Mubarakah (1994)

24:16 minutes

“MUBARAKAH” is the feminine Arabic adjective for “blessed”. Presented through a series of narrations in English, Arabic and French, this video is a fictional portrait of an un-named woman.

The central idea of the video is the displacement and disorientation of this Arabic/American/Canadian woman. The emotional state presented is paralleled and interwoven with her analysis of her own situation. The underlying dialog between emotion and intellect locate her in continuously changing positions. The refrain “I am in the land of the Blessed…” is a form of litany used to move from the tangible to a fantasy.

The piece concerns itself with transitional phases and problematic identity. The narrative does not read in a forthright way, as a documentary, but rather it is a story that is intimated and woven in a more indirect manner. I have used stream of consciousness as a way to blend the many stories I have collected as content for the video.

This fictional portrait deals with the severity of adjustment to what is perceived as Canadian ways, with the exoticized imaging of women who are clearly not easily blended into the Anglo-Canadian look. It also examines the self definition and disorientation that takes place as the woman views herself first through American culture, and more thoroughly in the context of Canadian culture. Her story is about the incongruity of her heritage and her locations: geographically, emotionally and spiritually.

I originally made this video as a way to work with the raw material of my own family’s history in emigrating from Lebanon. As the script evolved and as more people worked with me on the project, it became a much more complicated set of stories directed through the main character. The voiceover was done by a Lebanese sociologist here in Edmonton who had a deep understanding of these issues herself.

Buried within the Arabic text is a critique of the status of skin color within Arab culture. Otherwise, the Arabic moves between commentary and direct translation so as to include the people who are not accustomed to artists’ video and the issue oriented presentation.

The French comes into the video as the work moves into a Canadian context. Arabic, French and English are the languages that were known to my grandparents. My family was compelled to change their name from Mubarak to Moses, my great grandfather’s first name, when they immigrated in the early 1900’s to the United States. I grew up never knowing the meaning of our real name.

Cherie Moses

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