Qisetna – Talking Syria

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(Syrian Artist & Hakawati Bassam Dawood (left) and Dima Mekdad (right) performing at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2015.)

Qisetna – Talking Syria is a non-political platform which evolved to create a safe and inclusive space for Syrians to share their stories and keep the memory and culture of Syria alive.   It was founded by a collective of people based in London with a passion and love of Syria, its culture,  people, and heritage. It is a response to the negative images of the conflict and destruction seen in the press and felt that the practice of Qisetna storytelling could bring a positive voice of Syrian society which are constantly being overshadowing by political events and images of war.

The core team consists of Juan delGado a Creative producer based in London, who won an award for his dissertation on Transexuality in Spanish Cinema.  Julia Rampen also a key member of the Qisetna team and a London-based journalist currently working at the New Statesman Magazine and founder of the art blog MiddleEast LND.  Finally, Dima AlMekdad is the project co-director, a Syrian living in London who volunteers for several NGOs, charities and engages in civic work in her spare time.1907804_700768556683220_8637905560172866235_n

The project

Qisetna reminds people that behind the stories of war, destruction, and refugees is a story of humanity,  ordinary Syrians and their relationship with arts, culture, sport, places and their legacy.

The project which started about two years ago has an established a team of volunteer Arabic translators to make the content accessible to non-Arabic speakers. Collaborators to the blog are encouraged to write in Arabic as it writing in the mother tongue of the narrator keeps their stories pure in its essence.

Qisetna is an opportunity to keep the Arab tradition of storytelling alive. Qisetna were invited to present their project at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, in October 2015 in Edinburgh. In October 2015, Qisetna were invited to the Dimitra Festival in Thessaloniki where the creative producer Juan delGado presented his art practice including Qisetna. The Qisetna team is also participating in the conference, Tellers Without Borders, in Hamburg this September where they will present the project in the panel Storytelling and Refugees.

Qisetna: A window onto Syria for the UK

“Before the conflict in Syria began, knowledge about the country in Britain was low. As a result, the average person’s impressions of the country is mainly drawn from the coverage since the war began.

In part due to the lack of foreign correspondents working in Syria, this understanding has been sadly disjointed. Indeed, in the summer of 2015, it often boiled down to an image of ISIS and fleeing masses of refugees.

In the blog, we hope to provide a wider picture of Syrian people – their individual lives, their memories of their home and their stories of how they have coped over the last four year.

We have used stories from the blog in wider posts on Buzzfeed and Baraka Bits. The blog has also featured in a story for The Mirror on Syrian refugees. We’ve also used Twitter trends to share Syrian stories, for example on International Women’s Day.

Future ideas for sharing stories include more collaborations with The Mirror and Buzzfeed, a wider social media presence and working with the media projects now trying to cover the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.”
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