“Tell me about yourself” is a question that I always struggle to answer. How much should we share in such circumstances? What kind of information do we reveal? To respond, we often polish ourselves, resurrect dead behaviours, carefully selecting sought-after traits to appear desirable, pleasant, approachable, and of course unique. We hide the traits that we despise and we convince ourselves that this is the reality. We do this so often until it becomes part of our psyche, an alter ego of sorts. Nevertheless, here is my attempt to share some things ‘about me.’
My name is Atiaf, it is the plural for ‘Taif’ which means spectra and “alwan al-taif“, means colors of the rainbow. Some Psychologists have researched the idea that names may influence their carriers. In my case, it certainly feels so. I appreciate color, without it a room feels sad and lonely. Any white wall looks like a canvass to me, waiting for someone to paint over it, or mount a photograph. Like an illusion, I often live in my head. Analyzing or overanalyzing situations and other times imagining stories and dialogues.
When asked “where are you from?” I can answer in many different ways, but I now like Taiye Selasi suggestion:
Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.
To answer that I’ll tell you that I’m a local of Sana’a, Jeddah, Washington D.C., Cairo, Tunis, Lille, and Brussels. Hence, I consider myself a ‘world citizen’, yet at the moment, my world is focused on Yemen. A country ravaged by war, while it’s people stand strong and smile in the face of adversity.
Today I am trying to capture these stories and simultaneously resurrect forgotten histories. Though my grandmother couldn’t read or write, the poems, short stories and the proverbs she had memorized were passed down to her from generation to generation. They were stories of love, of war, of famine, of farming, of family dynamics etc. I hope to keep a glimpse of these stories alive through my writing.
Today I write to resurrect forgotten histories. I write to forget. I write to feel. I write to become numb. I write to remember. I write to share stories of a misunderstood nation. I write because I am blessed to be able to read and write.
In peace, love, and solidarity,