Tuesday, May 10, 2005
They can't smother the sun with a bucket of....
Cultural forums are one of Baghdad's old traditional meeting places; these forums which are usually hosted by intellectuals, poets and social Baghdadi figures in their homes have never lost their distinctive flavor and in spite of the exceptional circumstances we're passing through, these forums remained alive and active and kept enriching the social, cultural life in Baghdad with ideas and discussions that preserve the position of the Iraqi intellectuals.
Such forums are not clubs or institutions belonging to some parties or organizations; they're totally independent and kept being so through out the past centuries.
In Baghdad, there are many of houses that host these-usually weekly-forums which are attended by dozens of poets, writers and scientists in a special atmosphere that kept the old Baghdadi traditions alive.
Among the most famous houses are "Al-Sha'arbuf" and "Al-Khaqani" forum-houses; last Thursday I was privileged to attend one of these sessions by in invitation from the lecturer who's a remarkable Iraqi poet.
I found in this invitation a great opportunity to take a closer look at these forums after a long time of not attending any.
The session was held at Al-Sha'arbuf's house; Al-Sha'arbuf is one of Iraq's best cardiologists and was born to a family famous for its great interest in literature and science; their house has been hosting such forums for a really long time and the consecutive generations of this family was keen on keeping this lovely tradition alive.
The house is located in Al-Karrada Kharij neighborhood and the sessions are held every Thursday afternoon. I wasn't surprised at all when I saw the house full of visitors because I am sure that the Iraqi writers and thinkers would not be deterred by any hardships and would do anything to keep the creation flowing.
Some arrived late because of road-blocks on their way to the meeting place and some preferred to even walk and leave the taxis than to miss the meeting.
The session usually starts by a lecture prepared by one of the guests and these lectures are previously scheduled for moths.
And the lecture is usually followed by a debate session to discuss the subject of the lecture and everyone interested in commenting would be granted some time to voice his thoughts.
And of course there are a few breaks where Arabic coffee and desserts are served in between discussions.
It was interesting to see that some writers take advantage of such occasions to market their books by placing a small pile of their books on a table and writing the price on a piece of paper (notice the price of a book is 1250 ID, i.e. less than a dollar).
It was a pleasant experience for me to see the mouths that were forced to shut up for decades speak again and debate freely with no reservations or fears. No more fear from having a secret service agent sitting next to you and counting your breaths, making you think a thousand times before saying anything that might "hurt the feelings of the Ba'athist comrades".
The meeting lasted for 3 hours but to me it seemed like 30 minutes just like all other sweet times.
In such occasions, one forgets that there's a hand trying to assassinate this freedom; what I saw stronger than any terror plan. Bombs might have delayed some of those men and explosions could have stopped a few men from coming but they would certainly not stop the doors of this house from opening every Thursday afternoon.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I believe this creative Iraqi cartoonist said more in this simple, yet telling cartoon than what anyone would say in any single article.