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One-man play on the ache of the Palestinians, Arts News & Top Stories

“When our loved ones leave us… as you left,” writes the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, “an endless migration in us begins.”

The infinite migration started for 17-year-old Taha in 1948, when he and his household fled their village of Saffuriyya after it was bombed within the Arab-Israeli War. On foot, they travelled from Galilee to Lebanon, the place they lived in a refugee camp for a few 12 months. When he lastly returned to Palestine, he found it had turn out to be Israel.

There is a silence across the Nakba – because the exodus of the Palestinians got here to be referred to as – that’s exhausting to penetrate, even because it reaches its 70th anniversary this month.

Palestinian writer-actor Amer Hlehel desires to offer this silent technology – that of Taha, and his grandparents – a voice.

His one-man play Taha, which will likely be staged as a part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts this weekend, tells the life story of the late poet. At one other event, Verses Of Love And Life, native performers beneath the route of theatre practitioner Aidli Mosbit will recite Taha’s poetry.

Taha’s poetry spoke in regards to the ache and the loss of the Palestinian folks by means of his human, private story, writing in a deep, tender method with out being political, says Hlehel, 38, over the phone from his home in Haifa.

“You can identify with his poetry without being Palestinian. You just have to be human.”


  • WHERE: KC Arts Centre – Home of Singapore Repertory Theatre, 11 Unity Street

  • WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 8pm

  • ADMISSION: $35 from ticketing. Limited concessions out there. Limited scholar tickets at $10

  • INFO:


  • WHERE: Living Room, Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

  • WHEN: Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 6.30pm

  • ADMISSION: Free with registration at

He first encountered Taha’s poetry as an adolescent in drama college, and was struck by the similarities between Taha and his personal grandfather, who was additionally displaced from his village in northern Palestine in 1948 and fled to Lebanon for a 12 months. When he sneaked again into Palestine, he found his village destroyed and tried to rebuild his life in one other village just a few kilometres away.

“My grandfather didn’t tell me anything about the Nakba,” says Hlehel. “When I was a teenager, I started to read about it and I went to him to try to understand what happened and he never said anything about it. He died with his silence.”

Taha, too, writes in regards to the Nakba obliquely. “We did not weep/ when we were leaving,” he writes in his poem There Was No Farewell, “for we had neither/ time nor tears… We did not know/ at the moment of parting/ that it was a parting/ so where would our weeping/ have come from?”

In the refugee camp, his 12-year-old sister died abruptly of meningitis. When they determined to likelihood a return home lest his mom go mad, he left behind his childhood sweetheart, to whom he had been pledged from younger. They wouldn’t meet once more till they have been of their 50s and married to different folks.

When he started to write down poetry, she turned his muse. He describes her usually as a fowl, a “dove who travelled on the train of winter”, winging her method to the homeland she couldn’t return to as a human.

In Nazareth,Taha ran a memento store and devoured books in his spare time, from classical Arabic literature to American fiction. He married his neighbour’s daughter Yusra Qablawi. They had three kids.

His poetry didn’t draw a lot consideration at first, in comparison with that of his extra celebrated friends similar to Mahmoud Darwish and Samih al-Qasim. It was not till the 1990s that he started to be seen at literary festivals.

In 2006, his work was translated into English by American poet Peter Cole within the assortment So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005. Cole’s spouse Adina Hoffman went on to write down a biography on Taha, My Happiness Bears No Relation To Happiness (2009).

It was Hoffman’s biography that gave Hlehel the fabric to write down his play. He had not met Taha in life, though he had heard him converse onstage and attended his funeral in 2011.

The character he performs onstage is a mixture of the Taha from the biography and Taha as recounted by the poet’s family members, whom he has befriended. “It is not meant to be Taha copy-pasted, but rather my perspective of him as a poet and a human being.”

The play arrives in Singapore amid rising tensions alongside the Gaza-Israel border, the place tens of 1000’s of Palestinians have been protesting within the lead-up to Nakba Day on May 15. Last Friday, three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli hearth, the newest in clashes that have seen 44 Palestinians killed since March 30 and a whole bunch wounded.

“We are experiencing Nakba every day in Palestine, in the history we feel around us,” says Hlehel, who is married with a daughter, 4. “It is an open wound.”

He hopes that by means of Taha, he can change the best way folks across the world consider Palestine. “From what they know from headlines and newspapers, they think we are just a part of an ugly political conflict. But behind this conflict, we are people with our stories.”

•So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005 ($26.74) and My Happiness Bears No Relation To Happiness ($32.68) can be found from Books Kinokuniya.

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