by Redwan Talib from Sulaymaniyah
Redwan Talib was born in the city of Halab (Aleppo) in Syria. He completed nursing school and, at the age of 34, moved to Damascus to live there. After the first Arab Uprising in 2014, he left Damascus and found refuge in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniah in Iraqi Kurdistan. He worked as nurse while also pursuing his passion for theatre. He has been a theatre actor since 1997. His first time directing was in 1998.
Redwan’s love of the theatre did not spring from academia; he does not hold any qualifications in the field. While in Damascus, he worked as playwright with a group called ‘Lesh’ in Arabic, meaning ‘Why’. Their director was the famous Syrian Nour Murad.
The decision to seek refuge Sulaymaniah was the result of Redwan and his wife’s research on the cultural life of the city, which is known for its art and theatre. They arrived expecting many doors to open for them, but the region was at war with the Islamic State and there was a financial crisis. Despite these problems, Redwan managed in 2015 to start theatre work in Sulaymaniah.
The Apricot Tree ProjectThe idea for the Apricot Tree was inspired by the time when an art organisation from the German parliament, supported by the Goethe-Institute, ran a workshop for five days in which Iraqi women were taught to write plays. Each woman had a story to tell, and a theatrical play was composed from these stories and performed after the workshop. The play was performed at the Virgin Mary church in the old part of Sulaymaniah, called the Sabonkaran neighbourhood.
What attracted Redwan’s attention to this workshop was the story of a twenty-five-year-old form Mosul, whose house was destroyed when ISIS invaded the city. Despite the tragedy, the woman was worried about the beautiful apricot tree in their garden. She didn’t know whether the tree was still standing there or whether it had been burnt down and destroyed like her home.
Redwan believes this story carries a high level of aesthetic, representing the way in which terror, war and ISIS attack everything beautiful and destroy it. This is also a manifestation of women’s dreams and their anxiety for the disappearance of life’s beauty. This play speaks a great volume of Iraqi women’s sufferings.
While women wrote the play, the actors were both male and female. The play, lasting about fifteen minutes, was written in Arabic, then translated into Kurdish. The show was presented at the Cinema Salim venue hall, and a good number of people attended this show. Redwan was the director.
What amazed him about the play was the spirit of women who desire so strongly to break free from the barriers imposed upon them by society and their eagerness to express themselves and to fight for the beautiful values of freedom and life. He hopes to be able to find the support necessary in order to continue his work and showcase it in other cities.