Sophocles Antigone in Kabul- Evi Routoula
Yesterday I got out, ran around the streets, in order to manage to buy the Sunday papers, since most of them were giving complementary books about literature. In the old days people used to choose their newspaper according to their political views, now they choose the newspaper they are going to buy according to what book, c.d. etc they offer. I am not going to comment on this development, whether it is good or bad. What is really good is the chance the readers have to acquire novels and short stories collections by paying only four euro. The cheaper the book is the more accessible it is to everybody.
The article I read at the newspaper “Eleftheros Typos” of Sunday 20th July by the journalist Xenia Stouka. Ms Stouka informs us for a rare and wonderful initiative by the actress and director Anneta Papathanasiou to give lessons of the ancient Greek tragedy and specifically of Antigone by Sophocles, at the University of Kabul, at the department of Theatrical Studies.
Starting from this article and after having done my own research, I learnt that Anneta Papathanasiou was born in America and she has graduated from the acting school of E. Chatzikou and from the Law School of Athens. Moreover she has studied theatre in New York and she has been working as an actress since 1981. In 1987, together with Olymbia Basklavani, she created a theatrical artistic club for children, where they were teaching theatrical game, painting and different artistic constructions. The last years she directed with great success several documentary films. Among them is the documentary “I will get wings” (second documentary price at the Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki), “After the tsounami- Sumatra”, “After the tsunami- Sri Lanka”, “Tsunami- a year after” and “Quadir, an Afghan Ulysses” (Best documentary price from the International T.V. festival, Roma Fiction Festival)
The documentary “Quadir, an Afghan Ulysses” was her first contact with Afghanistan in 2007. Since then she acquired an interest for this region. At some point she saw a photograph from an Afghan group of actors that were acting on a play by Moliere. She was impressed by the fact that one of the actresses was not wearing the traditional kerchief . While she continued her research regarding the theatrical art in Afghanistan, she discovered that at the University of Kabul there is a department of theatrical studies. Without losing any time, she got in touch with the professor in charge, Housein Zanda, who invited her to teach about the ancient Greek theatre to his students. At the same time she met a lady that she had organized a group of actresses that was performing at prisons and at orphanages. Anneta Papathanasiou arrived in Afghanistan in September 2012. A few days later a 22 year old actress was murdered simply because she was acting. Her theatrical team hid for quite a while, some actresses abandoned their theatrical carriers and Anneta Papathanasiou started her own adventure by choosing to teach Sophocles’ Antigone, in a symbolic gesture, since Antigone was the woman who till the end defended her beliefs, the woman that stood against the authorities and the king.
Anneta Papathanasiou found two hundred male students and eight female students at the university of Kabul. Most of these eight women, just attend the seminars and they don’t wish to get on the stage. After the falling of the Taliban government the conditions are somehow better, after a long time, the young men and women can occupy themselves with the arts if they wish to. Still, insecurity is the main feeling, especially among the female population. As Ms Papathanasiou tells us:”I saw a unique passion for freedom, learning and for the arts. The women of Kabul play daily with fire. They want to be able to go out free and without fear, at last”.
Anneta Papathanasiou presents her effort to teach Sophocles at the University of Kabul, together with the position of the arts in the Afghan society and the difficulties that the actresses have to face at her new documentary “Playing with fire”, which has already been shown at Brazil, Rio De Janeiro and at Patmos and Crete. In Athens we will have the chance to see it at “Danaos” cinema on 4th September. The only we can do is to honestly wish her every luck and a lot of courage.
Translation by Stella Chatzi