artist statement

Roundtable Cento on Conversation, Peace, and Decolonization

The martyr teaches me: no aesthetic outside my freedom.

Oh, Palestine! I am ready to die and I shall live by dying for thee!

National liberation, national reawakening, restoration of the nation to the people or Commonwealth, whatever the name used, whatever the latest expression, decolonization is always a violent event.

You don't mean peace talks exactly. You mean capitulation, surrender. That kind of conversation is between the sword and the neck.

No. Victims do not ask their executioner:/ Am I you? Had my sword been/ bigger than my rose, would you/ have asked/ if I would have acted like you?

No, I have never seen any talk between a colonialist case and a national liberation movement.

The performance of possibilities does not accept “being heard and included” as its focus, but only as its starting point; instead, voice is an embodied, historical self that constructs and is constructed by a matrix of social and political processes. The aim is to present and represent Subjects as made and makers of meaning, symbol, and history in their fullest sensory and social dimensions.

Oh, my homeland! My love, my only love! I shall revolt against thine enemies, all enemies. I shall make bombs from the atoms of my body and weave a new Palestine from the fabric of my soul. With all my power and the power of my sisters, we shall convert our existence into bombs to redeem the land, the coast, the mountain. We shall fight and fight ...

People usually fight for something, and they stop fighting for something. So tell me what is it we should speak about. Or rather what is it we should stop fighting for to talk about?

A question like that entices the curiosity/ of a novelist,/ sitting in a glass office, overlooking/ lilies in the garden, where/ the hand/ of a hypothesis is as clear as/ the conscience/ of a novelist set to settle accounts/ with/ human instinct...

The intellectual who, for his part, has adopted the abstract, universal values of the colonizer is prepared to fight so that colonist and colonized can live in peace in a new world. But what he does not see, because precisely colonialism and all its modes of thought have seeped into him, is that the colonist is no longer interested in staying on and coexisting once the colonial context has disappeared.

Whose death, misery, destruction and pain? Of the Palestinian people who are uprooted, forced into refugee camps, starved, murdered for 20 years, and forbidden even to call themselves Palestinians.

Decolonization as metaphor allows people to equivocate these contradictory decolonial desires because it turns decolonization into an empty signifier to be filled by any track towards liberation.

But at the start of his cohabitation with the people the colonized intellectual gives priority to detail and tends to forget the very purpose of the struggle— the defeat of colonialism.

The subjects themselves benefit from this proclamation through the creation of a space that gives evidence that “I am here in the world among you,” but more importantly, “I am in the world under particular conditions that are constructed and thereby open to greater possibility.”

The supreme objective of the Palestine Liberation Movement is the total liberation of Palestine, the dismantlement of the Zionist state apparatus, and the construction of a socialist society in which both Arabs and Jews can live in peace and harmony. To achieve our objective we have adopted the strategy of people's war and protracted armed struggle. We have no other alternative; we see no other possible option to dislodge the Zionists from Palestine.

Though the details are not fixed or agreed upon, in our view, decolonization in the settler-colonial context must involve the repatriation of land simultaneous to the recognition of how land and relations to land have always already been differently understood and enacted; that is, all of the land, and not just symbolically.

To us, to liberate our country, to have dignity, to have respect, to have our basic human rights, is as essential as life itself.

Oh! I seem to be forgetting myself. I am writing as if I were a poet. Poetry is also part of our armoury, but deeds are a sharper aspect of our weaponry.

Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction that concludes, “this, then, is what needs to be done.” It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal. It doesn’t have to lay down the law for the law. It isn’t a stage in programming. It is a challenge directed to what is.

(Lines borrowed from Leila Khaled’s My People Shall Live, Mahmoud Darwish’s “Edward Said a Contrapuntal Reading” and A State of Siege, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor,” Michel Foucault in “Questions of Method: an Interview with Michel Foucault,” D. Soyini Madison’s “Performance, Personal Narratives, and the Politics of Possibility,” and Ghassan Kanafani interviewed by Richard Carleton.)

(Originally published in the Poetry Project Newsletter)