Making sense of life through art

Blog, News, Video Production

Bismillah

The world right now seems quite a scary and crazy place. As I write this the twitter sphere is buzzing with the sad news of the death of journalist James Foley. Iraq and Syria have degenerated into lawless areas of land being fought over by psychotic militant groups with bloodthirsty ideologies. It’s also been over a month since the start of operation Protective Edge in Gaza which has taken the lives of over 2000 people, 540 of which were children. Ok so maybe you’re thinking well that’s just the Middle East, the Middle East is always burning, always a headline for depression! Actually in the United States, in a small town called Ferguson protestors are being shot by police and the Ebola virus is rampaging through parts of Africa. And most of this I suspect is the result of power and money being held in the hands of the few.

So how do we make sense of the chaos? How do we feel hope, and how do we find solace in the daily deeds of our own lives? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.

I finished a music video shoot the other day for Omar Esa (@1OmarEsa). The song is called ‘Happy’, it’s a kind of cover/reworking of the hit Pharell track that dominated airwaves earlier in the year. It might seem, as it certainly did to me, an odd choice for a song to put out at a time like this. With so much madness and focus on the darkest parts of humanity a song about happiness (and especially it being about Muslims too!) seemed a bit proposterous. Omar did this track at his own expense, not planning on making any money from it either! Crazy! After chatting to him, and actually completing the shoot things made a little more sense. What I derived from his objective was that you can’t let what’s happening in the world dampen your spirit, not let it deter you from your mission. 

I’m no theorist but for me art is a way of reaching out and expressing a message. And for him, his art is part of his purpose as a muslim, to spread a message of justice and peace. So in his art he fulfils a meaning of his life. To try and counter stereotypes and make people feel positive, in a time when fear and sadness is a tool to abuse a consumerist population, that’s actually quite heroic and magnanimous. I’m sure that being part of the project will do me countless good and earn me countless blessings (inshAllah).

So I still can’t help but feel despondent some days. And I’ll wake from a nightmare some mornings. But then I get up and do what I do. I go to work, try to be a good husband to my wife, father to my girl and son to my parents. And I make films. Films that make me happy. Films that have something to say about being alive, or truth, or the things that just interest me. And in doing so I find meaning in my short life.

To find out more about Omar Esa and his music visit http://www.omaresa.com and make sure to follow him on Facebook and twitter.

And follow me on twitter at twitter.com/Safiyyahsdad

 

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A lover in Jerusalem

Blog, News, Video Production

Bismillah

I’ve walked down ancient streets, under age-old archways and through bustling souks. I’ve stood upon Biblical and Quranic grounds, and stared up at perennial skies. I’ve looked into the eyes and hearts of hatred, and of love, in the faces of hosts and hostiles. And in this cauldron of culture, of civilisation, I’m somewhat lost, in lust and infatuation, of its promise of unpredictable adventure and romance.

Wow! Did I just say all that? Dramatic!

No really, it has been an amazing 2 weeks. The days have flown by in a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smiles,, embraces, and friendships that will never be broken inshAllah. I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve worked hard, played hard, and prayed hard too!

This place, this odd place, has a strange effect on you. On the one hand, you step into the holy precinct of Al Aqsa, and forget about the whole world. Peace, tranquility, a sense of spiritual connection thats easy to feel but hard to explain. And then you step out of the archaic boundaries, into the hustle, bustle and tension of modern Jerusalem. The current political situation stares you in the face with a grimace and you can’t help but feel a bit hopeless as a human being, in knowing that you can’t do much to ease the suffering and conflict of people, here or anywhere. Only stand back and watch.

I’ve sat with the intelligentsia, and found it baffling how anyone can remain emotionally indifferent to the anarchic crisis, or even the antiquitous (is that a word?) surroundings. I’ve been revelling in them, and reeling from daily news of ever increasing casualties. Truly a paradoxical and perplexing experience. And yet the strange thing is I’ve never felt more human. 

I suppose that’s what happens… you miss your family and long for their human presence… you see the pain and suffering on the news and feel its immediacy, being only yards from people being carried away on stretchers… and you walk through sanctified hallways where men from long long ago prophesied and prayed for future generations. It’s a cauldron of culture, of civilisation, and of confused compassion. Love thy enemy, hate they enemy.

I’ve fallen in love with this place. Quite madly. But like every place I visit, I’ve got to leave, no matter how long my face or low my heart. I feel confident though, I’m leaving with a mission to urge others to come; to show support, and love, and let our brethren here know that we have not forgotten them. 

The work here has been bone grindingly tiring, and the emotional roller coaster has left me feeling just a little bit nauseous. Going back with work in mind I know I’ve got a lot more learning and improving to do. Mental preparation, learning new languages and even my kit too. My gear needs upgrading, quite desperately. You can’t try and cover refugee camps, hospital visits, walking tours and violent protests with an ageing DSLR and a couple of radio mics. Its been the lightest kit I’ve ever used on a professional gig, and though it never let me down, I know I need to gear up a bit. Thinking about the A7s… or wait for the 7d mk2? No idea at the moment… I know I need to but I can hardly muster the energy to think about it. 

I’ll probably still have a few words to say yet, as our flight on Tuesday remains uncertain. Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv has been on and off with flights, because of the supposed danger of Hamas rockets, and tomorrow I visit the excavated tunnels beneath Al Aqsa, no doubt it’ll be interesting; but if I don’t let me end by saying salaam, shalom, peace and love from Jerusalem.

 

Clashes in Jerusalem

Blog, News

Bismillah

Clashes took place between protestors and Israeli police and military in Jerusalem, in the early hours of Friday morning (25th July).

Locals gathered for the auspicious night of the 27th of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa masjid (mosque). Tensions were exacerbated by Israeli guards preventing any men under 50 from entering. Despite the restrictions many young men were already within the holy precinct.

After evening prayer had finished, stones were thrown at guards and within a few hours large groups had gathered to shout chants and join in with stone throwing. Israeli police and military used stun/flash grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

Some protestors were able to wrestle riot shields and other equipment away from guards.

Many had to be carried away on stretchers due to injuries sustained from rubber bullets.

The protests were in anger at the ongoing conflict in Gaza which has so far taken over 800 lives, 70% (at least) have been civilians.

Police and soldier presence remains high even after situation calmed.

Image (taken by myself, Jubair Khan 2014) shows a gathering of women chanting from the steps of the Dome of the Rock.

 

Stun grenades used against pilgrims

Blog, News

UPDATE: 3 Brits rumoured to be detained. 1 of them beaten.

The calm in the air was shattered early this morning when pilgrims, after being turned away from the sacred precinct, were fired upon by police, on the streets of Muslim Quarter, Old City in Jerusalem.

Guards at the precinct began allowing only elderly pilgrims into the holy site. I’ve been told that some of the younger pilgrims provoked guards and police, so they responded by using stun grenades and possibly rubber bullets.

Friday prayers are coming up and there are further rumours that many political groups will be attending, so attendance at the prayer is now not advised, especially for foreign pilgrims. British pilgrims were amongst those being directly fired upon.