Posted in General Interest, Imen Benyoub, Peace & Justice, poem, Video

You who lights candles . . . Salam to you . . .

file261336842312-1Bitter is this dawn that no longer comes
With the prayer of doves on rooftops
And your face

This treacherous sky above your head
The colour of lead and flame
These forests of stars smothered
In the blinding smoke

These banners ripping the air around you
Woven of cries
These fields of ruins and debris
Where you stand shivering
In the nudity of daylight

You, a lonely prophet in this besieged space
Who listens to the laments of stones
And writes his testament
With tears and blood

You, who lights candles
For the passing caravans of martyrs
And falls asleep with the night

Salam to you

. . . this  poem . . . in my mind i wrote it for a friend in Gaza . . . i haven’t heard from him in weeks now . . . 

– Imen Benyoub
© 2014, poem, All rights reserved; photograph courtesy of morgueFile

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist from Guelma, Algeria. Imen currently lives in East Jerusalem. She is a frequent guest here on The Bardo Group blog and with On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page as well.

~

ALICE WALKER (b. 1944), American activist and Pulitzer Prize winning author:

Not with a bang … but with a whimper.

Peace: It’s a decision.

Posted in General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Music, Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry

Music, Language of the Soul: the second in a series from Imen Benyoub on music in the context of war and occupation

The first post in this series is HERE.
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Music, the language of the soul
The cultural Intifada*…From stones to musical instruments.
The story of Ramzi Abu Radwan.

They impressed the world
And all they had in their hands were stones
They lit like lanterns, and came like messengers
From “children of the stones” Nizar Quabbani (1923-1998), Syrian poet and publisher

The first Intifada is the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation that started on December 1987 in Jabalia** refugee camp and spread throughout the rest of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It lasted six years until the signing of Oslo Accords in 1993.

It was an unarmed, spontaneous yet exploding uprising, men with their faces covered with keffiyehs***, women and children with nothing but stones, slingshots and Molotov cocktails faced tanks and live ammunition of well-trained, heavily equipped Israeli soldiers.

10423556_519811321480767_1963506964_aOne of those children, a kid wearing blue jeans and a red jacket whose picture reached the world newspapers became a legendary symbol of the Intifada, a skinny kid throwing stones at an army jeep, his eyes welled with tears, on his face a mixture of anger, fear and defiance. This kid, whose picture was reproduced in posters all over the world as an icon of the uprising, never knew that his destiny will change forever and he will become a visionary artist.

This was Ramzi Aburadwan, born in Bethlehem in 1979, he spent his childhood and first teenage days in a refugee camp in Ramallah where his family was forced to live after the Nakbah****, his best friend died on their way home from school during a military operation, he was eight when a journalist took a picture of him hurling stones and was later called “the iconic child of the Intifada”.

Ramzi was introduced to music at the age of 17, when a woman invited him to attend a course, he immediately loved it and this was the beginning of his journey with music.

After a year of study in the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music at Birzeit University, he received a scholarship to study in a Conservatoire in France; on 2005 he went back to Palestine after graduation with dreams and promises of a brighter life for children.

640px-StainerThe multi-talented Aburadwan founded Al Kammanjati*****, a nonprofit organization that offers children especially from refugee camps music lessons, its aim is to keep them in touch with their cultural heritage, develop and nurture their skills and create an intimately entertaining atmosphere away from the violence and frustrations of their daily life under occupation. It gave them a precious chance to travel, play with different orchestras and meet young musicians from all over the world. Classical music is also introduced as a valuable weapon in the so called “the cultural Intifada” a peaceful way of resistance to save Palestinian culture and identity through letters, art and musical notes, something Palestinians began to understand with time because of Israeli policy of extensive judaisation of the land and fierce attempts to bury and distort Palestinian history and heritage.

He takes part in the West Eastern Divan Orchestra directed by Israeli-Argentine born conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim who said about him:

“Aburadwan has transformed not only his life, his destiny but that of many, many, many other people, this is an extraordinary collection of children all over Palestine that have all been inspired and opened to the beauty of life”

Al Kammanjati was honoured by “prince Klaus award” from the Netherlands in 2006.

