Serious Play — Lebanon’s Refugees

Victoria Lupton, Director of Seenaryo (London, UK)

On the first Monday in August, we arrived at Yaabad, a school for Palestinian refugees from Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, our home for the week. We were there to launch Seenaryo a new organisation that devises and performs musical plays with refugees in Lebanon entirely from scratch, through a series of weeklong “showbuilds culminating in a performance to friends and family. Having agreed the week’s format with the self-organised group of scouts who had invited us to Yaabad, we met our group of 25 children aged between 11 and 14 years old. Or at least, that had been the plan; in reality the number was 35 and the age as young as 7. “The young ones are very talented; they won’t cause you any problems,” smiled Jamal, leader of the scouts along with his wife Mona, when he saw our doubtful faces. It was difficult to refuse.

This first week of Seenaryo was in Shatila; the second was to be with a large group of Syrian refugees in Chtaura, near the Syrian border. The project took place before the global refugee crisis was characterised as such, but our aims in working with both Syrian and Palestinian refugees were very clear: to respond to the urgent need for cultural projects amongst the over 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but also to recognize the need amongst Lebanon’s half-million Palestinians in Lebanon, many of whom have been hosted as refugees for over 60 years, and who are struggling against the odds to sustain an entire culture four generations displaced. With the overwhelming international focus on the Syrian refugee tragedy, the Palestinians in Lebanon are in some senses the country’s forgotten refugees, even as they continue to suffer enormous deprivation and discrimination.

Excerpt from #FrontièresWalls — Volume 1 Issue 1 of STORIES. Full text available in the print publication.

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