WAW Al-Balad: the first cultural agenda in Jordan


WAW Al-Balad: the first cultural agenda in Jordan WAW AlBalad , a Jordanian cultural agenda born a year ago, succeeded in gathering cultural and artistic events taking place in Amman in a concise calendar, in an effort to highlight the events of the month and keep the audience informed about Amman’s cultural schedule. The European Union is supporting WAW AlBalad and encouraging sustainable local cultural and artistic initiatives that target the largest audience possible.

In fact, Jordan has been lately on the boil in regard to cultural and artistic events, however, information about these events were most of the time incomplete and inaccurate or sometimes published after the event’s occurrence. As a result, participation in such venues was limited to informed people.

Al Balad theatre behind the initiative 
WAW AlBalad came to fill this gap as it constitutes a monthly publication produced by Al-Balad theatre in Amman to highlight the monthly cultural and artistic events. Al-Balad theatre is a non-profit multi-purpose artistic and community space that hosts cultural and artistic events. Formerly an old cinema house (named Versailles) built in the 1940’s in downtown Amman, it became after renovation in 2005 Al-Balad theatre, a space which promotes art work and young artists.

WAW Al-Balad was an initiative introduced by the theatre and supported by the European Union, which backs the idea of an artistic and cultural calendar that assists individuals, locals and foreigners alike, in knowing when and where the next cultural event is taking place in Amman. Raed Asfour, head of Al-Balad Theatre explains that “WAW Al-Balad is a specialized monthly publication that assists individuals in Amman and the surrounding Mohafazats in getting concise and accurate information about the cultural events held in the capital. The aim of this agenda is to inform people not only about the events taking place in Al-Balad Theatre, but in other cultural centers.”

In fact, numerous cultural events take place in the Jordanian capital; however, the audience in such venues is limited to artists, intellectuals, as well as those directly related to artistic and cultural works. Asfour considers that cultural centers lack a clear and detailed plan that advertises artistic and cultural events to the people. Moreover, artists lack the adequate budget for advertising their works. WAW ALBalad came to fill this gap and inform individuals about the cultural activities being held. It also participated in increasing the audience for such venues.

Instead of having to read several local newspapers and magazines to get informed about the cultural events in the country, WAW AlBalad gathers all the necessary information for those interested in such events. Serene Huleileh, Editor-in-Chief of WAW AlBalad, notes that within the agenda’s pages, one can find artist or band profiles, event and book reviews, place and date of cultural events, all of which hardly found in newspapers and magazines. WAW AlBalad provides Jordanians with a bilingual list (Arabic and English) of museums, exhibitions, cultural centers as well as their addresses and maps indicating their location.

WAW’s meanings in Arabic 
In the Arabic language, WAW is the 27th letter of the alphabet and has many uses. It is a letter used as a coordinating conjunction; it is associated with a person’s oath; it alludes to accompaniment and finally denotes circumstantial expression. For all these reasons, Huleileh chose the name WAW AlBalad for the magazine, as it connotes coherence and collaboration when used as a coordinating conjunction; obedience to an engagement when used for oath; assistance when used as an allusion to accompaniment; and describes the state of a person when used as a circumstantial expression. It is worth noting that the launching of WAW AlBalad necessitated 8 years of brainstorming, cooperation and combined efforts.

As a result, WAW AlBalad was pretty much appreciated once launched: 15000 issues were printed monthly for a period of four months, and thousands of issues were distributed for free. Yet, after a while the number of printed issues was reduced due to financial reasons. And Huleileh to add: “We had to start selling the magazine for one Dinar and arrange monthly subscriptions just to be even – without making any profits, but to cover printing expenses and persevere in this work. We, at WAW AlBalad, do not aim at achieving financial goals, and all those who help in preparing the calendar are volunteers.”

The support of the European Union, which is bound to last six months starting February 2010, came to find a solution to this financial deficit. Huleileh assures that “this support will help WAW AlBalad resist in an effort to make the magazine available on the entire Jordanian territory, even in marginalized and remote Jordanian towns and villages.” Huleileh indicates that “thanks to this support, 3000 issues will be printed every month, of which 1000 will be distributed for free in deprived areas of Amman. 500 issues out of the 1000 will target east Amman, namely charitable organizations, libraries, cultural centers, youth clubs and women associations.

For a larger audience 
In fact, reaching those marginalized areas and distributing the magazine for free in deprived towns and villages was the aim of the EU support. Instead of targeting the population of west Amman only, WAW AlBalad is working on enlarging the circle of people informed about the country’s cultural venues. Huleileh explains that the reason why people from east Amman do not attend cultural events is not financial since attendance in a number of these events is free of charge. However, people living in those areas are not informed about such events; this is mainly what WAW AlBalad is trying to achieve: inform marginalized people about cultural activities, especially the youth.

Finally, Huleileh aims at informing the greatest number of people about the cultural activities taking place in the country in an effort to attract a diversified and lawful audience that is not limited to a certain category of people. Advertising cultural activities and promoting the work of artists in Amman is the aim that WAW AlBalad’s team is seeking, concludes Huleileh.



Nesrine Mansour - Amman, Al-Hayat
Published with the courtesy of Eurojar.org




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