Hassan Massoudy – Nahla Ink Artist May 2019

Hassan Massoudy was born in 1944 in Najef, Iraq. At the age of seventeen, he began working as an apprentice for various calligraphers in Baghdad for eight years, which formed the solid foundation for his artistic influences and ultimate practice.

In June 1969, he managed to leave his home country to go to France where he attend the Fine Arts School in Paris, wherein his artistic creations began to manifest a unique style in which the past meets the present, the Eastern merges with the Western and tradition stands in relation to modernity.

Massoudy’s work both perpetuates and celebrates the tradition of calligraphic art whilst at the same time breaking its rules. He simplifies lines, tending to purer lines, adding colours and opening on to a wider unlimited world on the canvass. He has also introduced signs, letters, words and sentences throughout his creations to better express himself on the spiritual realm.

The artist’s calligraphies do tend to carry out a rhythm and a musical structure which echoes back to the remotest of times. The emotion is strong when looking at the movement of his lines, their weight, their lightness, their transparency, the balance between black and white, the fullness and the vacuum, the concreteness and the abstractness.

What is also noted in Massoudy’s art is the skilful use of colour in his compositions, with opalescent washes, flows of emerald, monochromes of beiges enriched with deep wood tones and sandalwood fragrances. Then there is finally the profound message of the text used.

An artist who has exhibited internationally in a career that spans decades, Massoudy’s work is also held at museums worldwide as part of their public collections.

The works featured on Nahla Ink:

Quote: There is a place on Earth for everyone. Schiller (1759-1805)

Quote: What have I to prolong my absence from home? Is exile the star of my birth? Ibn Hamdis (1053-1133

Quote: When you glanced at me I understood the meaning of love. Ibn Zaydoun 11th c.

Quote: If you are different from me, brother, far from harming me, you enrich me. Antoine de Saint Exupery (1900-1944)

Quote: The world that I dream, eternal, infinite! Louise Colet (1810-1876)

Quote: – The world that I dream, eternal, infinite! Louise Colet (1810-1876

For more information about the artist:

Website: http://www.massoudy.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hassanmassoudy

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hassan_massoudy

Instagram: http://instagram.com/hassanmassoudy

Rawan Adwan – Nahla Ink Artist April 2019

Rawan Adwan is a visual artist, ceramicist and painter from Jordan. She has a degree in Fine Arts and has worked for the Queen Alia Foundation for Social Welfare, The Jordanian Prime Ministry, The Museum of Parliamentary Life and The Jordan Archaeological Museum.

The works of the artist that featured on Nahla Ink are inspired by the Safaitic inscriptions and rock art to be found in the basalt desert of southern and northern Jordan aka the Harrah desert.

Containing animals and hunting scenes, as well as battle and Bedouin camp scenes, they provide an insight into the emotions of the people who carved them and their concerns; such as the availability of arable grazing grounds for their livestock or mourning the discovery of another inscription by a person who has since died.

Adwan’s mission with these has been to study them in great detail since 2005 – she needed official government permission to visit and see them first hand – and preserve their memory by creating her own contemporary paintings based on the mysterious and beautiful originals. Her experience as a ceramicist also helped her to create a texture on the surface of the canvass.

She said: “I made sure that my work maintained and reflected the spirit of this rich art work, and preserved their spontaneous line and character whilst redrawing them again with a new composition. The unique texture that I have introduced, as part of the new composition, creates a distinctive atmosphere. It also breathes new life into these once forgotten ancient Safaitic inscriptions and the tribal society that created them.

“Moreover, through my recomposed artworks, I hope to attract attention to these endangered artefacts and assist in their preservation. I believe they are as significant, as African tribal art and Aboriginal art, to the human civilisation. I hope that the art critic and historian will share my conviction of their importance.”

Adwan has exhibited her artwork in Jordan (four solo shows) and internationally in Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, California and Washington DC in America and Kuwait.

