Memories in Exile: Mahmoud Darwish and the village of Al-Birweh

Sawhney, N. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation

Description

“When I performed the first pilgrimage ritual to my original village, Al-Birweh, I found only the carob tree and the abandoned church, and a cowhand who spoke neither clear Arabic nor broken Hebrew.” Renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish narrated his memories in a letter upon his return to Al-Birweh, one of over 400 villages that were occupied and destroyed or depopulated by Israeli forces in 1948. Many former inhabitants of these villages live in refugee camps to this day. While Darwish spent years in exile in Beirut and Paris, he became the poetic soul of a nation that does not yet exist, transforming its cause into a universal struggle. He authored over thirty books of poetry and eight books of prose, translated into more than twenty-two languages. As an eloquent witness of exile and belonging, his lyrical, imagistic, and haunting words were embraced by readers around the world, transforming him into a powerful voice of the Palestinian Diaspora. The Mahmoud Darwish Memorial Museum was established on a hill-top near the West Bank city of Ramallah, four years after Darwish’s death in 2008. The contemporary architecture of the museum and the memorial park named after his birthplace Al-Birweh were lyrically designed to pay homage not only to Darwish’s legacy but also his village and (metaphorically) a homeland that no longer exists, except through writings, archival images, and oral histories. I will explore how such memorials commemorate past violence and ongoing injustice, while seeking to preserve and activate narratives of contested truths.
Period6 Mar 2020
Event titleSites of Reckoning Symposium: Memorials, Museums & Fractured Truth(s) in the Aftermaths of Mass Violence
Event typeConference
LocationAtlanta, United States, Georgia
Degree of RecognitionInternational