Kings We Are, with Wings of Dust (2)
Memories of the Shalom Salam Tour
by Anis Hamadeh
- August 2004 -
Chapter: 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - Appendix
Kapitel: 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - Anhang
Chapter 2: Vreden and Wesel
Content: Vreden - Performance in the Stifts Church - Curfew for Feelings - Bettina Oehmen - Wesel
(May 11, 2004) It was quite cosy in the parsonage of Vreden. We had half of the upper flight for our disposal, so we could take a rest before two hours later the performance would begin. I was sitting on the balcony, the sun was shining, birds were chirping, and from somewhere behind the trees one could hear a murmuring water. On the square between the parsonage and the Stifts Church, in which we would be soon, there were children playing. We had come over from the town-hall where we had a meeting with local politicians, five minutes from here.
Vreden is an old city. There was a beautiful contrast between the many children on the one side and the church from the tenth century on the other. At the meeting, each of us received a book and an info file about Vreden. Two seniors from the German Israeli Society (DIG) attended this conversation as well as the clergyman, a woman from the city council and a woman who took some photos for the website of Vreden and who later on in the church gave us a hand with the installation of the DVD player. In the church then we met the verger and a piano tuner at work.
The woman from the city council had been the first to welcome us in the city, she took us to her place for coffee, sandwiches and cake. The cake was made by the lady from the DIG. Apple. Quite delicious. The woman from the city council had guided us to her place with her car. On the rear window of her car there was a big script saying: "Give Nazi's no chance". I found this parole of deterrance a little alienating. Everytime one looked on the sign one unintentionally thought of Nazis. What if someone wrote on his car: "Give killers no chance". Sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? But alright, we have a freedom of opinion and I didn't find it reprehensible, either. It just gave me something to think about. When Ithay discovered the sign he said that so we are "with the right people". This I also found a bit strange then. Apparantly he had connected this testimony with a different message and recognized it as a sign.
Even before we proceeded to the laid table the woman said that she was pro-Israeli. I did not ask her what she meant by that, because I was not interested to know. But then she emphasized that she was not indifferent to the fate of the Pals. It was a little uneasy for the Duo Rubin that she had said "pro-Israeli" and they said something which made the concept appear more vague, later also had a short talk about it with me. Again remarkable, for again we had different interpretations of the situation. I realized that this woman with her testimonies was living a kind of rebellion which must have been related to her own surroundings, for her testimonies were meant for these surroundings. Next to some Jewish symbols there were many Christian symbols in her apartment, also a fish on her car and the cross on her necklace. Among her numerous books there also was a translation of the Qur'an. I could imagine that the Christian Jewish dialogue in her clerical and other surroundings had not always been without conflict and that this "pro-Israeli" thing (which did interest me, as it seemed) had to do with it. Had to do with Germany.
A pros pos pro-Israeli: I don't know what happened and has happened in Vreden. But I know how the situation of my family in the Westbank is. Most of the boys and girls do not have a proper job. They sit there and care for the estate and they are quite disillusioned. My father has seven siblings, most of them live with their families together on one area, in a village near Jenin, and they work the land - heritage of my late grandparents. They have simple houses and it is not far from house to house. The next generation has also built homes there, just like my father and my uncle, who lives in Hamburg, built houses there, some years ago, out of a feeling of longing to return to the origins. The outer walls even of these new houses have cracks from the vibrations of the tanks. When my cousin Modar writes me a mail (I don't even know from where he manages to send emails) then often I don't know what to tell him. So I listen to him. His English is quite good. He writes about the hopelessness and complains about the occupation. Then again he is full of plans and ideas. His basic tone is amazingly positive, he does not let anything get him down. From the family he writes little, but I know that meanwhile they appreciate my work and support it. When Modar writes that sometimes he finds me "more Palestinian than the Palestinians", then I like it. He means that I am engaged in working for the freedom of the Palestinians. But I like it only when my family says that, because it has a personal meaning to me. If it came from other people I would probably rather get suspicious about it. My cousin can follow my internet news and he was proud when the Egyptian press recently wrote about me. I have the feeling to be able to give my Arab family something with my work. I don't know what else I could give to them.
