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NDCWales Presents

Plethu/Weave: Ble Mae Bilaadi?

Short Poetry Dance Film

Ble Mae Bilaadi? by poet Hanan Issa and Aisha Naamani has been inspired by their own mixed heritage connections and disconnection with Wales. Ble Mae Bilaadi? captures the juxtapositions between being a female, mixed race White / Arab living in Wales.  

Poet: Hanan Issa

Choreographer and Dancer: Aisha Naamani

Filmed by: Joshua Attwood

Film Consultant: Jonathan Dunn

Aisha headshot

Aisha Naamani
Before training at London Contemporary Dance School, Aisha grew up in South Wales and was an associate of National Dance Company Wales from 2012-2015. Since moving to London, she has performed works by Richard Alston, Wayne Parsons (Rafael Bonachela), James Cousins and Hofesh Shechter amongst others. Aisha has had some of her own choreographic works shown at The Place and was a scholar of the Peggy Hawkins Scholarship Fund. Aisha joined NDCWales as an apprentice dancer in summer 2018, performing works by Matteo Marfoglia, Mario Bermudez-Gil and Caroline Finn before becoming a company dancer the following year.

Headshot Hanan

Hanan Issa
Hanan Issa is a Welsh-Iraqi poet and writer. She has been featured on both ITV Wales and BBC Radio Wales and worked in partnership with National Museum Wales, Artes Mundi, Warwick University, Swansea Fringe, StAnza festival, Wales Arts International and Seren Books. Her work has been published in Banat Collective, Hedgehog Press, Wales Arts Review, Sukoon mag, 4 Journal, Poetry Wales, Parthian, Y Stamp, sister-hood magazine and MuslimGirl.com. Her winning monologue was featured at Bush Theatre’s Hijabi Monologues. She is the co-founder of Wales’ first BAME open mic series ‘Where I’m Coming From’. She was a 2018-2019 Hay Festival Writer at Work. Her debut poetry pamphlet My Body Can House Two Hearts was published by BurningEye Books in October 2019.

“What was interesting about this project is that we could both relate on the grounds that both countries where we have our mixed heritage from, Hanan - Iraq and myself - Lebanon, have political climates that do not allow us to freely go and spend time there as much as we long to. These parts of us can become conflicted, as however much we want to go to these places, there never seems to be an appropriate time, and even if we do go, it is tense and fast paced due to the conflict and chaos that lives within its history. 

Hanan has done a beautiful job of cultivating such a powerful poem; she captures the essence of feeling as though we belong here, but also long for somewhere else which is very different, and was not fully understood whilst growing up and perhaps something that we do not always understand for ourselves.” 

Aisha Naamani  

Ble Mae Bilaadi?
 

When my Khala speaks, a metallic voice on the phone,
I want to respond ‘زين الحمد الله’

 

but I have swallowed too many dandelion seeds.
I cough up a cardamom.
What’s the word for cardamom in Arabic?
I can’t remember.

 

Guilty I reply into a tin can:

 

‘I’m fine aunty’,
and watch the miles of quivering string disappear into crackling darkness.
That night I remember: It’s هیل
The ‘H’ a sweet exhale.
 

The string knots inside my chest.
and it feels dangerous,
like I’m holding too much:

 

Like a world pretending to be a city

 

and so I run. My feet on Cardiff concrete,
pounding footprints melting myself into the memory of here.
But the string in my chest never ceases its song:
about a land abandoned - her beauty braided into my bones.

‘Ya Bilaadi’ sings the string.

 

I always stop running in the same place.

 

She is there when I look out to sea.
Eternal as the cedar tree,
She strides the horizon towards me.

 

The string, rooted in my chest,
handcuffs around her wrists.

 

I am sorry to see her bound,
to see how my longing leaves
angry memories on her skin.

 

But wallahi I hope it never tears