Leonardo daVinci was one of the greatest inventors and artists in history. ‘How did he manage to work on all of these ideas?’ I wonder. The man was a genius. He must have gotten used to getting new ideas on a daily basis. I however feel like my mind is getting incredibly cluttered, sometimes to the extent that I just leave everything. And another day goes by without doing anything of significance. Then again, daVinci did not have distractions such as phone calls, Facebook notifications, tweets, emails, etc. It was pretty hard deciding what I wanted to discuss in this post, so the easy thing was to write about what I know and what I’ve actually experienced.
During my stay in Cairo, I applied to “Sakia Academy for Cultural Management”, which is a 3 month program that gives individuals the tools to work in art and culture. I went for an interview, and was ambushed… The man was convinced that people who graduated from international schools could not relate to Middle Eastern culture. When I told him that my favorite author was George Orwell, he said: “Orwell talks about democracy, and democracy is a western concept. There is no democracy in Egypt. You can’t read such books and expect to relate to the locals and vice versa. You need to read Arabic books by Arab authors.” I did not know what to say then except that this wasn’t a good enough reason for him not to let me into the academy. There are 3 workshops a week, and each workshop is 4 hours long. That leaves me 156 hours a week to do whatever I want with my time. “You don’t read enough. Reading is a habit. Take your time. Read about Arab culture, take Arabic lessons, and when you’re ready, our doors are open.” he said, smiling. I thanked him and left.
My mind felt as if it were just on a Ferris Wheel that was rotating at an incredibly high speed. Did he have the right to say all of this? I can’t deny that I should be more in touch with my Arab identity, but why should this make me helpless? Can’t someone like me still motivate and inspire people? Aren’t we all human in the end? I can speak Arabic and can therefore communicate with those who aren’t bilingual, so what’s the problem? Won’t we learn anything from each other? Can’t I just listen to people and make them feel like someone actually cares? Doesn’t all of this mean anything to him? Apparently it doesn’t, and I congratulate him for being a narrow-minded schmuck.
I panicked. All the plans I had for the next 3 months… poof! “Now what? I have nothing to go back to” is a thought that plagued my mind for days. I wrote in the application that my longterm goal was to found a cultural center like El Sawy Culturewheel in Saudi Arabia. I reminded myself of the ‘unfinished business’ I had back in Saudi; the place where I was born, the place where I spent my whole life. Do I have the nationality? No, but it’s not going to stop me.
A month ago, a couple of friends and I attended a poetry workshop by internationally renowned poet, Nimah Nawwab. Hasan Eid, author of “Somewhere in the Middle of My Mind”, was one of the enthusiastic participants. My friends Mai and Amani Matbouli are two of many contributing poets (The book is now available at Jarir Bookstores in Riyadh, Jeddah and Eastern Province!). We enjoyed the workshop so much that we decided we should meet at least twice a month for a poetry discussion. It’s quite simple; talented people want to do something more productive than spending all night on Facebook, or simply going to bed at 9 p.m. because there isn’t anything interesting to do. Besides, meeting people in the flesh and having a live discussion with them cannot be compared with online interaction.
We were not the only ones who were thankful for this inspirational workshop. Layan Abdul Shakoor expressed her gratitude in an email to Mrs. Nawwab:“[…] ever since both of your workshops, I’ve been so inspired and greatly motivated to try an entirely new style of writing, which is something I’ve always been afraid of doing…but honestly should have experimented with a long time ago. This was especially reinforced when I read The Unfurling. Honestly, I couldn’t put the book down for one second. I’m really glad I had the chance to meet you and learn so much from you! Really, it had a very positive impact on me! I’m really grateful for that, hamdillah. Thank you very much!”
Mrs. Nawwab, I salute you for being an incredible inspiration. Thank you for reminding me of the power of the word. While reading The Unfurling, I put the book down for a moment and thought, “what do people feel and think when they read my writings? Why have I stopped sharing them? My drafts are lost in cyberspace, unread, untouched… It’s not fair… It’s a part of my life. A part of me.”
The workshop has opened new doors of opportunity for me, and I know as long as there are amazing people such as yourself and the participants, a revolution is possible!