Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday's Rendez-vous

It was another Friday in Al-Mada Publication House in Al-Mutanabbee Street.

A middle aged woman with short hair, beautiful face with no makeup, comfortable clothes that doesn't reveal her body, came and distributed a short-story collection to us. The cover was a colored painting resembling Van Gogh paintings signed by the name: Hayat (=literally this female name can be translated to: Life). The author of the short-story collection is named: Safira Jameel Hafudh (Safira is a female name that can be translated to: Unveiled). I merely had the ability to thank that lady with a faint smile surprised by the initiative, since I never had received such a beautiful colorful present, from a lady, that I didn't know, and that had such a beautiful name.

When the conference had started that morning in Al-Mada Institute in Al-Mutanabbee Street, a conference about the deceased pioneer Iraqi painter: Hafudh Al-Duroobi, an old woman with cotton-white hair, had surmounted the platform. The old man sitting next to me, who had sat next to me without any word, just a glimpse of a tired sight, talked to me without any introduction saying with a smile: Son! That is Safira Jameel Hafudh.

My mouth and eyes opened and I swayed my head from the north to the west, scanning for a better view of the lady in the platform, avoiding the heads of the people sitting in front of me, since we were sitting little far in the back. Back with my eyes opened to send a look at the old man sitting next to me I was asking myself: How did he know that I didn't know who is Safira Jameel Hafudh? Did he even know that I identified her wrongly in that middle-aged woman who distributed the book by her hands?

I was looking at him in that same fraction of the second in which he sensed my look and started to nod his head just slightly up & down while his eyes were fixed at Safira as if answering me: I know son, you didn't know who is who, you are trying to discover your ancestors, good for you.

Safira Jameel Hafudh had started talking telling us about Hafudh Al-Duroobi coming back from Europe to Iraq and wondering what to do with his degree in painting in this land. The idea was to open a studio for painting in Baghdad University (there was still no College of Beaux-Art in the middle of the 20th century in Iraq). They gave him a bath (or a W.C. I am not sure) that seems to be not strongly needed. He started the work by his own hands on that bath to change it to a studio. Few enthusiastic students joined him; most of them became later his students, and known artists (like Hayat, Safeera's sister, whose painting was on the cover of our present).

Another student of Hafudh Al-Duroobi, named Khaldoon Al Bassam, attended the platform and told us about his memories in that studio. He told us that the company of the students and their mentor was wonderful and that even the cleaner who was in charge of the studio started painting with them.

Another student named, Sami Al-Ruba'ai, told us some lovable personal details like about the type of cigarettes their mentor was smoking, it was called THREE FIVE. He told us laughing that he was, sometimes, in charge of preparing the Mezzah (Mezzah is the different types of salad that is eaten by the Easterners when they drink Alcoholic beverages) for the company.

Thanks again for Al-Mada House for these activities which introduce my ancestors to me.

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