Saturday, 20 October 2007
Living in a house that looks like these, on a street like this, you would think that would be something to brighten up your day. And it probably would be, if you knew that you were going to stay there, that the homes are you own.
The house along these streets are pretty and uplifting on the outside, but on the inside, they are decrepit and small. The space is cramped and the wall paint is peeling from the humidity. Of course the air conditioning is very old and the fans barely have enough energy to create a proper breeze.
The family that invited me into their house were a family of at least 20 people. They lived in a 5 bedroom structure, every time they needed more space, they would have to build another stage onto the already flimsy house.
The houses were painted by a team of artists lead by the well-loved Bahraini artist Abbas Moussawi. The street has become a landmark as the street that stands between the Bahrain Fort and the new totem-pole like structure at the highway created by Rashid Al-Oraifi, another of Bahrain's respected artists.
The families living in them were asked to move so that museums and workshops be set up where the houses are currently.
The ladies told me that a lot of people came by since the street was painted up. They can't communicate with the foreign tourists and journalist who come by, but when the Arab journalists come around they do try to explain the discomfort they are feeling in their neighborhood. They want them to convey the message that it is unfair that they are made to feel like they have to leave the neighborhood they've built in the last 27 years.
The last 27 years they've been there, they've had to build their neighborhood from scratch, because that had been the first time they were moved. They used to live further up the hill, closer the the fort before they were moved to where they are now. They felt cheated the first time, and regret agreeing to the move for what they were offered.
Now, they are offered houses to live in instead of the houses they were in, but that would also mean a separation of the families. In old Bahraini neighborhoods such as these, families are quite extended. The middle generation looks over their parents, aunt and uncles as well as the children. Separating an elderly woman from her married children would disrupt their entire life style. What about the matem they built down the road, and the mom & pop stores they started, their schools and neighbors and community as a whole?
Moving at the request of someone else at this point would break an entire family and one of the ways of life in Bahrain that are almost extinct, where families and neighbors are one and where the true sense of belonging, faith and culture reside.
I, myself, am the biggest supporter of social development. But in a case like this, where a lifestyle so indicative of its place is in the danger of being broken, I am quite against it. Developing in a way that only takes a community further, is great and commendable. But if we have to kill a lifestyle in order to achieve another, it can be a form of genocide.
I think there should be a place where people can reflect and express their ideas and thoughts about Bahrain. We need a place for dialog where people can express concerns in a communal way. Maybe a forum for expression, lead by art and kept together by communication.
We'd have to get some people who are well know or recognized as inspiration, so people aren't stunted in terms of how they want to express their concern artistically.
They have to create something that will visually communicate something. Also, all things created must be in a format where they can be seen by as many people as possible, postcards, posters, images of any sort to be included in magazines, on websites, perhaps as billboards, mailed around. Maybe they can even be used as designs for invitations or other mail-able forms of communique.
This is a postcard I 'made' at home out of collage. Its actually a card of the work by Muharraqi, a popular Bahraini artist. But i wanted to make it more colourful so i added bits of origami and threw some golden roses around him :)
Maybe what I'm getting at is an Artists for Humanity in Bahrain - can we do that?