Fadwa Al Qasem
I Am what i art
Confessions. Art Journaling. Art. Writing. Poetry. Play. And everything life in between.
I may not be a great artist, but art allows me to continue to create and be true to myself and my thoughts in a more sustainable manner than activism. So having thought about this for a long time, I'm sharing with you my five reasons why I'm an Artivist and not an Activist:
1) I am by nature softer spoken, I seek harmony between people, I usually shy away from heated disputes. Art allows me to express my ideas and thoughts in a manner that suits my nature. There are numerous activists far better than I, and so I choose a different vehicle. And given my nature, activism as I understand it means I am more likely to hit burnout super quick and possibly become extremely bitter, and therefore end up doing much less or nothing at all.
Let The Good Win More Often
2) The hopeless optimist in me still clings on to the good things and believes in the goodness of people and its power for change through doing, saying, sharing what we genuinely believe to be more just, more fair, more humane, and by letting the good in us win more often.
Identity of Many Parts
3) We are all much more than the sum of our parts, and our identities are many pieces that fit together and into the world like jigsaw puzzles. I don't need to - and in fact I feel it is abusive and emotional blackmail - to hang a huge "Palestinian" signboard on everything I do. I am not only Palestinian, I am woman, mother, wife, daughter, artist, author, person - all of the latter I share with billions of people around the world and therefore I feel I can connect better with more people, and in so connecting I have more chance of listening and of being listened to.
One On One
4) I'm much better at one on one conversations in my daily life than I am at trying to shout louder than everyone else on social media or at political or activist gatherings.
Lookng for Sameness
5) When I say "I Am What I Art" I mean my art is my vehicle for self-expression, for dialogue, for conversation, for interaction, for finding common grounds from which we can talk as equals and understand that although what makes us laugh maybe different, but what pains us is usually the same.
Plus I really believe in art therapy and its healing power for traumatized children and adults alike.
How about you? Please share your thoughts.
I skip over stones that hide in their smooth, round folds, secrets built up over the decades. I feel them pulsating under my feet.
Alleys bulging with human presence. Shop owners, peddlers, calling our their wares; bags, fabrics, carpets, silver, copper, fake designer bags, grilled cobs of corn, sesame cakes, fresh pomegranate juice. Men, young and old, sit at the doors of their shops as if at a social gathering. Drinking tea from tiny glasses served on age-old, traditional trays, common around most of the Levant. Rosaries in hand, conversations in mouths. This Kurdish man speaks of how his father could not spare the money to buy him clothes or shoes, but he could buy guns and stash them. This lady tells of her Jordanian mother, Syrian father, and Turkish grandmother, and I have an urge to tell the stories of my Circassian grandmother and my grandfather who served in the Ottoman army.
The call to prayer reaches my ears from far, far away. The spice fragrance gives way to the call to prayer which spreads and escalates in multiple layers, to sheikhs echoing each other; God is great God is great.
The spice fragrance tempts me once more. I do not resist. It takes my hand, and I let it. We soar like seagulls. I hear the crackling of dice of backgammon in cafes, women murmuring and laughing to their hearts content, smoke rising from the mouths of the narjila and those who smoke it. They seem like us.
"They do not resemble you," my companion whispers mischievously. "Yes. They all resemble me, more than any of want to admit."
I realize that I am on the brink of a new life. Between myself I wish to own a heart overflowing with Jesus-like love and respect. I wish I could have the audacity to say that the soil here is the same as the soil there, and the soil is chocking on so much blood, and that soil nor stones can feel our pain. I realize that I am on the brink of a new life. Between myself I wish to own a heart overflowing with Jesus-like love and respect. I wish I could have the audacity to say that the soil here is the same as the soil there, and the soil is chocking on so much blood, and that soil nor stones can feel our pain.
I wish I could have the audacity to say that the soil here is the same as the soil there, and the soil is chocking on so much blood, and that soil nor stones can feel our pain.
All my life I’ve been searching for an identity that would accept me, and every time I thought I found one, I clung to it like my life depended on it. My roots are in one place (Palestine – Nablus to be specific), I was born in another, and so far I have moved 10 houses in as many countries maybe more.
Like an epic movie spanning over half a century, from east to west, over land, ocean and sea, I traveled and moved. I carried my stuff in boxes and in my soul always this burning, deep sadness.
Along the way I learned French, Spanish, some Italian and German. I reclaimed my Arabic and improved my English. I learned that connecting with people is easy if I opened up my mind and heart a little more. I learned that although the sense of humor may differ from one culture to another, what pains people is mostly the same.
It started to dawn on me that there are two basic problems with my search for identity. One: I found myself many identities but I was still under the impression that I must squeeze neatly into only one. Two: It was I who needed to accept my identity and not the other way around.
Did it really matter where I was “originally” from? How much pre-conceived ideas will flash through your mind as soon as I uttered the word “Palestinian”? I do not believe in exaggerated sense of national pride. What I am proud of, however, is a people who have taken so much beating and still manage to smile, and whose children still want to wear pink tutus to school. And there are other peoples who have suffered so much, too.
I am Palestinian, but I am not exclusively Palestinian.
Part of me carries bits of all the countries I’ve lived in and even those I’ve visited. I’ve left bits of me everywhere and I carry bits of them, too, which is exactly why I’m happy these days when people can’t guess where I’m from. I have finally reached the identity that is in harmony with my soul.
Overwhelming human suffering has taught me that I cannot be only Palestinian. I must be more, much more, so as to play a role in reducing human suffering altogether.
I have managed to grow into the gypsy spirit I have become. I am working my way toward becoming a global citizen not by losing my roots but precisely because my roots and the travelling as a result of a lost homeland increased my sense of caring and compassion.
Who owns your dignity?
If you had a job, a home, a social status from which you derived your dignity and this was taken away as a result of war, and you become a refugee, do you still own your dignity? Or if you are in a small strip of land under siege for years and your life is reduced to basic needs and survival, can you still live with dignity? If your life reduced to begging, stealing or breaking the law to feed yourself or your family, have you lost your dignity?
Is dignity the way others judge your decisions though they cannot conceive what it was like to be in your shoes when you made that decision? Is your dignity influenced by the whims of social rules and standards?
Is dignity related to your priorities at that precise point in time in which you make a decision that may later on put your dignity under “question”?
If a woman is raped, does she lose her dignity?
Is dignity a luxury afforded only by those with enough money to support their living? Thus making dignity a very capitalist concept?
If the government provides you with free education, healthcare and social security, are you leading a dignified life? What if the government can no longer provide these services, do you lose your sense of dignity? And so begging the question is socialism really the answer?
Is dignity about how you see, feel and treat yourself or how other see, feel and treat you? Is teaching mutual dignity and respect beyond social status enough? Or is dignity an attitude you can learn to carry no matter what circumstances you find yourself in? Can dignity be taught? Is it easier to teach dignity than to create circumstances where this question would not arise?
Dignity another loaded word. The only conclusion I can think of right now is that we are too quick to judge and blame, and to say things like :
“Oh my God! I would never do that.”
Do you have any thoughts on dignity? Any answers? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
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Fadwa Al Qasem
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(c) Copyright Fadwa Al Qasem 2015