BEIRUT: Lebanon will set the stage for a group of stilt- walkers who will cover a distance of 100 km starting at 10 am on April 23, with the goal of shedding light on the suffering taking place in Palestine.
Stilt walking was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 6th century BC, with stilts being poles equipped with platforms for an individual to stand on.
Zaher Adwan and Mohamad Jammoul are two out of five stilt walkers who will be walking from Martyr’s Square in Beirut to South Lebanon, in a show of solidarity they called “Against Injustice.”
The group added that others familiar with the art of stilt walking are welcome to join in the demonstration march.
Adwan, a 25-year old stilt-walker and actor tells Annahar that “this is a way of showing solidarity with Palestine, and this is how are able to express ourselves.”
How would stilt-walking show solidarity though?
Adwan explains that “in order to do perform this task, and complete this distance, it needs lots of effort. So, every one hour of stilt walking is equal to two or more hour’s normal walking,” so the effort done is to show that anyone can take action from where they are and what they can do.
He adds that everything he does in life has a message behind it.
“Sometimes it’s just for entertaining people, and at other times, it would be for a cause,” he says, adding that “entertainment and drawing smiles is a cause by itself, since making people happy is one of the greatest causes.”
The young man saw in stilt walking a unique sport and adventure he loves. “It felt like another life for me,” he says, adding that it all started when he joined a workshop a few years back.
On the activity starting on the 23rd, they will be walking for about 20 to 24 hours, and will divide the hours in a way that permits the stilt walker to walk 10 hours per day and then rest in Tyre before continuing their journey.
The second day will be the hardest though, since the terrain will be more challenging.
Given the fact that he’s been a stilt walker for seven years, Adwan doesn’t need lots of preparation, but will only see how much distance he can cover in an hour to predict better.
Two days before the walk, the stilt walkers are expected to rest their bodies, in order to be both mentally and physically ready for the challenge ahead.
The stilt walkers aim to shed light on the Palestinian cause. “If we were able to do that, we will encourage other people to do it.”
After all, resistance has many forms, and stilt walking could be considered a form of modern-day resistance, activists note.
There will be no direct benefit for Palestine, yet the fact that there are people getting killed in their own land, is a humanitarian cause, and the artists do not want to politicize it.
“The Arabs and the world should wake up and defend a just cause where people are fighting the occupier by throwing rocks to defend themselves from advanced weapons,” Adwan says.
He noted that “Palestinians have been resisting for a long time, and there should be more solidarity with them, so that they know that not everyone has forgotten the Palestinian cause.”
“Our message is always about happiness and love,” Adwan says.
Mohamad Jammoul, a stilt walker and trainer for almost a decade, tells Annahar that his team, called “Jokers,” is the first in the MENA region to be performing extreme stilt walking. “We used the stilt for dancing, acting and other things as well,” he says.
The walk for Palestine, he says, is a way to prove themselves in their craft, and to support Palestine in their own way.
In days gone by, the team, which includes seven individuals from all sects and religions in Lebanon, has supported many causes in Lebanon in several regions.
“If everyone works more for humanity, we will succeed,” Jammoul says.
The 25-year-old theater graduate is adamant that smiles and goodwill can help Palestine.
He says that “Wherever there is injustice in the world, we will be there to fight it in our way,” mentioning that the team used to walk every year on independence day in Lebanon on Beirut’s seaside, aiming to unify the Lebanese people under one flag.
The feedback they used to get from people was their laughs and smiles while watching the crazy stilt show.
Joker’s next activity will be in solidarity with Syria.
“Perhaps people aren’t convinced by any message being delivered from someone ordinary, Jammoul says. “They admire people who are somehow different and are convinced by the messages they deliver.”
What has been happening in Palestine in the past few weeks as part of the Great Return March has driven many people in the world to take action in solidarity with a country that has been occupied since 1948.
25- year old Benjamin Ladraa, from Sweden, began a 4,800-kilometer journey on August 5, 2017, from Sweden to the Palestinian territories in order to raise awareness for the injustice.
In an interview with “The Jerusalem Post”, Ladraa mentioned that the goal of the walk was to “shine a light and bring attention to the situation and hopefully inspire more people to do something about the occupation.”
The activist, who tracks his progress on social media, is only walking with a backpack, camping gear, and a Palestinian flag.
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