Donna Harati

Donna Harati (Women in Black in Serbia): Donna spent the 2007 and 2008 summers working in Zambia with Project Concern International, and helping a peer mediation program for at risk youth in Zambian schools. Donna also taught English in Mauritius through Learning Enterprises. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing a degree in Cultural Politics with a focus on social justice from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. While at university, she also worked with incarcerated adults and court adjudicated youth through Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice. After her fellowship, Donna wrote: “I was faced with questions I did not know even existed. If my experience in Serbia taught me anything, it was that being complacent is simply not an option.”

Crossing the Lines

09 Jul

The past few days have been extremely busy at WIB. Activists have been coming in from Spain, Italy, India, and Sweden, just to name a few places, in preparation for the trip to Srebrenica for the genocide commemoration. In July of 1995, 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by units of the Army of Republika Srpska under the command of General Ratko Mladic. Srebrenica had been declared a “safe area” by the United Nations, and 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers were present at the time.

There are many events leading up to Saturday’s trip. Today, there was an all-day conference on the topic of transitional justice. It was awesome. I thought every single part of the day was fascinating. I will write more about different aspects of the conference in blogs in the near future, but for now, I wanted to focus on the play, entitled Crossing the Lines, that closed the conference. The conference was held at Dah Theater in Belgrade. The motto of Dah Theater is, “In the contemporary world, destruction and violence can only be opposed by the creation of sense”. Since their founding in 1991, the group has tried to address questions regarding the role theater should play in times of darkness. They tackle such questions through experimental theater, research, and workshops. The group strives to be independent, which has unfortunately but predictably (or unfortunately predictably) been a challenge throughout the years. Rumor has it that the current government wants to shut the group down for good.

There was a panel discussion with the actresses during the day, and it was clear that they were truly passionate about the power of art to change everything. Crossing the Lines is based on a Women In Black publication entitled “Women’s Side of War”, which chronicles in harrowing details the stories of women affected by the Bosnian war. For the play, around fifteen stories were selected from the book and adapted into a theater production. One actress commented, “the show helped me make peace with myself. With my country, with my feelings of guilt and responsibility.”

The first scene of the play

The first scene of the play

Although most of the play was in Serbian/Bosnian, the emotions were palpable. (sidenote: I am apparently still completely incompetent with my Serbian phone because even though I thought I had put it on silent, it went off during the play…mortifying!)  My words can’t possibly do the play justice, so suffice it to say that it was an extremely powerful play that really delved into the human aspects of the conflict. Even though Women In Black focuses more on direct activism while Dah Theater primarily utilizes theatrical tools, they share common goals and visions, so it was really cool and inspiring to see them partner to create such a moving work of art. I kind of saw it as a cycle of social action. Women In Black put together the book, members of Dah read it and are inspired to develp a play based on it, WIB members go to see the play and are in turn moved and inspired by the stories. At the end of the day, the stories still take center-stage. This was the third time one of the activists saw the play, and she said it was her best experience with it because she could really feel the emotions this time. She explained that the first time she saw the play, the actresses were so emotionally distraught with the subject matter in the days preceding their performances, that their performances became compeltely rational and void of emotion. They were afraid to allow themselves into their work. Yet, it seems like this is the rare professional endeavor where it is both welcome and necessary to allow personal emotions to permeate the craft.

The last scene of the play: "Salt"

The last scene of the play: "Salt"

The poem below is from “Women’s Side of War”:

Crossing the lines
Out of lines
Means different colors
Crossing the days
The thoughts
Crossing every time
Every day
Crossing together
The senseless war
Crossing history
So They put the lines
Words of women’s future
Remind us
Remembering life in peace
Crossing the south and the north
The east and the west
We walk across the earth
Out of lines
When we see wach other
We know
We are together
When we think of each other
Miles far from
Remembering our dreams and goals
The wholeness
Despite lines and sides
Senseless war
Wear not alone
Out of lines.

Posted By Donna Harati

Posted Jul 9th, 2009

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