For more information about the artist: http://www.rawanadwan.co.uk/

April News: Interviewing Poet Amir Darwish + Featuring Artist Rawan Adwan

Dear Readers

Just a quick note to update you with Nahla Ink’s April news.

Firstly, a big thank you to British-Syrian poet Amir Darwish whom I interviewed last week about his latest poetry collection ‘Dear Refugee’. He patiently allowed me to ask him lots of questions that delve into his refugee story and how he arrived in the UK hanging underneath a lorry on a cross-channel ferry from France in 2003.

You can read the full review and interview article here: https://nahlaink.com/dear-refugee-review-interview-with-poet-amir-darwish/

Secondly, another big thank you to my artist of the month, the British-Jordanian Rawan Adwan. Her featured work on Nahla Ink has been inspired by the Safaitic inscriptions and rock art to be found in the basalt desert of southern and norther Jordan aka Harrah desert.

For more information about Rawan Adwan’s artwork: http://www.rawanadwan.co.uk

Thirdly, for those who haven’t already seen the new design, in order to find the listing of MENA-inspired arts and culture events in London, you just need to scroll down the home page to find them all under the ‘Arab About London’ heading.

There you will be able to see the latest of exhibitions, music, art, comedy, theatre and much more beside that I update on a regular basis: https://nahlaink.com/

Lastly, if you have an event that you would like to add to my listing, please do get in touch.

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, April 2019

Nahla Ink Celebrates 10 Years With A New Logo + Website Design

Dear Readers

Nahla Ink celebrates ten years of being online; and, to mark the special milestone, I have treated myself to a new Nahla Ink logo and website design. It took time to find the right person to do the job but in the end I am happy with the results.

As before, my articles are listed under the categories of interviews, reviews, features and journal entries, where you will still find my latest write ups. Always inspired by the local MENA-inspired arts and culture scene in London or at times reaching out to the region, I am always spoilt for choice what to cover for my readers.

I am also keeping the Nahla Ink ‘Artist of the Month’ visual feature, where I share the work of an individual Arab artist every month to highlight the amazing and incredible talent out there and how to find out more. This month you will see the Egyptian artist Rasha Amin’s work. For more about her, I guide you to visit: https://www.rashaamin.com/

One big exciting change however is a switch from the old ‘My Curious Inbox’ events listing to the new section called ‘Arab About London’, where you will still be able to find what is happening across the capital that is connected to the world of the Arab diaspora. From the exhibitions to the music, theatre, talks, comedy, book clubs and much more beside, there is always something suited to everyone’s taste.

Lastly, if you wish to get in touch, please send me an email via my contact page. I am also currently open to publishing guest posts, so if you would like to see your article on my website, do send me a pitch or draft and I will get back to you.

I leave you now to explore the new Nahla Ink!

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger

London, March 2019

Libya On The Couch

She was once young, beautiful and talk of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern promise. But after four decades of enduring abuse, Libya has become ugly, unhappy and miserable old woman. She can’t even recognise herself in the mirror and is unable, try as she might, to recall any happy memories. 

Under her dangerous captor, he broke her down and now she cannot deal with the simple day-to-day tasks. When she compares herself to others, she is deeply jealous and resentful, as they have built proud kingdoms and taken care of their children and lands. With fear, trepidation and her heart pounding in her chest, she’s decided to speak her peace before looming death and confide her regrets.

In therapy, honesty and disclosure are musts and one need not hold back. She is ready to revisit the terrible memories and go far back. As she sits on the client couch uncomfortable and nervous, the figure behind the desk has his pen ready to write it all down. He starts: “What brings you here today Libya?”

Not sure where to begin, Libya sighs and puts a hand over her face and mouth. She says: “It is a horrible story and I am ashamed. I’ve been feeling down and struggling for years. I always cry without reason and I shout in my head. It is my children that I’m most concerned about.

