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………………........................................................................ Transnational Nomad
Home is where your foot is, where your heart beats ..........................................................................................
It was in the silent hiking with my grandmother, up and down the Caucasus Mountains. It was in the voice of my 105 year-old great grandmother, chiming her stories from the potato ditch where she was hiding from the Russians during the great war at the Turkish-Georgian border. It was in my mother’s poetry. The flowers, the bees, and the honey she made.
When I think of home, the feel and the smell of her honeycomb, it takes me to the mountains of my grandmother, and the shimmering voice of my great-grandmother, whose name was Bedir- “like the Moon above, I was so beautiful” she would say. Moon is home to many a pagan woman before Judeo-Christianity and Islam.
Cornfields had replaced the pine trees of my mountains for a while. I would go to see Nutcracker at Indiana University Auditorium where I worked as a prop person, just to see fake snow-flaked pine trees and to pretend, to feel closer to home, through the Russian music sensibilities and aesthetics. I had come to study art, and soon Art would become my home.
The immigrant’s rootlessness accentuates his/her need to communicate; art becomes a vital outlet for the ineffable loneliness, the longing for the familiar, the sorrows and the joys of the host space. In which his/her now forever-mobile-body becomes his/her home-on-foot.
In the Midwestern cornfields, it is the nature, the hills of Brown county and the Buddhist temples resting in the woods, that are home to me. Parks and temples became my dwelling places, to travel back, to the other side, into childhood memories. Memories, for the immigrant, are the key to the door to motherland left behind. Memories embody facts and figures, the people we knew and events that happened; they are about the experiences. Memories are mostly about how we felt then. They are potent with emotions.
Emotions are deemed or supposed to be secondary to the rational human. Most often, the law of the rational-western-man collides with that of Nature. For Nature has a law of its own, one that is not bothered by man-made-rational-intellect; it might be altered by it, but ultimately it will be men who will always yield and /or participate in his/her own destruction.
Art utilizes the human experience as a whole: The mind, the body, the spirit, the mysterious and the emotions. Emotional intelligence, in the west in particular, has been lagging behind the intellect for centuries, resulting in drama, aggression, violence, war and in death.
Art gives us an outlet to try out our emotions in a safe space. The mystery, like emotion, is considered feminine; and it is not always meant to be known intellectually. From the perspective of a man, the other sex, Einstein put it most eloquently: "The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Emotions here are at the heart of the matter. Without healthy development of emotions and processing of them, we are forever in imbalance within ourselves and with each other. And yet from Plato to Aristotle, the emotions are attributed to women as a pejorative, to the lesser, the second sex. This took a firm hold in the West especially after the defeat of the Amazons.
Following the leads of the Greeks, Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine, further established the rules of masculinity and femininity in Medieval Europe. Later the Prudish Protestants got rid of women in the church all-together. Love of the mysterious women turned her both into a Mary the holy mother and Magdalene the whore, stripped naked of her dignity and fully clothed with divine grace. Celebrated as a mother, burned to stake as a witch. The 1939 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a primary example of the masculine in crisis: a priest in love with a gypsy woman sees burning her at the stake as his only salvation from the emotions stirred amorous love. It takes “lesser” man in love to save her from certain death, the symbolic Hunchback.
The language I use is a fusion of poetry, literature, structural history, philosophy, writings on feminist film theory, art theory, Marxist theory, Marxist feminist theory, and newspapers, magazines, films and journalistic and academic reading and writing. I want my words and my work to function as one of an activist, artist, scholar, feminist, and journalist. I do come after all from the land of the Amazons, the Eastern Black Sea of the Western Caucasus Mountains. I aim to take on the Aeschylus’ Oresteia no less! Not entirely with this work in particular, in my life in general. Aeschylus’ blatant opposition to women in power has now become the norm for the practiced misogyny. Such norms are hard to subvert and even harder to change, sometimes requiring revolutions. But as Goethe had said, revolutions destroy the good as well as the bad, in order to create a new. From that point of view, the immigrant life is a daily revolution, both forced and voluntary. Old is no more, home is left behind, and the Turk must make a new one in Goethe’s Germany.
My language also then, developed organically from the total of my experiences rooted in the land, the medicine, art, activism, higher education, and in feminist thoughts among others, paying critical homage to Rosa Luxemburg in particular. The smaller books with potent content as well as films and visual art works have been my greatest influences. Among them are: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, all works of Leibniz, Spinoza, Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Ibn Sina, Barbara Dossey’s Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer, Albert Einstein’s World As I See It, Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Michael Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Table, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Mevlana Cellaleddin Rumi’s 'Divine Love' of humanity, John Dewey’s Art as Aesthetic Experience, James Joyce’s Portrait of a Young Man as an Artist, all of Nazim Hikmet’s poetry, David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, Wendy Behary’s Disarming the Narcissist, Dogen Zenji’s Zen Buddhism, Edward Said’s Orientalism, and Frida Kahlo’s life and work.
While her husband Diego Rivera painted the peasants, the blue color worker with Lenin on a Rockefeller center, Kahlo painted her pain physical and emotional. Her injury and subsequent numerous operations forced her to house the pain permanently to the end of her days. Her pain told stories for new generations of women to stand in solidarity, above all, with oneself. That is the power of art. Art renders the Otherness, into Humanness. Enabling us to become an individual within a collective, to connect with our primordial selves, through and with one another.
I come from The East, The Middle East, from the oral tradition of story telling and record keeping in memory. And I lived in The West, where most everything is written down, intended for posterity. The East might have been East and West might have West for Kipling, but they have been twining in my life and in my work for the past 20 years by necessity of a life as a Transnational Nomad. Home is where the Art is.
Filiz Cicek MFA, PhD. Bloomington, 2012 ©