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.