“Even with the will, energy and drive to live honestly, but they have been brainwashed and led to corruption, deception and lies to get ahead. I am, as you know, ill with terminal cancer; and, I’ve had to sell my jeweller and all my possessions to pay for treatment abroad in a last ditch attem;pt to repair the damage of the past. Who would have thought I would have no choice but to beg for strangers’ help?

“It is the small things also that embarrass me and I’ve yet to admit it, I’ve been complicit by my silence as the default mode. I have neglected myself and abandoned my health. My beautiful terrain should not have taken the brunt of the assaults. My beaches, my mountains and my oasis surrounded by desert land! Of course, those informed and wise know and intuit the truth of my story and feel sad for me. I find this tough to accept.

“As a mother, I am well aware of all the bad stuff that has been going on. Some of it is my fault, but most of it is not. I admit to a number of my own flesh and blood have been seduced by evil and identified with the jailor from the start.

“He gives them money, cars and houses so they do his bidding, no matter the cruelty of his requests. How they came to be mine and groomed to worship and idolise him I don’t know. I must take into account if I’m to ever to get closure and make sense.

“I don’t like to say it, but yes, I have been the victim of both mental and physical abuse, and that it became normal so I kept quiet. I found ways to deny and pretend nothing was wrong; and, forced as I was, I did things. I was forced to see events nobody should ever have to see or to witness.”

Analyst: “Okay, Libya, if it helps, how far back can you recall?”

“I guess the mistreatment began in 1976. He hung and executed anyone who dared to protest and voice dissent. The same would happen on the anniversary for years to remind us the certain fate if we didn’t accept his power and ability to kill us too.

“Fear! We were so scared and captive in our own land and homes. We could not even pray at the mosques as the dawn raids were the worst for many of us. At school, also, the young were beaten and their curious minds shut. What followed, in the 1980s, well. Am sure you’ve heard of the ‘stray dogs’ assassination campaign? Even abroad, his tentacles reached very far.

“Paranoia! God, I suspected everyone an informant, even my relatives and neighbours. I checked my every word and filtered everything I said, so as not to make complaint and or forbid I say something about the ideological stance of the government. I couldn’t swear, except in my frustrated nightmares, as I would wake up in a cold sweat.

“Not to mention the economic strife and the stupid dinars. When products arrived, we couldn’t afford but the necessities. Everyone drove miles for years for clean water, promised as we were with an artificial river! With travel, visas were impossible to get to get out. We became isolated from the rest of the world.

“How ironic that the world saw my captor as a strong and eccentric rebel who dared to challenge the international status quo. He claimed that greed and power were the enemy. Hmm, he is still telling these lies, when he has been hoarding the oil riches in private investment accounts. For what? Sick, perverse and terror ends. He thought there was a price tag on everybody’s head.”

But then, with a gulp, she says: “But maybe this time is different. Maybe today, for those of us who truly love our country and have our roots on its soil, something might shift. We can no longer refuse to forget or let things go.

“We have nowhere else to stay and we don’t want anywhere else. The death of many loved ones has been the heavy price to pay, but what has gone on for too long must end. He’s turned us against each other and shooting to kill the armed and the unarmed. For no other goal but to keep onto a power seat made useless and ineffective by himself.

“What has he ever done for the Libyans? Nothing! Go and see for yourself. Go and visit the hospitals, the schools, the infrastructure that are not fit for any purpose. Go and see the filth and the garage that never gets collected. Go see the polluted sea and the dirty beaches. All that potential gone to waste.

“With this revolution, at least I can scream and shout and open up to talk to tell my tale. But most importantly, I need to heal my broken heart. The world is close enough to hear my cries and I must run with this chance to turn the tables and claim my captor’s monstrous head!”

Analyst: “Libya, am afraid your minutes are up. Should we pencil in next week same time?”

Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival 2015: Let’s Celebrate British-Arab Women Style!

I know this much is true, that to be an Arab woman in today’s world has its challenges no matter what you do, where you live, country of birth, how young or old, married or single. But there is no need to list our grievances or dwell on the negatives, when this month brings the opportunity of International Women’s Day; an annual occasion to create, attend or otherwise engage in the thousands of events organically taking place all around the world.

