A while ago we were writing about our friend and colleague Nazmi, and his awful non-trip out of Gaza. Since then he tried several times to leave the Strip, but the double-whammy of erratic visa regulations and of exit permits meant that the right paperwork-time combination that would allow him to travel did not happen. Each time Nazmi invested lots of energy, time and money only to be disappointed and frustrated, over and over again. Months and months have passed, and he had to give up several opportunities to meet his colleagues in person to discuss the many international projects he’s engaged in, to take up invitation to talk about his work at conferences and to do all the other things people in academia take for granted. He had to make do with online meetings, with webinars and telecollaborations. But Nazmi is not a person to give up very easily and, at the 7th attempt, he made it!!
So here he is, finally with us in person, delighting us with his energy and the sheer happiness that comes from being able to move freely, to catch a train or a plane without being questioned or harassed, to meet us and his many other colleagues and collaborators in the UK, Norway, Finland, Germany. We all smile with him, because miracles happen.
Our project may (for now) be finished, but our work never is. The teams at the University of Glasgow and the Islamic University of Gaza never tire to talk about the Online Arabic from Palestine course to anyone who will hear us. Recently we have talked about the course and our collaboration at a workshop for Refugee Festival Scotland:
In Glasgow, for Refugee Festival, we learnt to count up to six in Arabic and to dance the Dabke. In Perth, we learnt words for primary colours and made more origami birds. During both workshops we learnt to greet each other, introduce ourselves and say where we’re from. Everywhere people are happy to hear about our project and willing to take part in all the creative activities we have in store for them.
Thanks to all the participants, of all ages, that have been with us during the many workshops we’ve held so far. You’re real stars! ⭐
Between the 1st and the 3rd of May the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts had its second annual Spring School, to talk about asylum and refuge from many different perspectives. And what a great success it was! Three days of presentations and workshops in the welcoming Heart of Scotstoun Community Centre in the West End of Glasgow. The School attracted academics (some from as far away as Australia!), experts-by-experience, advocacy groups, integration networks and activists, and we talked, thought, laughed (even cried a bit) and enjoyed together the yummy food cooked for us by the great team at Küche.
The theme of this year’s Spring School came from a song by Karin Polwart, from her wonderful ‘Wind resistance’ album, which talks about the collective efforts of geese as they fly in a V formation. Birds thus featured prominently in most presentations and workshops, and our Palestinian Arabic taster was built around a line from a deeply moving poem by Mahmoud Darwish, called ‘The earth is closing on us’. The line says:
‘Where should the birds fly, after the last sky?’
So, at the workshop we learnt to greet and introduce ourselves in Arabic, but also the name of colours for squares of origami papers, which we then folded to make ‘asfour’, birds of many different colours. Arabic has two words for bird. One, ‘tayir’, indicates the general order of feathered animals, while asfour is used to refer to the little birds whose specific name we don’t quite know: the ones that dart around our cities and countryside, that sing – sometimes beautifully – and that can make us smile. All the little, colourful asafeer (this is the plural of asfour) we made at the workshop were collected at the end and gathered together on a piece of driftwood, so they could be displayed in the main hall for everyone to enjoy.
Quite a few of the workshop’s participants said they want to learn Arabic with our friends and colleagues at the Arabic Center of the Islamic University of Gaza. All of them said they had had a wonderful time (and so did we!)
Team member Alison delivered the keynote speech to mark the end of the Spring School, coming back to Karin Polwart’s birds, and dressed in the little asafeer of our Palestinian Arabic workshop.