ARAWELO: A Modern Retelling of the Warrior Queen

‘ARAWELO’ is a new original play produced by Queen of Sheba International. The play uses traditional story-telling techniques to make the ancient Somali legend relevant to a contemporary audience. Arawelo is an ancient Somali warrior queen who is said to have existed around the 10th century BC. She is a highly controversial figure in the Somali tradition in terms of female identity and empowerment. She is said to have founded and implemental a matriarchal society in ancient Somali territories and to have acted brutally to any man that challenged her. We are an all-female, majority BAME company made up of professional and amateur artists.

The period elements of the production are stripped back to tell the story in a clear and comprehensible way. Modern devised scenes are used to maintain our focus on women, talking colloquially about issues they might have experienced today in a fun and engaging way and referring them back to the ancient story.

The Arawelo Company was established in September 2017 by Poppy Clifford, Demi Wilson-Smith and Shukri A Ibrahim. ARAWELO is Demi’s debut as a playwright, Shukri as a producer; whilst Poppy is an experienced director, it is her first full-length production.

International Women’s Day 2018

 In March 2018, on International Women’s Day, we hosted a scratch performance as part of a full-day cultural event at Fresh Ground London. There were live readings by Somali poets and authors and a panel made up of three Somali women discussing issues and stigmas related to gender in the international Somali community. The event sold out, and the majority of audience members were women of colour under the age of 30.

The Arawelo Company have also hosted two all-female mental health awareness workshops at the Applecart Arts space in Upton Park. We listened to feedback from audience members at the scratch performance and there was an overwhelming enthusiasm at seeing an African story which featured traditional forms of dance. Young women said that they enjoyed seeing other young women of colour on stage performing the story and that they felt that the play was speaking directly to them and that it was starting a discussion between peers and parent generations alike.

London Somali Week Festival

London Somali Festival (LSWF) is the biggest annual Somali event of the year both in the UK and Europe. It is produced by Kayd Somali Culture and Arts, an organisation that promotes Somali culture and positive narratives from the Somali community both in the UK and internationally. During our Scratch performance, they came to watch our performance, and offered us the opportunity to be part of the festival and to perform two shows!

After 13 months of developing and improving the production, the Arawelo Company were able to pull off both shows successfully with lots of positive feedback from the audiences, social media. We were even invited to the BBC World Radio to talk about ARAWELO!

ARAWELO debuted at the Broadway Theatre, Barking, to over 320 people and was SOLD OUT. We performed alongside Her Dynamic an event to promote gender equality and bring people from different backgrounds together; and Aar Maanta, a household music band within the Somali community. Our second performance at LSWF was at the prestigious Rich Mix- also SOLD OUT. We had in the audience a number of VIP guests, and among them was the legendary Waabari artist Hibo Nuura. She played Arawelo in 1970 at the height of the Somali Theatre culture. We met her backstage, and she told us how much she enjoyed our performance and that she understood the whole story through our incredible actor’s skills in bringing to life each of the characters they played.

Performances 2018

Scratch- ARAWELO: Celebrating Womanhood, Fresh Ground, 10th March 2018, SOLD OUT

London Somali Week Festival 2018

ARAWELO, Hosted by Her Dynamic in collaboration with LSWF; The Broadway Theatre, Barking – 22nd October 2018, SOLD OUT

ARAWELO, Rich Mix, Shoreditch, 23rd October 2018, SOLD OUT

#AfricanCulture #LondonSomaliWeekFestival #Arawelo #PerformingArts #BlackHistoryMonth #DiversityinTheatre #DiversityintheArts #Theatre #SomaliFolktale #AraweloThePlay #BAME #Arawelo2018

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