You.

You’ve spent weeks tiptoeing around yourself. It is almost as if you are trying as hard as you can to not disturb your very own existence.

But what is it really? What is your existence?

You don’t feel like yourself. You are but a ghost of someone you once knew. You’ve noticed it. Your best friend has noticed it. In fact, almost everyone around you has noticed how you are stepping beside yourself.

It’s not like you’ve never been there. You have spent months in a kind of existential limbo. The simple thought of that scares you. No actually, it terrifies you. You have tried so hard to distance yourself from the memory of fever induced nightmares and midnight meltdowns. Yet, somehow, a part of you is still connected to that. It is as if there is a dark shadow hovering over you, following you around, waiting for you to acknowledge its existence so it starts solidifying.

Gone are the days when you could talk it out. Or better yet, write it out. All you have is clenched fists and a quivering jaw. Your lack of eloquence pains you. The words stuck at your fingertips a constant reminder of the abominable limbo.

You start questioning yourself. You try to figure it out. “Am I feeling empty again?”. No, not really. It more like your chest is caving in under its own weight while your internal organs are making a ruckus rattling within you.

You’ve brought this on yourself. You know it. And you have the key to get yourself out of it. At least you think you do. But this storm of resentment and self-loathing is clouding your judgement. In the comfort of everything you’ve ever known, you yearn for something new. Anything unknown. Anything. If anyone heard you say that, they would think you are trying to find a new you. It does indeed sound like you are just trying to run away like a 15 year old throwing a tantrum. But in all reality, you’re just trying to find yourself.

Book Recommendations!

My birthday is next week and my brother, being the awesome sibling he is, gifted me a certain amount of money to spend on books. This is where you all come in!

I am mostly going to buy Kindle books because I don’t want to wait for shipping. I also don’t want to deal with customs. So far, my list has five books that I want to get, three of which were recommended by Jacob. The books are

  • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
  • At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

What books do you think I should add to this list? I am trying to make a shortlist to choose from. Feel free to take a look at my Goodreads to see what kind of books I read. Of course, I will be writing reviews for the books I read this summer. Although that might have to wait until next month when I am done with my internship.

Either way, leave your recommendations in the comment section here or on Facebook or Twitter! Can’t wait to make a list based on your suggestions.

My Current Top 6 Albums

I was nominated by my brother to list the 6 albums that I listen to the most on Tumblr. However, because I have not posted anything music related in a while and I think it is time for a new post, I decided to do it on here instead of Tumblr.

So here it goes! Six albums that I have been listening to a lot recently:

  • Hindi Zahra – Homeland (2015)

I think it is no surprise that this album is on here. Ever since it came out, I have been listening to it rather religiously. Homeland is Hindi Zahra’s second album and it has met all the expectations set by her previous record. In fact, I loved this album so much that I took a night off during my finals week last semester to go see Hindi Zahra’s concert in Meknes that was part of her Moroccan Homeland tour!

  • Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (2014)

Even the saddest of Ben Howard’s songs make me happy. It’s just one of those things that I am unable to explain. His sophomore album is no exception. Conrad is one of the most listened to songs on my phone mainly because it is one of the rare ones I never skip when it comes up on shuffle.

  • Ibeyi – Ibeyi (2015)

Ibeyi are a French-Cuban twin duo who sing mostly in English and Yoruba or French. I fell in love with their music on the day I stumbled upon their performance of Mama Says Live on KEXP. Lisa and Naomi’s voices, as well as their use of keyboards and cajon, are captivating. Most of the songs are written by Lisa and cover everything from odes to their deceased father and sister to pieces that are heavily inspired by Yoruba folk songs.

  • James Bay – Chaos and the Calm (2015)

I discovered James Bay through my sister Rachel who suggested I should play some of his songs on my radio show last semester. I ended up downloading the whole album and fell irrevocably in love with it. James Bay’s music reminds me of high school and I’m not really sure why. Either way, here is Scars, my favourite song from the album. Honestly, how can you not love it with lyrics like this

But you’re miles away,
You’re breaking up, you’re on your own
It’s hard to take,
I need an hour just to say hello
And I can’t make the truth of this work out for you or me

And for all the pennies in your pocket
We barely get a second just to speak

  • Hozier – Hozier (2014)

I first heard of Hozier in the Spring of 2014. I was listening to a mix on 8tracks and Take me to Church came on. I kept it in my favourites for a little while then forgot about it. About a month later, during a live of Stirs & Bifocals, one of our most faithful listeners requested that we play it on the show. That was even before the album came on, but I have been obsessed with the Irish man’s songs ever since (the fact that he is Irish might or might not have something to do with that).

  • Oh Wonder

This last one isn’t really an album, yet. Oh Wonder are a London based duo that has taken on the project of releasing one song on the first day of each month for a year. They currently have released 10 songs, the 11th one will be online tomorrow so I am ridiculously excited about that! The reason I decided to include Oh Wonder on this list is because I have a feeling that these songs will be grouped together in an album eventually. They do have some exciting news coming up so I’m guessing it must be something along these lines! Either way, I think Oh Wonder’s music is amazing and I find it particularly fitting for midnight drives. I’d definitely recommend checking out their soundcloud.

  • Honourable mention: Amber Run – 5AM

I feel like I should just drop a little shoutout to Amber Run. I am not a big fan of every single song on the album but I still think you should check them out. My favourites are 5AM and I Found.

Review: The Spirit Level on Stage

Theatre production: The Spirit Level on Stage: A Notion of Equality

Ensemble:

  • Rachid Bromi
  • Hajar Chargui
  • Michael Vinsa
  • José Figueroa
  • Moa Westerlund
  • Nina Jeppsson
  • Jamal Nouman

Artistic Direction & Choreography:

  • Asmaa Houri
  • Louise Kvarby

Playwright:

  • Issam El Yousfi
  • Bodil Persson

Set design:

  • Sören Brunes
  • Pelle Wittsäter

Costume design:

  • Pipsa Perrin Poukka

Production:

  • Göran Lidbrink
  • True Rantamäki

I got the chance to see The Spirit Level on Stage last night. It is a piece by Moroccan troupe Theatre Anfass and the Swedish Jordbro Världsorkester and is supported by The Swedish Institute (Svenska Institutet) and the Culture Foundation of the Swedish Postcode Lottery (Postkodlotteriets Kulturstiftelse).

Inspired by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, The Spirit Level on Stage is a piece on inequality and privilege written by Issam El Yousfi and Bodil Persson. It is the result of about a year’s worth of research and rehearsals.

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I only had my phone on me so the pictures are not great but oh well!

For a little over one hour, I was not only seeing a representation of inequality unfold on stage. I was being transported into a multilingual/multicultural discourse on hierarchy, poverty, and violence. The piece was poignant to say the least. From the set and costume designs to the music, everything was captivating. Most of the piece was in a mixture of Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and Swedish, however, the stories and themes treated were dealt with in a more visual and physical manner. I can only imagine how draining the hours of rehearsals and the performances have been on the actors’ bodies. (On a somewhat unrelated not, I was proud of myself for understanding a couple of works in Swedish that I picked up at the Nordic Youth Conference last year)

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Hajar Chargui and Nina Jeppsson did most of the singing throughout the show.

I think my favourite parts have to be the songs which were so perfectly performed by Chargui and Jeppsson. I also loved the somewhat innovative percussion instrument used at some parts. I’d rather not say too much in case you end up watching it because I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

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L-t-R: José Figueroa, Michael Vinsa, Jamal Nouman, Moa Westerlund, Nina Jeppsson, Hajar Chargui, and Rachid Bromi.

It is safe to say that I absolutely loved the take on Wilkinson and Pickett’s book. If I did not work during the week, I would have tried to go see it again in Meknes. The Spirit Level on Stage‘s Moroccan tour still has 3 more dates:

  • Meknes: June 17th Théâtre El Menouni 8:00 p.m. (If Ramadan 9:30 p.m.)
  • El Hajeb: June 18th Complexe Culturel 9:30 p.m.
  • Marrakech: June 20th  Théâtre Daoudyate 9:30 p.m.

I would highly recommend you go and see this piece! For my friends in Sweden, the Swedish tour starts August 19th!

Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Before I proceed to talking about the book, I would first like to say THANK YOU to all my readers! This is my 100th post on this blog and I just wanted to take the time to say thanks. Whether you have been here since the very beginning or only dropped by to read a couple articles here and there, it means a lot to me. Thank you!

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Now onto the actual book review

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Publisher: Knopf

Year: 2006

I have read this book on and off over a period of 3 months. That is partly because of how time consuming my studies were this past semester. It is also for a couple more reasons that I will mention below.

First things first, if there is anything this book has made me realize, it’s how western-centric most of our education is. Half of a Yellow Sun is a historiographic metafiction set in Nigeria in the 1960’s. When I first started reading it, I was looking forward to delving into Adichie’s world without a second thought. However, what I found myself doing is looking up the political and social situation in post-colonial Nigeria to be able to keep up with the plot. When I look back at my history classes, none of them covered anything south of Morocco. I can safely say that in my classes, it was mostly Moroccan history, Arab/Islamic history, and European/US history that we actually covered. Any knowledge that I have that is beyond that is simply the results of my own research.

Now, I know I might be talking just for myself, but I feel a bit more African than Arab. So when I sit down and reflect on the fact that part of that African heritage never truly gets to us, it really pains me. It is actually for this very reason that I have been making a conscious choice to read books from countries I wouldn’t necessarily have an idea about (Peru, Nigeria, Afghanistan). And even though I was actually aware of this issue, I just never thought it was this bad. In other words, reading this novel turned into making detailed research about post-colonial Nigeria. It is in fact the other main reason it has taken me so much time to read it.

Having been attracted to Adichie’s writing because of her TEDx talk, I was obviously expecting to see her deal with gender politics as well as culture and race. It is safe to say that I was not disappointed. The way she weaves her way through the plot is so effortless yet poignant. I found myself more than once re-reading some paragraphs or sentences not because I did not understand them, but because of how loudly the truth they held resonated with me. One could easily say that the book is about how the Nigerian Civil War affected the lives of the main characters. However, I see it as much more than that. While part of me wants to detail everything in the novel that deals with each one of this issues, I think I am going to refrain because I believe you should all read the book and discover for yourselves. As a Moroccan reading a book by a Nigerian author, I could very easily relate to a lot of the gendered issues dealt with in an extremely subtle way..

The third and last point I will talk about is the characters and their development. I have be scrutinizing the female characters in almost any media I consume lately and Adichie’s gave me Olanna and Kainene who portray something that I seldom find. They were two women that first seemed like the stereotypical “twins at the opposite ends of the spectrum” but they soon morphed into something a lot more interesting. As a stubborn person, I often found that trait portrayed as something that would eventually have negative repercussions. While that might be true at times, it does not mean that it does not get me where I need to go, one way or another. It was refreshing to read about characters who are just as strong headed as I am without having that be a negative identified. Of course stubbornness is not the only thing that attracted me to Kainene and Olanna. Their passion, ambition, compassion, and all together character development made for an extremely engaging read. They are the kind of strong yet flawed characters that seemed human, not a perfect hologram on paper.

Of course they are not the only characters I cared about. The author did a great job of giving us a somewhat holistic idea of each character. From Ugwu, the houseboy, to Richard, the white Englishman who is struggling to find a place for himself within a national identity crisis. As well as Aunty Ifeka, Arize, Edna, Okeoma, and so many other characters that I could relate to.

All in all, I can say that I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a book that is more than just a story but something that can stick with you. Meanwhile, I will try to find its movie adaptation and see how well it meets my expectations!

ToT on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

For the second year in a row, I had the chance to represent my country at an international gathering of Amnesty International youth activists. This time, it was a training of trainers on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, which a lot of you must know, is a cause I hold very close to my heart. The training took place in Hammamet, Tunisia from May 24th to May 28th in the presence of three delegations: Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan.

Group work on the first day of the training. Most of the training was done in small groups such as this one. Photo credits: Lila Bouchenaf

Group work on the first day of the training. Most of the training was done in small groups such as this one.
Photo credits: Lila Bouchenaf

Some members of the Moroccan and Tunisian delegations on our first time in Hammamet. Selfie by Omar Benyassine.

Some members of the Moroccan and Tunisian delegations on our first time in Hammamet. L-to-R: Ayla, Oussema, Omar, Soukaina, myself (my head sticking out in the back), Douaa, Sabri, and Zineb. Selfie by Omar Benyassine.

Over the span of four days and a half, we had the chance to reinforce our prior knowledge on Sexual and Reproductive Rights. This covered everything from going over the My Body My Rights campaign again to discovering sexual orientations and identities. We also had the chance acquire tools to plan, execute, and evaluate workshops on SRR.

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Group picture after one of the trust building exercises on the 4th evening. Photo credits: Lila Bouchenaf

The view from the center we stayed at. I am already missing it.

The view from the center we stayed at. I am already missing it.

The actual training was extremely interesting and got me thinking about what I can do within the AUI Amnesty International Club next year. However, what will stay with me forever is the interactions and dynamics between some of the people I got the chance to meet.

The Moroccan delegation at the Cultural Night.

The Moroccan delegation at the Cultural Night. L-to-R: Omar, Soukaina, Houssam, Touria, Zineb, myself, Douaa, Omar.

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With my Tunisian friend Yoldez at the Cultural Night. Photo credits: Omar Benyassine

L-to-R: Douaa, Oussema, Sabri, and myself at the Cultural Night.

L-to-R: Douaa, Oussema, Sabri, and myself at the Cultural Night.

Whether it was while designing a workshop, sharing different aspects of our cultures during a Cultural Night, or halfway through all the sleepless nights I spent playing cards, my trip to Tunisia taught me a lot of things. I learned that no matter where we come from, no matter how different we think we are, or how prejudiced we might be, all we have to do is truly listen to each other to get to our ends. Nothing will ever get done as long as we stand divided, shouting at each other.

All the participants and organizers with the artwork of Tunisia artist Tawfiq Omar. Photo credits: Nada El Kashef

All the participants and organizers with the artwork of Tunisia artist Tawfiq Omar on the last day of training. Photo credits: Nada El Kashef

I am sure this is not the first time I am saying this, but it does no harm to repeat it: It really does not matter how long you’ve known someone, so long as they touch your existence in one way or another. On our second day in Tunisia, I was told that Tunisians have such a big heart they love fast and very easily to the point it is almost a running joke. I guess I got to experience that first hand.

Echo | A short-film

During the Spring term, I took an advanced production class. Naturally, my assignment consisted of producing three visual texts: a music video, a fiction short-film, and a non-fiction short film.

After about two months of work, including at least six weeks in the editing lab and numerous sleepless nights, I am proud to present my fiction short film!

I have been avoiding the moment I would have to upload it online because the perfectionist in me kept finding excuses like “I need to fix this one scene” or “the lighting in this frame is not quite right”. I guess that now that I am home with no access to editing software, I really have nowhere to run, so here it goes!

It is entitled Echo and is retelling the happenings of one day in the life of a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You can watch it down below! Considering May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I guess the timing was pretty perfect. If I do say so myself.

I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has helped me and put up with me in one way or another during the production period! Also, I would urge you guys to listen to the work of Salim Daima whose music was used during the film!

PS: It is best if you use headphones when watching the movie!