By (Qasim Ali)
Unesco’s 36th International Theatre Congress was inaugurated by opened here on Tuesday in Fujairah by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Hamad Al Sharqi. Delegates of over 60 countries are attending the 5-day event. The highlight of the opening Summit session was the keynote address by Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem followed by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. The summit was also addressed by Samoan Choreographer Lemi Ponafacio, Chilean Indigenous rights activist Elisa Antileo and ITI President Saif Al-Alkham of UAE.
Shahid Nadeem in his keynote address rejected the misconception that performing arts are not appreciated and encouraged in Muslim societies. He referred to the T’azieh Theatre in Iran, dervish dances in Turkiye and Pakistan and his own experience of Ajoka Theatre’s work over nearly 4 decades. He started his address with the story of Shah Madhulal Hussain’s celebration of performing arts and elaborated on Hazrat Ali’s saying that “tired minds should be treated with humour”. His address was warmly applauded by the delegates and the guests, especially the delegates from Muslim countries.
Nadeem also spoke on “Acting for Peace” Roundtable where he shared Ajoka’s collaboration with Indian counterparts for the promotion of peace through theatre. Theatre personalities who spoke at the Roundtable included Ali Mahdi from Sudan, Kaori Nakayama from Japan and Svitlana Oleksiu from Ukraine. Palestinian theatre activist Rawand Arqavi participated through a video message.
The inaugural day ended with an outstanding display of artistic talent including performances from Vietnam, Mexico, Burkina Faso and France. A group from the UAE presented “Malad” songs in praise of the Holy Prophet.