With its positive spirit and energy, International Women’s Day always brings women together in different groups or formations to celebrate being a woman and engage with the issues dear to our gender. On the global level, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meets annually at the UN Headquarters in New York and brings activists to address relevant issues. Whilst in the United Kingdom, there are at least 312 separate events registered online to take place.

For the very first time in London, it is surprisingly one man who has been working hard to organise an event that caters uniquely to the British-Arab woman. Aser El Saqqa, who clearly supports the female cause!, is the mastermind  behind the ‘Arab Women Artists Now’ (AWAN) Festival that will be an extravaganza day to highlight the achievements of Arab women in the UK, with a focus on those working in the arts and creative field. It is scheduled to take place on 7 March, 2015 at the Rich Mi venue in Shoreditch.

AWAN will be showcasing a British-Arab pedigree of spoken word, storytelling, dance and visual presentations, a panel discussion as well as the launch of an art exhibition and a musical performance. It will be a rare opportunity for attendees to mix and mingle, share and appreciate the range of British-Arab female talent that exists already but has not been tapped into until now.

AWAN’s Mastermind: Aser El Saqqa of Arts Canteen

Behind AWAN is the Palestinian Aser El Saqqa, who is Director of Arts Canteen. Arts Canteen is a company that curates arts and music projects with the aim of stirring the arts scene; and, to bring the work of emerging artists from the MENA region and the Arab diaspora to a London audience, El Saqqa has been instrumental in managing and representing many artists who might otherwise have no support whatsoever and no opportunity to do what they do best.

Since the birth of Arts Canteen four years ago, the endeavour has brought to life many Arab musical acts, art exhibitions, involvement with other London arts festivals, and even holding an Arab-inspired comedy evening. I asked him what has inspired him to create the AWAN festival.

El Saqqa: “It is to reflect on the issues we have encountered and which face both the artists and audiences from the Arab diaspora. Some of the issues are: engagement with the UK arts infrastructure, lack of funding, cultural and religious taboos, working under censorship, responding to political conflict, challenges of integration, lack of profile amongst non-Arab audiences, lack of recognition of their contribution to the UK arts scene as Arab women and the artists’ right to a livelihood.”

Being a pilot-festival, AWAN will also have a research and development element to decide whether it can be done annually and how to improve the experience. During the festival day, there will be a consultation exercise with artists and interested partners to assess how the professional needs of the artists might be supported through future work under the AWAN umbrella.

El Saqqa said: “We are anticipating Arab and non-Arab female artists who will be attending as members of the audience. Their support and engagement at this pilot stage will help to build sustainability for the event in the coming years. My hope is to build on and consolidate Arts Canteen’s curating and programming experience with new, emerging and profile women artists from the Arab diasporas and to recognise their contributions in the UK and beyond.”

AWAN Festival Highlights

The festival highlights for the day include: two spoken word performances by poets Fajr Tamimi and Hala Ali, a storytelling segment by the actress Alia Alzougbi, a presentation by visual artist Maiada Salfiti, a presentation by theatre-maker Nesreen Nabil Hussein, a contemporary dance act by Tania Salmen and a panel discussion on the experiences and challenges of Arab women artists, curators and producers in the UK.

This latter will be chaired by Roya Arab, who is an archaeologist, musician and poet rolled into one! And will feature the editor of Kalimat Magazine Danah Abdulla, the playwright Hannah Khalil, the film curator Yasmin El Derby and the dancer and event producer Tania Diggory.

AWAN Exhibition + A Musical Journey

The AWAN festival also includes the launch of an art exhibition entitled ‘It’s About Time’ that will explore the issues of the female identity, ethnic origin and politics; aiming to provoke thought, discussion and to generate a renewed perspective on the role of contemporary art in today’s society.

Curated by Zina Papageorgiou this collective show will bring the artworks of several women that span across a wide range of practices. Those taking part are: Dia Batal, Inas Halabi, Saadeh George, Shirine Osseiran and Malika Sqalli.

