Who am I? It is one of the basic existential questions that human beings have been asking themselves since they became able to call themselves human beings—Homo sapiens sapiens, the being who knows that she knows, who is conscious and aware of her own consciousness. Each of us must answer it in her own way, to the extent that it troubles us.
But it is also one of the questions that people come to this site to have answered. People, I imagine, who have come across something I’ve written, students tasked with critiquing some study I’ve done, or delegates attending a conference I’m at. They wonder who is speaking, and it is a reasonable question—up to a point. I answer it on the ‘about’ page that every website needs and in the 100-word biographies conference organisers ask for. In this neoliberal world, where people are commoditised, a freelancer…
This blog post below is neither based on literature nor any socio-political theories that I have read, it is the pure invention and the result of the sane/insane reflection that my poor limited mind has been developing lately. This blog is not neither a call for actions nor reactions, nor an attempt to offer alternatives. For some, these thoughts might have no clear linkage nor even a logic behind. It is ok; I don’t ask anyone to support me or to agree. This blog is simply a ventilation of an alienated free woman.
When and how it started
I am not a politics-driven person, I never understood it nor even tried to before, and I can say frankly that I am completely ignorant and illiterate when it comes to politics. However, lately it occurred to me that we as “humans” live in a big illusion called the “state” and its systems. I started to believe so once I was back from the Netherlands or even while I was living there for one year to get my Masters degree in Arts Management. Coming from the “country-of-no-system”, the chaotic Egypt, I faced daily the rigorous crushing Dutch system of functioning and living. Everything (banks’ systems, public transportation, and public life) were too organized, predicted, dictated and lived by the rules. I cannot deny that living in a system can be relieving from the daily struggle of surviving in Egypt. But with a little distance and reflection, you can easily realize that these social/public/political systems eliminate any “outsider”, “stranger” and any “non-follower” of the system. I lived there the glorious and dominating system of one of the most powerful “democratic” state of the “woohoo” very first class country of the world! Continue reading →
It was back to the summer of 2009, that I recognized this reality about myself!
Back to this time I was in this famous crossroads dilemma of switching careers. By then, I gave up journalism (or to be honest the attempts to become one, once I realized that I hate this profession and I would rather develop my travel writing) and tried to gain experience in the field of Art management.
By then also I had just quit my temporary job at Al Mawred Al Thaqafy, and I couldn’t yet take the decision of going back to Alexandria or staying in Cairo and try to find another job in this challenging very underpaid field. Jobless, penniless, I got this unexpected chance to travel to the United States to attend an institute of art journalism in Washington DC. I used to apply here and there to any chance in writing or art management. This opportunity was completely and positively out of my expectation. Continue reading →
قد مضى وقت طويل منذ ركبت عجلتي نظرا للحر وضيق الوقت الذي يمكن ان اركبها فيه بعد عودتي من العمل يومياَ. كان يغطيها التراب وبمجرد ركوبي عليها وجدت ان العجلة الامامية مفسية فاضطررت ان اركبها حتى آخر شارع تسعة بعد محطة المعادي وهي تفط وتنط كالمصاب بالزغطة. حتى وصلت لمكان العجلاتي.
في مدخل عمارة على بعد خطوتين من الرصيف وتحت مظلة شجرة عملاقة تظلل المدخل وتخفي هذا العالم الصغير تقع الورشة الصغيرة. وهي كما هو المتوقع من اي ورشة عجلاتي متناهية في الكركبة والقذارة. جلس امام المدخل، خارج الورشة المكدسة بالعجل والكاوتش عم “” مش عارفة اسمه ايه ” مستندا على ركبه ووجهه ذو التقاطيع النوبية منكب على عجلة الاطفال الصفراء المقلوبة امامه يصلحها.
جلست انا على جنب امام مدخل الورشة على كرسي خشبي قصير الارجل يجعل ركبي عالية عند الجلوس عليه حيث لمحت بطرف عيني عدد من شتلات الزرع موضوعة على افريز العمارة العالي الموازي وعليه وضع كيس زبالة اسود صغير لا تخطئه العين – من الاخر كنت جالسه ملاصقة للزبالة -وانفكت انظر اليه هو ومساعده الذي انكب يصلح وينفخ عجلتي.
I was laying down on the grace in the park, after at least four hours of wandering London’ streets, when I saw a guy in his forties approaching me. With very sad eyes and hesitant voice he asked me if I was a Muslim. Well, usually I hate these situations when I am spotted and asked about being a Muslim, especially with all the stereotypes and labels that people have in their minds regarding a Muslim woman.In addition, in fact, while travelling I like and enjoy being anonymous because I like to feel liberated from any social pressure.
Anyway, with a hasty voice I said yes and I was already getting up to leave. He apologized to bother me and asked me if a Muslim woman has to marry a Muslim? is it possible to consider a christian guy?!. this question was an additional reason to hurry up to leave the place. While picking up my stuff trying to ignore him, he asked me to advise him, he loves this Muslim woman, a doctor and he feels so miserable! he doesn’t know how to approach her, she seems very serious and she would never accept him. She is very proud and comes from a religious family, he explained. His eyes were already wet with tears, and I was so touched by his suffering.
I came back and told him “just talk to her, approach her directly, don’t spend your life wondering. You never know, may be she doesn’t care if you are Muslim or not ! what you will lose? at least you will know for sure how she feels about you and you cut the anxiety and suffering short! ”
Does it make me an alien to confess, that i don’t believe in love? I don’t believe in this commercialized, mass produced love that we long read in books and watched in movies? I simply don’t believe in it!. what a myth! what a big lie we lived seeking heart shapes, roses, white bubbles and balloons. In this park, I saw this poor stranger’ face and crying eyes. and I almost felt believing that LOVE really exists! but as we all know it is suffering, irrational and damn cruel!
During my first class of contemporary dance, while turning and moving restlessly in circles, trying to avoid the sweaty bodies around me, I kept recalling this scene of the “Dead Poet Society” movie. In this movie starring Robert William, the new inspiring poetry teacher tried to teach his students how to stand out and be unique despite of the rigidness of their society and their orthodox school. The exercise was simple; he asked three students have to walk spontaneously in the yard. For the first three seconds, they walked their own rhythm and path but automatically after a while they started to follow each other rhythm. They fell in the trap of conformism, the trap of reconciling their unique self for the sake of belonging to the mass and the community. They became followers and lost themselves..
Back to the sweaty – charged with energy- room of the Cairo Contemporary Dance Center, where I organize and take part of the “Mother Tongue” workshop led by Kara Davis, the lesson was exactly the opposite. We were asked to walk chaotically and mime the others: we had only to gather all the visual information and movement that the other participants do and mimic them. We were asked to lose ourselves and follow.
But isn’t this the one’ dilemma in his everyday life?! Was this room a simple simulation of life, where the one struggles between saving himself from diluting in the mass and between trying to integrate and live with this same mass?
In this room, there were all kind of people, the initiators/ leaders and the followers, exactly like in real life. There were those who can’t help their urge to lead and to perform and those who shyly followed.
Only with the pass of time, when the exercise became endless and every one stopped to expect a soon release from this endless movement; boundaries fell, roles stopped and the real game started. In the endless movement of exhaustion, all
bodies got released and freed. It was strange how freedom was felt out of despair and pain. Yes, dancing freed us from the consciousness of our moving bodies, from all the taboos of being clumsy, overweight or restless. And yes it felt good!