Omar Abi Azar
Omar Abi Azar © Zoukak Collective

Omar Abi Azar

My combat is building something in a country where theatre is not considered to be a real profession.

Omar Abi Azar is a director and founding member of the Lebanese theatre collective Zoukak, which has been creating shows combined with art therapy for exiles since 2006.

Updated on 28/04/2021

2 min

Omar Abi Azar was introduced to contemporary theatre at the Lebanese University in Beirut. In 2006 he cofounded the Zoukak collective with a group of students in 2006, his destiny remaining closely linked with it. His work notably includes the performance Hussein, which he wrote and interpreted, and many directions: Hamlet Machine (2009) and Hamletmachine 2 (2010), by the author Heiner Müller, or School Acts (2013), a show intended for Lebanese schools. In the past few years he has multiplied creations and residencies abroad, such as The Jokers (2017) and I Hate Theater I Love Pornography (2019), developed at the Sundance Theater Lab.

In 2006, the same year that it was set up, the war already affected the Zoukak collective, which tried the first forms of art therapy with displaced people and victims of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Omar Abi Azar directs this human and social work, which is organised around workshops and passing on a method of therapy through games. Working with refugees, and victims of war and domestic abuse, the Zoukak collective tries to use the stage as a place of reflection, listening and self-assertion. The aim is to arrive at providing a safe space and different temporality to a public that is often prevented from speaking out.

In 2013, he founded the Zoukak Sidewalks international festival, dedicated to theatre and performance. At the invitation of the Histoires vraies de Méditerranée (True Mediterranean Stories) association, he also worked with bus drivers in Toulon, endeavouring to collect their stories. The same year he intervened in the “Jungle” in Calais with the Zoukak collective, where he led theatre workshops with migrants. For this the collective was awarded the Culture Prize for Peace, which was presented to him in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron at the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac. However the collective has been heavily affected by the crisis Lebanon is currently experiencing: during the summer of 2020, the Zoukak studio, which has workspaces and a performance room, was partly destroyed by the explosion in the port of Beirut. The collective is now looking for international support to finance the repairs.

  • 2006


    The Zoukak collective was founded.

  • 2009


    The show Hamletmachine was created.

  • 2013


    First edition of the Zoukak Sidewalks international festival.

  • 2016


    Intervention in the “Jungle of Calais” with migrants.

  • 2017


    The Zoukak collective won the Culture Prize for Peace.

  • 2020


    The Zoukak studio was destroyed by the explosion in the port of Beirut.

The Institut français and the artist

Omar Abi Azar participated to the 2021 Night of ideas organised by the Institut français in Lebanon and the Institut français in Egypt.  

Find out more about the Night of ideas 

L'institut français, LAB