Where did you find it?

 

THERE WAS HOPE TOO

 

Marhaba, dear ancestors, thank you for all you have given for me to be where I am today. My heart aches thinking of what you endured in order to survive and, in turn, ensuring the survival of generations after you. You lived through a deadly famine during World War I where swarms of locusts and drought devastated fields of vegetables and olive trees. Blockades worsened those tragic days. As decades passed, there were more wars, more deaths, more sorrow. But there was hope too, wasn’t there? There were wedding and birthday celebrations, dancing and drumming on terraces or under canopies of grapes. Despite the tragedies, you had faith. Where did this faith come from? How did you see optimism through the dark clouds of despair and horror? Where did you find the strength to carry on? To still love and dream?

 

 

TELL YOUR STORY 

 

Descendants, we must carry on. My ancestors taught me this. Hard work and a belief in yourself will help you on this journey of creativity. I encourage those following the writer’s path to push through the rejections, embrace the conflicting feelings of anguish and joy and find your voice. Don’t give up. Our voices are unique. Don’t compare yourself to others and, above all, don’t get discouraged if things aren’t happening yet. In time, more opportunities will arrive and you’ll be heard. Tell your story and carry on. The seeds of your dream were planted for a reason: to grow, to be harvested, to be felt, to be heard. Carry on, my fellow writers, fellow dreamers.

 

 

 

Sonia Saikaley is the author of the award-winning novella “The Lebanese Dishwasher” and poetry collections “Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter” and “A Samurai’s Pink House”. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers, she lives in her hometown of Ottawa, Canada near her large Lebanese family. In the past, she worked as an English teacher in Japan where she introduced belly dancing to her students. Her novel “The Allspice Bath” was recently published by Inanna Publications.

 

Currently…

Sonia is working on a novel set in Lebanon about a young woman trying to achieve her independence despite the cultural restraints placed on her. It is also a love story between this Lebanese woman and a Jewish man. The story takes place before and during the Lebanese Civil War of 1975.

Sonia is inspired by brave women who fight for what they believe in and who don’t give up. Her novel “The Allspice Bath” is about such a woman. Adele Azar is struggling to find her place between the old and new worlds. It’s not an easy task. From the start, Adele disappointed her parents because she wasn’t born a boy. She balances two cultures yet the question remains: can she find her freedom without losing part of herself in the process? Set in Ottawa, Toronto and Lebanon, “The Allspice Bath” is a reminder that dreams are possible in spite of hardships.

Follow Sonia on Twitter & FB

Photo credit: Sylvia Saikaley

When did you cross the threshold?

WHEN?

 

My Nani once shared with me that my great-great-grandfather Pirmohamed Anand, was actually named Purshotam, prior to sailing to East Africa from the ports of Kathiawar. Purshotam means “Supreme Being” and is the 24th name of Lord Vishnu.

I would ask my ancestors what it was like to be neither Muslim or Hindu, but instead Khojas following the Satpanth, a syncretic community that adhered to a fusion of Shia Muslim, Sufi, and Vaishnavite traditions.

When did you decide to cross the threshold and call yourselves “Ismaili Muslims”?

What is it about the religion of your forefathers, that gave you the strength to hold on to it for generations?

 

What did you feel when you sailed away from the ports of Kutch and Khatiawar to reach the coast of East Africa?

 

How do you feel knowing your descendants are losing their mother tongue, sense of rootedness, and love for their own (brown) skin?

 

REMEMBER THE UNKNOWN STORIES

 

For my queer diasporic desi descendants, those who have hybrid identities that hyphenations fail to connect, I would remind them about their ancestors.

Both blood and chosen. That’s right – blood isn’t the only criteria we use to build our families. We should remember our queer ancestors who came before us but who weren’t necessarily related to us by blood – whose art, poetry, resilience, and experiences inspires generations after. But also remember our ancestors who allowed us to come into being today, even if their stories are unknown and lost to time and memory.

I would remind them that it was colonization that uprooted our connection to our third gender sister communities in South Asia and made our sexualities appear deviant.

I would encourage them to celebrate wins, small and large. My win is being able to proudly wear jhumka earrings and flowing shawls to my Jamatkhana in Toronto, irrespective of the bewildered faces and the nazar of aunties. My win is identifying allies within my place of worship that see me as a human trying to be his authentic self, a privilege not many have.

I would ask them to work on decolonizing. To create spaces for them to live, breathe, and create in and build solidarity among other marginalised communities. For them to join this legacy for their own descendants – both blood and chosen.

