Fadwa Al Qasem
Rants. In English. In Arabic. Confessions. Art Journaling. Art. Photos. Writing. Poetry. Play. Family and Friendships. And everything life in between.
If you ever lived in London UK, and got on the trains, you'd remember hearing "mind the gap" on the speakers at the stations. Ever since I became aware of me, I found myself living in this gap. The one between the train I was about to get on or off and the platform I was also about to get on or off. And the fear of falling seemed ridiculous when my constant thought was that I was already there.
Not belonging to the West and not quite belonging to the East, feeling like a gypsy, desperately protecting my lightness, my ability to remain me but able to get on wherever I am, but also highly aware of so much injustices in the East which tugs at my heart, too. Sometimes being happy is seen as a form of careless disregard for the pain and suffering. Even worse, as a form of traitorship.
It seems at times that I've managed to collect everything that needs to be criticised in the palm of my hand: being a woman a Palestinian an Arab categorised as Muslim, being rebellious daring an artist and author who paints with and on her body and writes about taboos.
And inside, was this little girl who just wanted to be liked. For her smile and for her work. For so long I wanted followers, admirers, appreciators. I began to finally realize it's going to happen. It doesn't matter if it happens. I don't need it to happen. Simply because when I tried to stop writing or creating art.. I couldn't.
You're up late.
Silence all around.
You think; this is a good time to write in my journal.
An advert on TV. Some cleaning material.
It starts with a small tear running down your cheek to your chin, and settling wetfully in that groove in your neck.
You feel silly because you know it's a trick, the stupid-clever-cheesy advert tugging at your maternal instincts, making you all mushy and emotional.
You think you're crying because the advert reminds you how fast time flies, how far your kids are now or will be very soon.
But you're really crying for kids in general. All kids. Kids without parents, mothers, homes, clothes, food, shelter. love, caught in wars, dying, killed.
Then you're crying because you feel shame and guilt for being part of this world. For doing nothing big enough to change anything big enough.
For having a normal, comfortable life.
You can't sleep. You're bawling, nose running, the collar of your top soaking wet. It's hard to breathe.
You no longer question god, why, his existence, compassion or unknown reasons.
And you can't stop crying; you have an even more naive, illogical feeling that crying so much will absolve you, cleanse you, cleanse the world, change the course of things, make things right. That crying sends out so much soothing healing energy. That the tears of all mothers are God, and when the clock strikes midnight, wars will end, refugees will go home, and no one will ever kill again.
You fall asleep.
You wake up.
Something even worse has happened somewhere while your eyes were closed.
You get up and you move because things need doing. Or so you convince yourself.
You donate. You support. You sign petitions. You share. You talk. You give time and love to those you can give to. You think of the starfish story where the man saves one starfish at a time. You force yourself to believe. You dread another night. Up late and silly cheesy adverts.
And, worst of all, you dreadfully realize, upon reading what you just wrote, that it's all about you.
I bought it at a sale. I fell in love with its daintiness, the fine china, the delicate handle. I would only drink my tea from this mug. Usually Twinings Earl Grey tea. And never any sugar - a habit I picked-up from my dad since I was a little girl.
How beautiful it seemed to me, this mug. Deep blue around the rim, a delicate gold line curving from one side of the handle to the other. And flowers, rather blossoms, like the ones you always see in Japanese paintings - some big, some small, all pink, surrounded by lots of golden leaves tinged with pink, too.
I can still smell the tea, feel the heat of the mug in my hand, the liquid moving inside, steam curling my bangs.
How many times have you made me a mug of tea? I tried multiplying the numbers in my head; forty years, three cups a day and 365 days a year. My mind goes numb. Hundreds upon hundreds of lazy mornings, evenings filled with slow melodies, Arabic, French and Italian, dancing on tip-toe, leaves and hands trembling.
I see you carrying my mug and coming toward me. Your hand always, always touching mine when you gave me my mug. You always thought, perhaps, that I was lazy, not wanting to move from my couch to make my own tea. But it was your touch that I craved. Especially later on when it became the only touch I received from you. I knew then that I could put up with anything, as long as you took the time to make me tea and touch me even accidentally.