Last but not least, the festival day ends with a musical journey with a line-up of prominent Arab women musicians including: Reem Kelani, Reham and Christelle Madani.

For more information on AWAN: https://www.awan.org.uk/

For more information on Arts Canteen: https://artscanteen.com/

Note; This article was first published circa March 2015

Libyan Street Theatre Project: At London’s GDIF Festival

Without a script but eager to be performing and entertaining for the very first time outside their home country, a group of six Libyan actors and a musician arrived in London last week to prepare and take part in the Greenwich-Docklands International Festival (GDIF). The biggest and longest established of its kind, the GDIF celebrates outdoor theatre and the performing arts and takes place at various venues across the Greenwich-Docklands area.

The unprecedented Libyan participation comes after the group was recently formed as a ‘Libyan Street Theatre Project’ through the great efforts of Muftah Ibrahim Elfagi and with the support and sponsorship by the British Council and the European Union. Elfagi is an actor and the Director of the National Theatre Tripoli since 2011 and has been awarded an MBE in 2009 for services to British-Libyan family reunification.

“Muftah is very much a fine performer, a wonderful character with a wicked sense of humour. He has already been entertaining and joking with people passing by in the Olympic park where we have been rehearsing. The others are also a great mix of personalities that creates an interesting chemistry and lively debate on which stories to use. Muftah has also invited us to Libya and we would love to go and continue our work there.” Damian Wright, Periplum

As a group they have performed only once before in Tripoli in a public park during March 2014 to a happily surprised crowd of up to 1,700 people in an act titled ‘Family Picnic’. This had been created with the British theatre director Nathan Curry, who later invited them to take part in the GDIF.

I met up with the positively energetic group at Cutty Sark, Greenwich and they all introduced themselves to me: Muftah Elfagi (age 60), Zahra Arafa (age 42), Hanan Espaga (age 20), Adel Abulefa (age 23) and Fuad R Gritli (age 28) Ahmed Elmusrati (age 17) and Saif Alwaine (age 17).

Elfagi said: “Acting is a spiritual medicine. Angels take me away and I lose my hurt, pains and sorrows and especially with my love feelings. Under the old regime, there was some censorship working at the National Theatre so we did social or historical plays and took part in Arab festivals in Cairo, Carthage and Damascus. But I am so glad to be here. As actors, we have to tell the truth and this is better after the revolution.”

For the GDIF Global Streets performance, the team have partnered with the innovative London-based performing arts production company Periplum, to work with Artistic Directors Damian Wright and Claire Raftery. The brief was to devise an original show for the Libyans within only a few days of planning and rehearsals that has to also be site-specific for the location at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

I asked Wright how the Libyan team were responding to the challenge: He said: “So far the process has been intense and exciting and we have grown close to the Libyan group in the past few days. We have been showing them different techniques to make innovative street theatre performance and they have found it hard work, but hopefully this will inspire them when they go back to Libya to take on more ambitious projects.”

The anticipated trilingual show is scheduled to take place this week on the evenings of 25-26 June, 2014. I’ve been told it will not be a continual narrative but more of a composition of the spontaneous and challenging images and sounds inspired by the Libyans’ personal stories and feelings, and, also, being suggestive of the subjects that came up in their exchange with the Periplum team.

Wright: “Together we’ve created original text and original music to be played by the guitarist and drummer Fuad Gritli. He will be drumming on a piece of street furniture. There will also be a metaphorical line that begs the question of how do you make music from a broken instrument? And we do touch upon the subject of conflict, though there is optimism from the group as to Libya’s future despite the difficulties. It was also their preference to keep the work as universal as possible.”

Representing British Council Libya, Awatef Shawish, said: “Through the Libyan Street Theatre Project, a new form of artistic expression enters the Libyan art scene. It aims to raise the profile of street theatre in Libya by forging links with international experts to increase public access to the arts in Libya and provide the opportunity for young Libyan theatre students to work with well-established British outdoor theatre directors.”

