Monthly Archives: September 2013

Communicating without language…

Prior to Ahmad’s visit, my Arabic vocabulary had increased to four words. After his whirlwind visit, my Arabic vocabulary has decreased to three words and, I’m not even sure what my name is. I visited so many artist’s studios, saw numerous art galleries, traveled to many places outside of Amman and had argileh and coffee with many people in too many cafés to mention. I’ve learned to communicate fairly well with hand gestures and sketches, although sometimes the communication gets garbled.

Suzanne communicating. Photo credit: Muhammad Abu Azziz
Suzanne communicating. Photo credit: Muhammad Abu Azziz

So now I know that I need to un-garble some information I posted on a past blog:
My barber’s name is Ahmad, not Yosef. Yosef is a Syrian friend of Ahmad’s who is a barber in Syria. Due to the situation in Syria, Yosef brought his son Khalid to Amman while he is visiting with Ahmad in the barber shop for awhile.

The artist Muhammad Abu Aziz took a photo in a mirror of me talking to another artist, Iyad Kan’an. The photo reflects the “distance” in my understanding of conversations.

Iyad and Suzanne communicating, in mirror. Photo credit: Muhammad Abu Aziz

My lack of ability to communicate in Arabic hasn’t really been a problem, thanks to the existing local cultural mode of developing relationships and conducting business here. The precursor for all social and business interaction is drinking coffee or tea together. Appointments generally start at the prearranged time but morph from pleasant conversations about daily happenings, to physically moving from one locale to another, acquiring the other people necessary during the process, traveling to yet another destination, and ending up smoking sheesha and drinking final cups of coffee at a final destination.

Argileh
Argileh

The process of this interaction is really the ‘heart of the matter.” This  process determines the final results of all transactions.

Turkish coffee and jaw breakers
Turkish coffee and jaw breakers

It’s basically an insult to refuse coffee or tea when it is offered by a host, whether at home or in a café. It’s essential for me to welcome any guests in my apartment by serving coffee. Making “acceptable” Turkish coffee is an art. After the coffee boils, it’s necessary to scoop out a tablespoon of the sludge on the top and put it in the cup before adding the coffee. Without this thick film floating on the top the coffee is unacceptable, basically an insult to the guest. I am still in the process of learning how to make an acceptable cup of Turkish coffee. Thank goodness the cups are small!

Suzanne's kitchen sink
Suzanne’s kitchen sink

Amman is a city with an intriguing mixture of very old nooks and crannies interspersed with the new. Some of the oldest “hidden away” buildings in Amman have been converted into argileh cafés where elderly gentlemen converge at night on a regular basis and play cards and sit in groups at their respective tables.

These beautiful black and white photos taken by local artist Muhammad Abu Aziz capture the quiet camaraderie found  hidden away in argileh cafés late at night:

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Getting down to art business…

My Palestinian artist friend, Ahmad Canaan – with whom I worked on artistic endeavors twenty years ago in Palestine and the United States – recently left after visiting me for five days. The purpose of his visit was to be a liaison for finding the Palestinian women embroiderers for my art salon, to introduce me to established male artists from whom I will select seven to include their work in the art salon exhibition, and to help secure a gallery space for this exhibition in January.

Artist Ahmad Canaan
Artist Ahmad Canaan

Securing an exhibition at a top notch gallery within a four month time frame is not an easily reached goal – here or anywhere else! Gallery exhibitions are normally scheduled one to two years in advance. Before Ahmad’s departure today – miracle of miracles – these goals were accomplished!

Ahmad Canaan’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ahmad.canaan2

Shortly after Ahmad’s arrival he introduced me to a photographer, Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan, who has volunteered to contribute in major ways to securing excellent press coverage and opportunities for the exhibition.

Photographer Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan ("Raheem")
Photographer Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan (“Raheem”)

Raheem has personal relationships with everyone in the art world in Jordan, including the press and media throughout the Arab world, and is dedicated to establishing formats for the exhibition of contemporary art. He is also a laudable professional photographer.

Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/abdalrheem.alarjan

Raheem drove Ahmad and I to Madaba, 20 miles SW of Amman, via the scenic route. We passed through the outskirts of Amman and small villages. On the way we stopped at Hisban, where Raheem’s father and grandfather lived and raised sheep. On the top of the hill is an old castle in disrepair. Luckily, I was able to snap a few photos before my twenty-five year old pocket camera was relegated to the trash.

We then proceeded to Madaba, a major tourist and Pilgrimage destination, known for it’s Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. It houses the Shrine of the Beheading of John the Baptist, and the oldest existing mosaic map of Palestine…

http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/madaba_map.html

…and numerous other mosaic floors. Madaba is affectionately referred to as “mosaic city.”  [Click on photos to enlarge]:

Raheem currently has an exhibition of his photography (and his private art collection) in a Contemporary Art Gallery he established in the Historic Museum in Madaba.

After viewing Raheem’s exhibition and the historic museum collection we had coffee, smoked sheesha and had dinner at the newly-constructed restaurant next to the museum: Rakwet Cafe. The restaurant owner, Azziz, also has a restaurant in Paris Circle (I posted photos of his restaurant on my blog previously – the photos of the gorgeous tiles and ceilings) and another restaurant in Downtown Amman.

https://www.facebook.com/RakwetArabCafe

 

Raheem with Rakwet Cafe  owner, Azziz
Raheem with Rakwet Cafe owner, Azziz

The two owners of the Rakwet Cafe, Azziz and his partner, were being interviewed by Jordan Television while we were smoking sheesha and drinking Turkish coffee. Jordan television also interviewed Raheem.

Jordan TV interviewer and Raheem
Jordan TV interviewer and Raheem

After the filming concluded, we smoked more sheesha and Raheem showed my Family Ties-Occupation Art book, which I had self-published, to Azziz. Azziz expressed interest in publishing my book because, “It shows that all Americans don’t think the same.” He requested to keep the book for a few days and he and his partner generously graced us with a delicious dinner.

Raheem with sheesha
Raheem with sheesha

My book Family Ties: Occupied Art on lulu.com
http://www.lulu.com/ca/en/shop/suzanne-klotz/family-ties/hardcover/product-20492502.html

One more before I buckle down to work….

Tomorrow is the day I buckle down and immerse myself 200% percent in accomplishing my goals.

But before I do that, I’d like to share these photos of mannequins wearing dresses in a section of Downtown that goes on for blocks and blocks (click on any image for descriptions, a slide show, or to enlarge:

The next photos are of the Friday outdoor souk for clothes, Rainbow Street souk (similar to a Scottsdale craft fair), and the Wild Jordan Cafe – which was a gift from the Queen to Americans.

That evening I also revisited the hubbly bubbly lounge with Jose Matinez and Muhammad Abu Aziz in Downtown Amman.

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Mumtaaz!

The souk has every kind of fresh and tasty food imaginable, as well as coffee, tea, sweets and condiments.

Mohammad sells stencil tessellation kits on the sidewalk. I bought a couple of kits from him the other day, he makes creating them look very easy. I’m still trying to figure out how to make my stencils look even remotely like his. I gave one of the kits to Khalid (the Syrian boy visiting Yosef the barber). I’m quite sure Khalid will be able to teach me how to use my stencil tessellations in a few days. Khalid and I communicate very well, despite neither of us understanding a word the other one says. Well-meaning translators occasionally interrupt our chain of communication and, sadly when that happens, our great communication withers away until the translator disappears.

Mohammed, street tesselations
Mohammad, street tesselations

I now know four words in Arabic: shu-kran (thank you), mar-ha-ban (hello), jay-ed (good), and mum-taaz (excellent). I emailed my fake-adopted Palestinian brother, from twenty years ago, who lives in a refugee camp in Palestine and told him about my newly-acquired language skills. He emailed back, “My clever sister!”

Today Hanan, the artist, came over again with her daughter Amira, this time to work on the Seven Women’s House Keys canvas.

Hanan with canvas
Hanan with canvas

Amira is twenty-two years old. She knows four languages fluently: English, Japanese, Korean and Arabic. Yes indeed, I am a very clever sister with my four newly-acquired Arabic words!

Amira and Hanan
Amira and Hanan
Amira and Hanan working
Amira and Hanan working

Hanan brought her personal collection of embroidered yokes from Palestinian dresses and very generously donated them for appliquéd sections on the canvas.

