“Let's breathe, let's whisper, let's live...What is the meaning of life without freedom and dignity?”

This powerful statement sums up the determination and grit of Palestinian artists of various art forms. One of these forms is puppetry which has caught the imagination of the children living in the refugee camps in a big way.

"It is incredible to see how art in general and theatre in specific can radiate hope and change the way people think. Puppetry is an amazing method to express joy and happiness. My group and I have unlocked this magical weapon. With it we swap tears of gas bombs with tears of laughter and joy,"says Fairouze Nastas, an independent puppetry artist from Bethlehem.

Nastas was recently in Chandigarh and since then has been in constant touch with this reporter. She narrated how various artists in Palestine have come together to prove that creativity is the greatest form of rebellion against suppression. They believe that 'silence makes them complicit' and have been using creativity as a form of weapon in psychological warfare.

Having performed on many international stages, Nastas' soul's contentment comes only from her work on the home turf. "I work with the young children and women, mainly with the youth, in what we call 'The Contact Area' which is a is a place where there is direct impact of the ongoing Israeli Palestinian conflict, where young children and families suffer psychologically and physically most of the times from the impact of shelling and bombs being dropped,” she told The Citizen.

At a time when Palestine remains the centre of resistance against brutal atrocities, Nastas shows the world an exceptionally brave face of her land ."We believe in life. Yes! We see death, pain, humiliation and unrest everyday but this gives us power to go on with spreading life and joy to the children and their families by our art. They are all fighters under all circumstances. We love life and we fight proudly to live this life as much normally as possible,"she underlines.

She is out to show the world how the Palestinians have the courage to smile in trouble. How they have learnt to gather strength from their distress and are growing brave in reflection of the bombs thrown at them. She says," People abroad might think, Oh ! Poor Palestinian people. They suffer and live crying all the time. Well!" She puts forward the zeal of her people pointing out, “Life is all about 10 per cent of what happens to us and 90 per cent of how we react to it. We have art centres, dance schools, circus groups, cinema houses and theatres even in the heart of a refugee camp. I assure the world that we do live in pain but with every martyr that goes down, we plant hope for a better home," she says.

One of her main performances is that of a street carnival which she along with her fellow troupe members take around the refugee camps, villages and some cities in Palestine. Bringing the picture alive through her words she says," The faces of the children in these poor Contact Areas gives us the energy which keeps us going. The way they receive happiness and life and the way they dance and join the parade is priceless."

She narrates the atmosphere inside the refugee camps during their performance,"When we go to perform inside the refugee camps, the curiosity with which the children as well as their families watch us is humbling. The affection with which they follow all the performance till the very end becomes our motivation. Their inquisitiveness regarding the details is addictive."

Nastas told The Citizen how the children walk up the stage to check their puppets and costumes. The spirit of the performers and the audience are both high. The spirit of the people to live is untouched by their pain and suffering. She said ," It keeps us undefeated despite the separation wall or checkpoints spread everywhere."

Pointing how people suffer psychologically and physically in the contact areas, she says,"There cannot be any detachment of any city in Palestine from its Contact Area. It was many years ago that the the Israeli government decided to come up with Separation Walls that surrounds every city and have only one gate. So if you are on a family visit, or simply studying in another city or your work sends you to finish some papers in a nearby city, you may spend all the day on road going around a Separation Wall to be able to exit from the one and only gate they keep open under inspection for some lucky people to pass."

She shared how more than 1600 Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails are on a hunger strike for 24 days seeking a legitimate trial. Therefore her puppets are all out to settle the scores. They have an agenda to to make the sad happy and to create a thunder that compels the world to turn its ears towards them.