No fourth theatre festival in Hawler this year

Due to the current political situation in Iraq there won’t be a theatre festival in Erbil this year.

Anyway, there are many refugees in the Kurdish region of Iraq who need help.

For more details concerning your possibilities to help the people who live in camps and very often not even waterproof tents visit

‘Warten auf Hoffnung’ (‘Waiting for hope’) is a project with the aim to collect and send winter cloths to Kurdistan/ Iraq. There is the possibility to donate some money for the work of the green helmets who help in some of the camps to make the tents water- and winterproof and build the most necessary sanitary buildings too. We visited them in Zawita in the beginning of December and were able to bring approximately 1000 kilograms of winter cloths to another camp in the north of Dohuk. Thanks to the many donators in Berlin!

I published a series of photos of the two refugee camps in a new blog.

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The last day of the festival

  • Erbil, ‘The Patience Stone’, directed by Mahde Hassan
  • Price ceremony in the evening

Last day, last walk in the Sami Abdul Rahman Park which used to be a huge military complex with a detention center under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Nowadays it is Erbil’s biggest green area with lakes, gardens and alleys of trees; but very empty in the day time, I didn’t see any families picnicking, nor joggers or walkers. Maybe it’s different in the evenings.

,The Patience Stone’, the last play of the festival (though not in the contest) was an adaption of Atiq Rahimi’s bestselling novel of the same title. A woman talks to her husband who is in coma because of a bullet in his neck, she tells him about her life, her sufferings, her dreams more openly than she could ever have done before.

The finishing ceremony took place in Ankawa and the price decisions caused some confusion. It was obviously not very clear until last minute that the Kurdish/ Iranian play was not part of the contest. I’ll put a link in here to a text from Christoff Bleidt which explains a bit.

And here is the list of the prize winners:

Best production
“More Than Rain” (Belarus)

Best dance production
“Ballet Bar” (France)

Best director
Hafez Khalifa, “Relay”, (Tunesien)

Best scenography
Karokh Ibrahim “One Day in Ten Nights” (Kurdistan/ Iraq)

Best male actors/ performers
Robert Kijogwa, (Uganda)
Bahman Haji (Kurdistan/ Iraq)

Best female actors/ performers
Carmen Romero (Germany)
Gelaz Nasr (Kurdistan/ Iraq)

Jury prizes
Sami Abdulhameed (Baghdad/ Iraq)
Trifa Karimiyan (Kurdistan/ Iran)

Finally I want to thank Margherita for organising such a lot under fully new circumstances and for driving through the night many times, picking people up from or bringing them to the airport.
Thanks to Halo and Ari and all the others who didn’t get a lot of sleep in the festival week…
I’ll miss Hawler!

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Baghdad/ Iraq, Kurdistan/ Iraq

  • Baghdad, ‘The death of a stubborn citizen’, directed by Haitham Abdulrazaq
  • Erbil, ‘Wall of China’, directed by Arsalan Darwesh

The performance from Baghdad in the afternoon dealt with different forms of fear, the fear of a man on the run, the fear of a woman threatened by the same man to kill her father, the fear of a whole country… Haitham Abdulrazaq wrote the script and directed the play.

The Gali Hall Theatre was fuller and noisier than ever before last night, children ran around and mobiles rang (somebody suggested to give a price for the best Nokia tune). I’m still not sure if I find the audience here refreshingly or disturbingly respect-less. After all it is a coming together of many people, why shouldn’t they be heard? Anyway, it’s very different from home and I never know if the clapping before the play even ends is enthusiasm or an expression of impatience. ‘The Chinese wall’, a play Max Frisch wrote under the impression of the bombing of Hiroshima, was transformed into a Kurdish spectacle, I recognised the typical Kurdish uniforms, but couldn’t really understand if the text was very changed from the original because there was no translation or even a short description of the plot in English.

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Kampala/ Uganda, Berlin/ Germany

  • Kampala, ‘Three levels above the earth’, directed by Jessica Kaahwa
  • Berlin, ‘Waves’, choreography by Johanna Devi (out of the contest)

I went to the Chwar Chra hotel like almost every day to drink their great Turkish coffee and use the internet which is astonishingly stable between the several power blackouts you get in Erbil every day.
It’s a mystery why this never happened in a theatre so far…
The Theatre Group of the Performing Arts and Film department from The Markere University showed their performance in the afternoon, a play about the wish of humans to define themselves and others, culturally and via the medias. The protagonists of the play travel together to a wiseman to get answers to their questions about the meaning of life and the social values of the generations to come… The play included (like in the previous year) traditional Ugandan dancing.

In the evening Johanna Devi showed her dance performance ‘Waves’ (out of the contest).
The solo combined different aspects of the classical dance form Bharatanatyam with modern contemporary dance.
Since there has been a scandal in spring when a naked Bhutto dancer from Berlin opened the theatre festival in Baghdad, I got a somewhat sarcastic text from a friend asking if it would be safe to bring his little son…

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Minsk/ Belarus, Barcelona/ Catalonia

  • Minsk, ‘More than rain’, directed by Pavel Adamchykau
  • Barcelona, ‘Mr. Frog and Lady Death’, directed by Albert Mestres


‘More than rain’, the Belorussian production, translated the atmosphere of Chekov’s ‘Seagull’ into a play without words. With the background of well known songs all the interactions of the figures were played through precisely choreographed movements and gestures.

The Catalonian contribution to the festival was a reading of the famous Catalonian poet Josep Sebastià Pons, using Chinese shadows and music to illustrate the poems.

Finally all of us came together at a big party in Ankawa, Erbil’s Christian quarter. After passing each other in the lobby of the hotel just occasionally it was nice to sit and eat together and to dance to Arabic and Kurdish life music until late in the night.

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Rochefort/ France, Tunis/ Tunisia

  • Rochefort, ‘Ballet Bar’, directed by  Pyramid Co.
  • Tunis, ‘Relay’, directed by Hafez Khalifa

It’s such a manly city, there are of course many women around when you go to the festival events, but our mixed groups are an exotic sight for the men in front of the tea houses.
I walk on my own nevertheless and I feel the curiosity, but never threatened. Still, I wonder how it would be to live in a town like Hawler without the protecting festival coat.

The French dance production in the afternoon combined hip-hop dancing, acrobatics and mime with music from different decades in the setting of a New York style jazz club with a big bar in the middle and a music box.

The scenography of the Tunisian performance in the evening was quite spectacular, using mainly light and panels of fabric. The play was based on the story of the seven sleepers, which exists as a Christian legend and in the Quran.
Seven brothers, persecuted by the emperor because of their belief, hide in a cave and fall into sleep for more than three hundred years.
At first they don’t know about the length of time they slept.
The sleepers in the play (other than in the original legend) decide, after realising how unchanged the world outside is, to stay in the cave.

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Berlin/ Germany, Kurdistan/ Iran

  • Berlin, ‘Little changes’, choreography by Johanna Devi
  • Kurdistan/ Iran,  ‘Blackness of the white and some dreams…’, directed by Trifa   Karimiyan

My events of the day (apart from the performances of course) were food in a street café just before dusk, a visit in one of the by the Kurdish so beloved shopping malls and a ride with the lively Ugandan theater group in a bus accompanied by loud Kurdish music.

“Little changes”, a production of the Johanna Devi Dance Company, combined contemporary and classical Indian dance, the performance dealt with the question of the purpose of performing and the personal stories of the dancers, using sparse, technically perfect movements.

In the evening a Kurdish actress from Iran showed a one-woman play, the story of a writer and her dreams, bringing up feminist themes. The actress, Trina Karimiyan, wrote and directed the play herself.

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