Hanan's emboidery and painting
Hanan’s emboidery and painting

Hanan’s family house is in Jerusalem. When Hanan was twenty-two her mother taught her how to embroider a dress with the Jerusalem design. It is pictured on Hanan in the following photograph:

Hanan with historic book on Palestine
Hanan with historic book on Palestine

The city of Amman didn’t have street signs until a couple of years ago. When taking a taxi the directions normally do not include the street name or a property number, rather they include the name of the district and a specific mosque, church or large building near the destination. I just say “Weibdah, Paris Circle.” And, after being dropped off in front of Stop and Shop, I walk home.

My landlord, Imad Petro, is very excited about my project. Without any prodding, he asked if he could search through the shops in Downtown Amman to find seven house keys. His family’s house is in Bethlehem.  Imad, and his brother Samil, brought over seven house keys that Hanan quickly rejected, saying they were too large.

Suzanne and Imad with keys that are too large
Suzanne and Imad with keys that are too large

He then returned the keys and brought seven more back, as well as some Palestinian-embroidered coasters that can be cut up and appliquéd on the canvas.

New keys!
New keys!
Samil and Imad
Samil and Imad

Jabal Al Weibdeh – neighborhood essentials

The following is a photo of my new hair-do, blowing in the wind. Although it’s not apparent in the photo, my Elvis duck tail is just what I wanted. I invited my hair stylist in Arizona, Lorrinda, to visit me while I’m in Jordan, but so far she hasn’t accepted my invitation. Yosef is now my “trim” hair stylist. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more affable “away from home” barber!

New hair cut
New hair cut

The following is a photo of Yosef with Khalid. Khalid was sent to stay for awhile in Jordan by his father, a good friend of Yosef’s.

Yusuf and Khalid
Yosef and Khalid

Everything that is essential for daily living is available in Paris Circle. We have the Stop and Shop that sells every item a household could want or need, including a food counter with ready made entrées, cheese and condiments. Stop and Shop has every soft drink in the world, including canned coffee from Taiwan, kitchenwares and mouse traps.

Stop and Shop, Paris Circle
Stop and Shop, Paris Circle

The Arab bank is in the Paris Circle (for withdrawing and exchanging money) and there are plenty of cafes within the first block of the five intersecting streets that converge in the circle. We also have shops for stationary, Jordan Hand Crafts, Mosaic Tile (and ceramic ware), beads and thread, fresh fruit and vegetables, hookah lounges and restaurants, and an internet cafe.

Paris Circle fruit and vegetable shop
Paris Circle fruit and vegetable shop

The internet cafe, @Cafe, is owned by Amjad Al Barcothy (pictured in the photograph).

Amjad Al Barcothy, owner of @Cafe
Amjad Al Barcothy, owner of @Cafe

Today my mission was to get photocopies of documents. I thought I’d need to traverse a million steps to find a copy place Downtown. I was pleasantly surprised to find Amjad’s @Cafe in Paris Circle. It is the second shop from the Circle on the street next to Sandra Flowers and More. @Cafe charges one JD per hour for use of one of their many laptops, free coffee and photocopies for ten piaster’s per page, with a discount for seven or more copies. It is open from ten in the morning until one in the morning. Amjad and I had an enjoyable lengthy conversation, using the translator on one of his laptops, while Mohammad printed photocopies of my documents.

Muhammad Nassr, @Cafe employee
Mohammad Nsaar, @Cafe employee

Now that I’m familiar with the neighborhood, I feel more comfortable about branching out into greater Amman. The shops are, almost on the whole, owned by generation after generation of the same family. The family business has been passed down from one generation to the next, ad infinitum. Each generation has pride of ownership that is evidenced in the quality of their service and hospitable interaction. As I said before, I couldn’t have been plopped in a better place in Jordan than Jabal Al Weibdeh (pronounced, and sometimes spelled, Web-dah).

 

Crossing Paris Circle
Crossing Paris Circle

Each day and night I do some beading on the canvas. Beading through thick, heavy canvas isn’t easy, and the light at night is not good, but art must go on!

Canvas detail, sewing beads
Canvas detail, sewing beads

“Funons” and barbers…

Tonight my internet connection wasn’t working so I went to a restaurant I haven’t been to before, falsely assuming I would be able to access the internet.

Front of Restaurant and Hookah Lounge
Front of Restaurant and Hookah Lounge
Entrance to restaurant and hookah lounge, front door
Entrance to restaurant and hookah lounge, front door

After ordering a cup of coffee, and placing my laptop in front of me, a waiter informed me that I couldn’t connect to the internet. Halfway through my cup of coffee the waiter asked for my laptop, took it into another room, and returned saying, “You have internet.” The restaurant is a combination hookah lounge and eatery. The walls were covered with large sections of mosaic tiles glazed with intricate Arabic designs and elongated sections of calligraphy. The wood sconces around the doorways and windows had limestone reliefs painted with elaborate Arabic patterns. Seated at my table I felt like I was a figural element of a pattern in a three dimensional version of one of my tapestry paintings. All of the tables and couches were occupied with women and men smoking hookah. The hookah looked inviting, but I decided to pass and leave hookah smoking to the “professionals.”

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After answering emails from the other side of the earth, I left to walk home. While passing through the Paris Circle I saw Ibraheem from the flower shop, with a batch of dry cleaned clothing slung over his shoulder. Tonight Ibraheem was carrying dry cleaning again. We said hello and he invited me into his shop to have coffee. I sat down in a chair near his desk, declined the coffee and (unbeknownst to him) had no intention of leaving until I found out if it is normal in Jordan for a man to get his clothes dry cleaned every other day.

Ibraheem's desk
Ibraheem’s desk

Ibraheem’s English is limited, and my Arabic is even more limited. My Arabic consists of pointing at objects while making facial expressions and asking “Why? or “What?” In response to my repeated gesturing towards his dry cleaning Ibraheem turned on his computer and showed me his Facebook page. This was the beginning of getting to know Ibraheem, as well as understanding the origin of the colloquialism, “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover.”

Ibraheem Wardeh
Ibraheem Wardeh

This is Ibraheem Wardeh: A professional, astoundingly unique, florist and highly accomplished DJ. No wonder he needs perfectly pressed and dry cleaned attire. Many nights after closing the shop he’s off to do a gig, such as DJ-ing on the performance stage at the Old Citadel, or being interviewed by one of Jordan’s primetime television stations. And Wardeh means flower in Arabic, how perfect!

Wedding flowers
Wedding flowers

Aside from his accomplishments as a DJ, his floral arrangements are not confined to flowers. His arrangements are what I would refer to as “floral performance experiences.” They engulf the participants at events in Spielberg-esque Rococo scenarios. He creates entire stage settings using furniture, lights, water, candles and unique luxurious drapery back drops. His clients range from the “everyman” to dignitaries. The following are some photos of his floral “arrangements:”

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See: https://www.facebook.com/brhom.wardeh1?fref=ts

After concluding that we are both “funon’s” (artists), Ibraheem introduced me to the owner of Ahmad Saloon, a barber shop a few shops away. After much hand gesturing and pulling of my hair, the owner, Yousef, agreed to trim my hair tomorrow. I want my hair to be all the same length on the top of my head and a duck tail in the back, like Elvis Presley. Who better than a great barber could do this?

Funons: Ibraheem, Suzanne, Yosef
Funons: Ibraheem, Suzanne, Yosef

Endless Mountain Staircases…

Steps to apartment homes
Steps to apartment homes

The city of Amman is built on seven mountains. And the word mountain means mountain – not a hill! Many years ago I saw Andorra from the top of nearby mountains as the car headed downward on steep windy roads. Andorra is a little country tucked between Spain and France, I was astounded by the verticalness of the buildings constructed on the side of a mountain, nearly 90 degrees. Amman is even more vertical than Andorra. I have never seen, or walked, so many 95 degree stone staircases and stairwells in my life. It is impossible to get from one destination to another without trekking up and down millions of steps. The residents here undoubtedly have the strongest thighs and lower backs in the world. The photograph above is one of the staircases that provides residents access to their homes on the opposite side of my mountain. The residents, from babies to great grandparents, climb hundreds of steps daily just to get to the street above or below their home.

