Entangled Futurities

Beautiful work by Tigre Mashaal-Lively for Entangled Futurities. “Finding mythopoetic inspiration from mycoremediation, Entangled Futurities seeks to disrupt cis-heteronormative narratives of hierarchical reproduction, offering instead an ethic of queer relationality for germinating the futures we desire—where an enduring relationship of mutual aid between multispecies organisms (symbionts) creates the conditions for co-evolution.”

interview with mats grorud and dr. dina matar

had the honor of interviewing filmmaker mats grorud (who directed ‘the tower’) and dr. dina matar (chair of the centre for palestine studies at SOAS) for witness palestine film festival today. a brilliant conversation that we hope to share soon. went for a walk to port jefferson afterwards and got a chocolate ganache raspberry cake from la bonne boulangerie. i’m sold on long island folx. all i need now is for all my friends to move here.

My Palestinian Poem that “The New Yorker” Wouldn’t Publish

Fady Joudah: For the past few years I have rarely “submitted” my work to publications and mostly responded to editors who solicited my work. I live Palestine in English. But in my heart Palestine is Arabic. And Palestine in Arabic does not need to explain itself. Despite setbacks, disasters, revolving conspiracies against it, Palestine in Arabic is self-possessed. It is exterior to English yet born internationalist and shall remain so — neither thinking it is the center of the world nor surrendering to the imperial center as the primary source of its future liberation. Palestine in Arabic is where the overwhelming sacrifice is made. Palestine in Arabic dreams, lives in and with more than 15 hundred years of literary, intellectual, and ecumenical traditions, belongs to 10 thousand years before that. History does not end for Palestine in Arabic.

[…] Palestine in English navigates the gatekeeping English imposes on Palestine, and on itself with regards to Palestine. Gatekeeping is not just for poetry, memoirs, or novels. It affects op-eds all over the United States. The bullying surveillance in academia is endemic. Holding anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiments that range between subtlety and flagrance is a career move. And since hunting Palestinians in the open is seemingly vicious in a democracy like the United States, a whispering campaign is the next best option, and ghosting them is often the honorable choice. Not infrequently the ghosting is internalized by Anglophone Arabs and Muslims who simply stop trying to keep Palestine visible, expressible. But if anyone wants to come out into the light a little, they must comply with normalized stipulations that placate hierarchical structures, editorial controls, and fact-checking rigor, which may or may not apply equally to all writers on Palestine. No wonder Bartleby killed himself.

There are so many gates to unlock that each time one gate is opened or abandoned so that Palestine can speak in English, it feels like a humanist triumph or a revolutionary breakthrough. Some Jewish Americans, softly Zionist or avowedly non-Zionist, struggle to come to terms with their privileged positions. The power dynamic they hold over Palestinian narration and presence in English is staggering. A Jewish American writer or editor who starts out with pro-Palestinian sentiments may go on to secure a powerful career through which they dominate Palestinian voices in English, no matter how progressive and fortified their pro-Palestinian stance may be. The conversation is, by and large, about American Jewry and Zionism, an internal debate in which Palestinians are most often represented, if at all, by a non-Palestinian representative. More here.

my artwork for roco’s 6 x 6 exhibition

happy to share that the two digital collage prints i sent to Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s famous transnational 6×6 exhibition have been purchased! called ‘stepping into spring’ part I and II, they were created earlier this year with dreams of warmer weather, lush color, nature, and long walks on long island. the exhibition/sale is still on! visit www.roco6x6.org to buy wonderful, affordable art!

Mon Plukami par Paul Couturiau

i’d like to share a new story from the warp & weft today – a story that means a lot to me personally.

on feb 1st this year, my favorite teacher left this world unexpectedly. i was heartbroken. the force of my reaction surprised me. there is so much more to us than meets the eye, even our own internal eye.

there are 30 trillion cells in the human body. there are multiplicities, temporalities, and mysteries buried inside of us. there is memory in each cell. we might not remember what someone means to us, until the body reminds us, by reviving thoughts and emotions – the messy, gelatinous stuff we’re made of.

here is a beautiful tribute to our monsieur maurer written by his best friend of 65 years, the wonderful belgian writer Paul Couturiau. pls listen to/read this story of deep friendship.

