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Back to Basra

February 12, 2013

I’ve hardly been back in London for three weeks, and am off again to Basra for a handful of days. This time, as well as a few workshops, I’ve succumbed to being involved in the short musical film ‘I am THE Hope’, which aims to promote the charity’s initiatives and send a positive message; a message of hope, if you will.

The stars of the show will be the children from the private orphanage, whom I worked with last month, as well as a few other features, which I believe I will be a part of.  The film is a collaboration of many Iraqis, based in Basra and abroad, including the many dedicated volunteers.

I didn’t see how I could be involved in this project, as I was originally asked (some four years ago!) to lead a community theatre piece, which I’d assumed would be devised. I’m interested in the process of devising a piece of community art or/ and theatre that can incorporate dialogue, building of trust, developing means of expression etc. as well as, in the way I strive to work, a strong therapeutic element. A more traditional work, where a script is pre-written and music pre-composed, with minimal (if any) input from the kids themselves, wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of. So when the theatre project was ditched, in favour of the film, I offered to design and run a series of workshops for the children, to run parallel to the film. And that’s what I went to do last month.

So before I went on my first trip to Basra, the head of LLI charity, Nadwa, asked me to play the part of the pre-Islamic Sumerian Shub-ad, Queen of Ur, in the film [up until a few minutes ago, when I double checked an email, I thought I was going to play a Sumerian goddess, so am somewhat disappointed to  be playing mere royalty…] . I gave Nadwa my usual spiel: ‘I’m not pursuing a straight acting career, I am focusing on community stuff..’ yada yada yada. She was understanding, and left the matter at that.

After I met the team on the ground, in Basra, I was left feeling inspired, enthused and somewhat humbled [for a queen..]. This is a short promotional film for the charity, and seeing the wonderful people involved, pooling in all their tools and abilities to create something together, my spiel felt pretentious and out-of-place.

This is community arts within a creative grass roots context.

When asked again- this time Nadwa was on full charm offensive/ emotional blackmail, as she rang me from Basra, put the team on speaker phone, and persisted with ‘Fayiz says’, that’s the exceptionally talented and resourceful director of the film, ‘we only need you for a few days, and there is no one else who can play Queen Shub-ad…’. This mixture of flattery and sincerity was too seductive. I didn’t want to resist.

So I’m off to Basra to be a goddess… erm, a queen!


Sumerian headdress worn by Queen Shub-ad, discovered in Ur by Mr C. Leonard Woolley and published in the ‘Illustrated London News’, 1928. 

Queen Shub-Ad, also known as Pu-Abi, “Word of my Father,” lived in Ur, an ancient Mesopotamian city, circa 2600–2500 B.C. during the Third Dynasty. What we know of her mostly comes from her tomb, which was excavated at Ur between 1926 and 1932. It contained more wealth than any of the other tombs, as well as the skeletons of five soldiers and twenty-three female servants who had been poisoned and buried to serve Pu-Abi in her next life. Symbols on her tomb identify her as both queen and priestess.

(above info) Brookyln Museum website:


On a side note, I wrote this underground, on my way to a gig at the Jazz Cafe in Camden, to listen to Iraqi-Canadian rapper The Narcicyst, who’s originally from Basra [!!]. Hip hop is a young and strange world to me, so I was out of my element here. Though I particularly enjoyed the Syrian Arabic chanting, as part of Syrian-American rapper Omar Offendum’s song- it was quite surreal to have a flavour of the Arab Winter in the Jazz Cafe…


The Narcycist website:

Omar Offendum’s myspace site:

One Comment
  1. Beautiful Tara, I agree nobody can play the Queen like you! Go forth and prosper… The project sounds very interesting and I cannot wait to read your blog when you get back!

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