Palestinian Children from Lebanon’s Camps Attend Art Festival

July 12, 2013 ANERA
Community Development, Lebanon, Palestinian Refugee Camps
Dalal from the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut draws pictures from her trip to the circus. She and 59 other Palestinian children from camps got their tickets from Nora Jumblatt, the festival’s president. Dalal from the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut draws pictures from her trip to the circus.

One after another, the acrobats take off in a succession of somersaults and fly through golden rings before landing softly on their feet. Their mouths wide open, children are following every movement on the stage of the Splendid China Acrobatics Circus.

“I’ve never seen such things before,” swears 12-year-old Dalal Abdel Hadi, on her first circus visit ever. Not only the spectacle, but the whole evening has been overwhelming for her and 59 other children from Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. They have come on a special outing to the Beiteddine Art Festival, an annual event that started in 1984, bringing culture, creativity and normalcy in the midst of Lebanon’s civil war. Today, the festival is known beyond Lebanon for the quality of its performances and its dedication to transforming them into something magic.

60 children from Beirut’s cramped, poor refugee camps got free tickets to the festival.

On the bus ride through the Lebanese Chouf Mountains, many of the children from Beirut admired the beautiful scenery for the first time. When they got to the festival they were amazed by its location. The Beiteddine Palace, built 200+ years ago by a Druze emir, is filled with painted balconies, mosaics and sculpted stonewalls. So when the Chinese artists started to jump through rings or build human towers, some of the children wondered if what they were seeing was real.

“One of them asked me if the acrobats were genies,” laughs Hoda Abbas, from the Najdeh organization. “It is very important for the children to get out of the refugee camps from time to time. Everything is so narrow and cramped there. They need to experience large and open spaces as well.”

Splendid China Acrobatics Circus at the Beitaddine Art Festival

Splendid China Acrobatics Circus [photo: Time Out Beirut]

Without the generous invitation from Nora Jumblatt, the festival’s president, and her commitment to offering Palestinians access to the country’s cultural life, the children could never have afforded tickets for the circus. She donated 60 tickets to ANERA and we partnered with Najdeh, a local organization, to organize the trip from the Beirut camps of Shatila and Burj El Burajneh to the circus.

The following day, Najdeh gathered the children and had them draw their impressions of the show. “I want to be in a circus someday,” ventures 12-year-old Asma Youssef, “but we have nowhere to learn juggling here…”. Sitting quietly in a corner, Ghofran Abdel Fatte, 12, is among the Palestinians who recently fled Syria. “I was so impressed. Our school never took us anyplace!” Until today, Ghofran’s longest trip was his escape from Damascus to Beirut.

For the camps’ children, attending such events means much more than merely watching a show. They discover their own country, experience different social contexts and, above all, find new sources of inspiration.

An ancient mosaic on the walls of the beautiful Beitaddine Palace in Lebanon where 60 Palestinian children from Beirut's camps enjoyed an outing to the circus.

An ancient mosaic on the walls of the beautiful Beitaddine Palace in Beitaddine, Lebanon.

One Response to “Palestinian Children from Lebanon’s Camps Attend Art Festival”

  1. July 18, 2013 at 8:19 pm, Ellen said:

    Thank you Madame Jumblatt!

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