comprehensive report of the conference and you can get to it here. We at the JICC were very happy to hear the wholehearted feedback from the 65 Jewish and Palestinian participants. The conference participants worked in three groups: music, theatre, and for the first time this year, a movement group that was a great new addition to the other two. The project managers were Hanan Ohana and Ezadeen Alsaad from the JICC.

The conference concluded with an exhilarating concert by David D’aor and Lubna Salame, who performed together in front of an enthusiastic audience of 400 people in the Y.M.C.A concert hall. This was a unique show, as it was the first time that the two of them gave a full concert in a joint bi-national bi-lingual arrangement. During a rehearsal that took place several days before the event we recorded two of the songs for the innovative concert. The first is D’aor’s song, “Take Care of the World, Child” that was translated to Arabic by Salame a few years ago. Here is the song – performed by both:

The second song is D’aor’s most recent piece that was just put out to the media – “The World I Draw”. Lubna Salame translated it especially for the Speaking Art concert, and they sing it here together:

(You can also see it  at Ynet article here)

Needless to say, we are very pleased to be the ones who brought them to work together. And it might as well be only the beginning of them working and performing jointly in the future.

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Speaking Arts 2008

The Speaking Art Conference, organized for the fifth time by the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center, took place on December 17th-18th, 2008 at the Jerusalem International Y.M.C.A, with 63 Jewish and Palestinian artist participants.

The conference, which was lead by first-class Israeli facilitators, created a professional platform for musicians, actors and group facilitators, who work in the field of Jewish-Arab dialogue, to receive new skills for working and creating together .

Munir Bakri, a director and actor, opened the conference with a unique workshop. Bakri wanted to discuss the role of the artist in society as a whole, using as case study the cancellation of the Akko Festival for Alternative Theatre in October 2008, following the unrest that erupted in Akko during and after Yom Kippur. After the workshop the participants began working in three Jewish-Arab groups (music, theatre and group-facilitation) for 6 intense workshops. The overall theme for the conference this year was “home and its meaning for the artist working in the Jewish-Arab context”.

The theatre group worked under Salwa Nakkara’s sharp and rigorous facilitation. Salwa, an acclaimed and experienced Palestinian actress, chose to work with object-theatre and allowed the actors, which arrived from all over the country, to present the search for a home through objects they brought with them. The combination of the actors’ search scenes produced a show made up of intertwined theatre pieces. The show received enthusiastic reviews from the audience who saw it at the end of the conference. Salwa also showed a piece from her play “Cappuccino in Ramallah”, which is currently on stage in many places in Israel and the Arab World.

Wisam Goubran, a conductor with a rich repertoire in Israel and abroad, led the music group in a rare nonverbal two-day dialogue. Through the dialogue, the musicians created a joint music piece, which they then presented at the end of the conference. Dr. Goubran, who facilitated the music workshop for the second time, provided many participants with the possibility of examining their own cultural identity through the musical process.

Khalil Sbeit, who worked with the group facilitators, combined tools from theatre taken from his experience working with “Children for Peace”, with discussions of the challenges facilitators face in groups.

The guest workshop for the whole group of participants was presented by Smadar Imor who swept everyone into a unique experience of movement and voice. Smadar is the instigator and director of the Synapsa School for Human Development and Creative Healing through Movement and Voice. Her workshop integrated refreshing elements that allowed each participant to express her/his inner and outer voice.

As expected the conference provided a platform for cooperation between participants who wish to create inter-cultural musical or theatrical projects in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Inter-Cultural Center will accompany these projects throughout 2009.

The conference concluded with the Jerusalem Foundation awarding the 2009 Martha Prize to the Bereaved Families Circle, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization. Shortly after the ceremony Ehud Banai, George Simaan and Salem Darwish performed together in front of an enthusiastic audience of 600 people in the Y.M.C.A concert hall. The three gave a border-crossing bilingual concert to a loving audience. Bringing old and new songs, accompanied with oud, guitar and percussion, Ehud, George and Salem expressed a joint wish for a shared life of respect and compassion.

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