A Weekend Reconnecting Communities: Lebanese Movies in Adelaide, September 2022

It has been two years since the Lebanese Film Festival was here in Adelaide. We were thrilled to finally showcase Lebanese art and culture to South Australian communities that we have been preparing from back in July 2022. In partnership with the Lebanese Film Festival, we supported the screening of three movies, Memory Box, C-Section, and Costa Brava, Lebanon, at HOYTS Norwood across the weekend. In particular, ALCASA held the screening of Costa Brava, Lebanon on Sunday, 25 September 2022, as part of a fundraising for ALCASA’s future activities and events for children.

Due to the pandemic, we missed having face-to-face events and gatherings in the last two years. This event allowed us to reconnect with people we have not seen from events before COVID, while making new connections who came to celebrate Arabic-speaking culture with an open mind. Despite the rainy and drizzly weather outside, the connections we’ve had made the afternoon warm and cozy. The relaxing ambience and comfortable seating in the cinema allowed us to lay back and wind down after a hectic week, with soul-soothing Lebanese snacks like Maamoul, Baklava, and gluten-free Ghraybeh.

The realistic portrayal of Lebanon in the films evoked a swirl of emotions: nostalgia, longing, and homesickness among the audience, reminding the Lebanese community members of their beloved home country. The three movies provided critical insight into the reality of Lebanese society, each tackling different social issues such as the aftermath of the civil war, social inequality, and garbage crisis. It was a great opportunity to educate and raise awareness of the wider South Australian public about the severity of issues faced in Lebanon, and a crucial time to bring these topics to the table.

Fayrouz Four smiling people in front of the ALCASA banner

Fayrouz Ajaka, ALCASA Chairperson with project’s key-partner team members from UniSA: Justice & Society

As international students in South Australia, watching Costa Brava, Lebanon is eye-opening as a compelling domestic drama and an exquisite political allegory. Starring the two magnificent actors Saleh Bakri and Nadine Labaki, Mounia Akl tells a metaphorical story of individual people and their hopes, fears and desires, on the search for happiness in a tortured country among its existential struggle. By portraying the family dynamics and structure of the Badri family, it reflects the fissures in Lebanese society. It sheds light on the chronic garbage crisis and waste management in Lebanon that continues to haunt the country, who produces more than 2 million tons of trash per year with 94% buried in landfills and around 6% recycled.

However, Lebanon is not the only country that is suffering from environmental injustice and political corruption. Around the world, millions of vulnerable people are bearing the disproportionate and unequal burdens inflicted by self-serving elites. It is more than an environmental issue, but a political and social justice struggle.

You may ask, then, what can we do in the face of climate injustice? It is a wicked problem, and the biggest threat to the very survival of modern humanity. As individuals, it is more than normal to feel helpless and discouraged as we are all up to our necks in this. However, as shown in the movie, the individual action of Walid in the form of passive resistance has called upon collective action of the wider community to address the very trash and political corruption that is happening next to their house. These issues are to be tackled at the macro level by the community, and it all starts with one individual. Both individually and collectively, in the form of adaptation and mitigation strategies, we are building our capacity to respond to these issues. We, as the audience, are part of a bigger community, and there is a hope for us to be part of the systemic change.

Costa Brava, Lebanon is still around us. As social work students, we uphold the values of human rights and social justice, and this affects humanity as a whole. By nature, social issues are complicated in that we all play a part in contributing to them. Now more than ever, the result impacts all of us, especially the most disadvantaged and oppressed population. We believe in the power of community in resolving social issues, by promoting awareness, having hope and undertaking collective action underpinned by individuals.

To quote Greta Thunberg, “Hope is not passive. Hope is telling the truth. Hope is taking action. And hope always comes from the people.”

By Ann Miao Ng and Soyoo Park, Master of Social Work, University of South Australia: Justice & Society 

Movie screeningt supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) through the Community Connections Program.

 

 

Lebanese Film Festival in Adelaide, 23-25 September

After two tumultuous years, the 2022 Lebanese Film Festival finally made its return to Adelaide with three thought-provoking films encapsulating the marvels of Arabic language and culture, as well as the bitter-sweet reality that Lebanese people endure.

