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Writing in Exile: Samah Sabawi

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Photograph of Samah Sabawi

Samah Sabawi at the Wheeler Centre

‘For Palestinian writers, we write for our lives,’ Samah Sabawi has written. ‘We write to exist.’

Sabawi is an award-winning playwright, author, essayist and poet. She’s also a policy advisor for Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka, and the second featured speaker in our PEN Writing in Exile series.

Sabawi's family left Palestine following Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip when she was a baby in 1967. She’s lived and worked across the globe throughout her life, but retains strong ties to the place of her birth. In Australia, she’s perhaps best known for her play, Tales of a City by the Sea, which won two Drama Victoria awards in 2016 and has also been rapturously received by audiences in Palestine, Canada and Malaysia. In the same year, the prolific Sabawi contributed to the anthology I Remember My Name, which received Middle East Monitor’s 2016 Palestine Book Award. Her most recent play, THEM, premieres later in May 2019 at the La Mama Courthouse.

Sabawi’s writing is concerned with displacement, conflict and diaspora. ‘Through writing our stories, our poems and songs,’ she has written, ‘we reconstruct our erased past, assert our present and try to shape our future.’ Appearing live at the Wheeler Centre, she talks to Sami Shah about writing for her life.

Presented in partnership with PEN Melbourne.

Who?

Portrait of Samah Sabawi

Samah Sabawi

Samah Sabawi is an award-winning playwright, author and poet. Her critically acclaimed play Tales of a City by the Sea was selected for the 2016 Victorian Certificate of Education Drama Playlist, won two Drama Victoria awards for best new Australian publication and best performance for VCE and was nominated for Best Independent Production at the Green Room Awards. The play was staged to full houses and standing ovations in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Malaysia, Canada and Palestine and is on the study list of a number of universities and schools around the globe.

Portrait of Sami Shah

Sami Shah

Sami Shah is a multi-award winning writer, comedian, and broadcaster. He’s been profiled in the New York Times, ABC’s Australian Story, BBC Radio 4, NPR, and appeared on QI with Stephen Fry and The Project

Sami has been performing award-winning and highly acclaimed comedy for over a decade, and used his acerbic wit to address world affairs and social issues, in comedy clubs and even international platforms like TEDx. 

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