Back to PLO Bulletin 1 November 1978


Palestinian folklore

The aim of the "Association For Theatre and Palestinian Popular Art", initiated and sponsored by the PLO, is to express and preserve, part of the Palestinian cultural heritage and the originality of the Palestinian people. It is composed of different dancing, folklore and theatre groups working in Lebanon and each developing its genuine activities and style.

In order to support and intensify their work, the PLO in early 1978 created the folklore Association as an umbrella. The year 1978 also saw increased activity abroad by the Association's groups.

THE DANCING GROUP TOURING EUROPE >[?Salah Ashour, the leader of the Association's dancing group, explained to us in a refugee camp south of Beirut the political aims of their work: "We want to express and present the Palestinian artistic and cultural heritage in its real form and true sense. We want to revive and to develop what Israel tries either to destroy or to distort. In our dances and songs our youth tries also to reflect the different ways of life of our people. We reflect the life of the peasants in Palestine, and we reflect the resistance of our people in action. These things we express in what we call 'artistic portraits'."

The group recently performed with great success in several countries abroad. The first invitation came from Paris, on the initiative of our martyred comrade Ezzedine Kalak, the late PLO representative there. It gave its performances at "La Mutualite" Theatre which contains 5,000 seats, and met with an overwhelming response. At the same time an Israeli group, with big material and propaganda support, put on its performances at Paris. But it was obvious that the Palestinian group won the sympathy of an enthusiastic audience, and the press, to acknowledge that our humble group had touched the feelings and the hearts of the people. It was one of the most moving experiences of the group, when during one of the performances, a French Jewish girl stood up, put on a Palestinian dress and pronounced her solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people.

After Paris, the group went to Italy where it toured several cities scoring one success after another for the Palestinian cause. "In one town", Salah Ashour reports, "the head of the Communist Party told us: "A people who knows to dance and to sing like the Palestinian people is a living people'."

The group also participated in an Arab festival in Libya, After its return to Beirut, the dancing group prepared for the Youth Festival in Cuba.


The Youth Festival in Cuba, in which 140 countries participated, provided a most encouraging experience for the Palestinian folklore and dancing group. It found a warm welcome and even won a first prize for the political song, and a first prize for traditional folklore with its 'artistic portraits'. The audience loved the performance of Arab music combined with Palestinian bagpipes most. When the group returned to Lebanon, it also carried with it a lot of new ideas and plans.

At present, the Association is preparing for a new tour of the Arab Gulf countries, and Djibouti.


The head of the PLO Association for Theatre and Palestinian Popular Art, Abu As-Sadek explains to us that all the various groups, notwithstanding their different artistic aims and ways of expression, some on a more political basis, some on a more folkloric one, are united by the endeavour to promote the cause of our people. "Our cultural and artistic work is part of the resistance of our people. It is not only the gun which makes the revolution; if we thought so, we would be gunmen and not revolutionaries", says Abu As-Sadek.

Apart from accepting the numerous invitations from abroad, the Association for Theatre and Palestinian Popular Art intends to intensify the contacts with, and the education of, our people, to broaden the popular artistic basis, and also to spread Palestinian songs in the media, especially in Palestinian broadcasting. The Association will also contribute to the coming "International Year of the Child".


One of the most active Palestinian folklore groups - apart from the "Association for Theatre and Palestinian Popular Art" of the PLO - is the Souq al-Gharb group, from a school for children of martyred Palestinians.

Souq Al-Gharb group
Souq Al-Gharb group Performing in Washington
At present, the group has been on a tour of North America since mid-September. Its performances in major cities of the USA were a great success. At the Kennedy Center in Washington, an audience of 1,700 people attended the festival, both US citizens and Palestinians. Children waved flags, and slogans such as "Long live Palestine", "Long live the PLO!" were heard. For three hours the youths from Souq al-Gharb sang the songs of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Resistance. At the end the Palestinian National Anthem was sung, while militant Fatmeh Bernawi, who was imprisoned for 10 years in Zionist jails, raised the Palestinian flag. It was a beautiful sight to see 1,700 people rise all at once the moment they heard the Palestinian Anthem.

Zionist fanatics tried to spoil the performance. News came that there was a bomb inside the hall, and the police evacuated the place. But the audience held out until the search for the 'bomb' was finished without result, then went in again and the festival started.

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