Arts as a tool for social justice
Abdelfattah Abusrour, Caitlin McLeod, Basma Elhusseiny and Victoria Brittain
Discussion about using Arts as a tool for social justice for refugees with Q & A
Victoria Brittain is a journalist who has lived and worked in Saigon, Algiers, Washington and London. She was on the staff of The Guardian for more than 20 years and has reported for many other media outlets mainly in France and the US. She has visited and written about the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Palestinian camps in Syria and Lebanon for 30 years. She was a founder member of Palfest, the travelling literary festival, and a founding trustee of the annual Palestinian Book Awards held London for the last 10 years, honouring the very best of Palestinian books available in english. Her most recent book is Love and Resistance in the films of Mai Masri, published by Palgrave MacMillam 2020.
Abdelfattah Abusrour is the first Ashoka fellow-Social Entrepreneur in Palestine, and he is a Synergos – social innovator fellow. The organization he founded, Alrowwad cultural and arts society was awarded Stars Foundation Impact Award in 2017.
Abusrour is founder and director of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society, established in 1998 in Aida refugee camp-Bethlehem. His concept and philosophy “Beautiful Resistance”, using performing and visual arts, culture and education, is a creative and peaceful expression in situations of oppression and trauma to provide possibilities to save lives and inspire hope and build peace within individuals to be peace builders in their communities and beyond. He started working with children, youth and adults, focused also on mothers and women. Mobile Beautiful Resistance program, using theatre, dance, photography, games library (play bus) touring all over the West Bank-Palestine to train trainers and connect with other Palestinian communities and marginalized areas.
Dr Abusrour is an author, actor, and theatre director, with a PhD in Biological and Medical Engineering from France. He abandoned his career in Biology because he believed in the power of arts and culture as pure humanity where stereotypes vanish and people are on equal grounds, and considers arts as the bridges that people can build together as equals to shape a better future for all the generations to come.
Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society (Recipient of Stars Foundation Impact Award in 2017) has been able to build bridges, create exchanges and co-produce artistic works and performances with international groups, touring shows in Europe, UK and USA as well as in Palestine. Dr Abusrour has done conferences and practical workshops in different countries using Beautiful Resistance, to empower people through building peace within themselves, and be active change-makers, and instead of waiting for miracles to happen, be able to act and provoke miracles to happen.
In the last 3 years, Dr Abusrour has conducted practical workshops in Finland, Spain, Estonia, and UK as well as in Middle East.
Caitlin McLeod is a theatre and film director based in Berlin. Working for over a decade in the UK, US, Europe and the Middle East, Caitlin has directed theatre at leading institutions including Signature Theatre (NYC), The Orange Tree, The Yard, The Almeida and Shakespeare’s Globe. Caitlin has been Resident Director at the Almeida Theatre and was a member of the inaugural Old Vic 12 talent scheme. In 2016 she received a Sky Arts Scholarship to found her new-writing company The Coterie which develops multi-disciplinary performance projects with women artists at the core. Her work straddles all genres but most often dark comedy, sci-fi and drama. Her latest short PLANTLIFE was a finalist in the London LIFT-OFF Festival ‘19 and Nominated at UNDERWIRE ‘19. Caitlin’s recent work includes an audio drama commission from BBC/New Creatives North and Everybody’s Talking, one of a series of digital shorts made by the BBC, Headlong and Century Films starring Denise Gough and Sue Johnston. In February Caitlin was in Haifa assisting director Basil Khalil on his new film “A Gaza Weekend” (starring Adam Bakri) and led workshops in acting and film directing at the Palestine International Film Festival last October. Caitlin was born in Iowa in the US and grew up in Yorkshire.
Basma El Husseiny
Basma El Husseiny is a cultural manager, an activist for social change and an expert in cultural governance. For the past 30 years, she has supported independent cultural projects and organizations in the Arab region. In 2004, after acting as Arts Manager of the British Council in Egypt (1988-1998) and the Media, Arts & Culture Programme Officer at the Ford Foundation’s office in the Middle East and North Africa (1999-2003), she founded Al Mawred Al Thaqafy (Culture Resource), the first non-governmental regional cultural organization in the Arab region. This organization is responsible for the first Arabic cultural management training programme and the first cultural policy research and development programme in the Arab region, working across music, literature, theatre and plastic and audio-visual arts. In this role, she initiated and co-founded the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), the region’s first independent cultural foundation. Basma is currently leading Action for Hope, based in Beirut, which started as a response to the drastic consequences of the conflict in Syria and to “the cultural, social and psychological needs of distressed and displaced communities”. Action for Hope has pioneered cultural relief programs and designed new and alternative models in arts education and artistic production for refugee and marginalized communities.