Mayada chimes in with hers: “My father’s a Palestinian who was born in a Lebanese refugee camp which got destroyed. So he moved to Syria and then to Germany and became a double refugee. He can never go home, never touch the earth of his homeland. This earth means so much – more than gold – the beautiful red colour, the smell. I was born here in Germany, so I could go. I flew to Jerusalem and they detained me at the airport, asking me questions for seven hours but I finally got through. My father had asked me to bring back an olive tree so I found one and crammed it into my bag hoping it would not get confiscated on my way back. When I got home, I gave it to my father and it was the most emotional moment of my whole life. He looked so happy, so sad – ‘This is the only connection I will ever have with my own land,’ he said. We both cried – tears pouring down our cheeks. I also brought a bag of earth and shared it with other people and all of them were so happy – this earth, it matters so much.”
Ahmed again: “We also work with kids through our Jugendtheater Büro – one of the first independent political theatres for kids. Not telling them, letting them ask.” And Club Al-Hakawati’s part of all this. The name’s about wordplay, language and text as well as telling stories. It’s more than a theatre group, it’s a club.
So, what’s this club all about? Ahmed: “We support each other, help each other, raise issues together. There’s a great opportunity to mix the languages – Arabic, German, English even. It’s not the pure form but we’re the hakawatis of the modern age. Our stories come from the experience of being marginalised, taking our ideas like Malcolm X – by any means necessary.”
Others arrive and Ahmed throws the question out. Hamudi takes it up: “It’s about refugees, humans, people stuck on the border, next to a huge rubbish heap in Greece. They meet people – Mr Sauber? He’s not so clean – he shakes your hand, you see the blood. How do you trust? They’re stuck, their story is their only key to get through the border. It’s about the 1,000-year old problem of people who hate each other – like the Kurds and the Arabs – because of the evil spirit, the Djinn stirring it up.” Back to Ahmed: “The first Hakawati we did was at a carnival – all individual stories told simultaneously so you didn’t know which one to listen to. This year, we’re off to Hamburg for the carnival. The most recent show, Guernica, we’ve written in verse – rhymed verse, felt verse. This tradition of poetry in Arabic countries is very strong, so we’re mixing poetry into the movement, the acting.”