Performance in the Stifts Church
The appearance and all the circumstances in Vreden were excellent, with the exception of this one thing. At the beginning of the second part of the performance one of the organizers spoke a word, this was how it usually went. Thereafter came my part, a longer literary block, comprising now also the piece "Curfew for Feelings" as well as a couple of further poems out of "Loving Jay". It gave me a better feeling when I recited my own stuff, I felt more at home and it was more authentic. Yet during the reading in the room with the reverberating sounds I already sensed a strange distance coming from the audience. Strange, because it was not genuine. There was a wall, Gabriella later varified that when we had dinner together. The thing was, when I had finished the reading, there was dead silence. My stomach contracted, but I did not show it. At the end I had deliberately said "thank you" for the audience to know that it was finito, there also had not been any applause in between. What should I have done? Later I thought I maybe should have looked at them more intensely, even stared at them so that only the applause could have saved them from my gaze. A carpet of lead spaciously sunk down on me as I left the small stage, which was mainly filled with the piano, in an unconspicious way. The Duo Rubin entered at the same time to continue. They could tell by the look on my face that there was something wrong. Carefully I proceeded to my waiting place, hoping that the Duo Rubin was not welcomed with an applause, because this would probably have made it impossible for me to not take it personally. At the same time I had the predicament that I did not perceive the whole reality here, that instead I was relapsing into an atavism, for I got massively reminded of earlier situations in my life...
It was the memorial day for Professor Ulrich Haarmann, the Islamic Studies professor and Mamluk expert at the University of Kiel. I was asked by the professor for Chinese Studies if I wanted to play something on the guitar on this occasion and I played the "Aphasic Nights", an instrumental jazz piece which I wrote in 1994. The memorial took place in the large seminar room of the institute. I then taught Arabic, but my building-up creativity together with the conflict, which I had to go through with the German society, led to my dismissal. I had to obey or go. I had reproached the society with its looking away and hearing away in cases of conflict and that in this way oppression is not persecuted. That this mentality is magisterial and authoritarian. I had clearly formulated and confirmed over years that this has been an important concern for me. But the society has not listened. Like I said. Quod erat demonstrandum. At this so far only performance of the "Aphasic Nights" there were mainly teachers from the Uni Kiel in the audience. In the introduction I said that it had been Mister Haarmann's endeavour to combine the Orient and the Occident and the "Aphasic Nights" consist of parts in which rhythms and melodies from the Orient and the Occident were combined, too. The piece was liked, I sensed how they received it, but it ended up in this heavy and unbearable silence. I assumed that the people did not want to profane the solemnity of the memorial day with an applause. You can always find a reason if you need one. But after the event hardly anybody talked with me about it and it was basically visible even at that time that I had to leave these surroundings if I wanted to delevop. It is paradoxical that one must leave the university in order to remain creative and open for learning processes, isn't it?
And there were more situations I was reminded of, more earlier ones, a seam ripped open to the old pain. For a moment. In the Stifts Church in Vreden. I controlled myself. Tried not to think of the applause with which we (or the Duo Rubin, respectively, as I had already left the stage) were accompanied into the break. Even the man from the DIG, who had talked before me, got an applause. I sat on my waiting seat in a way that the audience in the front rows could see me. The Stifts Church is a cross church, i.e. a church on cruciform plan. In the front area were most of the benches. Some also in the short lateral parts which served us as a backstage area. Most of it was not visible for those sitting in the long front area of the church. The look on my face was not specifically merry when the Duo Rubin played its four pieces, an enjoyment like always, despite everything. But I did not applaude this time, had basically enough of the whole thing and even wondered if I should do without the final song, "Wie oft wirst du es noch tun". Before there had been a kind of ending, when the Duo Rubin left and entered the stage several times for the bow. Normally I was happy for them, but this time I was afraid of it. To be lonely in the crowd belongs to the worst things I can imagine at all. I did in the end play the song, anyway, but I kept my look away from the audience, did not play for them, either, only for myself.
The amazing thing was that on this very evening ten Loving Jay books were sold. Interesting, how differently one apparantly could interpret moods and situations. Not only that. The padre from Vreden, a huge, bearded man, at the leave-taking asked me about the poem "Kinds of Love (2)" from Loving Jay: "To rule wants human love. To heal wants divine love. Kings we are, with wings of dust." He said he wanted to integrate this into his next Sunday sermon. That made me happy.
After these events I critically analyzed my program. Of course, music stimulates the audience more physically than poetry, therefore the applause after the musical contributions was more normal. The applause neutralizes the tension which is in the air after the presentation of a piece of art. It has a liberating effect on all participants, it dissolves the trance, ends the journey. I decided to end my sequence at the beginning of the second half with the kings' poem. That was pointed and exactly the right thing for the finish. Gabriella, too, advised me to do so. And indeed, this turned out to be successful.
Curfew for Feelings
Now I had changed the literary program and read "Curfew for Feelings", the piece which I had written in January and read in Egypt in February. Meanwhile, the literary magazine "Akhbar al-Adab" published the Arabic translation. It was well fit for the show, because it is a kind of "Loving Jay" in short version. The reason why the poetry album "Loving Jay" was adequate for the readings was that it deals with principle feelings and principle questions of humanity. Also with the emancipation of all oppressing, even of the own love, when it oppresses someone. This seemed to me to be the right level. Here is the wording of the poem:
CURFEW FOR FEELINGS
bamboo # 232 - anis 26 jan 04
there was an alarm call - the checkpoints of her heart - are all closed - security squads at the gates - not unfriendly - but strict - no one can get any further - without the valid papers -- there had been days - when i was several kilometers deep - in her territory - i found traces of my dream there - and was looking for the ear - today since dawn - all the roads are blocked - no intrudors can - get through the wall - words, gestures, they rebound - not to think of touches - curfew for feelings - no infiltration - for the sake of calm - more she has not demanded - only calm - but was there not something that you wanted? - i asked - and she said - actually she already has it - but did you not tell about a dream - right at the start? - and she said that - this may well be the case - yet she is looking way ahead - if there was anything not alright? - she asked and i replied: - no no - it is not that - only this wall - it is very high - and the security measures - before there had been a little meadow here - only for us - at that she left me alone - for a moment -- i drove up and down the hill-streets - and tried at several spots - to find an entrance - i wanted to speak to her herself - but there was no way anymore - there was no space - this time she would have had to listen - and i would have had to listen, too -- the only remaining possibility - to reach her now - was the affect - the extreme - the deed out of despair - to drive straight into this checkpoint - accelerating - until the bang - because when there is a bang - then there has to be something important behind it - something you would think about - something where you ask yourself - why it happened - this is how i used to do it - with some of her sisters - only that it never worked out - in the end there was always only - a field of broken pieces - where before there was - the meadow - there were bad dreams - and cochroaches - that was all - nothing remained of the respective us -- so now the boarder is closed - i am standing here in the ice-cold day - smoking a cigarette - say goodbye to her - and stretch my bones - three tanks have rolled over me - on the way - by accident - collaterally - i had taken that into account - for i wanted to know - what was behind all that - and now i know - it was there - and i'll survive the rest -- security alarm - few words in the cinema - we stared onto the screen - and i behaved in an unconspicuous way - found myself in the undesired role - of an under-cover agent - we smiled - while she was busy - working on the separation device - she was always beautiful - with eyes shining - in the occident - i could only watch - for i came in from the wrong side - right at the start -- for a short moment only - had i today been the other - the stranger - saw myself in the mirror of the mirror woman - there he was again - i had known him for long - he had his place - and seemed to be a bit wretched - i did not like him - he used to talk in confusion - and was boundless - in a clumsy way - i understood - that she did not want to listen to him - i did not want to listen to him either - thus in the end - we almost agreed - and i did not have to let myself go - but only her