As part of training during this short experience in London, the Libyan team have also attended up to thirty of the many incredible and amazing acts taking part at the GDIF. They were particularly impressed by the French company Rara Woulib’s ‘Deblozay: Dance with the Dead‘ and the Belarus Free Theatre’s ‘Red Forest’ at the Young Vic Theatre.

What they have discovered is the power of street theatre and how it can break the boundaries between actors and audience, as well as the use of humour that can be utilised in dramatic ways. Now they wish to take these insights back to Libya in order to further develop and invest in a new type of creative performance industry.

For more on the GDIF: https://festival.org/gdif/

Photos: Muftah Elfagi Image, GDIF Logo, Members Warming Up, Team Photo Before Last Rehearsal

Note: This article was fist published circa June 2014

World In London Project: Behind Libya’s Portrait

Mid-February 2011. A surprise email arrived in my inbox from James O Jenkins, a professional British photographer, asking if I would like to model for a portrait to represent Libya’s participation at the London Olympics as part of the ‘World In London’ photography project. 

At the time I hadn’t even realised that Libya would be taking part in the Olympics as sports and politics have been inter-mixed with dangerous consequences under Qaddafi. The recent kidnapping and later release of Nabil Al-Alam, Libya’s President of the National Olympic Committee (NOC), only highlighted the problem. My initial response was therefore hesitant and reluctant.

Most certainly I didn’t wish to represent Libya with any political association with the regime and I knew that Libyan sports had been hijacked by Saadi and Mohammed Qaddafi for quite some time. The former had been the obsessive control freak behind the national football team who forbade any popular support for individual players by banning the calling out of their names. He also pressurised referees to favour his Tripoli Ahli team, whilst the latter was the head of the NOC.

So much for fair play and the spirit of honest competition that typifies athleticism on the world stage. Despite all these challenges, it seems that five courageous Libyans did qualify to take part in the individual sports. They were: Ali Mabrouk El-Zaidi (marathon runner), Sofyan El-Gidi (butterfly swimmer), Ahmed Koeseh (judo), Hala Gezah (100-metre sprint), and Ali El-Kekli (weightlifting).

But then this was a critical time for Libya and the Revolution had kicked off and Jenkins assured me there would be no political message to my participation. So I took the risk to represent Libya in the hope that the country will be free by July 2012. I also did inform him that there were many gorgeous and much younger models that he could choose from, but he insisted on me because he had come across my blog.

He told me: “I was given the list of countries that were available and I don’t really know why I chose Libya. It’s worth noting that I chose it before the start of the revolution and the portrait was not to do with the political troubles there. It is about London and you being Libyan in this city.”

My readers know that if there is anything I am super-passionate about, it really is London. So in the end I wanted to celebrate being a Londoner and a Libyan simultaneously; and, to also feel proud in taking part in this project.

Finally on the first day of the Olympics the Libya portrait was unveiled, along with the other 203 images of the other Londoners who were representing their countries taking part in the Olympics.

The Photographers’ Gallery, which commissioned Jenkins and 200 other photographers – who were picked from London’s most noted, talented and emerging talent – kept the project top-secret for three years. They admit it has been their most ambitious project to date and are now super pleased with the outcome.

The World In London Project’s artistic ambition and desire is to showcase through photography London’s rich cultural diversity and to celebrate its incredible mix of people from all over the world. The exhibition is free for residents and tourists to view. The 204 large-scale portraits will be at two sites for the duration of the Olympics: the external wall of the BT London Live site in Victoria Park, E3, and across the Park House city-block in Oxford Street, W1.

Jenkins and I are very happy with the final Libya portrait and the choice of dress and background. Hopefully it will please everyone for its simplicity and the intended layers of meaning about what it means to be a Libyan. I did also take part in a related project, the ‘Oral Histories’, which will feature a recorded interview to go with my portrait.

