Syria Outside the Media: A Cultural Week in France
The Syrian organization Syrian Freedom, in collaboration with French solidarity organizations with the Syrian opposition, exhibited poetry, and testimonies, as well as Syrian art. The organization also met with both junior high and high school students in the cities of Rouen and Saint-Georges-de-Didonne.
The exhibition, which lasted through the first week of October 2015 in the Saint-Georges-de-Didonne cultural center, showcased drawings by the artists Hani Abbas and Ali Ferzat, and photographs of Syria during and prior to the war, highlighting the antiquities and their destruction. Excerpts of Hala Kodmani’s books, were also read aloud, from The Promised Syria, published in France in 2014. Excerpts of Jumana Ma’arouf’s Letters from Syria were also read aloud, along with poetry written by Omar Youssef Souleimane.
The Syrian Cultural Week was marked by diversity and learning opportunities; 120 students from the schools in the surrounding area, who had only ever heard of Syria from the news, were able to attend and witness Syrian cultural production. They heard the poet Omar Yousef Souleimane speak his testimonies about the start of the uprising and the current political and military situations. Hala Kodmani answered their questions about living in Syria today. The students were able to develop their interest in Syrian arts and culture and how they’ve been affected by the war.
Omar Souleimane, who has assigned two poems for the students to study for their examinations, told us in an exclusive interview, that this experience “highlighted the importance of dialogue, by comparing life between France and Syria, which has worked to draw Syria closer to the minds of the students. In addition, these humanizing stories and art that were not covered by the mainstream media, along with the peaceful protests and the destruction of some sectarian and class barriers, has inspired some students to study the status of Syrian refugees today.”
Hala Kodmani read passages from her book, detailing imaginary messages between her and her late father, Nazem Kodmani, as he tells Hala the history of a difficult time unknown to most Syrians. He worked as a diplomat prior to Baath rule, and highlights the events that led to Syria’s current political situation. Hala then tells her father her point of view of the current Syrian uprising. During the same meeting, held in the office of “Khotoot al-Afaq” in the town of Saujon, Omar Youssef Souleimane, read passages from his collection Death Doesn’t Tempt the Drunk.
The closing event was the screening of the “Immortal Sergeant”, directed by Ziad Kalthoum, which portrays a day in the life of a sergeant officer. This movie was filmed while the director was completing his military service in the regime’s army in 2013, on his cellphone