Strengthening twinning links between Oxford and the Palestinian city of Ramallah with the arts festival


WHILE traveling between Oxford and its final twin city is still tricky, the bonds of friendship between our city and the Palestinian capital Ramallah are being strengthened with an online arts festival.

The Artivism Festival, which runs until Wednesday, is hosted by the Mandala Theater Company of East Oxford in conjunction with the Ashtar Theater in Ramallah in the West Bank, near Jerusalem.

Organizers hope the event, which tomorrow will see a kickoff event screened live with presentations by civic leaders from both cities, will serve as the official launch of the twinning links between the two cities.

It will begin with presentations by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Mark Lygo; the mayor of Ramallah, Musa Hadid; and the artistic directors of the Mandala and Ashtar theaters.

This will be followed by screenings of Blood Oil, a production of the Mandala Theater Company, written by Sean Burn and directed by Yasmin Sidhwa; and The Brainwashers Conference by Ashtar Theater, an adaptation of Turandot by Bertolt Brecht, which is in Arabic with English subtitles. There will then be a question-and-answer session with members of each cast.

Ramallah city center. Photo by Tim Hughes

The event is organized in association with the City Councils of Oxford and Ramallah, the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association, the Ultimate Picture Palace Cinema of East Oxford and Activate Learning.

The link between Oxford and Ramallah was forged with a twinning agreement at Oxford City Hall in March 2019 and follows links with seven other cities: Bonn in Germany, Grenoble in France, Leiden in the Netherlands, Padua in Italy, Wroc Polandaw in Poland, Perm in Russia and León in Nicaragua.

Mr. Lygo said, “The Festival of Artivism is a celebration of cultures and community – the very essence of what the twinning is designed to nurture. The ties between the cities of Ramallah and Oxford began before the twinning, and it is these ties that led to the consolidation of our relationship by officially twinning Ramallah with Oxford.

“The last 15 months have been incredibly difficult for the world with the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the exchanges between our cities. Virtual events took place and three schools were twinned. This shows that despite the restrictions, the will of the inhabitants of the two cities to interact and create ever stronger bonds is unwavering. ”

Oxford Courier: Ramallah, Palestine.  Photo by Tim Hughes

Ramallah Martyrs Memorial. Photo by Tim Hughes

Speaking from the Palestinian West Bank, Mr Hadid said: “Our relationship with Oxford is special because it is based on our communities. This festival is a celebration of the continuous connection which, although only for a short time, is already very dense.

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“With the city of Oxford, we have successfully linked our schools to allow students to exchange experiences. We have also, despite a global pandemic, managed to collaborate on many virtual festivals. It shows how much stronger human ties are than any obstacle – whether it’s a viral occupation or an Israeli one. Our exchanges reflect the quality of the links that unite the two cities, testifying to a human solidarity that transcends borders.

The event will take place tomorrow from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. See mandalathéâtre.co.uk / artivism


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