“to deny my people is to deny peace itself, period” – reem kawasmi
As part of 18-year-old Palestinian artist Shukri Lawrence’s Peace Week takeover, he asked his friend Reem Kawasmi to share a poem that hopes for freedom and harmony.
Reem Kawasmi, who features in Shukri’s photographs here, is busy trying to do it all in the West Bank. The young Palestinian is a make-up artist, writer and occasional model. She’s also studying arts and humanities, with the goal of one day opening her own artistic centres. Reem can often be found collaborating with fellow artists in Jerusalem and the West Bank, always looking for new ways to learn and express herself. In the following poem she meditates on a peace she’s not known, but hopes for deeply.
In Jerusalem, dreams face the harsh truth of reality, but anywhere else the dreams I have are facing the harsh reality of truth.
Dreams have a way of always being awake in my country, whether it be during the uproar of the morning prayer or etched within the walls of the quarters in the Old City.
I hear it in my mother’s tender voice as she relives her school day through me while all I can comprehend is “everyone thinks these kids are a lost cause”.
I listen to dreams being sobbed to me as I walk through the battered streets of East Jerusalem with my best friend who does not share the leisure I happen to possess.
Now she is still home, carrying her dreams on her back, struggling to hold on to any resource of art and content she manages to seize.
Fortunately, my dreams found a way to slither into my father’s heart and through his voice where they remain echoing in my mind -- “Reem, we have to face the reality that I’m getting old and the only person I trust to make our dreams come true is you.”
I will never be able to count the stars but I will also never be able to count the amount of times he stood as tall as a star and inflicted upon others one of the simplest forms of happiness: laughter.
Outside of Jerusalem, my dreams slowly began to simmer to existence but I am adrift, evaporated into nothing.
The truth set in my mind as perfectly as the stones that built the old city walls: I am here and reality will continue to gouge who I am every day.
At least that is what I thought until pieces of myself I never realised were there began to flourish.
The truth is that there is nothing perfect about the stones that built the old city and there is nothing perfect about Jerusalem.
As ancient as the stones are, they still stand as high as the glistening sun shielding and captivating me into a world I overlooked.
A world of passion where pain is too often translated into anger.
A world of love laced with malice because nothing lasts forever and you might as well hurt people before they hurt you.
A world where if you search hard enough through all the routes and alleyways, you will find bliss.
Jerusalem has a grip on its residents whether you wish for it or not.
To embrace it means to immerse yourself in a sphere of acceptance because there is no other choice, unless you want misery to be the only company in sight.
The dilemma lies within those who choose to not be accepting in return.
I will not change who I am or where I come from on account of what a majority would want and I do not expect Palestinians to do so either.
I truly believe in peace and that is what I aim to broadcast to the world -- but to deny my people is to deny peace itself, period.
Photography Shukri Lawrence and Marineh Yacoubian
Make-up Reem Kawasmi and Marineh Yacoubian