MEMO presented its first poetry evening last night in honour of renowned Palestinian poet and political activist Mahmoud Darwish to a packed crowd at SOAS University.
The night was dedicated to remembering Darwish’s powerful work on Palestine and highlighting the power of art in honouring causes of importance.
Remi Kanazi, an American-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist who has organised poetry workshops across the world, headed the event.
Accompanying him was Palestinian artist Salim Assi who spent the evening painting on a canvas as performances took place. The finished product was revealed at the end of the night which showed an impressive mix of Darwish and Palestinian themes to signify the “randomness of a Palestinian’s life” and an inclusion of a famous line from one of Darwish’s poems, “on this land there is what makes life worth living.”
Kanazi began his performance by reading a poem by Mahmoud Darwish called “I Come From There” in which he talks about his homeland, Palestine.
The crowd were then treated to a few of Remi Kanazi’s own pieces from his book “Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine” where he spoke about a range of issues from #BlackLivesMatter to the importance of the non-violent Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Beginning with “This Divestment Bill Hurts my Feelings”, Remi discussed the power of BDS and how it has been received by those opposed to it.
This Divestment Bill Hurts my Feelings.
That kind of killer bulldozer ended life in a body of an American citizen.
Drove her bones into the ground while a company cashed in on the sale.
The claws of D9 bulldozers unearthed the livelihood of occupied Palestinians,
uprooting their graveyards to make way for illegal settlements.
“Palestinians have left many doorways and pathways and pivot points as possible for folks to come and be down for justice. But if you’re looking to reaffirm structures and systems of oppression we’ve got to battle against it,” Remi explained.
Nothing is normal about occupation.
Nothing normal about blockade, ethnic-cleansing, siege, settler-only roads, bombing water wells, mosques, schools and UN buildings.
Nothing normal about putting a civilian population on a so called ‘diet’,
paying non-indigenous colonisers to settle on land that is already populated.
“I don’t want to normalise with you. I don’t want to share a stage, co-write a poem, submit to your anthology, talk about how art instead of justice can forge a better path. The only thing barren is your moral capacity, blooming a settler-colonial state with an appropriative culture. I will not fight for your privilege, nor will I seek to normalise it.”
The evening was concluded by an open mic session in which audience members performed a few of their own pieces which tackled a range of subjects.
“You live on in the demonstrations in Ramallah, you live on. You will live on in the tears we cry for the ones we lose after you. You will live on in the bodies wounded by Israeli bullets, in the bodies trapped behind gates,” Ameera, an American from Gaza, said as she performed a piece in honour of Palestinian activist Basil Al-Araj who was assassinated by Israel.
Samra, who has compiled a book of poems based on her experiences, talked of pain and survival. “ You see I am not a number On an identity card, I am a citizen In the big society, so while your record my history and wonder which box In the form fits me, I rise above your labels and your prejudice for freedom has befallen me from my mothers’ womb.”
“The only thing that can save us in this terrible world is art,” one Lebanese-Syrian began as she performed her poems on the war in Syria. “I wonder, she asks, what the solution to our people’s problems is. And I look into my aunt’s eyes, into her cornea and past her pupils and all I see in them are blackness and a reflection of my privilege.”
“I am Palestine so let the world never cease to know of my existence,” Lamyaa passionately cried, as Ferdous spoke about the importance of remembering the world’s orphans “because we are never doing enough until we see every child as one of our own.”