Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Kiss to Mankind

I decided to took a rest, opened the T.V. on the BBC ARABIC channel where there was a document about some religions and beliefs of some tribes living in Philippines. They were really strange. The man making the travel and documenting for us is a Christian feeling so estranged, and sometimes he passes us the feeling of how funny their beliefs were, in spite of the respect he is trying to show. The document then started to go south to tell us about the aboriginal people of Australia. He left the aboriginal people after seeing how they put their children in a smoke they made from setting fire in some herbs so that their children become stronge. He left them to go to Sydney. What he saw there made him look so serious.

I hesitated to buy his book. Malik Al Mutalibi is a well known poet, university professor, and a literary critic that writes in a very classic Arabic. I don’t understand most of his writings but that old man of that small library near the garage told me with his husky voice: “you should have it, it is a pleasure to read”. He rarely says that to me. I looked at the book and it is so elegant and with a clever cover and what a title: “the Abandoned Excavations of the Unconscious”.
In the minibus, I didn’t enjoy the first chapter which was a letter to both Gunter Grass and Kenzaburo Oe telling them about Iraq. I didn’t like the beginning much.

I put the book aside for some days.

I went back to the book in an afternoon. Malik Al Mutalibi tells us in one of his excavations about that Mandaean teacher they got at school in Al Mushrah (a city in the south of Iraq in the governorate of Umara\ Meesan). Malik Al Mutalibi was a student making a speech to welcome the visit of minister of interior to their school:

- God send our prophet Mohammed to Quraish in Mecca to invite them to Islam. Few believed in him, most did not at first. The apostates tried to abort his mission. The apostates…
- Are there apostates in Al Mushara (asked the minister of interior)
- Yes!

The minister of interior looked then looked at me with a waiting smile:
- Yes?
- Yes
- Now?

I shook my head with: “yes”.
- Who?
- Al Sub’ba (= the Mandaean)

On the next day the English teacher who was a Mandaean was upset. I raised my hand and asked him:

- How can we say minter of interior in English?

He sulked. Took some time then turned to the black board and wrote in bold letters: MAN KIND. I copied that in my copybook. After years, I understood what he meant.”

The trip went to Australia and suddenly the face of the man making the travel changed. He looked serious while looking at the Mandaeans making their baptizing in Sydney. They told him with the most kindness about their beliefs and about John the Baptist among other things.

They were having a marriage and the BBC was invited. In spite of my sadness that such peaceful people are away from their land, I felt happy for the peace they found in that far continent. Love and Respect for you Mandaeans.

Pictures taken from the T.V. (the first is taken from the Mandaeans marriage and is of the kiss of the new husband and wife , the second a young lady making some explanation about her religion, and the third is a scene from the mariage). The words in rosy color are my trial to translate some of the lines from Malik Al Mutalibi latest book: "the Writing Memory: the Excavation of the Abandoned Unconsious".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is Art For?

“O village songs,
You kinship bridge between generations!
Nation hides in you
Its threads of destiny,
And its arms of victory.
O village songs,
O guardian of memories.”

Adam Mickiewicz

I was just a teenage and he was tall and old and he chose one day to sit next to me and I felt so happy for that. He asked me: “what book are you reading these days?” I liked that kind of question. I opened my mouth proudly to say: “a Russian novel of… (I forgot the writer) entitled the white dog with the black ear”. I was surprised by his sarcastic smile which was turned a little by little into a sardonic smile and he told me with anger that I should read something worthy!!
During my life, I have faced recurrently the question of why do I read novels, and why do I hear music. What is art, in general, is for. And what do I gain from it.

Have seen the film “the pianist”? How the Nazis occupied Poland and what they did to the Jewish population there in World War II? That was the main theme of the film, but what was in between the lines? What was the soul of the film?

Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish pianist survived till a Nazi soldier found him wandering in aplace he should not be. Clearly, the fate of the pianist was to be killed. A question slipped from the lips of the Nazi like a slow black serpent about to kill:

- Who are you?
- I was a pianist.
- Play something, the Nazi said challenging.

Szpilman answered him by Chopin’s Ballad no. one. It is music. A human thing. It is why animals feel small next to human. It is beauty mixed with smartness, wisdom mixed with childhood. It is communication travels through space and time summarizing our history into a sweet song. It is why animals feel small next us, it was why the Nazi felt small next to Szpilman:

- What will you do when it is all over? Asked the Nazi.
- I’ll play the piano again. On the Polish radio.

So what do we gain from art. We gain our dignity. We tell our story. We share existance. We pass by the reason of why we are humans, and what we are doing here, on this earth.

Photos taken from the film, music is Chopin's Grande Polonais Op. 22 which was played in the film in two scenes. Mickiewicz is a Polish poet and the lines above were tranlated by Kudri Kalachi to Arabic, and by me, to english cause I didn't found it in English and I don't know the name of the peom these lines taken from, so pardon me.