24 February 2010

Path finder


The path from there to here involved some stops along the way, but I'm a Midwesterner through and through. This illustration is a visual trajectory of the direction I took. On any given day, the things that affect my perception change. It can be something as immediate as noisy construction, the call to prayer, or school children out my window, or as reflective as considering each step I took to get on the plane to come here. This is not exclusive to the expat. This is inclusive to everybody.

What language do you use to describe your trajectory?

19 February 2010

Conversational crossroads

Mapping my hybrid life on a personal, passion level involves drawings, notations, and novel writing. The stuff I do daily. When it connects with others, like in conversation with the 10 cultural innovators I'll be talking to on Feb 28 as part of Dialogue2010 at expat+HAREM, it becomes multi-dimensional, an elixir of dynamic change and inspiration. In talking about abandoning the map to live more fully, dialogue becomes art.

Anastasia Ashman, expat+HAREM producer, identifies a crucial element of what happens when identity is fluid, when location, desire, and being in the present are invited to shape a meaningful life: "a wider orbit around the inner me" is allowed to emerge. That is what I hope will be explored in Dialogue2010: unearthing the things we need to let go of in order to move forward, blurring our boundaries, and developing our own idiosyncratic centers of balance.

As the first inception of Art is Dialogue, I invite you to join in the twitter chat #dialogue2010, or add a comment, and listen to the podcast when it's made live this spring.

10 February 2010

Silk Road Stories

Friendships made in just a few short hours. Life stories shared, professional commonalities discovered, mothering suggestions offered, all while eating some of the best Turkish food I've had in Turkey. The women I met from the Bursa International Women's Association were French, Italian, German, Russian, American, and more. How were we able to relate to each other with different cultural viewpoints? Different occupations, different ages? I went to speak about creativity and left marveling at the ability for community to form abroad. Enlightened conversation. Multi-national viewpoints.


Bursa, known for being the last stop on the silk road, has a vibrant international women's community. I met a Turkish woman who runs her own coffee shop after first studying finance in Turkey, designing textiles in New York, and returning to start afresh with coffee and pastries she decorates herself. I met an American opening the first quilting shop in Turkey that will be selling fabric online (yea for me!). I met a German graphic designer who breezed through my drawing exercises. I met homemakers juggling multiple kids and learning new languages. I met a woman with her 2-month old baby who apologized for her English while elegantly articulating that the only thing she wants to do is be a mother right now.

Riding a bus to Bursa that left at 7:30 a.m., I sat next to a university student wearing hand-knit leg warmers and gloves who offered me her saltine crackers. 11 hours later, we coincidentally rode the same bus back to Izmit, laughing when we boarded the small service bus that took us home to nearby neighborhoods. She studied economics. Had taken her final exam that day. She was a photographer. We made a date for coffee.

I believe that the things most difficult to overcome, public speaking being way out of my comfort zone, are emboldened by passion. By the support of a community that honors unique, individual voices that examine larger cultural patterns. I am passionate about art and life being merged, even if it is messy. I am grateful for breaking out of routines. And the kismet relationships that can form just by hopping a bus.

06 February 2010

Medine Memi, 1994-2010

Medine Memi, may you rest in peace. May you now know a freedom you never experienced in life. May no young girl or woman ever again experience the horror you faced. A link to a Turkish news report here (in Turkish).

The book Batman'da Kadınlar Öluyor (Women in Batman are Dying) is an investigative report by female reporter Müjgan Halis from 2001. She interviews survivors of honor killings and family members in Batman, Turkey. I'm sorry there is no translation of the book nor her profile. Turkish-born female journalist Fazile Zahir's article in Asia Times Online also takes a critical look at honor killings masked as suicides. 

It is important to me to point to the Turkish women, female reporters and journalists above, and to hopefully add to the list of those who are asking questions and talking about honor killings. That there are female voices here that are not passive, but strong, and that their discourse must be acknowledged for contributing to building a safe place for women worldwide.

In honor of Medine, on February 5 of every year I will hold a memorial, no matter how simple or elaborate. As an artist, a writer, and most of all a woman and mother, I feel immense grief.

02 February 2010

An entangled inheritance


I've been thinking a lot about the things that are supposed to come naturally, like knowing when to comfort and nurture. Thinking about grief. Thinking about the things that seem contrary to reason, like that my genetic offspring have sprouted feet that jump onto glass tables, climb bookshelves, and drop breakable momentos on the floor. Thinking about resolutions, evolution, and expectations interwoven with fears of failure not just limited to creative work.

A Mother Near or Far
Motherhood in Turkey began for me nearly three years ago, early in the morning in late October. In the history of motherhood, this is but a blip on a radar screen, but it connects me to a legion of mothers that have come before and will come after me. It is humbling to think as women we carry in our eggs future generations, even more so when we know that the grandmothers who birthed our mothers carried the egg that created us. Nestled inside us are generations. 

It's not Mother's Day. Today of all days I feel an unlikely spokesperson for artfully managing the affairs of home and work as Catherine Yığıt also explores in Housekeeping, though I know out of the turmoil can come something remarkable, like Alia El-Bermani shares in Artist and Mother. So that's why I'm sharing part of the Op/Ed I wrote for the Hürriyet Daily News for Mother's Day, 2009. Because the elixir, the elements (and not always happy ones) that connect mother and child happens on a social, cultural, and cellular level as well as an intangible one. This was my way to untangle my threads. 

We spent most of this week in the hospital, trying to find out what was causing my son to throw up, and finding that all of us, including our baby daughter, had been hit again by the flu. While at the hospital, I thought that this is parenting. This is motherhood. This is what we do every day – we get up and take on the vast risk that our children will experience life and that it won’t be fatal.

But what happens when the opposite occurs? When a mother leaves before a child is grown? As was the case with my own mother, who died when I was a mousy-haired, buck-toothed pre-kindergartner with a cherubic little blond brother who needed glasses. His glasses broke so many times at the playground from bigger kids bullying him. I was an overprotective sister, bullying in my own right, singling out the boys who hurt my brother, and being a tattletale. This did not go over well, and my brother was actually more resentful of my help. I was getting an early taste of mothering, letting someone you love and want to protect go and get hurt. 

I know I am still grieving for my mother, but not in the same way as I did years ago. I want to know what her life lessons would be, how she would react to my toddler slamming doors and drawing on the walls. I know I have a unique relationship to my mother. I talk to her, and sometimes she answers. Like the time I wrote to my godmother, and asked her, “How did you and mom learn to be so patient?” She instructed me: understand yourself first, and patience will follow. And then, at the end, a postscript: “Ask your mom and she will show you, but you need to be listening and watching.” My mother was of Jewish descent, and this is not the first time I’ve gotten the message that she is right here, beside me, a Jewish mother nudging me from the beyond.

Because I was born of her, I am also of Jewish descent, and now my daughter. My daughter can claim three religions to her name, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Is this perhaps the greatest gift a mother can give? I am not certain, but I do hope, that at least in some small way she is symbolic of the potential for disparate things to exist peacefully. What is passed from mother to child may only be revealed generations down the line.

Can inheritance be predicted in our childhood scrawls, as I intuit from E.Victoria Flynn's post? Can it be constructed in a life abroad with a new community and different resources, as Verity discusses?