The walls of the buildings that line the staircases are spotted with assorted graffiti expressing everything from short thoughts to more complex issues about Jerusalem and Palestine.

When I leave my apartment I usually walk up a sidewalk with a hefty incline to Paris Circle. After passing the water shop, I usually say hello to Ibraheem, whose family business is the flower shop nearby.

Water shop and flower shop, Paris Circle
Water shop and flower shop, Paris Circle

Today Zohreh, Randall, David and I trekked to the Shoman Foundation’s Darat Al Funon, an arts and culture center with a terraced cafe.

Fulbright peeps at Darat al Funon terrace
Fulbright peeps at Darat al Funon terrace
Darat al Funon, terrace cafe
Darat al Funon, terrace cafe

While drinking my mini-cup of thick coffee grounds and sugar I saw the artist I met recently, Mohammad Abu Aziz drinking coffee and was introduced to his artist friend, Iyad Kan’aan.

Muhmmad Abu Aziz and Iyad Kan'aan, local artists
Muhmmad Abu Aziz and Iyad Kan’aan, local artists

Both Muhammad and Iyad have absolutely gorgeous and profound art.
You might want to take a look at it yourself here:

Iyad:  www.iyadkanan.com  and
https://www.facebook.com/iyad.kanan?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser

Muhammad: https://www.facebook.com/muhammad.abuaziz

On our walk home we saw Fulbrighter Matt on the balcony of another coffee shop. We stopped to say hello and proceeded down the tile and stone sidewalk, window shopping.

Matt and friend
Matt and friend

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Fifty years ago, the Jabal Al-Weibdeh neighborhood area was considered the most stylish and upscale place to live in all of Amman. As far as I’m concerned, it still is. The historic arabesque architecture, and the multitude of cafés, shops and cultural centers are in direct contrast to the newly built “upscale” neighborhoods that have popped up throughout Amman.

Muhammad and Iyad invited me to meet with them at the Jabel Knowledge Culture (art gallery and cafe) at nine that night. Jadel is one of the oldest buildings in Amman, hidden away in one of the many dimly lit excessively long stairwells. Unsure as to whether or not I was taking the right staircase (in the dark they all look the same), I stopped at a barber shop and requested directions. Not knowing how to speak Arabic, or the exact name of the place, I returned to the barber shop twice after heading out to re-review my directions. The third time that I returned to the barber shop I decided to get my hair cut. I asked the barber for a trim by using hand gestures. He refused by using hand gestures and holding up an electric razor. Unless I wanted a buzz cut, I was in the wrong place. Thanking him for his time I headed off to another stairwell and eventually ended up at Jabel Knowledge/Culture.

After meeting Muhammad in Jabel/Knowledge and looking at the current exhibition of paintings by a Syrian woman we walked downtown to the oldest hookah lounge in Amman, secreted away at the top of a multitude of well worn stone steps with sawdust scattered on them. The lounge is in one of the oldest buildings in Amman.

Jabel Knowledge Culture Center
Jabel Knowledge Culture Center

When I entered the lounge I noticed I was the only female in the room, but my presence didn’t seem to bother anyone. Iyad showed up and we smoked hubbly bubbly, drank mini cups of thick, black coffee and talked about the important aspects of life:  art.

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Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts

Interesting fact: The country of Jordan is 35,637 square miles in area, that’s approximately the same size as the state of Maine – 35,384 square miles.

Another interesting fact: A few months ago Google put Palestine back on the map. Since first going to Palestine in 1990 I researched “Palestine” continually on the internet. At some point during the later 1990’s, the word “Palestine” disappeared off the internet and world maps. Instead, the world maps denoted Palestine with words such as “West Bank” and “Occupied Territories.” Undeterred by not finding Palestine on the internet, I went to Office Depot to buy a Rand McNally World Atlas denoting Palestine as Palestine. No such luck, Palestine had “gone missing” and remained missing until shortly before I was awarded my Fulbright. In a hurry to gather some updated facts about Palestine for my Fulbright I mistakenly put Palestine in the search bar, rather than West Bank or Occupied Territories, and lo and behold, Palestine popped up! I couldn’t believe my eyes and researched the reason Palestine is ‘back.” Google put Palestine back on the map without telling anyone of their intentions. To me, and the rest of the world, this is monumental!