In Berlin I wrote it, in Mahmoud's apartment. It was my farewell from Blume, a sad situation. I would have had to start it in a completely different way, if at all. Without this poem, anyway, I would not have gotten out of this thing safely. Just as I would not have gotten out of another thing without "Loving Jay". I put "Curfew" online, shortly after our last encounter in Berlin. She surely read it. It was only later that I recognized the complexity of the text. Maybe only when I was sitting in the Azhar University in Cairo, in the German class of Dr. Siegfried Steinmann, reading out the poem and subsequently listening to the discussion of the students about it. If Blume knew about all that :-)
I often have problems with the assignments of roles. As the artist who I am I, for example, sometimes get into conflicts with the male role which is expected here and there. This has led to some inhibitions with time. It is no accident that since 1998, since the beginning of my new life as an artist, I am not exactly surrounded by women. Or by people in general, for that matter. Maybe on the internet. Likewise, it can be supposed that this state will alter as soon as I earn more money. Assignments of roles, they limit the process of unfolding in an illegitimate way. I have nothing at all against roles, they can on the contrary be exquisitely attracting, but I am against stereotype assignments where you can't say "stop!". It is nice to be dominant, also to be dominated, to give and to receive devotion. As long as it is conscious. But not, if, for example, the respective persons basically are ashamed of their wishes and feelings and thus need a dominance and a force from the outside in order to realize their true wishes, or, as a counter-part, if they feel urged to dominate and punish others in an inconsiderate manner. This leads to guilt and suffering which in turn blocks any kind of creativity. For me this is the Middle Ages. Important is only the human, and this is totally the same for both man and woman. Both are responsible and entitled to the same amount. All these dichotomies, right and left, man and woman, Israeli and Palestinian, this is getting on my nervs completely.
(May 12, 2004) On the next day I met Bettina Oehmen, the wife of cellist Christoph who had organized the concerts in Vreden, Wesel and Bocholt and who is a friend of the Duo Rubin's. Bettina is a versatile, energetic woman with four children. She composes, writes, draws, produces blossom extracts for health, cooks and is always in action. On her and Christoph's homepage www.oehmen-art.de one can get an idea about these activities. I regarded the encounter with Bettina as important, because we were similar in many things, for example concerning our spiritual mentality. Also, she expresses herself publically in word, picture and sound, similar to me. Surely there also were some differences between us, maybe even grave ones, but I just had to take a look at her and Christoph's library to find orientation. There I discovered at least four of my top 10 books, among them The Celestine Prophecies by James Redfield, Secrets of Shamanism by Jose and Lena Stevens, The Dream Catcher by Marlo Morgan. It may be that I also saw the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche there. This meant that I was not an alien here.
I came over from the neighbors, Annette and Willy, two very nice people, at whose place I was put up for the time of our stay in the region. Although we had never met before and although I had arrived in sleeping night, guided by Christoph to the guest room in the bottom flight, the next morning I came for breakfast as if I had done that ten times before. It was easy for us to find things to talk about. Around noon I went over to see the others. Christoph was out teaching, the Duo Rubin still in their room and I chatted in the kitchen with Bettina while she was frying pieces of lamb and her children were running to and fro through the rooms. Kitchen talk. She played me something out of her new CD, among it a Bossa Nova. We did not talk about "the thing". Maybe it would have kept us from learning more about each other from out of concrete life. I could approximately imagine how she thought. It was more important to look at her humanism and to keep away from abstractions and clichès.
On the sitting-room table there was her new book, "Variations about Love (or what we make of it)", a literary work. Soon I had read fifty pages and noticed that Bettina confronted herself with the subjects of love and violence, too, and with the question of energies and the building of identities. She is a narrator, she tells about relationships without running away from every taboo in an uncritical way. She is a searcher. Her poetry is more anarchic, more rebellious in form. The poem "School" might not be too representative, but it reminded me of something. It reads: "Today I go again / to the think factory. / The teacher said / I'll get a high degree, / if I don't move / think only when he wants it so / open my mouth only / when he says so / and close it / when he had said / what I am to say. // I do all these things, too, / because I don't want to end up / as a robot." When I saw it - Bettina and me had exchanged our products - I thought of "On Making and Doing" from Loving Jay, which I did not read on stage: "When they led me to the bank / to take out / my heart / they asked me / for my last wish. / I pondered. They asked: / Is there anything left / that you want to make / or do? / But there wasn't. /I pondered / and posed some questions. / They answered them. / Then I posed some accusations. / They pardonned them. / Then I had said everything / and done / and they took out / my heart."
"The thing" was omnipresent, but on a low level. After Vreden we went on to Wesel where we would appear in the music school. Again a beautiful building, from 1809, re-arranged former barracks, a widely stretched brick building with a meadow in front of it. But at first we drove to the city hall for a meeting. I had overheard that the people in Wesel had gathered some information from the people in Vreden concerning the status of the official welcome. That was somehow sweet. They (especially in Vreden) highly appreciated that they stood in one line with the Gewandhaus Leipzig. Plus, of course, Shalom-Salam. There was, in fact, an honest interest, this is how I received it, at any rate. The mayor from Wesel was not there, due to a health treatment, so we were welcomed by the vice mayor. Also attending were some representatives of the city in official clothing.
The atmosphere was nice, interested, exciting. In the course of the conversation someone from the German Israeli Society, who at the same time was very much supporting our tour, said something about anti-Semitism and that he in view of the increasing anti-Semitism has launched whatever activity. I could observe how my blood started to boil, in an escalating phase of about ten seconds within which I took a deep breath several times reminding myself of my meditational abilities. I couldn't avoid a whispered, pressed "terrible", though. I have to work on that, it was not precise. The vice mayor in this situation showed greatness, because he did not ignore it - which would have been possible due to my lack of precision -, but calmly asked me about what I had to say.
I said it. That Islamophobia is just as bad as anti-Semitism. That I had read what the press wrote about the recent OSCE conference on the subject and that I have my thoughts about it. It remained within the limits, especially as I felt respected here. Two people from the DIG thereafter uttered their opinion in deliberately chosen words. This was acceptable. I knew that we had political differences, anyway, so we better had them openly.
About 5 o'clock p.m. we arrived at the music school and met the company. Among them were Mister Merschhemke from the DIG, the schoolmaster, Christoph of course, who had organized the whole event and who teaches cello at this place, as well as two gentlemen from the police. They had insisted on it, from the part of the police, not from the part of the organisation or the artists.
So far I had not troubled myself with questions of security, for I felt secure. I wouldn't know who I ought to be afraid of. Even my political opponents I took seriously and I lived nonviolence. Therefore I felt quite safe. I also did not worry about the Duo Rubin. I don't support the thesis that Jews have to be protected in a special way. All people need security. A problem is that the official Israel talks in the name of "the Jews", so that the official Israeli policy, which, as is well known, chiefly utilizes repressive means, is brought into a connection with Judaism. This I regard as being extremely irresponsible from the state of Israel. Racism against Jews is bad, just as any other racism.
Ithay and Gabriella, at any rate, also found the police presence superfluous in this case. While they had been confronted in their surroundings with the question whether this tour could also be dangerous, they felt secure, as they said. Of course, there can always be crazy people or those who misunderstand the venture. Also, I am not principally against security escorts. They make sense where they make sense. I don't think that it made any sense in Wesel, but what should I have said? It was an experience. The gentlemen wore civil clothing and the leader of the parole gave the impression of being a serious, official bodyguard. With his charisma and his telegenic looks, so I thought, he could also be the bodyguard of the chancelor. He remained discreet, and as I heard after the concert he allegedly even was emotionally touched by the performance. When shortly before the appearance I had withdrawn to the meadow in front of the building, in order to write some words into the diary, I again saw children play in the yard, like in Vreden. This time I wondered if they could be well-disguised terrorists, attempting to sabotage our peace thing...