* Intifada: Arabic word for “uprising”-Bethlehem, Ramallah: Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
**Jabalia: a refugee camp in the North of Gaza.
***Keffiyeh: a traditional black and white Middle Eastern cotton scarf, later considered a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and solidarity
***Bethlehem, Ramallah: Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
****Nakbah: Arabic word for “catastrophe” refers to the mass expulsion of more than 750.000 Palestinians from their lands in 1948 and creating a state of Israel on the occupied land.
****
*Al Kammanjati: Arabic word for “the violinist”

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A concerto for stone and violin:

The story of this generous musician and fighter inspired me to write this poem

A Poem for Ramzi Abu Radwan

The meditation of stone
In my hand
Is my song of freedom
That even your bullets
Can never pierce

Look at me
I am the child of the Intifada
These Palestinian hands
That were uprooted from my village
Like olive trees
And grew up in a camp
Small and scratched
will braid another song
From strings of a violin

Years pass
And the weeping violin
In my exiled soul
Will always remain
My song of freedom
That even your oppression
Can never silence

– Imen Benyoub

 

A portrait of the man:

The man’s music:

© 2014, essay and poem, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; Photograph (1) Ramzi Abu Radwan, adult and child, courtesy of Mr. Abu Radwan and ramallah cafe; photo of violin courtesy of Frink54 via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0; musical notations courtesy of Sprouls via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0.

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist from Guelma, Algeria. Imen currently lives in East Jerusalem. She is a frequent guest here on The Bardo Group blog and with On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page as well.

Posted in Culture/History, General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Music, Peace & Justice

Music, Language of the Soul

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“Music is…a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”
Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Sarajevo under siege…a city in ruins that wakes up on the sound of shelling and bombing and sleeps on that of mourners. This beautiful city, so rich in history, architecture and art suffered the horrors of a four years siege considered the longest in modern history, and became Europe’s capital of hell since the war broke in 1992, to coincide with another atrocious civil war that broke in my own country and lasted almost ten years, what we Algerians know as “the dark decade”.

At 4 pm on May 27, people were queuing in front of a bakery in Sarajevo for bread; a mortar shell dropped in the middle and killed 22 people instantly. A man witnessed the massacre and was so appalled by the sight of blood and torn bodies so he decided to do something.

This man was Vedran Smailović, a widely recognized and talented cellist who went everyday for 22 days to the bombed site the exact time of the massacre and played cello, in honour of those who died in front of him and all of the victims, all those hiding from snipers’ bullets, the refugees, the hungry, the wounded, the destroyed homes and for his smouldering, exhausted city that struggled to survive.

This man sent a prayer of peace through his music, that the city of his heart might witness a brighter future, and he became the symbol of peace all over Bosnia, playing in graveyards and bombed sites, despite the shelling and fired bullets, Smailović was engulfed by light, the light of hope he was spreading all over the battered city. No crowd applauding to his performance, just Angels protecting him.

It’s been years since the dreadful siege and the civil war in my country ended, but did Sarajevo recover from its dark past? Did my people ever forget? the victims, the mass graves, and the fear they lived in all those years…

We are never entirely healed of our memory.

Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus Syria, another Sarajevo, another siege, people dying from a severe lack of food, water and medical supplies, massive destruction of homes and buildings, for weeks the Government forces besieged the camp and starved its people on purpose, the majority of them Palestinians who were exiled from their country in 1948, they found themselves caught against their will in a merciless war that made Damascus, a beautiful and rich city…Middle East’s capital of hell.

History repeats itself, it always strikes me how it does, and not always in the gentlest way, I believed it with all my being when I saw young men with a battered piano in the middle of rubble playing music and singing for peace and freedom, I said: if Vedran Smailović could see those proud and defiant guys whose souls are connected to his, one of them a pianist who started playing since he was six, he used to repair musical instruments with his father and studied music in the university of Homs*, the others, just ordinary people praying for the end of the war, and dreaming of a safe united country again in their own way.

They sang: “Oh displaced people, return; the journey has gone for too long. Yarmouk we are a part of you and that will never change.”

