Mira Sidawi: The Camp Is Full of Creativity and Inspiration
Her mother named her Mira after a character in a series played by the late Lebanese actress Hind Abi Lamaa. This happened during the 1980s—in 1984 to be precise—when “Beirut was experiencing its difficult times of madness, where the taste of life was bitter and the sky ablaze with missiles and explosions,” says Mira.
Mira was born in the Bourj el-Barajneh camp, in a suburb of Beirut. She tells us that she was very little when her sister was killed, and shortly after that her father died and was buried over her in the cemetery. “But before he was gone, he taught me how to walk inside the camp’s alleys without falling into the open holes along the road, making sure that the rats don’t notice my passing, and get ready to sink their teeth into my tender flesh.”
Mira lived the Palestinian story through her “very Palestinian” father, who used to tell her: “We have more than one country. Our country lies in scattered camps, a few in Syria, some in Jordan and Lebanon, and the rest in Palestine itself. We, the Palestinians, are the only people whose homeland is suspended between Heaven and Earth, and there is a place for us in all the places of the Earth.”
Mira obtained a Theater Degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Lebanese University and despite her family’s opposition, she was able to work in theater. She has appeared in a number of short and feature movies, including Permission, Instead of a Homeland and Mon Souflé.
She co-wrote and acted in the play Ayouba and a Cage, which is a story about the obstacles and challenges a Palestinian woman faces. She appeared in the play Al Mazhab with the director Lina Khoury, and in the play Systematic with Badih Abou Chakra, which is about monotony sneaking in a couple’s life. She also participated with Dima Wannous in a short story writing workshop at Goethe-Institute. Her short story Tell Sleep to Sleep was selected for the Frankfurt International Book Fair after being published in Arabic and translated into German. She contributed with the writer Hassan Daoud in a writing workshop of a book titled Eleven Stories from the Palestinian Exile published last year by the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut.
Mira produced her first film, A Camp on Four Wheels in 2015, which addresses the death and burial of Palestinians in camps. She is currently directing her second feature film The Wall, which is set between Bourj el-Barajneh and Shatila camps.
Years after she migrated to Germany, Mira returned to Bourj el-Barajneh camp and is currently working on her first play that sheds light on life inside the camp. “My goal is to break the stereotypes about the camps and their inhabitants: that they are poor, without a future, and fighting against each other all the time. The camp is a place full of creativity and inspiration, my eyes capture its magic. I go around it looking for the face of truth, and as the truth is lost in its alleyways, I hold my camera searching for it, writing it…or, disheartened, I go back to the theater and perform my disappointment on stage.”
When asked to describe herself, Mira says, “I have not found a title yet. I’m not just a writer, an actress or a director. I have discovered myself in all these areas, all of which lead only to Palestine—I very much resemble my country. I dream that I will be freed just like Palestine will be, and that my body will capture the sunlight in Bourj el-Barajneh camp; the sunlight that cannot make its way into its narrow alleys.”