Heavenly and earthly struggle
This month we look forward to the month of Hajj by looking at art that has recorded creative expressions of this momentous experience. We also remember the pain of Srebrenica through poetry and photographs while exploring the urban folk art of Palestine.
July 11th marks Srebrenica Memorial Day which pays tribute to the genocide of 1995. Spoken word artist Shahina Khatoun visited the town in March recording her journey through photographs and interviews with survivors. We spoke about her experiences there and most of it was too graphic to share on these pages. Although more than twenty years have passed, the aftermath of the troubles still affects younger generations. Khatoun’s words educate and evoke, expressing succinctly so we may never forget.
Betrayal Of The Valleys Of Srebrenica
The striking green valleys…
Are striking red. Blood red.
The trees are red.
Their leaves are red.
The grass is red.
Nourished and watered by the blood of my sons.
“Striking beauty”, you say,
My eyes see no beauty in them anymore…
The trees failed to hide my sons.
The valleys failed to protect my sons.
And though my sons lived amongst this “beautiful” green,
In their time of need,
They ran into its embrace
Only to face rejection,
Only to be swallowed by its soil,
The sun doesn’t look the same anymore,
The moon doesn’t glow the same way anymore,
The stars cease to glitter.
Darkness is more appealing,
To the soul that lives in the shadow of memories,
Of a life stolen, of a heart broken.
I see no end to this prolonged pain,
I sit in the darkness waiting for the light of another realm,
For the glow of Angels’ to embrace me,
To take my soul from a life I am forced to live.
Mothers of Srebrenica (Hadijah Mehmedovic)
My Heart Cries With You
I see the darkness in your eyes,
Left by years of silent tears,
I see years of pain etched into your face
Yet you strive to make a difference,
Encouraged by a little hope that someone may listen,
Even though the world has turned its back,
Even though you were left to drown in hopelessness,
With no justice in sight…
You still strive oh courageous heart,
You still strive with the hope of a purpose in your shattered life.
‘Courage’ and ‘strength’ have been redefined,
For passing hearts, that carry your stories,
For my heart, which cries with you.
Words and photos © Shahina, Lyrically Speaking 2016
Srebrenica Memorial Day will take place during Memorial Week, 9-16 July. Many events will be taking place across the country from film screenings to Peace walks. To find out more visit Srebenica.org.uk
Ahmad Mater, Magnetism, 2011
“When my grandfather spoke to me – as a child- about their experience of Hajj, they told me of the physical attraction they felt towards the Ka‘ba, that they felt drawn to it by an almost magnetic pull.” Ahmed Mater
Hajj is a time of pilgrimage. An arduous task that we are instructed to undertake at least once in our lifetime. And this piece by Arabian artist Ahmed Mater is a perfect metaphor for this journey. Anyone who has performed the Hajj understands the momentum of tawaf and the feeling of being drawn by a Divine calling. It speaks to me for those reasons and resonates with a sacred attraction that resides deep within us all.
With Ramadan, we are offered the opportunity to remember Palestine. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem and Al-Quds day is an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan that was initiated to express support for the plight of the Palestinian people. I mention this, not just because it’s good to know and take part in, but because Jerusalem’s old city is the site of an array of folk art which testifies to the faith of the people. Hypoallergenic is an online forum created by editor in chief, Hrag Vartanian, in 2014, Vartanian wrote an interesting photo essay entitled ‘In Jerusalem’s old city, a different kind of cubism’ in which he explores the creative expression of faith as an opportunity to leave an enduring mark in defiance of occupation. Here are a few photographs from his article. All are by the author.
For more on this topic, visit https://hyperallergic.com/161128/in-jerusalems-old-city-a-different-kind-of-cubism/
Hafiz-i Abru (d. 1430). Detail from ‘Journey of the Prophet Muhammad(s)
Folio from the Majma al-Tavarikh (Compendium of Histories), ca. 1425. Present-day Afghanistan, Herat. Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper.