OSAMAH SAMI: ON SYMPATHY AND EMPATHY
So, I just came back from a walk along the Yarra River, where I witnessed the full moon, or as it was reported in the papers, the ‘blood moon’. Not much blood was involved. Typical of the press to sensationalise.
It got me thinking about how lucky I am. Because I’m telling you about my bloodless, mundane walk when I could have easily still been a stateless Iraqi, caught up in the political turmoil of the Middle East. And it irritates me to have to say it because I’m not after the fleeting, ‘oh, you poor refugee’ sentiment, which I’ve heard one too many times. Refugees don’t want sympathy, pardon my bluntness. Empathy, on the other hand, can heal our wounds collectively, as we begin walking in one-another’s shoes.
This why I wanted to tell my story. Not to show you my plight as a kid during the war, but to hopefully (inshallah) act as a conduit between your kind selves and a people who are otherwise only talked about, and rarely heard from. Emotions don’t discriminate against our skin colour or faith. If you showed me a close-up photograph of tears rolling down someone’s face, there is no way I could label them as ‘Muslim tears’ or ‘Jewish tears’ or ‘African tears’ or ‘gay tears’ or … you get the drift.
Okay, so all the talk about tears is making this sound ominous. If you’re reading this before the show, I guarantee you there’s plenty of laughs in store. If you’re reading it after, please note my guarantee is non-binding.
I guess I can’t say much more beyond this. The play will hopefully speak to you in the universal language of emotion, and despite our many, many differences, I hope (again, inshallah) it can highlight our similarities and of course, be entertaining.
I thank the wonderful, theatre-smart production team and my beautiful, generous cast members (they’ve dealt with so many script changes, most likely even before the show you’re seeing tonight). Thank you to Malthouse Theatre and Queensland Theatre for putting on show about a guy whose skin colour is mostly seen on cop shows. And a special TY to my director and co-writer, Janice, who patiently listened to my dad jokes and then told me to get on with it—she’s an absolute pro and you see it in her work.
I must also acknowledge my work takes place on Indigenous country, and I pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, those who do not specify gender, it’s a pleasure to have you in the audience. It really is.