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Artist Profile: Jesse Cox

By Next Wave / 17 April

On the evening of 16th of October 1972 Wael Zuaiter, a Palestinian intellectual, was shot and killed by two Israeli Mossad agents in Rome. Earlier that night he had been with his Australian fiancé, painter Janet venn Brown.

Janet’s great-nephew, radio producer Jesse Cox and his collective Creative Nonfiction present Wael’s story at Theatre Works as part of the Next Wave Festival 2014. Last year, Jesse traced Wael and Janet’s story from Italy to Israel and Palestine to research the production of Wael Zuaiter: Unknown  and discover why Wael was killed.


I decided almost on a whim to travel to Israel and Palestine via Italy last year. I’d been researching the story of Wael mostly through my family, speaking to Janet and my mum. Collecting interview material and chasing archives from across the world…

…I spent a week wandering around Rome and Massa, a small town north of Florence, where there is an association named after Wael. In the archives I uncovered Wael’s old books that still had their pages turned down as well as drafts of an article he was writing about Palestine and Israel when he was killed. After reading and hearing so much about Wael, finally being able to read something in his words was an important point for me in my research…

…It was quite funny (and a bit nerve racking) arriving and departing Israel. I was a bit nervous about my reason for travelling, to meet some people to talk about a Palestinian guy who was assassinated by Mossad. There was nothing dodgy about this, but in a country where there is constant scrutiny – bag checks at malls, security guards questioning you the second you step off the plane and onto the tarmac – it did seem like my the wheels of my trip could fall off if I had to admit that I was somehow connected to Wael…

…The trip made me very aware of the tightrope I was walking with this project. This is a story that tells a much bigger story, a window into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it’s also a love story. I want this show to be a reminder that even the biggest stories are made up of lots of small ones, and that hearing those stories on a micro level can be a way to access the seemingly impossible ones. It was somewhat reassuring that pretty much everywhere I went I saw one of Janet’s paintings on the wall. A reminder that this story, this project, started because two people met and fell in love at an art fair.

This is an excerpt from a blog post Jessie wrote for Theatre Works. Read the entire article here.

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