Dubai: Four UAE-based women are set to convey a powerful message revolving round the increasingly transient concept of ‘home’ in modern times through a telling theatre production that transcends people’s cultures, histories and geographies.
Comedian, tap dancer, writer and director Mina Liccione (of Dubomedy), who is originally from New York and has undertaken many visits to refugee camps in the Middle East with her Emirati husband, said it was these trips that set her thinking.
“As I spoke to people there, the topic of ‘home’ kept coming up. They no longer had an idea of where their home was. When I returned to Dubai, I met three other female artists - Farah Chamma, Dana Dajani and Victoria Amador - and we began to talk about the growing number of refugees and their sense of homelessness. Even as expats, it occurred to us that we are in a constant search for a place that feels like home. The conversation led us to pen a series of diverse monologues which we transformed into a mixed-media piece of theatre.”
Titled Invisible Cities: Words and Rhythms about a Place called Home, the production, which has had a pilot run in Dubai, will be presented by the College of Arts and Sciences Performing Arts Programme at the American University of Sharjah on September 21 and 22.
The monologues, based on true life experiences, are poignant. One of them Umm Noor by Mina tells the heart-breaking story of a Syrian mother who lost her daughter while journeying to a refugee camp in Jordan.
“This mum, whose husband had died in the war, fled Syria with her two daughters. She walked for a month and stayed trapped at the border for 60 days before she could set foot in a camp. Sadly, the younger of her two girls, aged just four, could not survive. But the woman lives on in the hope of securing a future for her other daughter,” recalls Mina.
“I live in this tent for nine months now. Just as my daughters lived in me for nine months … this is temporary. I will return one day. I keep my key. The key to our house that was my aunt’s before us and her aunt’s before her. I hold it in my hand every day,” says the character in Mina’s monologue.
Not everything is as heavy. In one comical piece, Mina talks of making a trip back to New York to surprise her family. But when she lands, she finds her phone is dead and wallet stolen. The Big Apple has changed so much, it is now an ‘invisible’ city. “Like it is for all of us expats, I could only see a memory.”
Dana’s piece revolves round her grandfather’s house in Jordan which has now been replaced by a skyscraper. For the Palestinian-American from Jordan who lives in Dubai, “Juddu’s home is now part of an ‘invisible’ city that lives in the imagination and nostalgia.”
Says Dana’s song The Quest Home: “I’ve been wandering on my own searching for a place to rest my bones and I’ve been thinking ‘bout my dreams and what they really mean to me now I’ve got something for you to see.”
Victoria, on her part, dwells on life as a ‘road trip’. “I’ve created a lot of homes. I’m the woman whose friend complained that she needed an address book just for me, because by her count, and this was 15 years ago, she had 34 addresses for me,” says the professor who is originally American, currently lives in Sharjah and plans to settle down in Scotland when she retires.
Farah, a Palestinian who has grown up in the UAE, speaks of a mother’s womb as being the first home. “This city is surrounded by water and you are carried. You melt in it, like a caterpillar in its cocoon.
What is the outer world when you are within?” asks her spoken word piece titled Embryo.
Mina said the 80-minute series has everything from the spoken word, comedy and narrative to short story, monologue, tap dance and music. There are layers of movement, video and live rhythmic accompaniment by Beatbox Ray and soundscape designer Ahmad Molham Makki. But at the end of it all, there is only one overriding objective: to remind people not to get trapped in the mundane aspects of life; to be thankful for what they have; to ask themselves what makes them feel at home; and whether they get enough of it.
WHAT: Invisible Cities
WHEN: Sept 21, 22
WHERE: Arts Rotunda, Arts Building, AUS