PEOPLE suffering from Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) expressed their hopes, dreams and fears at a festival that celebrated their strengths and artistic talent.
Whisper of Hope (Hamsat Amal in Arabic) featured a short film, a theatre play and a concert performed by SCD patients.
An open visual arts exhibition showcasing the works of 49 local and international artists was inaugurated on the sidelines of the festival, and will conclude with a charity auction after Ramadan.
Organised by the Bahrain Sickle Cell Society, the eighth edition of the festival was held on Thursday, under the patronage of Supreme Council for Health (SCH) president Lieutenant General Dr Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
The art exhibition was held under the patronage of National Council for Arts chairman Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.
SCD is one of the most prevalent genetic disorders in the country, with around 9,000 Bahrainis suffering from it, with no known cure for the condition.
“This festival is a window for 9,000 SCD warriors to express themselves in front of their families, the community and officials and spread a new beacon of hope,” Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient Care president Zakareya Al Kadhem told the GDN.
“It provides an opportunity for them to believe in themselves ... because we believe in them.”
“We identify ourselves through artistic forms of expression and demonstrate our hope, determination, responsibility, merit, confidence, strength, capabilities and our role in building our nation while also inspiring, encouraging and sparking hope.
“This festival was put together by the relentless efforts of SCD warriors and their supporters, who came together to create this work that unites the community on one stage.
“Life is not defined or measured by its length in years, but by the breadth of moments filled with achievements, determination, compassion and strength.
“Weakness doesn’t suit us, we are strong warriors and this festival provides a window for the community to witness the strength of 9,000 people and their merit and our pride in them.”
A short film titled The Tree written by former GDN photo-journalist and SCD patient Hawraa Marhoon, directed by her husband Hassan Abdali and produced by a cast and crew of Bahrainis with SCD was screened at the festival.
It also featured a theatre play titled Homemade, written and directed by Adel Al Malki, as well as a performance by singers Yousif Al Asheeri and Mohammed Sulaimani.
“The festival has returned after several years, offering hope and connection for all SCD warriors in Bahrain,” Ms Marhoon told the GDN.
“The importance of participation lies in the fact that the voice of inclusive art is the loudest, and not speeches or arguments between caregivers, officials and patients.
“Art gathers and creates points of convergence. The festival is a bridge that brings together all parties concerned with SCD, including the warriors, their families, the community, decision-makers and caregivers on a single stage and the voice of the patient is heard through artistic messages.”
According to Ms Marhoon, Bahrain has witnessed a surge in youthful energies and talents over the last few years, who have created an artistic space that contributes to building the country.
The short film tells the story of a young female SCD patient who grew up with a family denying her illness out of ‘fear of society’s blame and stigma’.
According to Ms Marhoon, the film deals with a neglected aspect of the sufferings of SCD patients – mainly in relation to the family and ‘chronic torment’.
“Venturing into the stories of pain of SCD warriors and trying to translate them into cinematic work is like walking into a mine field, in which you know the location of the mine but are unable to touch it,” she said.
“Through the movie, The Tree, we aren’t taking a stand or trying to censure any group, rather it is an attempt to ring a bell in a silent place and look at the story of many Bahraini families through an artistic window.”