Roua Horanieh in Conversation - Part 1

by DigitaleBuehne_Admin

The Digital Stage in testing: The Glokale Festival

The Digital Stage in testing

Roua Horanieh and Birge Schade during a reading in Lübbenau / Foto: Santiago Stankovic

The GLOKALE Festival

Roua Horanieh in Conversation - Part 1

Roua Horanieh is an architect and writer who was born in Syria, studied architecture in Lebanon, and started her own architecture studio, together with German landscape architect Jan Bunge and Syrian archaeologist and architect Hani Munif, in Damascus in 2010. Jan and Roua married, and when the war in Syria broke out, they went to London, where they had a daughter in 2014. „I went back to work in architecture, but my thoughts about Syria were very complicated - originally, I had decided to just forget about it, because it was too brutal and painful, in particular when raising a child. And so I actively shut the door and did not engage with anything coming from Syria. But it is impossible to do this on a long term.“ When Katja Lebelt from teatreBLAU wanted to talk about Damascus, the culture, the people, the food and so forth, Roua was at first inclined to say no, but then eventually engaged and wrote a text about her everyday memories, The Damascus Journals. The text got published and translated, and in 2021 it was read in English by Roua and in German by actress Birge Schade in a series of events arranged by Katja Lebelt, in the Gedächtniskirche Berlin and in smaller venues all over Brandenburg. „The readings were sometimes accompanied by the Chamber Ensemble of the Berliner Symphoniker, and they always were followed by a conversation with the audience.“

Roua Horanieh / Foto: Jan Bunge

Following up on initial dialogues, Roua took part in a multinational workshop in Mallorca where Katja Lebelt had brought together different kinds of artists from different places - there were musicians, dancers, theatre people, writers and painters, discussing further projects around Damascus. „The first day the Non Syrians were talking about how beautiful Damascus is, and they were showing us Orientalist nostalgic kind of content. The second day we Syriens got very angry, we talked about everything that was wrong about Syria and Damascus, and not just the war. And then the third day we felt maybe we were a bit harsh. Actually, there is a lot of beauty, and a lot of things we love about this place. So the third day was about love and poetry.“ This ambivalence provided the structure for a play, Home - Pizza/Visa & a pledge to the Queen, that Roua wrote about a woman who is a Syrian mother living in London and struggling with two voices, an angry and a loving one. She is lost in between and doesn't know where to stand. „And so the writing was for me a way to reclaim my identity or my sense of identity, and to be able to then talk about it and open that door that I closed in a way where I was able to control the anger and the pain and to engage with other artists and with other people who are interested in the topic.“

Although taking Damascus with her as a place in distance, Roua considers London to be home: a place where she spent ten very intense years with her husband and daughter, with all the advantages of its civil infrastructure. „London offered me the opportunity to grow roots. Here the soil is rich and dense, so I can hold. The UK can be criticized a lot, but there is a civil society here in which I can connect.“ When Roua went on her first visit to Damascus 11 years after she left, she felt safe, because she was in an environment that she knows well. „The place where you come from, you have so much data from it, that you are instinctively more relaxed than anywhere else you are. Identity has a lot to do with data.“ The play Home was written before the COVID pandemic hit, and it is now being produced under the direction of Hans Ulrich Becker, the premiere will take place on November 25 at Kleist Forum Frankfurt/Oder. There are currently 15 people working on the staging, all coming from different places and bringing in different lived experience - there are participants from Chile, Spain, Argentine, and even the Syrians come from very different locations and communities. „Theatre can be a toxic space, but it can also be a place where people are open to experiment. I think it is a challenge to learn to work together, it's a good format to get people to do something the right way, and it is a joyful process.“

The play will be performed at other venues as well, and it will also be streamed online within the GLOKALE, a hybrid festival organized by teatreBLAU that will take place in four physical locations and in the digital space from December 4 to 13, 2023. „GLOKALE will present three live events followed by live online group discussions with participants from various working areas and various contries in Europe and beyond. All this will be streamed to a wide international audience via the Digital Stage.“ Another three prerecorded events will also be streamed and discussed live online in the same way. The first of these recorded sessions will be a presentation by Kurt Holzkämper, a musician who worked together with a scientist recording sounds from moors and swamps. „They will talk about our very selective perception in which we don't hear a lot of sounds that are actually around us.“ The second session will be a reading by Matthieu Carrière, a well known film and TV actor, and a responding talk by his daughter about the monstrous and monsters in the arts, recorded at Kleist Forum Frankfurt/Oder. And the third prerecorded session will present the premiere of Roua‘s play Home at Kleist Forum, again followed by an online discussion. The three live events, on the other hand, will be readings done by actors in Luckenwalde/Brandenburg, London and Mallorca. The audience will hear texts that emerged from interviews Roua did with 17 dialogue partners, two British and 15 from other countries, on the theme of this year’s GLOKALE: Looking into the future - „and counteracting our current crisis of imagination where many of us have lost a strong ability to imagine independently of efficiency and productivity.“

Part 2 of the conversation will be released in the November 2023 newsletter.

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