The Most Ambitious Clown in the Middle East
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this campy clown is deadly serious about bringing joy to Syria’s refugees in Lebanon.
By Charlotte Buchen
Part of the OZY original video series From Beirut, With Love.
Sabine Choucair is a clown with a mission. After years of clowning (yes, that’s a technical term) to boost morale for the Syrian kids stuck in the purgatory of Lebanon’s refugee camps, Choucair decided to try another form of art therapy. She began a project called the Caravan, which enables Syrians to create their own street theater based on the stories recounted and recorded by other Syrian refugees. And yes, they travel and perform out of a van.
“I thought, ok, how about instead of me telling these stories, how about I let them tell their [own] stories?” says Choucair of her troupe of refugee thespians. Not only is it important for the Syrian community to take ownership of this narrative, she says, but also “for the Lebanese community … to listen to these stories and decide for themselves if they want to love they people, or don’t want to love these people.”
Since this video was filmed in late 2016, the number of refugees in the Bekaa Valley has more than doubled to over 300,000. According to the United Nations, Lebanon as a whole is host to over 1.1 million refugees from the Syrian Civil War, the most of any country relative to population. In recent months, tensions have risen between the Lebanese and Syrian communities, with sporadic reports of violence and cases of army evictions from refugee camps.
This story was originally published on Jan. 9, 2017.
Additional video and editing by Elie Khadra.