Taraweeh behind closed doors
by Fouad Lakbir
Eating together is the oil that lubricates friendship.
The coronavirus has changed the world, and our social lives. It has emptied places of worship, restaurants, cinemas, and museums, and halted the Liberation Day celebrations in Dam square on May 5th. But for many people, it has been a chance to rest without being afraid that they’re missing something, at a time when the pace of life was becoming unbearable. And the smallest things became meaningful.
This pandemic also brought something beautiful, the togetherness for which all faiths strive. Ramadan, a month of reflection and contemplation, took place in April and May.
On Monday 18 May, we arranged to meet at Ilias’ home in the Baarsjes district for the first time, after weeks of Zoom conversations and years of saying we really should get together for coffee. Fouad was a bit late, as always, and arrived out of breath on his bicycle. It took him a while to find the doorbell.
Ilias welcomed him with a big smile, and we had a socially distanced discussion of our museum room for the Corona in the City exhibition. We found that we wanted to talk about the same themes: faith and hope. So even though we didn’t really know one another yet, we decided to create a museum room together. This was partly because of our common interests and partly because, after years of hearing about one another, we were each curious about who the other was.
Ilias has a nice little apartment with an informal garden, and he received Fouad outdoors. It was smack bang in the middle of Ramadan, so we started the conversation without our usual Moroccan tea and cookies. It got off to a flying start, without the filters you normally have in such situations.
We began by asking how are you really doing? That brought us into a conversation about the essence of what we stand for, our relationships with Islam and with our parents, working in the cultural sector, and also about loneliness and our love for Amsterdam. It was meant to be an exploration of our theme for this room, but it also turned out to be a catalyst for new ties with one another,
We’ve discovered that we share many interests and values, and appreciate one another’s differences. For example, we talked about the question that preoccupied Ilias: how has the pandemic affected us? Fouad said he hadn’t had the space to think about it, and he was fed up with seeing himself on his screen. He’d never stared at his own eyes so much, and found it a challenge to keep seeing them every time he had a Zoom conversation.
We also talked about the value and power of art, and our awareness of no longer being able to flee to another reality or fantasy. We find peace and comfort in art.
The coronavirus has functioned as a filter, showing us what really matters in our lives. It has made us think about our fundamental values and entitlements, focusing on the struggle for human rights.
With all these conversations in mind, we’ve looked through all the entries to Corona in the City, and selected twenty stories for you. These are ones in which we recognize ourselves and that reflect the time we live in, and in which people are standing up against inequality. Hence the image of Martin Luther King in our collection.
With our story in the back of your mind, we want to take you through the entries that meet these criteria. Please look at them and think about the following three questions: What do you see or read? What do you think? And what do you wonder? Then share these answers with us and continue the conversation. And if you have a contribution that you think suits our exhibition, feel free to approach us.
We’ll continue to update this room with new stories.
Open letter to Halsema: ‘Thank you for your solidarity with victims of anti-black violence’
by Massih Hutak