“A Good Stage” or “A Good Platform” has taken upon itself the advancement of the arts in Jerusalem, in the broad cultural and intercultural context.
Bama Tova was established by group of young Jerusalemites for whom Jerusalem as a multi-cultural city is dear to them.
We aspire to assist young artists who are starting out on their artistic careers and who are working and creating in Jerusalem in many artistic fields including literature and poetry, theater, cinema, the plastic arts, music and photography.
We hope to contribute to the expansion of the concept of what art is beyond current approaches. We aspire to develop new paths for artistic expression that provide room for meaning, not just for art for art’s sake; expression that has room for the general public and the community and that isn’t limited to the private and the personal. We believe that it’s possible to achieve this by openness to neighboring cultures and by learning about past heritages alongside contemporary experience.
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Please help us establish a dialogue between east and west – Right here, right now.
Benyamin Yakovian was born in Iran and lives in Jerusalem.
Here is what he tells us about the factors that influenced him to establish Bama Tova, “A Good Stage”:
“I established Bama Tova for two main reasons. Firstly, I felt that in Jerusalem a vacuum had developed in all matters pertaining to artistic activity.
Artistic activity, as I understand it, is not only an end product.
Artists can be brought everywhere to appear in cities or to display in galleries—this is art in the narrow meaning of the term.
For me, artistic activity involves all the phases of growth: it is the theater acting group practicing on an improvised stage, a choir carrying out rehearsals in a basement, or dancers meeting at a sports center and carrying out a performance.
In other words, artistic activity is also a way, a process, and not only a product.
Among its other functions, I want Jerusalem to be a capital city of artistic activity in the sense that it will be a city of artists who live and create in it, and not only a place that imports art.
The second reason I established Bama Tova relates to my personal background. As a Jew born in Iran, I feel the lack of a broader dialogue between Israeli art and other cultures, particularly the ancient Iranian culture.
Some of the most influential cultural treasures were created in Iran. Through their art, the Sufi poets (including Jewish ones) conducted a dialogue with the Jewish philosophical tradition., whether they were aware of this or not.
I want to broaden the cultural dialogue also in the realm of time – that is nurtured from the past, and also in the realm of space—gaining awareness of the good and the excellence of various cultures.
In 2017, on No-Ruz day (the Iranian New Year, whose origins are in the pre-Islamic period), Mohammed Hatami awarded the Golden Letter Prize to the Israeli initiative “Bama Tova” for winning an annual Iranian culture festival with their play “Conference of the Birds”, by the Sufi-Iranian playwright Attar.
This knowledge seems fantastic, today, 20 years earlier. The focus of the non-Iranian world on security matters, on the nuclear issue and on the anti-western and anti-Israeli criticism of Iran, diverts attention from the important processes and events taking place within the country. There, another Iran is revealed – one with a vibrant cultural life, a multi-faceted press, a quality film industry, active women’s and student’s organizations, and a thriving civil society. The overflowing cultural treasure of this age-old nation is not well enough known among the people of the land of Zion.
The Iranian nation, a “nation of song and flower”, a nation that, even today, after the Islamic revolution, has within it a longing for its root culture, including a longing for national poetry such as that of Ferdusi (the author of the “Sha’ah – Namah” – The Book of Kings), or that of Hafez, Jalaludin Rumi, Sa’adi, Attar, and many others, who stood and still stand as creative giants throughout the entire world. The question is then asked, what do we as Israelis, and them as Iranians, have in common? What is the key that can build bridges between us, and to what extent is it necessary?
In the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s discussion of the process of socialization, a process during which an individual turns from a biological being into a social being, and different groups solidify into a social structure, he coins the term “habitus” – the entire set of symbols, behaviors and interpretations that make up the individual’s culture. This set evolves during the socialization process, and represents the cultural “taste”. The habitus, according to Bourdieu, can be viewed as capital of three kinds, through which the socialization process occurs:
A) Economic capital. B) Social capital. C) Cultural capital.
