"A palestinian-american clown hamlet for the 21st century."
- Allen Kuharski
Raya Tuffaha (she/her) is a Palestinian-American actor and writer 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 with a focus in solo performance at Swarthmore College, her training encompasses both classical and contemporary styles of acting and music. This fall she will be at the British American Drama Academy in London.
Her vocal training covers repertoire from musical theatre to rock to bel canto technique, and even includes some voiceover training. One of her recent favorite onstage roles was Catherine in Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge.
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. She's written under the instruction of skilled poets including Nathalie F. Anderson, Mahogany L. Browne, Danez Smith, and Azura Tyabji.
Raya Tuffaha hopes to continue weaving together her writing and performing to uplift her communities.
"In Arabic, 'bala bateekh' (lit. without watermelon) roughly translates to 'I don't wanna hear none of that.' In addition to the confidence boost, 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. Now, when I get onstage, I remember how powerful Palestinian art has always been."
"Art can spark an intifada."