On the Hills of Masyoun, overlooking Jerusalem, lies Mahmoud Darwish’s grave. Almost four years after his death, occupied Ramallah commemorated Darwish’s birthday again by opening al-Birwa Garden next to the Ramallah Cultural Palace. The opening coincided with the Palestinian National Cultural Day and the ceremony announcing the winners of the annual Mahmoud Darwish Award for Freedom and Creativity.
This is the third time the award has been given. The first year, it went to Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif and South African poet Breyten Breytenbach. The second year, it was awarded to Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo and Palestinian writer Mahmoud Shukair.
The head of the award committee is critic Faisal Darraj
and its members include Mohammed Lotfi Al-Yousefi (Tunisia), Khaled al-Karaki (Jordan), Subhi al-Hadidi (Syria), Jamal Shohayed (Syria), Shirine Abu al-Naja (Egypt), Ahmad Harb (Palestine), Suleiman Jubran (Palestine), Ibrahim Musa (Palestine) and Ibrahim Abu Hashash (Palestine).
The award was supposed to be given to an Arab writer and a non-Arab writer, as has been done in the past. But because of the Arab revolutions, the award committee decided to honor a writer from Tunisia, the wellspring of the Arab Spring and the land of Bouazizi.
The Mahmoud Darwish Award for Freedom and Creativity took on a special meaning this year with the opening of al-Birwa Garden, a cultural space that carries the name of Darwish’s birthplace. It includes a garden and a museum (9,000 square meters) designed by architect Jaafar Touqan (son of the late Palestinian poet Ibrahim Touqan).
Al-Birwa Garden will include a multipurpose hall, a library, a museum housing some of Darwish’s belongings, and an outdoor summer theater, in addition to the public garden where his grave lies.
The Palestinian Authority was present in full force at this event. The director of the Mahmoud Darwish Foundation, Yaser Abed Rabu, opened the ceremony and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad gave a speech after him before both men presented the awards to the recipients.
Palestinian poet, Zuhair Abu Shayeb, offered his award to all Palestinian poets of his generation “who are no less deserving of winning this award...”
The ceremony also included musical segments presented by The Palestine Youth Orchestra and the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music that focused on Darwish’s poems put to music by Marcel Khalife. And finally, seven-year-old Moataz Mattour recited Darwish’s poem Passers Between the Passing Words...
Published Sunday, March 18, 2012