Welcome to the second of a two-part podcast series featuring stories of migration. The stories you will hear were made by students in Professor Dina Ramadan’s course Labor and Migration in Arabic Literature, taught in the fall of 2019. This Migration Series comes to you from the Human Rights Project at Bard College, with support from the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
In Episode one, students from both classes focused on the legal barriers many migrants have to cross in order to attain financial and social stability. In this episode, titled Home Away From Home, we focus on how music and food become technologies for preserving and recalling memories of home. For Mirna Bamieh, a Palestinian chef and artist, it takes the form of preparing and sharing traditional dishes from Palestine. She founded the Palestine Hosting Society in order to share these dishes with public audiences in the form of performance art dinner parties. For Haytham, a young Syrian refugee now living and studying in France, his home is remembered through the music that has followed him throughout his life. For Kamal Benes, a local resident who emigrated from Morocco, remembrance of home is also shared through food, and stories told around the family dinner table.
Through these stories, absent the sensationalism of the media and with an emphasis on storytelling, we’ve tried to present a picture of how home – being forced from home, leaving home, making a new home – can mean many different things, but is always a deeply personal journey.
The first story we’ll hear is an interview by Ben Mulick and Miriam Anastasi with the Palestinian activist, artist, and chef Mirna Bamieh about her project “Menu of Displacement” which had its North American premier at the Fisher Center Live Arts Biennial “Where no wall remains” at Bard college in November of 2019. Menu of Displacement is a recreation of traditional Palestinian recipes and dishes that have been nearly forgotten or made difficult to reproduce due to the destruction of Palestinian land and history. The interview reckons with a number of important and challenging questions; what does it mean to use food as an art form? How does unearthing vanishing recipes allow a colonized population to traverse militarized borders? How can food be a technology of memory in restoring a fragmented identity and history?
In the next story we hear from Haytham, who is a 26 year old Syrian refugee studying in France. He is interviewed by his friend Julia Charra, along with classmates Moamer Alsaedi and Nihal El-Gameel. He speaks of the iconic Lebanese singer Fayrouz’s song Al Quds, and how it reminds him every morning of his home he had to leave behind, and of Syrian rapper Touffar’s song Ya Haif, which brings him back to the early days of protest in Daraa and painful memories of the war. Throughout the story Haytham describes how music helps him not only to remember but to piece together and come to terms with his complicated relationship to Syria.
In the final story of this episode Austin Dilley sits down for a family meal with Kamal Benes, a food service worker in the Kline Commons dining hall at Bard College, at his house in Elizaville New York. Throughout the meal Kamal shares his story of how he came to America while retelling and remembering his beloved Marrakech he left behind; his beloved Marrakech. Kamal also, during the course of the interview, opened up his home and his family sharing a deep love and compassion for his culture and a persistent eye over the struggles he has endured.
To listen to Part I of the series click here >>>
Music featured in this episode: La Haif, by Touffar; Fluid, by Crowander, Birds and Arc, by Metre (licensed under Creative Commons)