breaking the silence

“Why Aren’t You Smiling?

You’ve gotta keep going.” – Jhene Aiko – W. A. Y. S.

 

Hills

My previous post is dated 27th May 2017, which is more than a month ago.

Much has happened, and yet things are pretty much the same still.

I’m growing. Still dreaming big and audaciously.

I took the month off to focus on fasting and prayer during the Holy month of Ramadhan, and it was really good for my soul. I even deactivated my Instagram account for a week, hah. There was a sense of calm that just filled my soul that even in times of distress I felt really close to my Creator. Like He could hear me when I’d ask Him to show me a way, and I really miss that.

I always question my purpose on this earth, and as each day goes by that yearning builds up. Almost like how you try to recall someone’s name – it’s on the tip of your tongue and swishing about in your brain – but you just can’t grasp it yet.

I meant it when I said I was elated for the BAKE Awards nomination. I wasn’t very honest when I said I was okay with not winning. You see the thing is, I felt like I was so close. That maybe this was my big break. Or just a victory I really wanted, you know? And when it didn’t happen, well, I guess I sort of had to reconfigure my strategy, which I’ve come to realize always seems to keep changing.

I find myself wondering and searching for a special solution that will make all my dreams come true, ignoring the fact that this ‘searching’ takes away the joy from the present. Always chasing, searching, yearning, forgetting to be present. To be grateful for what is, for the now. And to stop comparing, or setting time limits for my achievements because everyone’s journey and life purpose is different. The important thing is that I’m trying. I’m getting started. And even in moments when I’m weak, scared or feel like I’ve failed, I get up and march on.

Still marching.

Lots of love,

Fatma.

the village in the city

“It frequently occurs in the growth of cities that villages are absorbed into the fabric of that city. But what are the consequences of this? How far and how do these villages become part of the overall fabric of the city? How does this affect the village, and what is the effect on the wider city?”

Excerpt from ‘Do Villages Shape Our Cities?’ – Wafa Al Ghatam.

 

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The force is strong with a title like that.

Remember how I mentioned in my previous post that I ‘briefly’ popped by Adliya with my cousins? It was the the third day of my trip and luckily this exhibition was on at the Al Riwaq Art Space. Imagine my excitement when I saw it was the result of research by a female Arab architect! That’s how I met Wafa – approachable, friendly and a creative. I couldn’t engage her for long that first time as she was about to be interviewed for a magazine/ television station so we exchanged contacts and agreed to be in touch.

With two days to the end of my trip, I reached out to her with the intention of both enjoying the gallery a little more, and interviewing Wafa for the blog. I had finally found a female architect from a similar cultural background as myself whom I could look up to, and from a quick Google search of her name, her credentials left me not only inspired, but enthusiastic too – like maybe I stand a chance at being not only good, but great at something too, you know? We agreed to meet at 4 pm at the Art Space on the evening before I left back for Nairobi to have a chat.

The phrase, ‘The Village In The City’, was first coined in a book by Nicholas Taylor in 1973, explains Wafa. Most of the time, the projects architects get involved in tend to be consumed only by a select few – those in the construction industry, professors, fellow architects or the client. Having an exhibition as such was meant to demystify and simplify the results of her research in such a manner that anyone would be interested to not only understand but also ask more questions about what they see. It’s meant to be engaging to the public. In summary, it is a study on how the growth of the city (Manama) has affected the villages, taking Muharraq as an example.

We spent about an hour discussing different things – from her entire research (in summary of course), and then onto women in architecture and what her advice would be to a recent graduate like myself. ‘Practice for about one or two years, and then you could proceed to further your studies’. At this point, Maryam joins the conversation. She’s an architect too, now doing her masters in London. ‘These days, students finish their Bachelors and want to go straight into doing their Masters. But how can you do your Masters without even knowing what to do, or what you like?’ she adds. My interaction with Wafa was more of a discussion than an interview, so towards the end of our discussion we walked around the exhibition to understand her thought process behind the items on display, and for me to take pictures of course.

Children, women, men, tourists like myself may walk into the space and view the printed images, text boards and even a plywood physical model. ‘The children love the model most,’ she says. I can see why, this laser cut technology has been around for a couple of years and is just beginning to grow in the Kenyan context as well. Upstairs, a cutout of the city map is placed on the ceiling and backlit from above creating an interesting play of shadows on the walls and floor. ‘What was the concept behind this piece?’ I ask Wafa. ‘In the shadow of the city,’ she responds.

‘Have you been to Muharraq?’ she asks.
‘Not really, I just drove by and my cousin pointed it out to me,’ I respond.
‘Would you like to go? I can take you there briefly. It’s fascinating how they live in their village. I trained some of my students to help me with the research and each one was stationed at a place so they helped me observe the patterns. The women especially are interesting subjects – within the village they can walk around in their ordinary clothes but once they leave their village, it’s no longer home territory so they wear their traditional abaya‘, she explains.

We left the gallery and drove by Bab al Bahrain, and since I’d never been, she parked her Jeep on the side street and walked me through the streets, explaining how they were planned, the whole while it being a discussion. I added that it feels like the streets in the coast of Kenya, Mombasa. We got to walk through Little India as well, an Indian neighborhood and briefly observed their patterns and how the spaces were planned. I got to buy a few souvenirs, and at this point my uncle called me to be back home so we couldn’t go to Muharraq.

We talked about a lot, but I remember asking her if there were a few things I could take from our conversation what would it be?

  1. Travel. You not only get to see and experience new places, but even grow as an individual through interacting with different people. This is a sentiment even Urko Sanchez conveyed to me when I interviewed him when writing my thesis.
  2. Ask questions. It’s always better to engage in open-minded discussions and not just take every information as truth, even though it may be factual. Make it a habit to understand the reasoning behind information you come across, make it a discussion and not a ‘lecture’.
  3. Experience in your chosen field is very important before pursuing further studies. If an opportunity does arise however, take it but get involved in practice too on the side. Be a lecturer’s assistant or get a part time job. The important thing is to always grow your skillset and gain experience.

In other news, the BAKE Awards gala took place last night 🙂
We didn’t win the title for Best Travel Blog this year but I’d just like to say a big thank you to all my readers! All those who nominated me, and voted for me. The nomination was such a huge affirmation to me, and I’m so grateful because either way I left the gala even more ambitious and positive as I would have if I won the award 🙂

Love and good vibes ❤

chasing dreams

“Artists have so much more control of their futures – they don’t need to rely so much on major labels or big companies to help them. You have artists like Skrillex that can dominate so much that he gets 5 Grammy nominees, and he’s clearly an underground artist.”

– Steve Aoki.

concert1concert2concert3concert4

Sometimes an incident, big or small, can occur that will make you second guess yourself. Your abilities, your dreams, especially when your purpose is unclear (it doesn’t need to be clear because everyone has a different rate of growth). I was in the dumps for a few days, second guessing whether I should proceed with my ‘pilgrim adventures’, asking if it’s worth it, do the easy thing, give it up, and conform or if I should do the difficult thing – keep going one step at a time and see where it goes. Then one evening I got a wave of an emotion I can’t describe as anger, but similar to it. Whatever it was, even after a long day at work, it kept me at my bedside table editing these pictures for the next two and a half hours until past midnight. It reminded me of something I read once that Maya Angelou said about the difference between anger and bitterness; ‘Bitterness is like cancer, it eats upon the host. But anger is like fire, it burns all clean’.

You see the thing is, I know I’m not perfect. I know I have a long way to go, a lot to learn and I don’t shy away from that fact. I embrace it. I came across a quote on Instagram that goes something like, ‘let the space between who you are and where you want to be inspire you.’ That is exactly what I live by. I will try something new today, may turn out well, or not. And I will get up and try again. The important thing is to keep creating, sharing, growing. I can describe more of who I want to be than of who I am now, so if I could describe myself in one word, it would be ambitious. This felt like an appropriate pretext to this post. Read on, I’m getting to my point.

On the second day of the Grand Prix, the entertainment section was just as incredible and exciting as the races. The organizers had planned activities for different age groups, and a post-race concert that began at around 7 pm just a few minutes from the viewing stands. Underneath the huge tents, were ladies dressed as mushrooms and fairies from Peter Pan, clowns on stilts and in inflated costumes, candy canes plonked into the ground at random places, the sweet and sticky smell of spilled soda, ice cream, candy, pop corn, pizza and Red Bull. An array of colour and activity, with furniture to seat at and observe the life around you if you’re as in awe as I am in new places! Additionally, there were several themed stands like the bubble making stand, sadly for children aged 5-10 so I just stood on the perimeter of the stand taking pictures, haha.

My family and I then dashed to watch the races and at 7 pm headed back to the stage early enough to get a spot at the front. My reaction to seeing Enrique on that stage was, drum rolls please, tears. I was tearing up remembering how at age 10 or 11, my dad bought his first CD and I’d sing along my terrible version lyrics to Hero and Escape. ‘Here’s how it goes, you and me, up and down but baby.. mumbles.. mumbles.. mumbles.. If you feeeeel like leaviiiiing’, you get the point 😀 I’d carry that CD with me in my schoolbag to show my friends (we’d call ourselves the Blooming Ladybirds lol) where we’d then appropriately scream and giggle like little girls.

I kid you not, at least 1000 views of the Bailando song on YouTube are mine 😀 And so by the time Enrique performed that song, my mascara and kohl was a mess, my voice was hoarse and I was in a dream like trance. At one point, he got off stage and came down to the barricade to mingle with the fans. I was star struck, paralyzed, and just stood there in amazement asking out loud, ‘Is this real?’ ‘Take pictures, be present,’ I’d then tell myself. At the end of Enrique’s set, Steve Aoki was next and woah, that energy! It made me think about people who I look up to professionally, leading the lives of their dreams doing what they love. Innovators. Artists. People who do different things and dare to step out of their comfort zones, prepared to take on whatever challenges are brought their way.

People like Enrique Iglesias, Steve Aoki, the formula 1 racers all take a huge risk stepping out onto the stage of life, opening themselves up to create and face criticism. They keep working hard at their dreams. I’d never been a fan of Steve’s genre of music but after watching him live, I now have a great respect for his craft. The visuals, his energy and enthusiasm. Wish I got to watch the whole performance but alas, we had to be home before the clock struck ten (and this was only because we were actually being chaperoned haha).

This post took me back to that barricade at the concert. Watching people I admire live their dreams, have people adore their craft and inspire others to do something too.

The easy thing for me to do would be give up on this blog (or any other ridiculous dreams I have) which is not only a hobby, but also what I see as a vehicle to help me live out a larger purpose. To push me towards following my dreams, and help you (whoever is reading) see that hey, if Fatma can get started then so can you. Whataver it is. Doesn’t matter who gets there first, just that you get started and keep going.

I’m writing to myself now.

If you have a dream, you will have to work at it and deal with whatever challenges that come your way. You will have to change some habits, create more time (borrow time from the future as Professor Anyamba would say) to accommodate all the responsibilities you need to balance. You will need to get things done. It’s the only way to grow.

Dream. Strategize. And work.

Watch this.