A Depiction

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A Palestine-inspired painting that I painted and gifted to my father.

News channels, newspapers, Twitter and other social media platforms have been busy. Nothing unusual. Media is always busy with the usual stuff – feeds of similar story lines and repetitive political gossip, or an overload of one specific story over another – depending on what draws the most human attention (or hopefully conscience) and ignites the curiosity of certain media-addicted sedentary masses. Some is undoubtedly interesting, some heartbreaking, and others sheer comedy. Most of it is (controversially-speaking) clever and entertaining, not necessarily worth following.

However, a particular media feed this week caught my attention. It is of great importance to me – firstly as a human being, and secondly as an Arab.  As most of you are aware, this week – 2nd of November to be exact – marks 100 years since The Balfour Declaration in 1917. The Declaration that had impacted millions of Palestinian lives, determining the destiny of my father’s generation, my generation, and my nieces’ generation and probably the unborn generations yet to come.

A few years after The Balfour Declaration, my father was born. Not long after that, Palestinian families were forced to leave Palestine and live in exile (most left by force and others by choice – justified by fear, by desperation and in pursuit of life preservation). They left not knowing it would be their last sacred glimpse of their holy land – the land which generously gave to their ancestors. Not knowing it would be their last traditional meal together around their generous Palestinian table in their Palestinian home, where their childhood spirit came into being, and (I guarantee) still lurks, undefeated. Not knowing their house key would never again find its keyhole. Not knowing they would be robbed of their lawful right ‘The Right of Return’. And somewhere in the midst of the ‘Not Knowing’, Palestinian homes were destroyed. Lives were stolen.  Thousands became refugees, the thousands doubled and tripled until millions became displaced. All in a span of 100 years.

I painted this simple yet special painting eight years ago and gifted it to my father. It depicts the hardship of Palestinian life through the eyes of an old worn-out Palestinian man, broken by tragedies yet strong and living. His white and black كوفية (a traditional gender-neutral scarf pronounced Koofiyyeh) represents his Palestinian pride. The Palestinian flag colours in the background including the Koofiyyeh’s white (which also happen to be the UAE’s flag colours) represent his determination and hope. I hung the painting on my father’s office wall in his Dubai home (he had no choice in the matter!) and said to him, ‘I painted this for you baba so you will always remember Palestine, and me’. The look he returned with his eyes revealed all.

Shine

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My Father. The best human being I have ever known and will ever know.

I am Palestine
I wait in line
I yearn and pine
I seek a sign
I count on time
I leave behind
All that is mine
Except my dignity
Despite captivity
Except my pride
Despite your tyranny
Except my wealth
Which is my mind
I have my Self
A saviour in itself.

I am Palestine
I am fine
In time
I shall shine.

I am Palestine
I am stranded
A desolate island
Melancholic and silent
Stranger here
Stranger there
Everywhere
A burden
I am almost certain.

I am Palestine
I long for connection
Some human affection
No attention
Only detention
Sanction after sanction
No remorse
Only chores
And bolted doors
No harmony
Only fatality
No tranquility
Only hostility
No equality
Nor eligibility
Only agony
Where is sanity?
I am alchemy
The begetter of unity
I shall breed humanity.

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Gone

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I captured this great image of Palestinian children just being children and having fun. It was the exact spot where I took my first (uneasy) steps towards my father’s lost city. Nablus, Palestine, 2012

Gone is the memory of the stories we heard as children

Gone are the people who loved us without egos and conditions

Gone is the longing for impossible things and adventurous missions

Gone are our dreams of kings, kingdoms and royal decisions

Gone are the nights we slept without waking

Gone is the time we loved, and shunned hating

Gone is the sensation of all sensations!

Of childhood innocence and liberations

We weep over the corpse of our childhood life

With a choking realization (we shout) ‘Gone! Gone! Gone!’

 By Razan Abdul Majeed      

 

 

 

Chile’s Passion: Palestine and her Pablo

A poster displaying comical scenes of Neruda and his mistress, and depicting Neruda’s playfulness and joie de vivre. It caught my eye when I was visiting his home in Santiago, Chile, 2014

Chile impressed me. For numerous reasons (you can Google them), and for very personal ones. Did you know that the Palestinian community in Chile is the largest outside of the Arab world? Up to half a million. How about this – did you know Chilean Palestinians have a professional football club in Santiago founded almost a 100 years ago? Some of you do: the ‘great’ Club Deportivo Palestino! I bet not many of you know this: go to Chile, speak to a Chilean, say you are a Palestinian / Emarati living in Dubai and just watch his or her expression, followed by a pleasant reaction and warm words. I felt incredibly welcomed.

Without exaggeration, almost every person I met there proudly told me he or she knew a Chilean whose parents/grandparents are from Palestine. And most of them continued with this theme: they’re are as Chilean as can be, but with a passion, a subdued nostalgia – that of a Palestinian in exile.

But I am not just writing about Chile and Palestinians. What prompted this introduction is my love for the devoted ‘son’ of Chile. You must all know him. He is an artist whose heart was always consumed by passion. He is a poet of love whose soul was always with the people. He was a lover of everything Chilean from its land, its people, its flora and fauna. He was born in 1904 and died at the age of 69, making him a witness of the most decisive events of his century. He shared the World Peace Prize with Paul Robeson and Pablo Picasso, 1950. He received a Nobel prize in literature, 1971. He wrote volumes and volumes of poetry (naturally leaving us with some not-so-good poetry) but also leaving us with 100s of unforgettable ones.

I found many Art expressions and this one was on one of Pablo’s outside walls at his home in Santiago. Chile, 2017

I visited his home in Santiago. And there I felt his aura and found him everywhere and in everything. He was in all his peculiar furniture (arranged cleverly to entertain many friends), in all his ornaments, his paintings, his books – and of course in his writing sanctuary. All testaments for his love of Chile. Read beyond ‘Tonight I can write’ and ‘I like for you to be still’. Get to know the man behind the poet. You will find a man whose abiding devotion to Chile is fathomless.
Pablo Neruda.