Antar - Al Hakawati In Japan

Translation / Interpretation / Caption Text

Artists' Statement

As I remember it, when the Palestinian theatre group Al-Hakawati was invited to Japan to perform the first Palestinian operetta "Antar" (1988), a year after it was composed by Mustapha Al-Kurd, I was asked to design the poster.

The story of Antar and Abla is famous in poetry and myth in Arab culture, based on the exploits of a real hero Antara Ibn Shaddad, one of the greatest Arab poets of antiquity.

The troupe's name "Al-Hakawati" is the Arabic term for the story-teller of yore, who would recite such traditional stories as the Arabian Nights to spell-bound coffee-shop guests. One epic was the saga of Antar, the son of an Ethiopian slave woman and an Arab tribal chieftain, who raised Antar as a slave. When their tribe was attacked by an enemy tribe Antar was urged by his father to fight.

Antar replied that a slave neither fights nor flees, so the father uttered the resounding (and rhyming) words: "كر يا عنتر فأنت حر Kur ya Antar fa anta hurr", viz. "Attack, Oh Antar, you are free!". Antar did fight and the battle was won. These are the Arabic words I put in my faux carpet illustration, repeating the word for 'free' three times. The symbolism of the broken chain is self-explanatory, particularly in the Palestinian context because Al-Hakawati Theatre is based in Israeli-occupied Arab Jerusalem.

The Moon is used because in Arab literature a common way to describe the beauty of a woman is to say she is like the Moon.

I was happy with the way the Japanese designer, Kohei Sugiura, placed my illustration in the elegant typographic setting with the startling chrome-yellow background.

Vladimir Tamari - 2013


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