26 years old
I like museums, even though I didn’t visit them much when I lived in Tunisia. I avoided going out in Tunisia because it was too dangerous. But I like the arts, painting and the theatre. I like decorating and old things, and when I can afford it, I’d like to decorate my house with antiques. I like to paint, too, in my free time. In general, I enjoy doing creative things.
I identified with the harpooned fish in Costas Tsoclis’ artwork1. For me, the people around the fish were like the members of my family, who ignored me. I was right there but they couldn’t see that I was suffering, that I wasn’t comfortable with who I was and that I wanted to be something else. I wanted to live as a woman. That’s why it was dangerous for me to walk down the street in my country. I had to hide who I was. I could only be myself when I worked on the stage. I have a mark on my body, just like the harpooned fish does, a scar from the time I was attacked on the street. But in the end, the mental trauma it left was even bigger. It may not show, but I feel it inside me all the time. Maybe Tsoclis’ work, too, is talking about mental trauma.
They say that people who’ve been wounded in life become good people. I believe it. Even though I’ve been hurt, even though my life’s been hard, I’m not asking for anyone’s help. I keep getting stronger, and I’m trying on my own to help myself and support myself. I get taunted a lot, and people on the street often look at me in a weird way. I smile back at them, which kind of startles them. I don’t resent anybody. Just the opposite, if I can help someone, I will, whatever way I can. I’m not even angry with my family. I understand it was hard for them to accept me. All I want is someone to love me and maybe then, the wounds will heal.
In Alexandros Georgiou’s work2 I could see cigarette butts, empty packets of medicine, and other garbage lying about. It could be a place that was destroyed in some war. At first, I couldn’t understand what this black-and-white environment had to do with the Parthenon, which is tinted gold. I thought maybe the work was talking about life itself, how anything can be destroyed unless it’s very strong. And symbols which have lasted throughout the ages are very strong; it’s the culture and values we’ve inherited from the past.
The surrounding black-and-white area represents the situation today, where people smoke and take drugs and pills because something isn’t right inside them. But it reminded me of something else, too. When I was 17 and still in my country, I was put in prison for about two months—that’s how they think people like me should be treated. And I remembered the people in the prison who smoked and took pills. That’s not who I am. I don’t belong there. Even in a place like prison, I felt there was something inside me that was still golden, like the Parthenon.
I first thought Janine Antoni’s piece3 was about people who have to work a lot in their life and I could see myself in it, sitting at the loom and working and then afterwards relaxing on the bed. When they told us a little bit about the work and how it’s connected to dreams, I saw myself again, how I want to make my dreams come true even when things are tough, as they were for me in my country. I thought about sitting at the loom and weaving my dreams. I think the whole work is showing us our mind, our ideas and dreams. It shows us working with our dreams and in the end making them come true and enjoying them. That’s what I believe—we weave our own lives.
The title of Yael Kanarek’s work, Heart in Heart, caught my attention. For me, the ribbons were like people who all start from the same point but then gradually each goes down his or her own path and gets farther and farther away. I like the color and the material, which is expensive and elegant. It reminded me of the clothes I wore during the performances I gave when I was working in Tunisia. The pink ribbons allude to childhood, but they could also refer to a wedding dress. And because the ribbons are hanging from two hooks, maybe the work is talking about a couple, two persons who are different but who live together. Perhaps the artist used the hooks because she was hurt in her own relationships. But even if that’s the case, I saw one hook that’s taller—that’s the man—and another one that’s shorter, which is the woman, who’s being embraced by the man. Maybe they were both hurt but are staying together in each other’s arms nonetheless. When I found out there are love letters written on the ribbons, which are exchanged between two persons who live far apart, I also saw a part of my life: my boyfriend is in another country in Europe now; because of the distance we’re not in a relationship but we keep in close touch.
I want to think positively. When I think about negative things, I cry, and I don’t want that happening to me. I’m a positive person. Sometimes when I feel down, I open a small window into my memory and focus on the good things I’ve experienced. I love life, I love people, and I want to be active—and a dreamer, too. I like doing simple things: cooking, eating healthy, listening to music, calm retro music like Edith Piaf, and enjoying a meal out with friends.
Every morning I open my window and say good morning to life—and good morning to the world.
1 The Harpooned Fish, 1985
2 Refers to Athens, Parthenon, 2007-2008.
3 Refers to Slumber, 1994.