Smailović would have loved what those Palestinians did, because he, of all people will understand the meaning of creating beauty amid destruction, and defying death with the language of the soul…Music

(I would secretly thank that man who set up his piano in front of armed police, a day after protesters in Kiev brought down the statue of Lenin, and played Chopin…he inspired me to write this post)

*Homs: a Syrian city

Editorial note:  A partial translation of the song and apologies for any inaccuracy.
“from among the ruins and under the ashes, the [Palestinian] phoenix sings for life and will rise again for the cause of freedom …”

– Imen Benyoub

© 2014, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; photo credit ~ Rashid Essa (Almadon News), youth in Al Yarmouk Refugee Camp, ” © electronic cities” under CC A-SA, no modification to photograph is allowed

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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a multilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Posted in Imen Benyoub, Peace & Justice, Poems/Poetry, poetry

Elegy to Damascus

 

Arabian Jasmine (another name for Damascus is City of Jasmine)
Arabian Jasmine (another name for Damascus is City of Jasmine)

He writes with a wounded language
He is a stranger
The alphabet bleeds when it’s heavy with memory
And poems will always taste
Of dry blood

Everything wounds him
In his naked solitude
Light wounds his face
A wing of a dove and a passing cloud
Wound his orphan shoulder

He writes and his wound becomes a full moon
That bleeds white in the darkness of his exile
It becomes a silk road where he travels alone
He rubs its sides with salt
And adorns it with statues
White as his pain

His wound is an unanswered prayer
His wound is a city
*****
Streets of Damascus, streets of the heart
Minarets and church bells mourn
O bride of the East with your veil soaked in blood

Your face is a dusty cracked mirror
Your womb is full of thorns

Somewhere
A poet dreams of his childhood house
His mother’s bread
His father’s prayer carpet
And the smell of henna and rose water
On the hands of a woman

He doesn’t know that his house is a graveyard
And Damascus is no longer pregnant with jasmine

– Imen Benyoub

 ©2014, poem, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ via Wikipedia by Scott Zone under CC A 2.0 Generic license

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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a miltilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Posted in Imen Benyoub

From Imen with Love

1426548_493414027428304_360525756_nOriginally published on Plum Tree Books Facebook Page
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From Damascus to Istanbul: a child’s memories of a city . . . 
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Dear Yasmin,
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This morning, I saw the first jasmine flowers on our balcony.  They reminded me of you. That’s why I decided to write this letter.
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We live in Istanbul now. I have new friends and I am learning Turkish. My parents never changed their habits. My father still smokes his hookah while he reads and my mother plants flowers everywhere to feel like our old house in Damascus.
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Wasn’t it Mahmoud Darwish* who wrote once “Jasmine is a message of longing from nobody to nobody”? They named you after it. Everyone loves the way jasmine clutters like snowflakes at the sides of the road, falling everywhere and scattering scent to greet everyone.
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Every city has its smells. My grandfather told me once that the heart of Jerusalem smells of spices and musk and Jaffa of oranges and the sea. He said smells are nostalgia and memory and the person can never forget them. Damascus alleys and houses smell of jasmine and rose water. It seems like an eternity passed since we left months ago, since I woke up to the sound of Feirouz singing and smells of freshly baked bread and my mother’s early morning ritual of making coffee and watering the garden.
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The day we left, she put her gentle hands on my shoulders and gazed at me. Her hazel eyes were full of tears and she said: “Habibi, we have to leave. Go pack your things”. War already broke with news of bombed neighborhoods and dying people reached us daily. My parents tried to keep me away from its ugliness, to cocoon me in a world of poetry and flowers, but the war reached our little world and destroyed it.
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The war brought death and fear. Houses were ruined. Most people fled. I always ask my mother about you. She said that you left with your family to go Jordan and that you would write to me soon.
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When we arrived in Istanbul I was angry and my mother silent. We packed what we could take with us; some clothes and family albums, some poetry books my father used to read, a silver ornate dagger that belonged to my grandfather. I took a picture of us together, feeding pigeons in the square of the Umayyad mosque.
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Istanbul is not so strange, Yasmine, they have bread sellers in the streets, big Bazaars and very old houses of wood, and a long bridge I can see from the window of my auntie’s house. The Adan comes from different places. There are pigeons in squares too. It is a big busy sleepless city. I love my auntie’s studio. It is full of paintings and its windows are always open to let light through. Stillm I felt lonely at the beginning because children did not understand me.
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I miss Damascus, the clean cats of our neighborhood and my school friends; I miss our trips to Quassioun and watching people dancing dabkah at weddings. I am still waiting for your letter, but now I will send you mine with the first flowers.
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Didn’t you always love when I told you stories?
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Firas
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Mahmoud Darwish ~ Regarded as the national poet of Palestine, he focused on the universal experiences of loss, exile, and identity.
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Translations:
-Yasmin: a female Arabic name “jasmine”
-Firas: a male Arabic name “perspicacity”
-Feirouz: a very famous Lebanese singer
-Adan: prayer call
-Habibi: “my darling” in Arabic
-Dabkah: a Middle Eastern dance
-Quassioun: a mountain in Damascus

 ©2013, letter and photograph, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved
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pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a miltilingual, multi-talented writer, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo and to On the Plum Tree and Plum Tree Books Facebook page.