It seems that the socialization process of the State of Israel with its neighbors in general, and with Iran in particular, has already encountered two stumbling blocks:
A) On the economic level, the failure of the Oslo peace process and the first “New Middle East” plan, initiated by Shimon Peres, the main principle of which was economic cooperation;
B) On the social level, the second “New Middle East” plan, initiated by the United States, at the center of which was the attempt – even by force – to introduce democratic activity and human rights into the region’s countries.
The third level, then – the cultural one – is the one remaining capital that can serve as a key to the socialization process en route to the third “New Middle East”.
In an age when the world’s attention is directed towards Iranian passion for nuclear power and towards its attempts to achieve regional hegemony, and to become a global force as leader of the non-American world in control of the Middle East; at a time when Mohammed Hatami – who symbolized, more than anything, openness and reformism – is conducting tours of publicity and open diplomacy, in the style of “the discourse between civilizations” in Japan, the United States and other countries; in these times, it is worthy and appropriate for us to begin taking practical steps in this direction.
This is where theater comes into the picture. As a method of expression that is eclectic (gathering and adding universal ideas to the cauldrons of creativity), and practical (capable of driving social processes), theater serves as a response to the problem created by the inter-civilizational culture gap. From within the multifaceted character of this medium, I will suggest one route, a route that is new in the theater world in general, and in Israel in particular, and with which, on the other hand, the Jewish and Iranian cultures are both saturated.
In order to define it, we will adopt a term from the world of film: “Poetic Realism” – a term coined by the British critic Roger Manvell. This term refers to a group of films made between the years 1935 and 1947. The films of Poetic Realism were, in their essence, metaphorical portraits of France in this period, and were rich with lyrical symbolism, though they were realistic in their character and set design. By transferring this term into the field of theater, I will try to define it using the toolbox of Aristotle, the author of “Poetics”.
Art acts on the cognitive and emotive levels. On the cognitive level, the artist, as an impersonator of the essence of things, grasps the essential and builds a private example that embodies the realization of the potential of essence at its best. By means of the successful private example, the artist represents all individual occurrences having that same general and necessary essence. The individual and coincidental characteristics, chosen by the artist to emphasize a certain essence, are the result of the artist’s choice, and are subject to his opinion. He may take them from the reality that he knows, and he may create them in his imagination and make connections as he sees fit. The determining consideration is this: what will be more fitting? What will better emphasize the essential? What will allow the creation of an impression of the necessary? From these questions stems the atittude that searches for “truth” in a work of art. On the emotive level, the artist gives art an essential role in maintaining emotional harmony.
Since art reflects knowledge, it can be assumed that it, too, has its mistakes. Aristotle classifies these into two types: the first of which is unimportant and does not harm the value of the artistic creation, which reflects truth; and the second type, which is part of the essence of artistic truth:
A) Inaccuracy in details regarding facts. For example, if the director casts a two legged actor for the role of a horse, this need not be considered an artistic mistake that harms the work’s value. B) An incorrect apprehension of essence. The artistic work must convince us by means of its reliability, and by means of the necessary connections between its disparate parts. Surprising solutions that do not connect with the logical continuum of the plot, and actions that do not serve its essence, harm the artistic work. And here, this important distinction of Aristotle’s leads us to a definition of Poetic Realism in its theatrical context – since what Aristotle called a “mistake” of the first kind, is the essential and necessary component of Poetic Realism. The search for truth through inaccuracy in details lies at the foundation of poetic theater. The man-horse in poetic theater would be represented specifically by a man, while embodying the character traits of a horse. His eccentricities, his movements, and the style of his speech, remind us of those of a horse, but he will be a horse-like man.
Unlike realist theater, which makes purely lexical use of characters and symbols, meaning that every facet of the play has a single, accurate parallel in reality, poetic theater searches for an additional level and unites it with the existing realist level. The metaphor, which encompasses two realities at once, plays a central role in it, just as it is central to poetry. So also, in poetic theater, there are rules of rhythm (the importance of the actor’s movements, the manner in which the words are expressed, and the integrated music).
The stage is not a copy of reality. As an imitation of life, it is rather hopeless. Film and television will always supersede it quite easily. The stage must be a metaphor of reality. If an actor works within the metaphoric space, he is thereby speaking a metaphoric language and therefore, everything he does will be a metaphor and an image, whether he intends it or not; whether he believes it or not. The theater actor is a poet of the body. The physical image creates a form for the energy of will, and gives it rhythm, melody, tension and direction. In poetry, the full power of the word is expressed on stage – this is the action. The actor enters, says something, stops, looks around him, turns back, sighs, sits, lies down, passes a hand over his forehead, stands up, says something else… leaves. That is – acts.
Each individual action is part of a greater process, a single component of the entire play taking place on stage, just as every touch of the painter’s brush is but a particle of the entire texture of the painting. Every act on stage, be it small or large, minor or central, is part of a metaphorical work of art. It tries to capture feelings of existence and to express them with the greatest intensity, like an image in a poem. This is poetic theater.
Poetic theater is worthy of exploring a new direction, one that is nobler than other kinds of theater, a facet that is numinous – even exalted, one that goes beyond the line that divides the worlds of fiction and reality. It is possible, and appropriate, to weave into it the “authenticity” of the archaic worlds – a return to values of days of yore, to the foundational roots of the nation as it truly is, as this dimension sheds new light on the current work, and is not inferior or outdated. The return of reality to the starting point can be achieved by several different means: a return to the canonical texts, the moral – ethical link with generations to come, and the identification with another reality that is not as it seems to us today. On the other hand, this applies to fiction as well. In this way, a breakthrough is also made from historical time to the level of non-historical existence and experience. It seems that in the postmodern era, in which the reflection of reality becomes reality itself, the distance between it and a fictional world decreases, and this can be seen as a blow to the nobility of art in general, and theater in particular. This numinous dimension also has a certain religious connotation; there were those that defined the concept of holiness in religion (such as Mircha Aliada, one of the greatest researchers of religion in the 20th century) as the myth of eternal return, the connection between concrete time and the mythical time of the beginning. In some ways, poetic theater constitutes a link between concrete reality and a reality that is not so.
The Persian language is rich with idiomatic expressions and metaphorical concepts. The poetic songs are a cornerstone of its culture, since even the simple, illiterate people are imbued with it.
The roots of the Jewish people also lie in song and poetry. We find that in the heart of hearts of both nations lies a similar cultural foundation; I call only for a resurrection of the emotional mechanisms that lie hidden within this foundation. Looking forward towards a future of a new, big Islamic, and small Jewish, Middle East, it is possible and worthwhile to begin processes of socialization using cultural activities, right here and right now. As Tolstoy said, “the purpose of art is to unify humans”. With a theater that is attentive to the socio-political pulse of its country, a theater that acknowledges the harmony of different shades in its views, a poetic theater that is imbued with emotion and brotherhood, this can be done.
Benyamin Yakovian, born in Iran, is a doctoral candidate of the School of Humanities in Theater Studies, Philosophy and Iranian Studies.
Bama Tova for Businesses The arts are present all around us in our daily lives, in education, in society, in businesses. The world is a stage and all stage is a place for play – a play that helps you drive process initiatives, create change, and achieve goals.
Bama Tova offers workshops aiming at improving working processes through interpersonal and experiential simulations rooted in the performing arts. These simulations will assist you in developing tools that are particularly efficient: mental flexibility; the ability to cope with change; the ability to change perspective and develop new ways of looking at things. By helping you tackle fearlessly the complexities inherent to business, these tools will pave the way to your success.
You can book a one-day workshop or a series of workshops, whose topics will be defined in advance.
Bama Tova – the creative way of leveraging your business!