In the coming days, I intend to fully support the Libyan athletes and hope they will do us proud. For the future also I hope that more young boys and girls can pursue sports for the joy and thrill of open and fair competition and to see it as a great measure of personal achievement.

For more on the World in London project: https://www.artlyst.com/news/the-photographers-gallery-world-in-london-olympics-exhibition/

For more on James O Jenkins: http://www.jamesojenkins.co.uk/

Note: This article was first published circa July 2012

Diamond Jubilee Celebrations: Why It Matters To Be British!

The Jubilee weekend has brought out a British person inside of me I never knew existed. First I went to the Battersea Park Jubilee Festival for the River Pageant and was super excited to be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. All trying to get a glimpse of the lady of the hour, she is celebrating sixty years on the throne. The crowd on the day totalled over a million and I can’t think of any other world superstar, other than HM Queen Elizabeth II, who can manage even half that much.

It took me back to December 1996 when I first pledged to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors according to law. It was an important day as I got my British passport, but with the only pity being that they didn’t have a citizenship test nor a citizenship ceremony as part of the process, which I would have loved to do.

Since I have felt grateful to the Queen as my new shiny ID gave me access to things and places otherwise not possible with my Libyan nationality. It has enabled me to feel free and confidant in traveling the world without hassle. Not only that, I did study English Law and learned about the UK government system, the British constitution and the role of the Monarchy.

On Sunday in great British fashion nobody was excluded from the festivities. The crowds were a reflection of the diversity of the country, with not just natives but people of all ethnicities come together to celebrate. My guess is we the latter have all been resident in the UK long enough to feel and know that we belong and as we have been granted our rights and protection of civil liberties within the legal framework.

The weekend has reaffirmed that HM the Queen, who has been around longer than any other monarch in modern history, will always be an icon of the archetypical mother of a nation, offering herself as the symbol for all of us to come together, regardless of any divides. Her patience and resilience are admirable qualities; and, even as some believe the royal family should be abolished, this Queen has earned all the respect that she gets.

Not only does she take seriously her duties to serve her country, she never takes more liberties than what is permitted. She has devoted her whole life to her role and has never complained or begged tiredness or sickness in all the years she has been on the throne and working. Now she is 86.

It was truly wonderful to behold all of this, with everybody carrying and waving the Union Jack; or, they were holding items with the design on hats, sunglasses, scarves, afro wigs, pins, hair bands, shoes, suits and candy floss.

After Battersea where I couldn’t get a good view of the River Thames, my friends and I managed to tube it to Waterloo to see the atmosphere by the Southbank. It was electric there too. The Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the NFT were full of people standing on the balconies with lots of families and children too. Even though it got colder and wetter, it was beautiful to see the whole width of the river bank and the bridges jam-packed with spectators.

I was soaked by the end of it, but I am so glad I didn’t stay at home and just proxy view it on TV. This way I got British fever and it won’t escape me for a bit.

Note: This article was first published circa June 2012

Libyan Voices

Revolution! Catching up with an excited group of Libyan demonstrators in London, they were burning a couple of Green books outside Downing Street. The wild crowd also set aflame the green flag and replaced it by the old one of the monarchy. Last of their grand gestures, they hung and beat a padded doll representing Gaddafi with a symbolic heavy stick.

Hundreds of Libyans, mostly expats, began to sing the old anthem of the nation and chanted: “Tell Moammer and his sons, that there are men in Libya. Tell his daughter Aicha that we don’t want him anymore. Libya, Libya, Libya, the free. We are united brothers, from Benghazi and Tripoli. The people want the end of this regime.”

Afraid for the future, and worried about the escalating violent means that Gaddafi is resorting to quell dissent, this is what some of them had to say. A few agreed to give their full names but others not.

Sara, 38 said: “I now light a candle each night to give me hope, that the massacres in Tripoli will stop. My brothers (some as young as 14 and 20) and sisters of Benghazi have shown us that they are brave and are leading the way against Gaddafi’s madness. I pray that my elderly parents are safe, who are alone and vulnerable.

