Nuzhat Ali, writer of FLIGHT, gives an insight into her writing process and her attempt to understand the life of refugees from their perspective.
The idea for this play started in the summer of 2016 when I visited Cordoba in Spain for the first time. The tour guides were mines of information, and one in particular was a historian as well as an archeologist. During a visit to Madina Azahra the tour guide introduced the historical figure of Abd Rahman, an Umayyad prince who left Damascus in Syria and became a ruler in Spain. This interested me as a comparison to the contemporary refugee crisis especially those from Syria.
On my return home, I started researching not only the historical journey that Abd Rahman undertook when fleeing his persecutors, but also the journeys of refugees now, the similarities and differences.
Whilst highlighting the dangerous journey of refugees fleeing war, I also wanted to show that this is not something new by giving two parallel stories, one modern and one historical but both starting in Syria and ending in Europe. Glimpses of the historical story of Abd Rahman, a prince of the Umayyad family, who fled Syria are woven into the story. What was that journey like for him and how does it compare with a contemporary refugee making the same journey? Through the play I hope to show how there has always been movements of people in times of conflict.
"there has always been movements of people in times of conflict"
Flight is an attempt to understand the life of refugees from their perspective. It is a story about the lives of refugees, of their losses and of the difficult decisions they have to take in the face of war and persecution. The daily dangers and the affects on families, how families are destroyed and torn apart by the religious and political turmoil they are caught up in and perhaps even end up in situations they would not have believed possible.
What does it take to leave the home you grew up in? The land where your roots are? Not knowing where you will end up or what condition you will be in. What can lead a person to undertake such a perilous journey into the unknown?
I believe that an alternative narrative regarding refugees in Europe, especially post Brexit and the American elections is necessary and I hope that through the arts it will be possible to show the lived realities of innocent people caught in the cross fire of the conflict.
As this is a work in progress, completed in a limited time frame, the historical aspect of the play has the potential to be developed considerably, as well as the contemporary story line. I hope it will be possible to work on a full production of the play and look at the themes at a deeper level.
Most of my writing so far has been around social issues, and I am particularly interested in historical stories and how they can impact on our understanding of the present.