January 03, 2018

And the award goes to:The Freedom Theatre and LeftWord Books! ‘Rehearsing Freedom: The Story of a Theatre in Palestine’, the most recent photography book extraordinaire, a true labour of love edited by Johanna Wallin and designed by Sherna Dastur, has won the Publishing Next Award for Best Illustrated Book of the Year!
The Freedom Theatre’s latest title, ‘Rehearsing Freedom: The Story of a Theatre in Palestine’ is a visual journey through the first ten years of the work and life of The Freedom Theatre. This volume presents, for the first time, the story of The Freedom Theatre in its own voice, through rare archival photographs and text. It is a precious record of multifarious challenges facing the cultural resistance movement in Palestine, and the ability of a group of determined people to undertake creation under occupation.
Rehearsing Freedom has a visual focus but it is not a classic photo book: pictures lead the way, but the texts reinforce the stories inside the images. The book is not chronological, nor is it sharply divided into chapters. There are themes but they are fluid. Much like life inside and outside The Freedom Theatre, in other words. There is something quite unique about this book: it reads from right to left. That is a way to signal from the very moment that the reader lays their eyes on the book, something about The Freedom Theatre’s identity. We are a Palestinian theatre, and we have a habit of turning things upside down, inside out, and back to front. 
Rehearsing Freedom is as much a record of the plays and productions of The Freedom Theatre over the past decade, as it is of the work done in photography and film by members of our multimedia team, as well as by the talented students and volunteers who have contributed so generously to document the work of the theatre. It is perhaps more than anything a document of the people who make The Freedom Theatre what it is.

“One of the most incredible books I have experienced in recent times. It’s alive, it’s moving in your hands, under your eyes, and it creates spaces for conversations as you turn the pages. The politics of resistance forms the spine of this book and creates its arguments and audacity through the multi-shaped pages of images and text. History is narrated not through linearities of time but with an understanding of the connectedness of thoughts and actions; of ideas, positions and their manifestations. It is a story of resistance through the arts in occupied zones, that breathes through the design and production of the book and not just through its content or substance. To me this is a ‘book’, an ‘installation’, as well as an ‘archive’. This is a celebration of ‘book making’ as resistance.” — Arundhati Ghosh, Executive Director, India Foundation for the Arts 

“This book has a quality of an essay, but does not follow the conventional structure of an essay. Usually, one expects a chronology of events in a biographical text. This book does not follow the linear timeline. Purposefully selected and placed texts, and photographs break the spatial and temporal boundaries without losing the context. The design of the book is such that it keeps the sequence of events at play-forward-pause-rewind mode. This departure from the linear narrative is one of the strengths of the book. […] Sometimes such a book can make its readers take a condescending approach especially, when it is about an organisation that works in extraordinary circumstances and has faced violence so closely. But this book, neither lets its reader become patronising, nor does it let Palestinians come across as victims. Reading this visual biography of first ten years of TFT makes you angry, sad, inspired and hopeful. Not for a moment it lets you pity the Palestinian. It talks about the cracks of possibilities through which a whole new generation of cultural freedom fighters have been built and rebuilt.” Komita Dhanda, theatre 
“This little theatre could change the world.” Howard Brent, playwright
You can read more about the the book on our blog here, written by editor Johanna Wallin.
The book is also available here (at a massive 60% discount!)