The three-day festival held at Hoyts Cinema, Norwood, kicked off with the unravelling Memory Box whereby Maia, a single mother and daughter, Alex, delve into Beirut’s hidden treasures during the Lebanese Civil War, after receiving an unexpected delivery containing tapes, photos, and notebooks. Despite the fascination with the historic relics, Alex unlocks a world which blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, leaving the audience at the edge of their seats.

In the night that followed, the dramatic comedy film C-Section, entertained a few giggles from the audience as they witnessed two pregnant couples from opposing social classes battling it out in a shared private room at a hospital. Let’s just say the European styled comedy encapsulated the inequalities of Lebanon in a satirical, yet amusing fashion.

On the final day, the comedic tone shifted to a serious one, with the screening of Costa Brava, an award-winning film starring Nadine Labaki and Saleh Bakri, which was part of the project “ALCASA Community Connections 2022” and supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of SA (MCCSA). The Badri family’s idyllic existence in the mountain side comes to halt as a shady corporation governed by political motives decides to build a landfill to dump garbage on their doorstep. Torn between anguish, fear, and bravery, the Badri family not only endure the harsh external realities that stem from corruption in Lebanon, but also are confronted with an internal crisis as they are forced to face the life they left behind. In the film’s conclusion, a mix of emotions were felt by the audience—a moment of silence, followed by sympathies for the Lebanese people, and finally admiration for their ongoing endurance despite hardship.

Thank you once again to the ALCASA team, the Lebanese Film Festival, MCCSA, UniSA: Justice & Society and finally, the delightful audience!

by Tania Zebian

Objects Tell Our Stories: ALCASA Community Workshop on 28 August 2022

On the 28th of August, we successfully held ‘Objects Tell Our Stories’ workshop at Campbelltown Arthouse, as part of our planning process for the upcoming exhibition at the History Trust of SA Migration Museum in 2023.

As warm as the sunshine we got to enjoy, the warmth of Arabic hospitality welcomed all 24 participants who were enthusiastic about bringing our ambitious project together. The participants represented many parts of the world: Australia, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Germany, China, South Korea and Malaysia. All brought with them their curiosity and unique perspectives on the ‘hospitality’ aspect of Arabic culture.

The workshop was facilitated by Fayrouz Ajaka, Chairperson of ALCASA, and Dr Birgit Heilmann, curator at the History Trust of SA Migration Museum. Following the two presentations about making cinnamon tea by Sahar from Sahar’s Cooking School and Yemeni coffee by Dalal, people shared their fascinating and intimate stories accompanied by the traditional Arabic objects which held sentimental values. An Arabic afternoon tea was also served to provide a holistic experience of Arabic hospitality.

The ideas and passion from the participants inspired and concretised the development of the exhibition, bringing our vision to life. This will continue in our next workshop in near future for shaping the successful exhibition next year.

Below is the reflection from Tania Zebian, an ALCASA member who particpated in the session:

The session not only began with a figurative discussion around what Arabic Hospitality ‘looks, feels, smells and tastes like’, but also ended with guests literally tapping into their senses by tasting different traditional drinks—cinnamon teas and an assortment of Arab coffees— and sweets, including Maamoul, Baklava and Ka’ak
  
This was the first discussion of many that sparked ideas for the exhibition, and we are looking forward to bringing it alive by exploring why these objects of Arabic hospitality are important to us to identify commonalities and differences in our experiences.

Event in partnership with the History Trust of SA Migration Museum
Project supported by the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) through the Community Connections Program.

By Ann Miao Ng and Soyoo Park, Master of Social Work, University of South Australia: Justice & Society 

“Objects tell our stories” in World Arabic Language Day in SA 2021

We are very excited while getting ready to celebrate the World Arabic Language Day in South Australia for the first time on Saturday 11/12/2021, at the Migration Museum, 4:30 to 7:30pm. The event has been sold out and a waiting list is now open.  We are considering very carefully the current health situation and, finger crossed, all will be ok to hold the event as planned.