Then one morning I woke up and you were gone. I woke up to an eerily silent house - the word house came to mind, not home. Radio off. Television off. No smoke snaking its way around to me bedroom, my pillows, my hair. I knew this day would come. We inhaled and exhaled our goodbyes so many times, so long ago, I had almost forgotten.
I got out of bed and walked around the house barefoot. You always hated that. You always loved that when we first met. I was thinking I'd have one last look at this space when the air was light and I could see rainbows between our toes. Then I found you. On the floor, in the living room. My mug still on the table, the once bright, white china so full of tea stains.
So many stains, so many shapes.
Children, kittens, puppies ..
You didn't leave me after all.
A swing, a tree..
Better you had left. Or I had.
Petunias and daisies..
Or the mug had broke.
Or the tea hadn't stained my mug.
Or the stains hadn't looked so much like our photo albums.
Used paper bags from stores in the mall.
1. Cut down to A4 size - the size of your normal printing paper.
2. Iron flat. Be careful from plastics or glue on the paper which may ruin your iron.
3. Fold 4 sheets in half and tuck them inside each other to make a signature.
4. Do the same with all your sheets until you have 5 or 6 or more signatures. The more you have, the thicker the final product.
5. Save your favourite sheets to make the covers. Add cardboard or more sheets and glue together with the cover to make it thick.
6. Pierce the stack of signatures in the fold. 4 or 6 holes for the stitching.
7. Look up coptic stitching so you can create the journal.
I sewed mine with ribbons I collect from gifts and godiva chocolate boxes :-)
I also decorated some edges with washi tape and others with paint.
I made tassels for the spine.
Watch this space to see the i side pages develop further.
Side view of my art journal
Love the colorful messy look. The colored edges. The bursting at the seams chunkiness. The music the pages make when i flip through the notebook. The crinkles. I love it all.
My new goal is to fill one journal a month with spreads, art, writing, lists, ideas.. experimentis. Trying things out. Keeping the juices flowing. First drafts and preliminary sketches.
By working towards this goal, I feel very free to play. I'm learning not to cross anything out. Leaving the first raw thoughts and sketches as they arrive to my fingers and my page.
This is the place to play without judgement. This is where the seeds get planted. It's my green house. My garden. Something will always blossom or become the compost to nourish something new.
Try it and let me know.
#iamwhatiart #ART #ArtJournal #author #Play #Words #Women #life #love #Fun #fadwaalqasem
Who Do I Think I Am?
I like to introduce myself as an author and an artist, but that's only because these are words I think other people understand and can directly associate with images I like for myself. This does not mean I don't believe in myself as an author or artist, I just believe more that these are the vehicles I use to be fully aware and fully present in my life. They are the tools that allow me to taste beauty, enjoy beauty, perhaps even become beauty. They allow me to see more, to love more, to forgive more. But I wonder if, in introducing myself this way, I am not limiting and confining myself to these two words and whatever images they conjure up?
Who Do I Think I Am?
A huge rainbow with a larger than life spectrum of colors? Maybe. I just like the romantic sound of that. I am a woman, and just being woman comes with so many meanings of being. I am a mother, a daughter, a wife. Still, these are simply word expressions of me in relation to others. I am Fadwa. I could have easily been Salwa or John. I am Palestinian, white? Didn't choose either. Muslim? Not really.
Who Do I Think I Am?
I am nothing alone and part of everything together. I am a small grain of sand that gathers close to other grains of sand to become this earth. I am a contradiction; I make a difference and I don't. I bring joy, but I may have also brought tears. I spend too much time trying to know myself when the self is the hardest thing to know. I will become a part of this earth, but the earth will be here whether or not I am part of it.
Who Do I Think I Am?
I don't know. Beyond the adjectives, beyond the references, the labels, the titles, the names; I don't know. Do I need to know? To think I am? Something? Anything? It occurs to me that maybe this is what true freedom is; the not knowing, the being nothing. In this freedom, we no longer need to prove anything, defend anything, claim anything. And we are free from suffering and totally incapable of causing the suffering of others.
What do you think?
Fadwa Al Qasem