Dynamic and Culturally active on many fronts, Joumana Haddad can impress many. In charge of the Cultural page of the famous Lebanese daily “An-Nahar” since 2001, in addition to writing numerous books and essays in several languages, she successfully launched “Kafas” the play she wrote (The Cage). Showing now at Metro al-Madina in Beirut (adapted and directed by Lina Abyad and produced by Nour Maatouk)
Best known abroad for her book “Superman is an Arab”, a violent protest against the patriarchal system in place in the region, Joumana stands strong for the values she believes in: “I have always been committed to justice against indifference. I think that as Humanists our commitment encourages a person to reconnect with our sense of Humanity. So it’s only natural that each one of us does something meaningful to improve his life and that of others. The accumulation of small successes often induce big changes.”
Her refusal to be “ a woman treated with condescendence, an accessory, or a piece of meat that should match the expectations of others” has led her to write and denounce the system very clearly; receiving strong support as well as sometimes harsh criticism that she dismisses easily : “I’m able to make my own decisions and take my own responsibilities. In a patriarchal society, composed of men but also of women, the system is unfair to women. But this conditioning is counterproductive and we should manage to raise human beings without these labels which do not define us.”
Her play “Kafas” –The Cage- tackles female social conditioning, with five women in the waiting room of a gynecology practice, discussing their pending appointment with the gynecologist. There is the spinster, the veiled, the lesbian, the prostitute and the woman obsessed by her weight. Joumana Haddad describes the play as “both hilarious and dramatic, with a crude language that authentically translates the pain women feel when they are reduced to this role and held in a “vagina-shaped cage”.
It’s in French Poetry that Joumana Haddad first recognized herself at the age of 11-12 by listening to her French teacher as he read outloud “Liberté” a Poem by Paul Eluard. After school, once back home, she immediately writes “My Freedom” and other poems soon start to follow. First in French, then in Arabic: “I used to think that the Arabic language was not adapted to what I wanted to express, but in fact it worked beautifully as I re-discovered modern Arab Poets” recalls Joumana Haddad.
“In 1995, my first collection of poems was published. At that time I was already being featured once a week in Le Réveil (a Lebanese daily in French gone since). It was very encouraging.” Then, the young woman starts working at An-Nahar as a translator (1997), fluent as she was in seven languages, but still continues to strive towards her goal: to be part of the cultural page of this prestigious Newspaper. Four years later, she achieves her dream, and starts conducting interviews with Internationally famous authors such as Umberto Ecco and Paul Auster, before becoming Head of the Cultural Section.
Today, as a Multi-Awarded Writer & Journalist, she continues to publish books, essays as well as children’s books. “I grew up in a house where a book was a necessity, not just a mere accessory,” she says. “It was my unique entertainment tool. I dreamt through literature, it was my oxygen. I naturally developed a passion for Culture.”
Having grown in a Lebanon plagued by war, books helped Joumana to hold on as she never left the country that gave her the first opportunities to achieve her dreams. “But I understand why young people today take the decision to fly away. My eldest is already installed in London, and the second is looking forward to leave as well. I’m not sad, my love for them as a mother pushes me to desire their departure. I respect their decision and their need to discover the world so that they do not live what I’ve lived (I.e the War). If one day they decide to return, it will be from their own free-will. So that they can live instead of just survive ”