With help from the Migration Museum staff, we will be holding a One Day Pop-up exhibition to share stories about migration experiences and cultural identities through personal objects. ALCASA and the Migration Museum extended the invitation to participate in the exhibition to all  members to the South Australian Arabic speaking community groups and we received a relatively good response considering the extent and the duration of the event. A workshop took place on 10/10/2021 to explore what may be added to the exhibition. Valued members of SA Arabic speaking communities joined the ALCASA members in an interactive session where we shared stories and items from the homeland. It was a fun session that helped us to enhance social connections and to reflect on migration, belonging and identity. We look forward to set up and enjoy the exhibition during the World Arabic Language Day in SA 2021.

 

ALCASA in 2020 – 2021

South Australia is a growing multicultural community and recent world events have shown how welcoming and inclusive our community

Cross stitching art work with Arabic words to say “Life is unbearable without hope”

“Life is unbearable without hope.”, Cross Stitching by Fayrouz Ajaka, Graphic Design by Ahmed El Khalidi – “Stitch And Resist” with The Centre of Democracy

can be of the growing tapestry of our population. These events have also shown our resilience and care for one another; especially when many of us have family and friends overseas that we cannot embrace.

 

ALCASA has been proud to play its role in keeping spirits up and the community connected in challenging times. Thanks to our dedicated members and volunteers, we have been able to continue to run events and gatherings to bring people together – either virtually or in open spaces. Community restrictions have meant that we have not had the chance to run a full program of community events and activities this year. However, we have been lucky enough to get together with some of you for coffee along the Torrens, backgammon in the park, art appreciation and walks in the gardens. It has been wonderful to stay connected in person and online throughout the year.

If we cast our minds back 18 months to March 2020, ALCASA proudly presented ‘Aghaani Zamaan’ – classic Arabic songs that have enchanted generations in the Middle East as one of the final public events at the Adelaide Fringe Festival before the beginning of lockdowns hit us. We can all recall the 100+ audience and an electric atmosphere at the Nexus Arts Centre as a huge crowd revelled to a medley of talented and passionate local artists who breathed new life into classic Arabic hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Our reach into the community despite ongoing restrictions continued when during 2020-2021 ALCASA partnered with Nexus Arts to support an Audience Research Project when we helped to reach out to Arabic speaking audience to assess how they engage with the artistic experiences in Adelaide. Our Chairperson, Fayrouz, helped in spreading the word by producing a video call seeking participation from the Arabic speaking community. This collaboration culminated in a group of local artists curating art work for an intercultural art exhibition HOME. We were also lucky enough to host the event “Home” Intercultural Art exhibition: Meet the Artist ” with no less than 40 participants coming along to meet those artists that exhibited. Among those attending was ALCASA friend and well-renowned Iraqi-Australian theatre writer Sabah Alanbari and his family; Sabah wrote an article about the event that you can read on our website.
Similarly, in partnership with the Centre of Democracy, we supported and promoted the exhibition Stitch & Resist. The exhibition took place from 2 July to 6 August 2021 at the Mill Gallery and aspects of the Arabic language and culture: My life in diaspora by DecoElian and Hope, stitched by Fayrouz Ajaka and designed by Yadura Design Studio.
Most recently, ALCASA hosted an art workshop on the classic art of Arabic calligraphy.The Arabic language and script is as beautiful as it is complex; for centuries artists have been creating beautiful artwork and mosaics with the use of Arabic lettering. Ahmed ElKhalidi led us through a fascinating journey of artistic expression and supported participants to create wonderful art with the simple use of characters from the Arabic alphabet.

Upcoming Events
And still we will not rest with an exciting event scheduled for the end of 2021!!
We are very excited to invite you to join us on the 11/12 for our end of year event, the Inaugural World Arabic Language Day in SA 2021, hosted by ALCASA in collaboration with  at the the History Trust of South Australia’s Migration Museum and supported by SA Multicultural Affairs, Department of the Premier and Cabinet. The event will offer a range of interactive activities such as a brief history of the Arabic language, music and songs performances, Palestinian Dabke performance, a collaborative exhibition “Objects Tells Our Stories” that we will put together on the day with the help of the Migration Museum and our friends in other SA Arabic speaking community groups in South Australia.

Thank you to our dedicated ALCASA committee, all our members, family and friends. We are looking forward to a bigger and better 2022!!

Hassan Mekawy
ALCASA Secretary