"A palestinian-american clown hamlet for the 21st century."
- Allen Kuharski
Raya Tuffaha is a Palestinian artist living on occupied Duwamish and Salish land in the greater Seattle area. She is growing into her stage name, Bella Bateekh. Currently pursuing a theatre major (emphasis on fight direction and solo performance) at Swarthmore College, her training encompasses both classical and contemporary music & acting. She spent last fall at the British American Drama Academy.
In March 2020, Tuffaha published her first full-length poetry collection, To All the Yellow Flowers, with Golden Antelope Press. Since then, almost a hundred copies have been sold around the country. To All the Yellow Flowers was featured in Ms. Magazine’s National Poetry Month Roundup, and also awarded the 2020 Swarthmore Intercultural Center's Arts in Activism Award. Prior to that, Tuffaha helped Team Seattle place third at Brave New Voices, the largest international youth slam poetry competition in the world.
2022 will see the publication of Tuffaha's new chapbook, apocalypse blues, with Plan B Press.
"In Arabic, 'bala bateekh' بلا بطيخ (lit. without watermelon) roughly translates to 'I don't wanna hear it.' I chose to include watermelon in my stage name as an homage to Palestinian resistance. For a period of time during the 1980s, Palestinians were banned from using their flag's colors (red, green, white, and black) in their artwork, so they began carrying around slices of watermelon in protest. Eventually the watermelon was banned, too. Now, when I get onstage, I remember how powerful Palestinian art has always been."