Hikāyāt (stories)

Hikāyāt (حكايات) is an Arabic word popularly used to refer to short stories, especially ones that are imaginatively recounted

This project reflects on personal feelings of spiritual and earthly matters. The dominant themes are of identity and belonging, separation and pain, loss and death. Old and new photographic images are combined with poetic writings in Arabic poetry by Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim, Jalaluddin al-Rumi and Khalil Gibran. The words are handwritten onto photogravure prints, encircling images of various people and objects, suggestive of some deeper meaning.

Hand-crafted photogravure prints on cotton paper, 30x42cm, edition of 3

Poem “Dance” by Jalaluddin al-Rumi: Dance when your wounds are still open. Dance when you have torn the bandage off. Dance when you are in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance and you are perfectly free.

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Poem (On love) by Jalaluddin al-Rumi: Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek the barriers within yourself that keep it far from your soul.

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Poem “The Wandering Guitar Player” by Mahmoud Darwish: He was a painter but pictures usually don’t open doors nor break them nor turn the fish away from the face of the moon. My friend, oh guitar take me… to the far away windows He was a poet, but the poem dried up in his memory when he saw Jaffa from the deck of a ship My friend, oh guitar take me… to those hazel eyes. He was a soldier, but shrapnel crushed his left knee. So they gave him a gift: another salary and a wooden leg! My friend, oh guitar take me… to the sleeping countries The guitar player is on his way in the coming nights, when people go forth to collect the signatures of the soldiers. The guitar player is coming from a place we can’t see, naked or in his underwear The guitar player is coming. I can almost see him, and smell blood in his strings. I can almost see him walking through every street. I can almost hear him roaring: “Have a good look, this is a wooden leg. And listen, this is the music of human flesh”.

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Poem (On death) by Gibran Khalil Gibran: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

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Poem (On death) by Jalaluddin al-Rumi: Death does not mean going away The sun sets and the moon fades But they do not leave

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Poem “Confession at Midday” by Samih al-Qasim: I planted the tree I scorned the fruit I chopped it for firewood I made a lute I played a tune I smashed the lute I lost the fruit I lost the tune I… wept over the tree

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Poem from From “Mural” by Mahmoud Darwish: From whence does this poetry come? From the intelligence of the heart, or a hunch about the unknown, or from a rose in the desert? The personal is not personal, and the universal is not universal … It is as if I am, or that I am not … The more I listen to my heart the more I’m filled with the words of the unseen and lifted high to the tops of the trees. From dream to dream, I fly aimlessly belonging to a thousand years of poetry, born in the darkness of white sheets I don’t know exactly who amongst us am I and who the dream. Am I my dream? Perhaps I am, perhaps I am not …

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Poem “Slit Lips” by Samih al-Qasim: I would have liked to tell you the story of a nightingale that died I would have liked to tell you the story … had they not slit my lips

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Poem from “The earth is closing on us” by Mahmoud Darwish: The Earth is closing on us, pushing us through the last passage and we tear off our limbs to pass through The Earth is squeezing us I wish we were its wheat so we could die and live again. I wish the Earth was our mother so she'd be kind to us. I wish we were pictures on the rocks for our dreams to carry as mirrors. Where should we go after the last frontiers ? Where should the birds fly after the last sky ? Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air ? We will write our names with scarlet steam. We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh. We will die here, here in the last passage. Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree…

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Poem from “We travel like other people” by Mahmoud Darwish: We travel like other people, but we return to nowhere. As if travelling were the way of the clouds. We buried our loved ones in the darkness of the clouds, between the roots of the trees. We travel in the carriages of the psalms, sleep in the tent of the prophets, and come out of the speech of the gypsies. We measure space with a hoopoe's beak  or sing to while away the distance and cleanse the light of the moon. Ours is a country of words. Speak, speak  so we may know the end of this travel. 

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Poem “Sons of War” by Samih al-Qasim: On his wedding night they took him to war. Five years of hardship passed. The day he returned on a red stretcher, he was found at the port by his three sons.

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Poem “The Dice Player” by Mahmoud Darwish: Who am I to say to you what I am saying to you? I wasn’t a stone washed by water that I became a face. I wasn’t a reed pierced by the wind that I became a flute … I am the dice player, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. I am like you, or maybe, slightly less …

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Poem “Eternity” by Samih al-Qasim: The leaves, they fall from time to time but the trunk of the oak tree …