Posted in Art, Essay, Imen Benyoub, memoir

very private thoughts

The Milkmaid, oil-on-canvas painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Dutch
The Milkmaid, oil-on-canvas painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Dutch

My first memory of art was in a dictionary, when I used to gaze dreamily at a portrait by Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, a woman wearing a white cap, standing by a table covered with a blue cloth pouring milk…I was so fascinated by the painting, by the humble tranquil atmosphere and the basket of bread that resembled ours…and the dancing light on the maid’s face and arm. I knew nothing about this Vermeer but the few lines in the dictionary that never satisfied my curiosity: “a Dutch painter, born in Delft, his paintings, mostly about everyday life and domestic scenes were characterized by use of subtle light ”

Johannes Vermeer was my first inspiration, even his name had poetry or so I thought. After The Milkmaid I started a notebook and wrote about every painter I discovered. I made sure I kept it well hidden from my family.

My mother never understood why I spent most of my day holding that heavy dictionary just staring at paintings, I was a mercurial child and a picture could easily define and change my mood!! So my discoveries continued with Dutch art, some paintings by a mysterious looking guy called Rembrandt and another with an ironic look called Van Gogh.

My friends outside were so far from my world as a million star years. I remember their looks, half sarcastic half pitiful on a girl always lost in reverie, befriending ghostly figures in a dictionary and talking about places they never heard of.
I was always asking: how can this famous Van Gogh paint such a naïve painting like les douze tournesols? I can do it better!! What was le jeune homme au gilet rouge of Cézanne thinking?

Of course my childish mind always separated and catalogued them: the cheerful ones like the only painting by Rénoir that made me so fond of Paris le Moulin de la galette and those beautiful ballerinas in la classe de dance by Degas. The sad ones like femmes de Tahiti by Gauguin. Eespite the suggestive earthy colours of those exotic women I couldn’t miss the touch of melancholy on their faces. Géricault frightened me with his méduse so did the painting of Goya el tres de Mai that reminded me of my history classes about the Algerian revolution. Les mendiants made me cry and have nightmares (with all respect to Bruegel l’ancien). I hated the dismembered people and the cruelty of the act, but those who evoked me the most were those that made my fertile imagination drift even more.

La route de Louveciennes,  oil on canvas by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), French
La route de Louveciennes, oil on canvas by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), French

When I walk back home from school I close my eyes and imagine myself walking with the couple in la route de Louveciennes despite the difference between Pissaro’s perfect painting and my village disappointed me, it gave me extreme pleasure, only equaled by floating with Chagal.’s women in autour d’elle a name I found extremely romantic. Nothing matched that serene blue bathed in moonlight and those strange looking women I wanted so bad to look like.

I loved the fantasy in autour d’elle but another painting made me laugh and cemented the impression that this Picasso used squares and triangles only!! Because I always loved the light sprinkled on Rénoir’s canvas…Musiciens aux masques was as funny as humorous, because I never knew any instrument but the guitar, or who those three men were and never saw the dog under the table until recently.

I was drowning bit-by-bit in this world of colours, I knew Kandinsky, Caravaggio, Durer and Poussin and their names had a sensual sonority for my Arabic ear, not that I could pronounce them correctly because I could only manage the French ones. I continued to dream about the Louvre and cities I can visit when I become older. I continued to have my nocturnal conversations with Vermeer, Cézanne and Rénoir and make my own versions of la route de louveciennes and

Autour d'elle, oil on fabric by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), French artisit, Belarusian ethnic
Autour d’elle, oil on fabric by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), French artisit,

Vlaminck’s nature morte, this widened the gap between me and my friends who thought that I was weird and treated me suspiciously, my mother still couldn’t understand my attachment to this dictionary I wasn’t using to explain difficult words.

These memories came rushing back the moment I finished reading Tracy Chevalier’s novel Girl With a Pearl Earing, a gift from my beloved uncle who lives in Italy.I am still faithful to my Vermeer but through another equally mesmerizing painting la Joconde du Nord, and I know more about the art world now, my childish impressions and convictions are dramatically changed now. I can pronounce those names perfectly and I have wonderful friends who share my enthusiasm and passion.

But…despite internet and the thick art catalogues of le Figaro in my aunt’s library, despite the documentaries, TV shows and the long biographies I can read for hours, that dictionary still has the favour and a dear place in my heart, heavy, torn in places with its red cover and a single Arabic word written in black…

that was my first art class.

– Imen Benyoub

© 2013, essay and photograph(below), Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved
Illustrations courtesy of Imen Benyoub

pictureIMEN BENYOUB ~ is a milti-lingual, multi-talented essayist, poet, and artist living in Guelma, Algeria. She is a regular contributor to Into the Bardo.

Posted in Beauty, General Interest, Guest Writer, Imen Benyoub, Poems/Poetry, Poets/Writers

A Heart Without Borders

A Heart Without Borders was originally published in On the Plum Tree and is shared here with the permission of author, Imen Benyoub, and publisher, Niamh Clune.

“Algerian, Imen Benyoub is a poet I have long admired. She writes with such feeling and movement. There is something veiled about her poems that entices you to want to dive into an underlying mystery.” Niamh Clune, Ph.D.  (On the Plum Tree), creator of Plum Tree Books

Editorial Note: We are pleased to welcome Niamh Clune and Imen Benyoub to the Bardo community of readers and contributors.  Niamh has joined us as one of the Core Team members and Imen as a guest writer. As a member of the Core Team, Niamh’s prophetic and mystical writing and art will regularly grace our pages and our hope is that Imen will share more of her work with us as well.  Here Imen tells us of her love of poetry and her admiration for one of the poets of the more recent Palestinian diaspora, Nathalie Handal.

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Nathalie Handal, Palestinian-American poet
Nathalie Handal, Palestinian-American poet and playwright

When I write, I surrender.

Surrender my senses to a delicious chaos – my soul to reach a deeper abyss and my heart to travel outside its borders.

It is the freedom that comes with writing that made me live through my pen and left me endlessly caught between worlds and words.

It is the freedom that sent Nathalie Handal on a journey from New York to Andalucia – full of colours, textures, and fragrant with history, to recreate the journey of her favourite poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, in reverse, and reconnect with her Mediterranean Eastern roots.

I was confused about what to call a woman whose soul stretches across four continents, a woman with many identites and many homes. But after reading “Poet in Andalucia,” I realized she is a woman who does not recognize borders. Like a gypsy, she moves, collects memories, scents, music, visions of landscapes and secret longings and fuses them into poems.

Nathalie Handal, a poet, playwright, translator and editor was born to Palestinian parents from Bethelehem. She travelled extensively through the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Like Mahmoud Darwish and many exiled Palestinian poets, she tries to give a new meaning and shape to the word “home,” and Andalucia with the richness and the complexity of its cultural and religious heritage reminds her of her own country, where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together in harmony and peace. Drowning in nostalgia for a beautiful yet sad past, Handal tries to revive traditions of Andalusian poets, along with the spirit of Lorca who inspires her work.

Her poems drip with sensuality and longing, woven in English, Arabic, French and Spanish, languages she grew up speaking as a result of her displacement, a special feature that gave her work a multi-layered depth and musicality.

Along with “Poet in Andalucia,” Handal published “The Lives Of Rain,” “The Neverfield” and “Love And Strange Horses.” She won numerous awards and she lectures worldwide.

Nathalie Handal is a universal poet; her poetry is a mirror to her lifestyle as a beautiful nomad in search for an identity. Her voice is honest and passionate, where the East embraces the West in a beautiful harmony.

– Imen Benyoub

© 2013, essay, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved

IMEN BENYOUB – As indicated by Namh Clune in the introductory statement, Imen is a talented poet in her own right, hence this video that provides a sample. The poem is Imen’s. It is read by Eabha Rose (theartre  of words). The music is by Trian Kayhatu (band camp).