Aksam Alyousef has just finished his English language class at MacEwan University. After spending his professional life writing in Arabic, the writer approaches his new challenge—adapting to Canadian culture—with a wry sense of humour.
The Syrian playwright arrived in Canada a few years ago. As an artistic person working with words, a new language represented a more profound change.
“I felt like I lost my tools,” he says. Alyousef graduated from the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts in Damascus with a bachelor’s degree in theatrical literature and criticism. He taught for two years, both at the university and at a drama program in Qatar. After that, he was a writer and producer in Arabic children’s programming at Al Jazeera. During his three years at the station, he says, he wrote more than 3000 scenes.
His pace has not slowed down. His new play Hagar follows a Syrian woman who attempts to immigrate to Europe with her infant son. Directed by Mieko Ouchi for Concrete Theatre, Hagar will open later this year.
Nuts and Honey, co-written by Alyousef and Amena Shehab, opened at the Sprouts New Play Festival for Kids last year.
Currently having his plays translated into English, he’s confident his work will find an audience. As his language skills increase, he hopes to complete these translations himself.
Alyousef was not surprised by the recent controversial travel ban, and the increasing hostility toward Syrian refugees. On the contrary, it’s representative of immigration policies around the world, he says. He isn’t looking for a warmer welcome at the borders of foreign countries—he longs to return home.
“The Syrian people—they don’t like to immigrate, they don’t want to be refugees,” he says. “This war pushed them to a difficult choice.”
Editor’s note: This profile is the third in a series highlighting Edmonton artists and cultural contributors from the seven countries mentioned in the now suspended United States travel ban. If you have suggestions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.