Now I’m only a day behind in my life. Yesterday, September 11,th I met with Dr. Khaled Khris,  the director of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, and his Assistant Director for Artistic Affairs Bana Fanous. The museum is a gorgeous stone building. Actually the museum is comprised of two buildings, one across two streets with a sculpture garden in the center (click on images to enlarge):

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Dr. Khris’s office is located in the building with the administrative offices, gift shop and exhibition areas.

View from the front door of the museum administrative offices and galleries
View from the front door of the museum administrative offices and galleries
Dr. Khalid Kreis, Director, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
Dr. Khaled Khris, Director, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts

Dr. Khris oversaw and traveled an exhibition of the work of 51 Arab women artists from 21 Islamic countries, entitled: ““Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World.” It traveled to various parts of the United States.

http://blogs.mprnews.org/state-of-the-arts/2010/02/lifting-the-veils-from-our-own-eyes/

http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/newsletter_fall09/btv.html

The following painting hangs in the foyer leading into his office and was used on the catalogue cover for the exhibition:

Breaking the Veils exhibition painting by Meriem Bouderbala of Tunisia (Untitled)
Breaking the Veils exhibition painting by Meriem Bouderbala of Tunisia (Untitled). Mixed media (28 x 20cm)

Dr. Khris expressed interest in my Seven Women’s House Keys art salon. He stated that he didn’t want to interfere with my time limitations on my project and suggested I make myself at home in the library and exhibition spaces whenever I desire. I offered my services to assist wherever needed and he suggested I come to the gallery on the 23rd or 24th to possibly contribute installation suggestions for the exhibition they will be installing.

Dr. Kreis and Suzanne Klotz
Dr. Khris and Suzanne Klotz

Mulling over impressions and ideas…

7 Women's House Keys canvas on shared work table, waiting for the hands of its 7 women...
7 Women’s House Keys canvas on shared work table, waiting for the richly experienced hands of its 7 women…

An article featured in AMEInfo lists Amman as the fourth most expensive city in the

Jordanian dinar
Jordanian dinar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Middle East in 2013. What does this mean to me personally? It means my US dollar is worth two-third’s of what it is worth in the United States. Everything is a lot more expensive in Amman as compared to Arizona. In Amman, the dramatic influx of Syrian refugees, some of whom are Palestinian, has put a tremendous drain on the economic conditions in Jordan. The population of Jordan is comprised of 60 to 70% Palestinians now.

Rather than quoting facts and figures and researching everything said to me at this point, I would like to share some of the things I’ve heard from my acquaintances: Jordanian, Jordanian Palestinian, Palestinian and Syrian refugees. These comments inspire some pause and are food for some reflective thought:

From a Palestinian older female acquaintance: “My rent was raised from twenty-six JDs [Jordanian dinars] a month to sixty JDs a month three months ago. All of my family is dead and I am sick and can’t work. I haven’t paid rent for three months.”

Since 1967, Palestinians were not given Jordanian nationality; therefore they remain “country-less” with no national identity.

From a Palestinian acquaintance: “Palestinian refugees get 25JDs a month, Syrian refugees get 75+ JDs a month. The government doesn’t give refugees money, it all comes from the UN and other countries. Palestinians, who don’t have Jordanian nationality, cannot have government jobs, join the military, or attend the university.”

From a Syrian refugee acquaintance: “I have been here two months. All of my family is in Syria. I want to return to my family and friends very soon.”

From a Jordanian acquaintance (after hearing about my art salon for Palestinian women): “What are you doing for Jordan?”

From a Jordanian Palestinian acquaintance: “Everyone marries everyone here. Palestinians marry Jordanians and Jordanians marry Palestinians. There is no difference, we are all the same. The difference is that some people don’t have Jordan nationality, because they came here after 1967, and they can’t travel to other countries or go to the university. When their children are born here they have Jordan nationality and can go to the university and travel.”

From another Jordanian Palestinian acquaintance: “The majority of people live day to day. The money they earn each day is enough to buy the food for the next day. they have no savings. Most people own their homes, their fathers and grandfathers build on top of their house for the next generation, and so forth. They don’t pay rent but they have a loan from the bank. They put up their land or store for equity to get a loan. When they can’t pay the loan their property is taken away. That is the story for most of the people here. Some areas are wealthy. The Iraqi sector is  wealthy. Many of the Iraqi’s stole the money and came here to open a big business.”

A common refrain heard here: “Spies are here. They write down what people say and report them. They are kicked out of Jordan and can’t come back.”

Another common refrain: “I like the American people. The American people don’t know what their government is doing. I don’t blame the people for what their government is doing. I separate the people from their government.”

So, here I sit in my 700 JD a month apartment (not including utilities) while just a few miles away millions of people are stuck in poverty and morass. Something is direly wrong with this picture. Some people here get paid thousands of dollars a week for a two-page “report.” I am living in a comparative lap of luxury. The majority of others have been driven out of country after county carrying only what they could strap on their backs.

...the gift...
…the gift…

Sometimes gifts come with strings attached, and sometimes they don’t.

Beginning the canvas…

The days have been piling up on top of each other with interesting events taking place each day:

José and his brother, Dario, came over to my apartment and cut out some canvas shapes that will be appliquéd onto the large “Seven Women’s House Keys” canvas.

José and Dario Martinez
José and Dario Martinez

Hanan Al Khaldi and her daughter Amira drove down from Zarqa at my request so that we could meet and discuss Hanan’s contributions to the Seven Women’s House Keys canvas. Ahmad Caanan, my Palestinian artist friend, with whom I worked on projects in the 1990’s, suggested I contact Hanan. Thanks, Ahmad!

Hanan Khaldi and Amira
Amira and Hanan Al Khaldi

Hanan’s family home is in Jerusalem. Therefore, her segment of the canvas is the central upper portion. After partaking in a really bad cup of (bullion) coffee, made by me, Hanan sat at the dining room table with the canvas stretched over it and started sketching ideas for her area. Amira began sewing beads on the border – embellishing the Arabic calligraphy denoting each of the Palestinian refugee camps. After puncturing her fingers numerous times with the sewing needle, I handed Amira band-aids and decided I must buy thimbles. I don’t use thimbles myself, as they always fall off.

Hanan
Hanan Al Khaldi

Hanan Al Khaldi’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/hanan.khaldi.3?fref=ts

As I mentioned before, the canvas is extremely thick and almost impossible to sew through with thin, small needles. I’ve, unknowingly, developed a technique for grasping the sides of the needle so the point doesn’t puncture the end of my fingers, alleviating a lot of finger damage. Amira asked if she can accompany her mother to the art salon, which I happily agreed to. They are both a joy and I’m so glad they will both be attending.

Hanan and Amira working
Hanan and Amira working

I then went to Malas sewing shop where I bought fourteen thimbles.

Malas sewing shop, where I bought thimbles
Malas sewing shop, downtown Amman opposite the Al Husseini Mosque

Two days ago, on September 8th, I met with Muhammad Abu Aziz, an artist who was also recommended by Ahmad Caanan.

Muhammad is a well known artist and photographer who lives near downtown Amman, close to where I am. He is also a consultant for Save the Children. He conducts art projects involving Syrian refugee youth, hopefully we will be able to collaborate on an art project for refugee youth.  Muhammad recently completed an exhibition of children’s drawings that was shown in Amman and will travel to Belgium, the Netherlands and in various parts of Europe.

Muhammed Abu Aziz
Muhammed Abu Aziz

Muhammad was recently awarded a scholarship from the French Institute to create a series of paintings derived from attending gatherings at the Jabal Knowledge hookah lounge. The lounge is tucked away in a building located on the side of a long stone staircase where philosophers, poets and notable personages gather to discuss pertinent current events in the Arab world. At present, the topic is Syria, Russia and the United States government’s proposal to attack Syria. Muhammad’s paintings of the attendees have an aura of mystery, and capture the intense thoughtfulness and diversity of perception of the attendees. I don’t know if a book will be published of Muhammad’s series of paintings, but if there is one, I will buy it. If the publication of a book isn’t part and parcel of his scholarship I volunteered to help him self-publish a book. His paintings are entrancing.