We Do Language

I presented a paper called ‘We Do Language’ today, words from Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture. So happy I was able to include the following voices, beauty, wisdom and poetry. I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving Zoom:)

Works Cited:

-Anam Cara by John O’Donohue
-Demain dès l’aube by Victor Hugo
-Le dormeur du val by Arthur Rimbaud
-Dasht e Tanhai (In the desert of my solitude) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
-Light at the Edge of the World by Wade Davis
-Linguistic Imperialism: Colonial Violence through Language by Ananya Ravishankar
-Dreaming in Gujarati by Shailja Patel
-A discourse on colonialism by Aime Cesaire
-Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe
-Memory for Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish
-Toni Morrison’s Nobel lecture

Videos:

-Le Mot Juste by Mara Ahmed
-Dasht e Tanhai as sung by Iqbal Bano
-Ngugi wa Thiong’o Interview: Memories of Who We Are

Images:

-A language family tree in pictures, The Guardian
-The emperor Akbar receiving Sultan Adam Gakkar, part of the Akbar-nama, illustrated late in Emperor Akbar’s reign
-Photograph from Mara’s family archive, Brussels
-Women in a Garden on a Moonlit Night, 1744 India, artist unknown, ink and watercolor on paper
-Still from Peau d’âne, a French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, with Catherine Deneuve and Jean Marais
-Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Spinning Wheel, Etching on paper
-Abdur Rahman Chughtai (Pakistan, 1897-1975) Maiden contemplating moths at a flame, Watercolor on card
-Amrita Sher-Gil (Hungary/India, 1913-1941) Bride’s Toilet, 1937
-Jamdani sari, 20th century, the only surviving variety of muslin that uses coarser threads with traditional motifs, as woven by master-weaver Haji Kafiluddin of Rupganj, Dhaka, photo: Shahidul Alam, Drik Photographs
-Watercolor with two women from Thar (Sindh, Pakistan) by Ali Abbas
-A scene from “SpiNN,’’ Shahzia Sikander’s 2003 digital animation
-Bachi Devi (India, contemporary artist) Peacock on tree, Folk art from the Indian village of Madhubani
-Toni Morrison. Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Bettman/Corbis.

ARTs + Change Conference

I was planning to put a trailer together for my new film ‘The Injured Body,’ but at close to 7 min, it’s more like a preview. This is the first time that people will get a glimpse of all the interviews we did (w 17 remarkable women) and the gorgeous dance performances we shot. I will be showing this never-before-seen, brand new material at a free online conference day after tomorrow, June 3, at 8pm.

I am honored to be a part of ‘Activate, Reimagine, Transform,’ a virtual gathering hosted by the UR Institute for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the UR Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, 540WMain, Inc., Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival.

I will be talking about The Injured Body and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and the premiere of a film preview.

Will present on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register.

‘Blindness’ at the Daryl Roth Theatre

In early May, we went to see ‘Blindness’ at the Daryl Roth Theatre in NYC. It’s ‘José Saramago’s timely, sinister story of a world in chaos… narrated with savage rage by Juliet Stevenson.’

Blindness is no ordinary play. Its setup is designed specifically for Covid-appropriate social distancing. This is how it works: People are ‘grouped in pairs who have come together… distanced from other pairs, and, at first, each pair sits under its own spotlight. There is no stage; the show occurs only in light and sound. Above audience members’ heads are a series of glowing neon tubes in primary and secondary colors, perfectly vertical and horizontal and meeting at right angles, reminiscent of the work of the artist Dan Flavin. The story, ably delivered, in a recorded monologue, by Stevenson, comes through headphones sporting “binaural” 3-D technology.’

The neon tubes move up and down, and for vast portions of the play, we are immersed in complete darkness.

As Kate Wyver wrote in the Guardian, ‘the piece is claustrophobic by nature, but when wearing the required mask… breathing suddenly feels much harder. At these points, the lack of sight is disorienting and the binaural sound design properly takes effect as the violence of the piece crawls beneath your skin. It feels as if Stevenson is whispering right into your ear, stroking your arm, holding that dripping knife.’

Light and sound have never been used more effectively to create patterns, moods, textures, and a sense of space and time. I was not surprised to learn that this is a Donmar Warehouse (London) production. I saw ‘Julius Caesar’ set in a women’s prison, brought to pulsating life by an all-female cast in 2012. Never forgot it.

The play’s narrator, or Storyteller, is voiced by the incredible Juliet Stevenson who’s absolutely dazzling here.

One of the strongest moments for me was towards the end, when the exit door opens. At that moment, Stevenson is describing her scarred city, come to a violent halt, littered with corpses, garbage, and dogs tearing apart flesh from the freshly fallen. That hell comes to an end, like a bad dream, when the door opens. We see a swath of beautiful green, welcome respite for deprived eyes. Yellow cabs pass by in the distance, pedestrians much closer to us. We hear the faint hum of a functioning city. Such relief and emotion.

Makes one wonder how a breakdown in food systems and other services would impact New York, how the idea of modern cities in general is ridiculous – rendering people helpless, isolated, vulnerable to shocks, fragile.

I was left with some thoughts about Saramago’s book. How he uses blindness as a metaphor — the stripping away “of the mirrors to the soul,” which ‘loosens the fragility of human and psychic bonds, and divests us of the will and rationale to maintain them.’