 

 

Zain Bandali is an unapologetically queer non-binary poet that writes on themes related to Islamic mysticism, queerness, diasporas, and where they interact. He is 21 years old and takes pride in being a Shia Ismaili Muslim of Indo-Tanzanian heritage living in Canada. Zain is in the final year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo, where he founded QTPOC KW, a community group for racialized queer and trans students. He is an avid vegetable gardener but cannot always stomach the chilli peppers he grows.

Learn more about Zain and his work here.

Upcoming Event: 

Zain be performing at brOWN//out at the Deloitte Stage (Intersection of Church St. and Gloucester St.) on June 22nd from 5-8 pm (the Saturday before the Toronto Pride Parade).

 

Did you celebrate?

Iethihsothó:kon, ancestors , nyàwenkowa, big thanks for all your sacrifices, resilience and enduring presence within the night sky, horizon, water, land, spirit guides, our songs, dances, languages, stories, foods, medicines, teachings and the unseen and unknown. I know you best during my dreaming; in my waking it is upon your shoulders I stand. Nyàwenkowa~

  1. Iethihsothó:kon, what was Pre-colonial Turtle Island really like? Describe for me, the abundance, contentment, and wonder.
  2. Iethihsothó:kon, why did you welcome the European Settlers? Why did some of y’all not follow the prophecies? Who sold us out, and why?
  3. Iethihsothó:kon, we are still here, doing our best to manifest your promise, your dreams, but shit is getting unbearable. Real talk…what is the way forward for our people? Most of us are done with the negotiating, reconciliating and debating. I’m done with this notion of White Ally-ship. What’s the end game here? The 8th Fire  Prophecy, is that gonna work out for us or not?
  4. Iethihsothó:kon, since receiving my spirit name,                                             Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw (The Woman Who Walks Through The Light), I’ve been doing my best to manifest my purpose and follow my path, what three things would you advise me to do in this lifetime to keep my passion for my purpose burning bright, before I become an ancestor?
  5. Iethihsothó:kon, what are your thoughts on the evolution of Bannock?
  6. Iethihsothó:kon, what is the most sacred place on Turtle Island where reconnecting with you, my ancestors, would be a healing and spiritually enlightening experience?
  7. Iethihsothó:kon, can you please send actual Thunderbirds to vanquish all these Black Snake Corporate Capitalist Terrorists (Burn dem)
  8. Iethihsothó:kon, did you celebrate when the Bison started coming home?

 

To all my Onkwehonwe I want you to know that although you are the seeds of the next 7 generation you are more than your roots. If you’re reading this it means my resiliency manifested into legacy and that is the greatest contribution any Onkwehonwe can invest in during their lifetime. Speak Light. Speak Life. Speak words into existence. Keep our stories alive. Say our names. Live Onkwehonwe’ neha, remember our stories make us whole and we are connected to all things, and this way there can be no separation between us, even we are apart. We begin as story~live as story~and exist as stories in the after, because our stories never end, they always begin again.

 

Mahlikah Awe:ri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw The Woman Who Walks In The Light is an award winning drum talk-poetic rapologist, community warrior, Haudenosaunee Mohawk/Mi’kmaw, Wolf Clan, social change artist, based in Tkaronto, with First Nations ancestry from Kahnawá:ke Q.C. and Bear River, N.S. ; African Diasporic blood lines on Turtle Island dating back to the Atlantic Slave Trade and Black Loyalists in Canada since the 1700’s, as well as, Afro-Caribbean roots from the Bahamas and European roots from Ireland.

 

Mahlikah is currently…

 a facilitator for Louder Than A Bomb Toronto and will be opening the finals on May 12th at Daniels Spectrum. She is continuing to deliver workshops as part of the NAC 10 Learning Days with the AGO and Indigenous Education Centre for the remainder of the school term. She is participating in three recording projects at the moment, working with Red Slam on their second full length LP and a House EP; contributing poetry to Brick Books Publishing who has asked Indigenous Waves, Jenny Blackbird to curate stories and poems from Indigenous writers; and is featuring in the Fonna Seidu, sisterhoodmedia.net project, sharing her experiences with mentorship, creative entrepreneurial pursuits, overcoming obstacles and leadership success. She is currently booking performances and key notes for summer 2018 and arts education workshops for the 2018-2019 school year. To book Mahlikah, click here.

You can find her & Red Slam Collective on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube & Twitter.

Photo Credit: Red Works and Nadya Kwandibens