by Nabra Nelson & Mona Sherif Nelson
Sabila, a Nubian woman who was forcibly relocated from her village in the south of Egypt due to its intentional flooding for the construction of the Aswan High Dam, tells the story of her people through her own incredible biography as well as through the ancient Nubian folkloric tales she grew up with. Based on a true story, NUBIAN STORIES is a play about loss and legacy set simultaneously in the past and present. It transports us to the village for a brief moment and makes us realize how far we are from a not-so-distant history that is being erased.
“Not only does it tell a tragic and significant side of the story behind the building of the Aswan High Dam, but it informs us of a culture about which little is known in the US. And the storyteller was delightfully engaging.” – Audience Member
The Scratch – Seattle, WA – In Pencil: Staged Readings – 2019
Charles Allis Art Museum – Milwaukee, WI – Sarah’s Salon: VOICES FREED! Playwright Reading Series (reading) – 2018
Renaissance Theaterworks – Milwaukee, WI – Br!NK New Play Festival (reading) – 2018
My mother began writing down the folk tales that she grew up with several years ago. After her village was flooded when she was a child by the construction of the Aswan High Dam and her family and many other Nubian families were displaced to Cairo, she realized that these stories that had been passed down solely through oral tradition may actually disappear now that her village has disappeared. She would write them and I would edit them (for better English-language adaptation). I had these stories stored on my computer for a long time, glad that they were finally written down but unsure what to do with them.
A couple years ago, I went through a period of artistic reflection in which I was searching for a topic of passion which would fuel me. I found that my own Nubian culture’s unique and tragic history was a subject of perhaps disproportionate anger and sadness for me – it felt almost as though I was born having already lost a piece of myself under Lake Nasser, the lake that drown my mother’s village. I resolved to write about Nubia.
That’s when the idea to revive the folkloric stories came to me. I realized that they needed to be heard again, told to an audience in the way that they had been in the past. I have also always thought that the stories that my mom told me about her own life were almost unbelievably fantastical – at least as much as the traditional folktales she told me as a child. The result is this play.
– Nabra Nelson, Co-writer
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