Matt Kauffman in Jordan

Nakba

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“Do you remember the screaming in the dark? I don’t. The world had already forgotten by that time…”

Janine performs at 64 and still ٦٤ و لسه, a performance raising money for a documentary depicting the lives of people at the Gaza Refugee Camp.

These were some of the lines spoken by Jenine, a Palestinian-Jordanian poet, one of just eight artists who performed at last night’s Nakba remembrance concert at the Rainbow Theater in downtown. Half the entertainers were women poets while the show also featured four male rappers.

It was my first live exposure to Amman’s hip hop scene, a subject I’m reporting on for our journalism class here.

Amer Al Taher raps Tuesday night at the Rainbow Theater in downtown Amman.

The event also forced to me to think about the unending and seemingly unsolvable situation just west of Jordan in Palestine/Israel.

Spoken word poet Aysha AlShamayleh

For Palestinians, Nakba is a sort of anti-holiday, celebrated/mourned the day after Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day. It crystallizes all the displacement, rejection, anger and hope the Palestinian people have felt since some 700,000 of their ancestors were ousted or fled from their homes in 1948. The day’s full name, Yawm an-Nakba, means “the day of the catastrophe.”

While a few of the spoken word artists performed in english, the majority expressed themselves in Arabic. And while I failed to understand a single syllable, you’d have to be blind to miss their grief. While I shuffled around the theater snapping photos and trying my best not to trip into the laps of concert-goers, I tried to capture those emotions.

Yet among that company and the people in attendance, I had trouble understanding those strong feelings. While all of the performers were displaced Palestinians or the descendants of them, they also struck me as some of the most privileged Jordanians I’ve encountered during my short time in Amman. They wore clean, fashionable clothes, trendy even by American standards. Organizers thumbed off text messages on iphones. An audience member took pictures and shot video with an ipad. None of the performers could have been over the age of 30. How many had lived in Jordan their whole lives? How many actually knew their homes in Palestine?

I’ve mentioned at least a couple times the sharp and immediate contrast of Ammani citizens. At our base in West Amman, we are surrounded by sandstone compounds, sparkling new Range Rovers and BMWs parked in their driveways. But pay a taxi driver to take you 2 or 3 dinars (about 3 or 4 dollars) towards East Amman or Sport City (where my host family lives) and you see a different kind of life. On the surface, many of the artists and organizers seem to have it all.

Abdallah Taher was the night’s DJ

I’m not trying to knock the Palestinian cause. In fact, I feel just the opposite about it. I  just have trouble wrapping my head around how this grief and despondence transfer to younger generations, to people who haven’t actually lived in the places they call home.

How do some Palestinians hold on so vigorously to these places while many of us Americans shed our heritage and native lands like so much dead skin?

Amman rapper El Far3i in action

I don’t have an answer, but I’m trying to understand.

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Written by kauffmant

16/05/2012 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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