“Blood in the hospitals is thrown away, so that protestors die, and they hide the bodies so we cannot show the world media, but the fleeing of his daughter and his daughter in law makes me believe, that we will capture him and hang him soon. It has been a long 42 years of darkness and sadness, hoping and praying that there will be light soon.”

Tasnim Ben Sueied, 27 said: “A great thing that the revolution is in progress, because the Libyan people have been suffering under the hands of this oppressor. However, it is difficult to comprehend and I’m shocked at the silence of the world.”

Jalal Shammam, 46 said: “The future is bright for Libya. We have stood up, once and for all, with one voice to get rid of Gaddafi. My sympathy to the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers of those who have lost their lives.”

Mohamed Mohsin Gheryani, 36 said: “I am feeling great. Libyans are surrounded with each other, on one ground.”

Ingi Soufraki, 49 said: “I want to go home to visit my mother’s grave. My last visit to Libya was in 1978.”

Hulya Soufraki, 47 said: “Stop the condemnation [international community] and start the action against Gaddafi. We want to try him and then he has to be pulled limb by limb.”

Naziha, 32, who is half Libyan and half English, said: “It is really scary but exciting times to be a Libyan. We’re talking to our families and they are ridiculously scared. It is upsetting to be here and frustrating not to be able to do anything. Phones get dead. We’re watching TV. Because of the violence in Tripoli, they cannot leave their homes. There is little food and no water. The UN Security Council has so far given us a lame response. Libyans though want to do this on their own and anew world awaits for them. Sad and horrible that the bloodshed has had to happen.”

Asma Maguz, 40 said: “I’ve been asked by the press about the oil pipes and oil prices. I’ve never seen anything from Libya’s export profits. We just want him out. Then they asked me how did we, as a Libyan nation, let him rule us for 42 years? It has been three generations now. Was it his money? The ability to brainwash us? No, he found a very simple society in Libya, and in particular in Tripoli. We’re a peaceful and forgiving people, almost passive. Even up until recently, they were ready to believe in his son Saif. But he just threatened and so now, people don’t care. They’re not scared. They have seen the worst, including rapes and killings. He and his family need to be caught and brought to justice.”

Fatima Ahdash, 19 said: “I have mixed feelings. Devastated by the genocide. The first time Libyans can speak up in their country. I am very hopeful that he will step down. It has been 42 years. Enough!”

Rami, 24, and born in the UK: “I am proud and ashamed at the same time. The shame is it took this long and we’ve had to reach the lowest point. But inshallah, he will go. I am looking forward to visiting Libya and to not see his face on the billboards the minute after getting off the plane.”

Laman, 67: “Why are they saying false things? This is a nationalist movement of the Libyan people. It has nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, nothing to do with the Taliban, nor Bin Laden. 42 years of him. Never in my life have I seen someone do this to his own people. America is not involved.”

Marwa, 18 and Noura Elgiathis, 17 said: “We want Gaddafi to die. It is the end. Libyans are speaking out: Libya! Libya! It is so great to be able to shout its name and not be afraid. They want to put him in his Green Square and hang him. Let them torture and execute him. This is the beginning of the end.”

Mohammed Zeiani, 22 said: “We need to get together as Libyans. Please ask everyone to help send money and medical aid to our people. They are going through Egypt and Tunisia. Support us please.”

Hawri Ahmed, from Kurdestan, said: “I am not Libyan but I have friends. We’re here to see that Gaddafi is worse than Saddam. It is time for democracy in Libya.”

Osama Alzuwai, 32 said: “I left in 1997. Gaddafi has put us in prison in Benghazi. He tortured us because we refuse to be under his regime and his committees. I ask all of my family in Kufra, in Jdabia and all the people in the desert to send their own to Gaddafi. We just do not want him in power any more. My hopes are for change. From dictatorship to a democratic country and we can be free to say what we want and what we don’t want. For freedom and our basic human rights.”

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