Partner Forum Beirut, Photo by Constanze Flamme

Reem Khattab

Meet Reem, Project Manager for Tandem Shaml.

I loved to dance when I was a child, and I developed a passion for theatre as I grew up. My interest in theatre has, over the years, led to increasing interest in cultural work. I began in the field as a manager for a theatre company called Koon Theatre Group in 2002. Since then, I’ve been actively engaged in culture, with a particular focus on work aimed at developing the independent cultural scene in the Arab region.

I began working for Culture Resource in 2015 and have been managing many of its programmes, including Tandem Shaml. Tandem Shaml, as a programme, has been extremely challenging in terms of bringing people from different cultures and facilitating the space for them to not only get to know each other, but also to learn to work towards positive collaboration that is mutually beneficial. For me, Tandem is about exchange, openness, innovation and generosity. It is hard work, but also a lot of fun.

During my Tandem experience, I accompanied two young cultural managers from Portugal to their placement/visit in Irbid, Jordan, where they helped their Palestinian-Jordanian partner on the final preparations before opening a cultural space dedicated to the town’s youth. Irbid is known as a university city, and is both conservative and traditional. I shared with them a magical experience which included having coffee at Madafa, a famous guest house belonging to a highly known family in the country: Al Tall family, where we met old men from Irbid and discussed the idea of reviving the public space in their city. We discussed the idea of the public space from their point of view and from ours; an old man described the city’s square as it was decades ago, he was proud and emotional about his cultural heritage. We explained our point of view and discussed the new space that the Tandem was implementing.

The Portuguese participants, after completing their mission, went to visit another Tandem Shaml participant in Ramallah, Palestine, attending many cultural activities and participating in a tailored tour of the city. Conversely, the participant from Ramallah, Abdul, an architecture student, also visited many cities in Portugal, including Lisbon, Aveiro, North Village, Fundao, Covilha and Castelo Branco, and met different people and heard stories about the country. Abdul continued his journey of architectural sites and went to Spain, visiting Seville, Cordoba and Granada. Abdul said that one of the most impressive aspects of his journey was the experience of travelling and not feeling the borders (between Portugal and Spain).

I believe culture and arts have an impact on our societies, they are the connecting languages that bring people together, and often create a space for open exchange and dialogue.

I tell you the story of a simple Tandem experience, but in reality, Tandem Shaml 3, which has 8 participating Tandem partnerships, is a sea of untold stories and interactions. And, as a larger group, we have all shared these stories as we visited Beirut, Berlin and Casablanca together. The experience has also been enriching, fulfilling and magical, for me, not only because of the participants, but, also thanks to my colleagues in the Tandem Shaml Team.

Consequently, for me, culture without borders is about having a network of cultural change makers all around the world that collaborate and share knowledge and experience.