‘Near the end of the novel, when the blind people are getting their vision back, he has one of his characters remark:” I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.”’

Although Saramago’s blindness is a ‘white disease,’ a ‘milky sea’ that spreads by visual contact, like the evil eye, an analysis of the text thru the lens of Disability Studies is important. A little surprised that in a city, where a raging, highly infectious white blindness is breaking down existing systems, people who are already blind (and adjusted) don’t play a more powerful, positive, central role. Less comfortable with the fact that Saramago’s Storyteller/protagonist (she is the all seer, leader, organizer, moral compass of the story) is the only person who has sight.

A remarkable experience all in all, and very much in line with my interest in audio storytelling (the Warp & Weft).

The Tower – Interview with Filmmaker

Friends, I am pleased to return to the Witness Palestine Film Festival, on Sunday June 13 at 3pm, to interview filmmaker Mats Grorud and the Chair of the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS, Dr. Dina Matar. We will be talking about ‘The Tower.’

This is an important time to learn about Palestine and become a part of the global solidarity movement. You can watch the film on Amazon.

I was one of the activists who helped create the WPFF in 2011. Was on the organizing team for 7 years, so it’s an honor to be back. Hope to see you then!

THE TOWER: This beautifully animated film tells the story of Wardi, a young Palestinian girl who lives with her family in the Lebanese refugee camp where she was born. Her beloved great-grandfather, “Sidi,” was one of the first people to settle in the camp after being exiled from his home and homeland, Palestine, in 1948. When Sidi gives Wardi the key to his old house back in the Galilee, she fears he may have lost hope of someday returning home. As she searches for Sidi’s lost hope around the camp, she collects her family’s testimonies, from one generation to the next. An uplifting film that captures the story of Palestine through four generations.

Root To Leaf by Missy Pfohl Smith

i’d like to share something beautiful this morning. as u know, the warp & weft is an audio archive of stories about 2020, the first of its kind i believe. it weaves together many voices, languages, and POVs. it also includes responses by artists to stories that moved them. the warp & weft is an ongoing project, and today i’d like to share a new artistic/dance response by Missy Pfohl Smith. i am honored that she used my story, about the non-linearity of time and the connectedness between all that we call life, as inspiration for this gorgeous, organic piece. it’s called ‘root to leaf.’ pls watch. this is my story if u’d like to hear it.


Activate, Reimagine, Transform UArts Conference

Friends, I am honored to be a part of ‘Activate, Reimagine, Transform,’ a virtual gathering hosted by the UR Institute for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the UR Office of Equity and Inclusion, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, 540WMain, Create A Space Now, and Rochester Fringe Festival. I will be talking about The Injured Body: a film about racism in America and so much more. It will be multimedia, as usual, with clips from the documentary and hopefully, the premiere of a film trailer. I will be presenting on opening night, June 3rd, at 8pm. The conference runs June 3-6 and is completely free. Pls register here.

Obaida

Last year, I worked with JVP to organize a Palestinian film festival. One of the films I suggested was the story of a 15-year old boy named Obaida. The festival didn’t go anywhere, but we develop a sense of connection to the people on the screen. We learn a small part of their story. We feel like we know them a little. I just found out from a post by the film’s director that Obaida was killed earlier today. An Israeli soldier shot a bullet through his heart. I have no words, just deep grief and immense rage. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. May u rest in peace, sweet child.

Matthew Cassel (May 17):
I write this through tears after learning that Obaida Jawabreh, who I met in his refugee camp two years ago when he was just 15, was killed earlier today by an Israeli soldier’s bullet to his heart. Obaida was so curious, I was supposed to be the one conducting the interview but he spent our few days together asking me more questions than I asked him. He wanted to become a chef, but surrounded in every direction by Israeli military, checkpoints and settlements, even chasing such a simple dream was always going to be tough. He died before his 18th birthday. My heart goes out to his family, especially to his dear father Akram, who would send me the sweetest messages on holidays long after our meeting. He loved his son and wanted nothing more than to watch him grow up away from the occupation. Together with Defense for Children International – Palestine I made this video on Obaida in 2019. May he now rest in the peace that he was denied throughout his life.

Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying by Noor Hindi

thank u Chen Chen for sharing this poem. i am writing a paper about language right now, esp the violence of having to use the colonizer’s language and thus inserting them between oneself and the world, erasing oneself by losing one’s mother tongue and one’s collective memory bank. but i am also writing about cesaire and achebe and how they took the colonizer’s language and exploded it — forced it to understand them, the people it had violated. i shall add this poem by noor hindi to the list.

[POEM] Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying by Noor Hindi

Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.