As they perform, a sudden understanding grips me; they will never be gone from this place. These performers of excellent caliber pour their hearts out to those who listen and gets swept away in their idea. Their plays are drenched in moralistic stories, conveying messages that count with their full of life gestures. As we sit watching them, they look through us, as if asking us to engage, as if seeing through our façade. Their ideas move like fluid through the minds of the spectators, speaking to us of this world we live in. if you hear them, really hear them, you will be moved.
Zoukak was created in 2006 by six theatre makers (Maya Zbib, Lamia Abi Azar, Omar Abi Azar, Hashem Adnan, Danya Hammoud, and Junaid Sarieddeen) from a need to develop a professional continuity for theater as a practice. Zoukak means “pathway” in Arabic. Its founders chose this name because they didn’t want their theatre plays to be highways, but plays one can walk in, make encounters, and inhabit.
Zoukak fights for a socially and politically engaged theatre offering presentations all over the world. Their plays, performed in Arabic and subtitled in the host country’s language, bear a social duty approaching domestic violence, popular history, political essays, and the civil war, revisiting classics like hamlet, and questioning religious censorship.
Zoukak also supports drama therapy interventions, where one can build a relationship with oneself and other groups. Constructed around the personal experiences that the founders of Zoukak share, they allow emerging actors to bring these to life. One example of their socially engaged work is “Nes Bsmaneh w nes bzeit” a 35-minute street performance with giant puppets; its texts are based on Kafa’s documentation of testimonies of victims of domestic violence in Lebanon. Working directly with women suffering from domestic violence through drama therapy workshops, sometimes they culminate in performances where the women gather the strength to get out of their small sphere and share their experiences with the audience.
Zoukak’s methodology of work emphasizes processes of creation and is based on the belief that collaboration lifts the creative operation to a higher level allowing for unexpected approaches to theater-making, all the while providing a more horizontal participation in decision-making and a multiplicity of expression.
Sitting in my local arts theatre, I look straight on those magicians of art dancing, performing, and becoming their characters in a beautiful fantasy. They step onto the stage with all their might, breath taken away. As they regain their poise, sing loud, dance on, they end with powerful notes. And we sit together in this moment, us the spectators and them the actors, a graceful contortionist of hidden faces speak the same language as this art is build of common things. Their burning needs to bring forth depiction and though it may be unreal, their humanity lies deep within their works.
To the ones who take us on a journey of humanity…
A quick snap of their work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqKZCwvjGqI