Every now and again, I brush the shattered ruins of what once resembled a defying stance in the face of my bleak reality. Render it to a small hill and remember how tall and might it once had been. How peaceful and how tranquil it was whenever I sought refuge from the world in one of its many secret caves. How the breeze would gently whisper reassurance and how at home I felt. How its grounds would hug my flesh, envelop me and my faults, unconditionally. That until it all came crashing down. Yet I, still, in all naivety, linger over the tomb of my long lost safe place, praying for its resurrection.
i carry el hawa ilkhlas
in bursts, arms full
to recite salvation must be done in steps
rinse in mayt warde then
dip body into sukar or zate zeytune
teen to grow wild gardens in mouth
na’na’ bursting at the seams of waistline
el teeni wa zeytune
i carry el hawa ilkhlas
in bursts, womb full
of blood, exile — condemned
push, habeebti legs spread
exile el hawa is this holy enough
for them now?
thighs a new skin is this where i am
ya fairouz, el hawa, ya fairouz
has not carried me home or into love
ya fairouz, ya fairouz, ya fairouz
el hawa has only made me lost too many times
to count, ya fairouz, ya fairouz, ya fairouz
should i climb el jabal and free fall?
tell me if the mountain wind is kinder, ya fairouz
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES/
السّراب هو عمل مكون من أربع صور، استمد إلهامه من الصراع الداخلي للفرد في رحلة تحقيق الأحلام. تُستخدم الصور الفوتوغرافية لالتماس الحقيقة؛ ليس ليكون العمل محاكيًا للواقع بل هو الواقع ممثلًا بزرقة السماء عالم الاحلام المتألق. تلعب اللغة دورًا أساسيًا في العمل، حيث يعبر الشعر عن استيعاب كل مرحلة من مراحل الصراع. تعكس العبارات الشعرية المكتوبة بخط اليد صوت الإدراك، مضفيًا التكامل في طرح التجربة الإنسانية الداخلية مع الواقع الخارجي. ترمز الخطوط التفاعلية الى حركة الحياة في كل مشهد، في حين يجسد الاهتزاز ضبابية الرؤية في عالم السراب.
TEXT & ART:
Rightfully, I am She
In her everything
I am her rage
When she storms
But her calm
When she rains
When she trembles
I am her faults
And her lines
And her fault lines
I am lands that engulf
And that bloom
To give back
I am the brilliance in her skies
The colors and the black
Her yearning for the Sun
And the Moon’s for her
I was born
From one fistful
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Home is an organ
A living thing
It breathes and pulses
And has a smell of its own;
A second womb
A museum of emotions
An anthology of fingerprints
With memory imprints on its walls
They echo back at its tenants
The invisible choir
If Mother was matter,
She'd be home
Don't tear down the ageing home
Let it die dignified
The architecture of a soul
From the cave to the skyscraper
Home is one
TEXT & ART:
There are cities,
In which the hills,
Arguments and hushed secrets.
There are no skyscrapers here,
Only open landscapes,
Like golden stars,
Embedded in the stone.
There is magic after twilight,
The moment where the galaxies,
In the sky,
Like a reflection of everything we ever were,
Onto the Earth.
Wars were fought.
Once the clouds part,
Making way for our desires,
Nablus can be seen,
On a clear night.
The lights of Nazareth.
And from the other side of the Valley,
An impossible geography of longing,
- a thank you
I’m mostly writing this because I can’t thank the world wiLD web enough for making me the person I am today.
I remember when my mother came back home from work, a bit later than usual, she called our names and asked us to come to the living room and cover our eyes. We walked in excited, probably trying to peek through our fingers. My memory fails me when I try remembering what happened next but I remember being excited about having our very own Personal Computer (PC). I’d like to think that our reaction made my mother happy, she was always very thoughtful in her gift pickings, still is. There must have been some laughing and hugging, and kissing mama’s forehead. Thank yous, so many thank yous. Of course, it wasn’t the first time we saw a PC, we used computers in school but we weren’t allowed to RUN anything other than DOS commands.
My mother taught us everything back then. She created our first emails, mine was sara25oct(at)hotmail(dot)com, I don’t remember the password, but I remember she said that it had to be something easy to remember but still sort-of professional, for when we had to fill in official forms when we were older. I don’t use that email anymore.
She taught us how to type the correct way, both index fingers on ‘f’ and ‘j’ keys, the other three on the letters next to them, thumbs on the spacebar, hands sit still on the keyboard. When it was difficult to remember the letters, she got us educational CDs to play typing games, that way, we could have fun, and learn at the same time.
My mother bought me a CD with an entire encyclopedia, when I started showing a special interest in science and how things became and existed. I vaguely remember a gigantic tree, and the branches in it were different subjects in science, technology and philosophy.
My mother introduced me to video games, not knowing that she was a huge contributor to the occasional gamer in me. Back then, gaming consoles were strictly prohibited because it was a boy’s hobby. She’d show me how to search for games, which ones were safe for my age, keywords and tips I could use to find what I’m looking for.
Google Search: Free DOS games
Google Search: Download free DOS skyroads
Google Search: Download Free games
Google Search: Free online games
My father despised computers, the Internet and technology altogether. He’d yell, “This is the cause of fassad al mojtamaa’, I don’t want it in my house”. I remember my parents always getting into arguments, and somehow for some reason, the Internet was to blame. Back then, my grades were dropping, but it wasn’t because of the Internet, if anything, the Internet helped me go through so many stages in my life.
Learning how to search for free anything was how I got to see naked people for the first time. Limewire was an early peer-to-peer sharing program, people uploaded music, games, software etc. I remember my mother teaching me how to use the program, and one of the things we downloaded ended up being a porn video. It took my mother a while to realize what was going on, and she flung herself in front of me and we gave me my first internet-searching tip: “Ok, anything with XXX, don’t ever download it. It’s a virus and viruses can ruin the computer. You won’t be able to play Captain Claw if the computer is ruined”
As sad as it may seem to anyone reading this, I created my own social life, a cyber social life; a life that didn’t abide to a physical location, or a specific time zone. During a time when I felt like I didn’t belong in my own house, I found a beautiful scattered home. I got into forums, learned a lot about different cultures, lifestyles, religions, thoughts, ways to express emotions, forms of creativity etc. I vaguely remember a public chat rooms phase, those were weird –to say the least- but quite fascinating. I got catfished at least 5 times, before the show catfish even coined the term, back then everyone who was lied to would express their emotions about being betrayed, and then moved on.
I don’t see a me in this or any other universe, that isn’t heavily exposed to technology. I ended up graduating with a BA in Networking and Security, and I loved every bit of it. People had mixed reactions when I told them this, some would frown, others would say it was easy, but most people expressed their concerns about why a woman would want to do a man’s job. I loved how it constantly challenged me, forced me to think creatively, made me cry in our final lab projects, the feeling of euphoria when a program I coded from scratch worked and looked the way I planned earlier that year. Programming courses accidentally got me into Glitch Art, and appreciating the beautifully broken images.
More than academic satisfaction, being part of generation dial-up introduced me to people from all over the world. People I can unhesitantly call great friends, role models, and even soulmates. I grew up on “Don’t trust anyone on the Internet”, my mother always warned me. She still does.
I’ve met incredible human beings through these webpages, film photographers who travel the world, artists who strive, writers that made me laugh, poets that made me cry. I’ve been exposed to opinions, stories, news that frustrated me, but helped me understand where I stand on a lot of topics. The Internet helped me document my highschool and university years, the beginning and end of friendships and crushes, all the confusion and panic that came with sleepless nights. The Internet is the reason this website exists, this community of soft, loving and unconditionally supportive creatives, all here to share bits of themselves through this platform. From this platform, I got over my ridiculous shyness, I got the opportunity to teach kids and adults how to create things, I met people that challenged and motivated me to not only be a good artist, but to always be a better, kinder version of myself. The Internet helped me develop an art practice that is constantly evolving.
Through these endless lines of 1s and 0s, I’ve stayed in contact with friends who ended up abroad; there for each other during tough times, graduations, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, breakups; connected as often as life always us and checking up on each other through Wi-Fi.
For that, and to them, I’m grateful.
TEXT & ART:
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES/
call me farawla
& watch me write
like a child discovering yellow
for the first time
your laughter like pop rocks,
our feet are dangling off the balacona
like the wet laundry above our heads
boys who aren't allowed to cry,
playing kura on their roof,
and man, shit like this you won't see in amrica
like samia's hips,
fast and out of breath and sweaty and
i unbury dalida's voice,
with my teeth,
and now you're getting excited
shit like this you can't make up
and even i feel full
with the zabala waiting to catch us
I take a drag off the last inch of my cigarette as I turn left on Balmoral Terrace with slow, calculated steps. The snow has just begun to thaw, and although some cobbled streets remain covered in crystal clear patches of ice, there is still plenty of that brown sleet drenching my boots, seeping in through the stitch holes. Having accidentally missed a few turns hence deviating from my daily route, I realise I'd been lost in thought for a few hundred yards. Not to worry though, a mistake easy to rectify in these uniform streets all leading to one another. I’m usually more aware of my surroundings. I really am. Although, I do need to make a confession here: It has been a strange day. My mind has hardly functioned at all, and neither have I been able to think straight. I feel utterly distraught over a question I was asked yesterday evening by a drunken woman at a late-night takeaway restaurant. Little did I know, this absurd encounter would end up shaking the ground beneath me ever-so-sinisterly.
Recognisable from a distance by its particular smell of blended vegetable oils, The Chip Inn is not only popular amongst most night-owls, but it also sells the chunkiest chips in town. Joyous matrimony of tastes and textures with only the right amount of crunch; precisely what I was looking forward to last night. As soon as I put the change from my order back in my purse, in came a woman, rather throwing herself over the doorstep. She was sporting a colour coordinated - sparkling pink to be exact - two-piece outfit paired with brown, peep toe high heels. Shortly after entering the restaurant she began showering the staff on duty with compliments; a young man with large, almond eyes, dark, prominent eyebrows and a round nose. She was apparently taken by his tanned skin; "gorgeous" was the way she described it with a heavy Northern English accent. "A bit out of line," I thought to myself while the man was blushing profusely, yet it wasn't my place to stop anyone from flirting. She was drunk, hence felt uninhibited in expressing her admiration. I foolishly didn't make much of this petulant woman. She continued on with questions about the young man’s background, dangerously on the verge of fetishising the colour of his skin.
Staying fixated on the run-down vinyl floor, covering the restaurant from wall to wall, I began tracing its stains with my eyes. She, then, suddenly turned to me and said “What are you? You look like a half of something?” She almost sounded confrontational which left me puzzled for a moment as I was doing nothing but minding my own business the whole time. I gave her a subtle, disingenuous smile as I slowly tiptoed over the counter, half lifting my eyebrows to better see if my chips were ready to come out. I made sure to brush this question off as ramblings of a curious drunk. Yes, I did, quite uncharacteristically, ignore that woman. Not because I didn’t want to engage in midnight antics with a stranger at a bustling, city centre take away - oh, how fun would have that been? - but because I didn’t have an answer, not an entirely satisfying one that is. An answer as real as the prickling cold outside. "Such utter nonsense", I mumbled to myself as I reached for my steaming hot chips, thanking the poor man whose forced-smile was now permanently stuck to his face. What the hell is half of something? Half of what? At that moment, it didn’t occur to me that she meant my ethnicity.
The wind picking up in speed makes me regret leaving my gloves at home. I wish it was spring already. As I approach the neighbourhood elementary school, dozens of small kids wearing thick, fluffy coats spill onto the zebra crossing like a flock of starlings with smooth, synchronised movements. Somehow they all seem to have the same height. Some of the boys are playing tricks on a few girls whose fair hair made into thin plaits that glisten like the frosty pavement under the scanty winter sun. All holding hands in groups, they swiftly cross the road and vanish into the side streets leaving behind but a murmur in the air. As I watch the wave of small, delicate bodies pass by, I put out my cigarette on a brick wall and drop the stub inside my coat pocket.
Terrace houses, zebra crossings, inches, yards...... such is the vocabulary which has been dominating my everyday life, yet it only dawns on me now that I am merely spewing out terms haphazardly internalised; a part of a language once was so alien to me. Since when do I use inches instead of centimetres? That woman has really messed me up, I think to myself. All I asked for was a portion of chips with vinegar. “Vinegar? On chips?” I remember my little brother crying out to me with his face all scrunched up that one time he found out we eat chips in the U.K. with vinegar - sometimes with curry sauce. “Someone call the culinary police?” He’d said, “You need to make them eat an Acili Adana.”
Who I am indeed had been a case of incessant internal scrutiny since I emigrated to this country a decade ago. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I stopped sneakily converting inches to centimetres, stones to kilos, miles to kilometres so as not to give away the fact that this system doesn't come naturally to me. Look, I can prove to you, just how well I now know your measurements. It’s simple. An inch is 2.54 centimetres, and a foot is 30 centimetres. There is no other way for me to comprehend this. I can hear you say “well, a foot is a foot long, that’s why it's called a foot, get it?” A sudden sense of sadness washes over me as I realise I have always, in one way or another, experienced your culture only through converting it into more familiar terms. I am a human unit conversion mediating two opposing cultures, often getting lost in your indiscernible touches of sarcasm and your baffling regional slang.
Turning yet another corner in this meandering neighbourhood, I run my fingers through my windswept hair, trying to detangle it. Thick, dark, and unruly; I twist it into a little tail at the back of my head and tuck inside my coat, lifting my collar up in a James Dean sort of way. I catch my mind beginning to drift again, though I quickly manage to collect myself. Still agitated and disturbed by my recent realisation that I am half of something, I’m determined to figure out what this half is. I stop on Church Lane to pull up my woollen socks sliding down on top of my nude stockings. I don't ever remember an instance in which my socks stayed up all day. There is always a stubborn one out of a pair that gradually rolls to my ankles as though being pulled down by a mischievous djinn, forever causing me to walk with a broken, Alla Turca rhythm; two steps forward, one step back, that is called the Janissary stop. I crouch down giving my back to a shoulder-height wall over which hang a bunch of loose bushes which had completely shed their foliage except a few unyielding crimson berries.
Upon lifting my head up from my socks, I feel a sudden rush, a slight dizziness. Inadvertently fixing my gaze on a series of blue household bins neatly placed on the left side of the street, I begin reading out the numbers written on them. Eighty, eighty-two, eighty-four… In a flashing instant, the wind dies down, the background noise of the kids abruptly stops and I lose all sense of time; becoming only a sharp tingle, a wave of electricity running between the frozen ground and the clouded sky. Slowly, after a brief second which felt like a lifetime, I regain the feeling of my body. With the trusting awareness of a monk who had just come out of a trance, it suddenly becomes as clear as day to me what that woman meant last night. In this bizarre, hallucinatory moment, I feel, with every fibre of my being, the crushing weight of her blundering words. I now know "you look like a half of something" can only mean “although you look a little like us, you’re not really like us, not quite one of us.” Finding myself adjacent to the same wall I leant on earlier, I readjust the waist belt of my coat and squeeze my belly underneath a tight knot to make sure that I am still here, on this piece of earth.
What was the question again? "What are you?" Not 'who'; I must remember this detail, but 'what'! Because, of course, I do know who I am. Who I am is a survivor of a broken home riddled with religious dogmas, an oppressed runaway, a product of displacement, social integration, hard work and rigorous self-critique, a hybrid of denial and acceptance, countless mistakes, heartbreaks, apologies and radical forgiveness! "Isn’t it enough for you, lady, that I’m all these things I have built for myself over the years? What else do you want of me?" I am still strung out, trembling like a soul settling into a new body. The sun peeps its head out for a quick second, then almost mockingly, retreats behind the clouds as if it doesn't quite like what it sees. I concentrate on my steps, looking at the tip of my salt-stained leather boots to make sure I put one foot after another. "Walk natural", I mutter to myself. I should have confronted that insolent woman, alas, I'm rather slow at comebacks. “I think you're being rude to the man who’s wrapping up your chicken donner.” Is it possible, perhaps, that I don't know myself all that well, or perhaps what I am is another thing altogether to those around me?
I smile at a young woman across the street whose slender frame obscured by a full-length, duck down jacket. Onto her left, a pre-teen boy with a milky white complexion is slowly dragging a scooter beside the pavement. On her right, steadily hopping along to catch up with the two, is a small girl tightly wrapped in a bright red scarf; her body looks as miniature as a matryoshka doll. Trying to hide my escalating hypochondria which assures me I'd just had a silent stroke right there by the wall, I make sure my smile seems as casual as possible. I'm thankful we are not made out of a transparent material; what would have this family thought, were they to read the contents of my mind at this weakest moment in my life.
"How strange is life?" I think to myself as I shift my gaze towards a pale brown French Bulldog whose funny stride I recognise from the other day. How unpredictable is the course of this seemingly routine commute back home? Everything is familiar as one would expect; this is my neighbourhood after all. Yet how uneasy I am at this moment, how unwelcome I feel in this body as I fail to control my jumbled steps. Last night, a perfect stranger in a sassy mood nonchalantly triggered a chain reaction of doubts inside my soul. Befittingly like an aftershock, this chance encounter began to chip away at my sense of identity, inch by inch. At precisely 5.20 pm on this frosted Friday evening, ten minutes into my daily walk from work, an existential wormhole crack opened, spilling out all sorts of mysteries which had been fermenting in its depths. I'm in disbelief! How could this be? In a blink of an eye, I was overthrown, defeated, no longer confident in who or what the hell I am. I clumsily cross the road at the junction next to the local metro station, then slow down to give way to a group of commuters running towards the platform. The night is about to fall. My hands inside my pockets, though still shaking with unceasing jerky movements, are cold and numb. Lingering over the street is a faint scent of toasted cumin coming from a nearby Lebanese restaurant. "You look like us, but you will never be one of us." The sentence rattles inside my brain as I push my key into the front lock of my British suburban home.
SHEYDA A. KHAYMAZ
I’ve grown to know places like people. Should I be lucky to experience them during all four seasons, only then may I get a grasp on who they really are, and even then, they flourish and crumble over time. You shouldn’t rush claiming home, but you also can’t deny it. It molds you.
Bonds between humans and land grow increasingly complex as time passes. I spend my time evaluating where it is that I feel the most connected- as the daughter of an immigrant from a country I am blacklisted from, and as a descendant of enslaved people who were stolen from their homeland. Home comes into question when someone asks, “where are you from?” even when they really mean “why do you look like that?” I pause, and I am forced to flip through the mental rolodex of the 10 addresses that I’ve claimed in the last 4 years.
The news updates on my phone and the NPR that I listen to while working as a delivery driver tell me that my internal struggle with defining home is, for lack of a better term, a first world problem. From the Rohingya to the Kurds, there are people that have been fighting for their right to dwell for generations.
Nai Palm says that home is where your body is. My friend Suraiya said that home is where the bazaar is. She said that home is a feeling. I’m familiar with that feeling. I know it when I feel it, and I feel it most when I don’t.
Home is cinematic and poignant, but only when I am the utmost present. If not, it can completely wash over me, unnoticed. So, I’ve done my best to build a home. I’ve filled it with plants whose growth, I can only hope, is a testament to my own. Distance from it only means that I’ll come back with spoils from my adventures, new songs of old sorrows.
Home is neither here nor there. I’ve been home, but there are rooms in my house that I’ve never set foot in- only dreamed about. There are echoes of the oldest love that bounces off the walls and gets absorbed by rugs whose fibers have existed long before I have. Home nourishes me and I dearly hope home knows how thankful I am.
So for now, “I live on the South Side of Chicago.” Maybe after you’ve seen me through a few more seasons, you’ll figure out where I’m from, and where I call home- because I cannot stop thinking about home. I can’t stop talking about home.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES