This work is primarily focused on the musical representation of contemporary Palestinian women’s narratives from a decolonial, transnational, and intersectional feminist lens. As a former refugee of war born to a Palestinian father and an Egyptian-Greek mother, who grew up between Kuwait, Egypt, the West Bank, and the United States, my personal experiences have strongly shaped my compositional voice, leading me to explore the universal themes of memory, identity (politics), exile, displacement, femininity and cultural narrative. More specifically I have worked extensively in documenting the voices of marginalized communities within occupied Palestine and in juxtaposing contemporary media narratives of these communities with collected oral histories. The resulting research is both interdisciplinary and collaborative in its aims to expose contemporary Palestinian narratives and theorize Palestinian culture within the realm of contemporary classical composition and performance.
In producing Seamstress, my hope was to provide fresh perspectives on Palestinian women’s culture and histories, where much of the previous and current work has been guided by the political landscape in relation to Israel, and limited by the preferences of many researchers and professionals who work there in collecting stories and data on the subjects of terrorism, occupation and the two-state solution, what Palestinian author Rhoda Kanaaneh refers to as “the politics of reproduction and homogenization of Palestinians as ‘terrorists’” in her book Birthing the Nation.
Based on over two years of fieldwork in Ramallah and the surrounding villages of the West Bank, focusing on autobiographical documentation, contemporary cultural production within rural and urban communities, and the artwork of Palestinian women contemporaries, I aim to:
1) re-theorize Palestinian women’s narratives as more complex, nuanced and humanized against an otherwise dominant Israeli narrative by providing an audio-visual exploration of their voices and emotionally powerful episodic memories drawn from their collected oral histories
2) provide a global context for Palestinian women’s narratives by focusing on shared universal themes of memory, identity (politics), exile, displacement, femininity and love
3) utilize contemporary classical performance and production to evoke empathy and compassion within American audiences, shaping an understanding of the women of these marginalized communities by creating a safe space for their voices to be heard
4) highlight Palestinian women artists as vital cultural and historical authorities in regional, local and global contexts.
5) draw unifying connections between Palestinian women’s individual and collective memories in response to an undermining postcolonial geographical separation across the West Bank, Israel, Gaza and the Diaspora.
My research questions were rooted in the shaping and defining of the individual and collective voice through documentary-style narratives, which is where the music comes into play in providing a sonic exploration of the voice and memory. Who belongs to the voice and whom does the voice belong to? How much of our stories are shaped by what others have told us, and how much are shaped by our lived experiences? At what point do the stories, the voices of our ancestors, become our own, and at what point do the stories, the voices of our colleagues and contemporaries, become woven into the shared fabric of our histories? How does performance help shape our understanding of marginalized communities and function in reclaiming a space for their voices, and how does it reshape our understanding of the theories and histories we have encountered about ethnic conflicts and their subjects? How does performance as resistance in marginalized communities extend beyond the boundaries of politics and nation-states? I feature Palestinian women as vital cultural and social agents of change whose stories empower and awaken a movement of progress on the regional, local and global levels.