This week’s blog entry is majorly inspired by the ‘Spoken Word’ performance, which I was gratefully enjoying Friday night. The main artists performing were Darkmatter – if you do not know them, look them up. Now! The South Asian transgender duo does an amazing job in challenging its audience by linking issues as racism, gender, feminism, patriarchy and colonialism in form of poetry. They are sharp, witty, funny and quite controversial pushing the boundaries of our socially constructed world. Although I was very impressed by their performance, the artists (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten – shame on me!) performing prior to them said one of the most inspiring things I have heard recently. I will not be able to recite him word for word, but he said something along these lines:
I am looking for love.
And I have found it. You ask ‘Where is love?’
Love is a place. It’s a people.
Love is a place and a people, which you feel drawn to even in times of conflict and war.
During his performance, his poem revealed that he had grown up as an orphan in Southeast DC being exposed to drugs, violence and discrimination. But he loved that place and its people. His poem conveyed the message to find love in that place. And he jokingly ended his performance by saying that we should visit Northeast and Southeast, if we have not found love yet. But his mimic showed that he was not joking, but serious about his statement. Most of us have probably not been to those areas of DC due to all the negative things we hear about them. Not only about the place, but also the people. We hear these horrible stories most probably from people, who have not visited those areas even themselves. It is the typical whisper down the lane – you always end up with some exaggerated and obscured story.
The reason why I was able to connect with the poetic expression of his feelings was that I have made the same experience throughout my life. My Iranian heritage has had the same negative connotation. Despite those people, firstly, asking me where I am really from and then responding with: “Wow. You’re from Iraq? Omg, that’s a war zone. Crazy”, most people smart enough to know that Iran and Iraq are not the same country look at me with an astonished, pitiful or even wary expression. As if they exactly know the current situation going on in Iran or the country's history. As if they know the culture and mentality of the Iranian people. As if they have all the answers to why the Iranian Revolution in 1979 happened and see mainly a backward and isolated country. Iran is not a top tourist destination (although backpacking in Iran is apparently the ‘hipster’ thing to-do these days). Even if some are aware of the gradual cultural revolution in Iran and its very liberal people, most of them will never visit. And I think it is worth to ask ‘Why?’.
The artist on friday had the answer:
Do not let your privileges make you abandon those areas and people.
Do not let your privileges make you miss the chance to find love.
The privileges, which we are lucky to enjoy, have transformed into an invisible prison. It is hard to break out. Suspicion and fear stop us from seeing, tasting and hearing the world. We only hear some news or see some reports about parts of the this world as a whispering down the lane - as either censored, exaggerated or obscured information. Friday’s artist tried to challenge us by visiting parts of DC, which are maybe not part of the common narrative.
Personally, his poem reminded of all the love I found in places as Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian Territories – especially in their food. The last one being one of those places especially abandoned by us. You never know something until you have experienced it yourself, everything else is just re-telling a narrative, which has been told to you. I like to believe in more than one narrative and I am convinced that various narratives can peacefully co-exist.
So see you in Iran soon?