Mittwoch, 21. September 2011

Support a state called Palestine.

These next few days will be very interesting and probably crucial for the so-called peace-process in the middle east; as Palestine and Mahmoud Abbas will adress the UN council to demand full membership statehood, the question remains, who supports Abbas and the Palestinians.

Many an article has been written these last few days and I won't bother summarize all of them. If you're in need of well researched information, check Jaddaliya, Al Jazeera, Robert Fisk's column and the Guardian.

All I want to say is this - I think it's about time Palestine is recognized as a proper state. It is the people's right, and I think Germany's position on the matter is wrong and disgraceful (especially in Germany's case, which I know most about, so I won't judge on any other country's politics.)

I believe in light of the recent months in the middle east, it's  now Palestine's turn to experience their Arab Spring. But peaceful, of course, and by supporting the idea of a palestinian state, I do not at all agree with the cruel and violent doings of Hamas, nor is it my intention to disrespect or discredit the israeli people.

So yalla, Filasteen - and shame on you, Ms Merkel, for not showing more "cojones" when it comes to Israel!

Dienstag, 13. September 2011

To Mekkah and back with a true west-eastern diva.

Ten years 9/11. It’s on every TV- and radio programme, in every newspaper. As I arrived at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele last night fort he reading of Saudi novelist Raja Alem, I hadn’t even thought of the date. Looking at the program, it suddenly popped into my mind – did they choose this date on purpose for a Saudi to read? Oh dear. And – oh no, will I have to suffer through an entire event all about 9/11 ... Oh dear, oh dear. That’s not why I came here at all!
But then I’m pleasantly surprised – the whole thing seems thoroughly un-orientalistic. No camels or magic carpets to be seen, the event’s host (very competent, well-prepared and with a pleasant way of interviewing: Arno Widman of the Frankfurter Rundschau) does not make any references to 1001 Nights. 
Raja Alem is a very impressive woman – beautiful and with a very strong aura – a textbook west-eastern diva.

Even more impressive: when asked to read from her novel (winner of this years’s arab Booker Prize, „The dove’s necklace“), she does not read, but recite by heart. Only once she misses a word or two, shoots a quick glance at her text, but continues to recite beautifully. Arno Widman seems to be very impressed as well. And yes, she knows almost the whole novel by heart, Alem admits.
Her novel describes her hometown of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. The old Makkah, to be precise, she says. Thentwo main characters grow up in the 50s and 60s in old Makkah, and are now confronted with all the changes in society, technology and morality that the city is affected by. Alem herself was born 1970 and says, she only knows the old Makkah from her grandfather’s and parents’ tales. It is important to keep the memory of this old, magical place alive, says Alem, and this is what she wants to try and do in her books.
Furthermore, in the Dove’s Necklace, there is a murder case, a psychologically disfunctional woman and a love story involving a German doctor. From the short excerpt she reads, we can’t really say much more about the story, except that it is beautifully written in a deeply poetic Arabic. Let’s hope, the translations will be able to maintain this wonderful tone of magical sadness and beauty.  
And then Widman finally asks about the date – 9/11- albeit a little ironically (Damn! Was that really neccessary?). Alem reacts pretty calmly and rationally. „It made me realize how quickly something so personal like your religion and your nationality, something that was always very private to you, can become public and looked at as a threat to others. My first reaction was, whenever we travelled, to try and hide our passports just so people wouldn’t immediatelly recognize us as Saudis.“ I nod silently; it’s exactly the way I feel, and I know many, many Arabs, muslims and especially Saudis felt since then.

Anyway – a much more interesting topic (form e as a translator) was the issue of the english translation of one of her novels. Apparently the translator of her book „My 1001 Nights“ had taken many liberties whilst translating and changed a whole lot of things, switched chapters and re-wrote the novel to a large extent, to suit the english readership. This all happened in agreement with the author, Widman explains, non the less Alem admits she was surprised when she first saw the english version of her book. "The translator did not quite understand that I wasn’t being ironic when I wrote about magic, about spirituality. These things really happened in my family in the old days. And yet, the translator changed the whole spirit of the book into some modern, ironic version of Aladdin. There are just some things you cannot understand or translate when you work with a scientific approach to the subject and the language.“
Well, this is basically what I’m saying all the time. Working as a translator, especially in a language that is so far from your own linguistic and cultural background, you need to have a thorough knowledge of the people and the culture you are translating. Otherwise there is no way you will ever become a good translator! 
In the end, the whole event only lasted about an hour, quite sad, f you ask me, I had some questions I would have loved to ask (eg are her novels available in Saudi Arabia? And when will the translations be available?) 
But, one last thing we are told – Alem and her sister Shadia curated the Saudi pavillion at the Biennale in Venice this year. It looks very interesting, and also seems to be a good enough reason for Italian Vogue to do a beautiful spread on the Saudi sisters. I like! Bring on the Divas!

Samstag, 27. August 2011

Discovering Nai Al-Barghouti from Ramallah

A few months ago, an egyptian friend sent me this clip:

It is a sung version of
Mahmoud Darwishs  poem عن إنسان – About a Human.
The voice, the tune, Darwishs eternaly beautiful words left me dumbfounded. I listened to it over and over, and every time, it had me in tears, for the sheer beauty of the music and the poetry.
The most incredible thing about this song would be the voice of the young singer, Nai Al-Barghouti from Ramallah, born in 1996! Yes, that's right! 1996! How on earth a person of such a young age can carry so much wisdom, so much grief and emotion in her voice, is completely beyond me! Darwish is an icon, his poetry belongs to the most beautiful, sophisticated in the world, and yet, Al-Barghouti manages to convince us – the listeners – of her deep understanding of these verses. I am all in awe.
Nai studies classical music and singing in Ramallah, she composes and was already awarded several prizes for her art. Her identity as a Palestinian provides her with inspiration and motivation, she says.
Only yesterday she gave her first ever concert outside of Palestine, in Cairo's beautiful Al-Genina Theatre, and apparently swept the audience off their feet.
If you'd like to experience Nai's wonderful voice outside of Ramallah or Cairo, you can buy this great sampler, called A Time to Cry – Lament over Jerusalem. It includes songs by the equally brilliant Rim Banna, Wissam Murad and Jawaher Shoufani.
The booklet also offers english translation of all the songs.
The translation of the Darwish song you can read here:

Montag, 22. August 2011

Driving in KSA

After the Manal AlSharif case has been closed for some time now, news about women driving in the kingdome have been scarce. Although I keep hearing from friends and family that every once in a while there are women sighted behind the wheel in Jeddah or Riyadh, the public does not seem to care that much anymore. Maybe that is the secret to a soft transition - don't talk so much about it, just do it.

Girls, you have my full respect, wheather you're driving yourself or supporting the campaign from afar! So here's a shout out to all my girls to get behind the wheels of their Audis (or any other vehicle ;-)

Sonntag, 21. August 2011

Her Story - please support!

Back from summer- and ramadan break, I'd like to start by introducing different art projects that deal with the arab revolution that have shaken up the world.

The first project I'd like to introduce is the amazing indi-film "HerStory" from Egypt. Film makers interviewed women from all walks of life and had them talk about these past months and their personal story from the revolution. We hear the young activist as well as the mother of a tahrir marthyr.

I love the idea of this film and can't wait to see the whole thing. Unfortunately, as all independent art project, money is scarce and the makers need our support. You can simply spread the word by sharing this blog post or their facebook page, or you can donate, just like I have.

I really hope, this inspiring and couragous work of art will get made and will see the light of day soon. Only the people of the revolution can share their story of the revolution with us! so yalla, let them! Thank you all!