What do the Women Say?

Two evenings of poetry, performance and conversation about the Middle East

in Partnership with Sunbula: Arab Feminists for Change and WomenArts

Featuring Deema Shehabi and the writing of Nawal el Saadawi, Shahrnush Parsipur and Haya Husseini

March 8 and 9 at 7:30pm

$10 General Admission

at La Peņa Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 

Box Office/Information
510-849-2568 , info@lapena.org


Celebrate International Women's Day with us!

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Support Women Artists Now Day, Golden Thread Productions presents an evening of poetry and performance in partnership with Sunbula: Arab Women for Change and WomenArts. In light of the recent sweeping changes across the Middle East, this year’s program explores women’s role in the social and political transformation of the region.

Two different programs will be presented. The program on the 8th will include Palestinian poet, Deema Shehabi’s reading selections from her new collection; poets Haleh Hatami and Esther Kamkar’s piece, Zolmat (Darkness), a collaboration in image and poems; a staged reading of Cracking Mud is Pinching Me by Jordanian playwright, Haya Husseini, which follows the surprising relationship and contradictory images of three generations of women. The evening will close with a group rendition of the poem “I will rebuild you, Homeland!" by legendary Iranian poet, Simin Behbehani.

On the 9th, short excerpts will be read from “Prison Memoirs” by world renowned Egyptian feminist writer and activist, Nawal el Saadawi as well as “Prison Memoirs” by Iranian novelist and Bay Area resident, Shahrnush Parsipur. The readings will be followed by an expert panel addressing the sweeping changes across the Middle East. Panelists include Noha Radwan, an Egyptian-born professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at the University of California-Davis who was in Cairo during the uprisings. On February 2nd, Dr. Radwan will share her eyewitness account of the uprisings in Cairo and how she was “’beaten half to death’ by Mubarak thugs” on February 2nd after a live interview with Democracy Now.
Program Details and Participant Biographies:
Zolmat (Darkness), a collaboration in image and poems, interprets the official crackdown against protesters in Iran following the contested 2009 presidential elections. As recently as these past few weeks, voices in Iran seeking to express both their discontent and their dreams have been answered with violence. Concept and photography by Bijan Mottahedeh. Poems by Esther Kamkar and Haleh Hatami. 
Simin Behbehani is among the most prominent figures of the modern Persian literature and one of the most celebrated living poets of the Persian language. Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999 and 2002, Behbehani developed a distinct poetic voice that is both traditional and provocatively contemporary. Her poetry probes and portrays political, cultural and social concerns through a humanitarian lens that in its informality reflects a unique ease in communication. Affectionately referred to as the lioness of Iran, Behbehani’s verses echo the voice of contemporary Iranians and reflect women’s struggle to achieve individual freedom and universal justice.
Haya Husseini is a Jordanian playwright living in Australia. Cracking Mud Is Pinching Me follows three generations of Palestinian Jordanian women to a spa on the Dead Sea. The play opens with Maya kneading a ball of sugar wax in preparation for waxing her glamorous mother's legs. Maya wears a headscarf to cover her hair; her mother, clad in a bikini, can't wait to bare her hair-free legs in the open. The scene throws an immediate blow to the concept that Muslim women are homogenous, one-dimensional characters. In contrast to the Western norm of the teenage rebel, the daughter plays the conservative to her Westernized mom. The grandmother, we learn, is the most open-minded of the three. She openly describes a moment from her past, flirting and dancing the tango with her husband-to-be, without fear of judgment or religious condemnation.
Shahrnush Parsipur has written eleven works of fiction and a memoir describing her time in prison. Her novel Women Without Men was adapted to the screen by Shirin Neshat who received the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the 66th Venice Film Festival coinciding with the mass uprising that followed the 2009 elections in Iran. A bestseller in Iran, Women Without Men, like many of Parsipur's books remains banned. Imprisoned by the Shah's security agency and the Islamic Republic in turn, the author now lives in Northern California. Parsipur was the first recipient of the International Writer's Project Fellowship from Brown University. Translations of Parsipur's stories appear in Stories by Iranian Women since the Revolution (1991) and Stories from Iran: A Chicago Anthology (1991).
Noha Radwan is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Davis. Her reserach interests include modern Middle Eastern literature in Arabic and Hebrew and postcolonial literature in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Her Book manuscript about modern Egyptian poetry in the colloquial language, Shi'r al-'ammiyya and Modernism in Arabic Poetry, is currently under review.
Nawal el Saadawi is a leading Egyptian feminist, sociologist, medical doctor, and writer. Author of numerous novels, plays and critical essays, Dr. Saadawi is one of the most widely translated contemporary Egyptian writers, with her work available in twelve languages worldwide. Dr. Saadawi had a distinguished career in public health until she was dismissed from her post as director general of health education in the Ministry of Health in Cairo in 1972 and nine years later imprisoned for alleged “crimes against the state.” Even after her release her life was threatened and armed guards were stationed outside her house in Giza for several years until she left Egypt. She continues to write and campaign for freedom and justice for women and men.
Deema K. Shehabi is a poet, writer, and editor. She grew up in the Arab world and attended college in the US, where she received an MS in journalism. She is the author of a debut book of poems, Thirteen Departures from the Moon (Press 53). Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies such as The Kenyon ReviewLiterary Imagination, New Letters, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, Perihelion, Drunken Boat, Bat City Review, Inclined to Speak: Contemporary Arab-American Poetry, and the Poetry of Arab Women. She served as Vice-President for the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI) between 2007 and 2010. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two sons.
Started in 1909 in the U.S., International Women’s Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

Support Women Artists Now Day (SWAN Day) is an annual holiday that celebrates women’s creativity in all art forms.  It was initiated by WomenArts in 2008, and there have been over 500 SWAN Day events in 14 countries since then.  People celebrate SWAN Day world-wide throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month) by making gifts to their favorite women artists and by attending events that showcase women’s talents.  www.SwanDay.org

Founded in 1996, Golden Thread Productions is dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities as expressed around the globe. We present alternative perspectives of the Middle East by developing and producing theatrical work that is aesthetically varied and politically and viscerally engaging, while supporting countless Middle Eastern artists in all phases of their careers. Our mission is to make the Middle East a potent presence on the American stage and also to make theatre a treasured cultural experience within Middle Eastern communities.  We build cultural bridges by engaging the community in an active dialogue and facilitating collaborations among artists of diverse backgrounds with the aim of creating a world where the common human experience supersedes cultural and political differences. www.goldenthread.org

Sunbula is a grassroots organization of radical Arab feminists in the Bay Area working for equality, social change and gender justice. We recognize and affirm the diverse experiences of Arab and Arab-American women. We seek to transform our societies by dismantling all forms of oppression, and countering ignorance while promoting awareness of Arab and Arab-American women’s issues.

WomenArts is a worldwide community of artists and allies that works for empowerment, opportunity, and visibility for women artists. WomenArts provides a variety of free online networking, fundraising and advocacy services, and organizes Support Women Artists Now Day (SWAN Day), an annual international holiday celebrating women’s creativity in all its forms. The organization is founded on the belief that women artists have the power to create, connect, and change the world. www.WomenArts.org

Torange Yeghiazarian, Artistic Director / Serge Bakalian, Managing Director
450 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 / 415.626.4061 / information@goldenthread.org