The ‘Uprising and Homecoming: Middle Eastern voices’ is a mentorship project that aimed to raise issues of diversity and democracy in the Middle East, as well as among people of Middle-Eastern origin in Sweden, using innovative street theater performances and a mentorship scheme. This initiative was developed as an attempt to involve Swedish artistic talent with a Middle Eastern background to help mentor and participate in the street theatre productions of organizations in two selected Middle Eastern countries. The mentored organizations with their short productions were also taken to perform at the Halmstad International Street Theatre Festival 2015. Linda Mutawi was one of the mentors in this ambitious cultural relations project, mentoring the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation in Lebanon. Linda’s mentorship with APTF included keeping in close communication with the group to help in brainstorming ideas and then with their rehearsals and activities, as well as conducting a site visit that included attending the general day to day activities for the group and assisting in the production of a puppet play.
In a recount of her mentorship experience with APFT, Linda Mutawi recalled:
Building a close relationship with APTF was a major highlight of my experience working with a mentored organization. Getting involved in the project that they put together was really rewarding and allowed me to build many friendships that have lasted even after the project is done. In addition, it gave me the chance and the position to play the role of a creative collaborator. Watching the project evolve from a simple idea to an incredible performance in Sweden was a rewarding process. It was the first time I was involved in a street theater production of this nature, which later opened a new way of thinking in terms of expanding my career choices. The performance was about the plight of refugees who risk their lives and everything they have and take these dangerous boat trips across the seas to reach for a dream of a new life, digging into the reason why they leave their homes behind and how they follow their dreams in a symbolic way. The idea of the performance was strong and hard-hitting, and especially timely as this was the subject everyone around the world (and especially Europe) was talking about. The reactions from the audience were truly incredible and heartbreaking, so many people were very touched by the performance and saw it as a reflection of their own journey and experience as refugees, since we performed mainly for migrant communities. Similar reactions were also found among Swedish and Danish audiences who really identified with the subject. At that time, this topic was a pressing discussion in Sweden and that’s why I believe it was very important to perform and share these insights with the Swedish community. One of the highlights of the group’s experience in Sweden was witnessing the group’s development along with their performance, ideas, and the audience’s reaction to the performance which meant that the performance kept evolving. The group really reflected on the strengths and weaknesses they had in order to really craft and perform better and better each time. I believe that the team learned a lot from this experience as it helped them work on their street theater skills and opened up doors to a new audience. It was also an opportunity for them to meet many passionate individuals and communities in Sweden and Denmark, which affected them a lot and opened some opportunities for potential future collaborations. On a personal level, I felt very invested in the project as an immigrant myself living in Sweden, and as the subject of the performance and the project are very close to my heart and are at the center of my work. This project helped both APTF and myself speak out our artistic minds and develop a performance that meets our vision.
This project was funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery