interviews

Interview – Mohamad Kebbewar

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Aleppo to a science/business family but neither of those things appealed to me. I always found myself in the arts. In my young adult age I walked around the old city in Aleppo and admire the majestic peace and history of the Omayad mosque, the souk (market), and the mosques that were built in different eras or centuries that many of them are destroyed now. Inspired by the architecture I started to learn Arabic Caligraphy which began my love and appreciation for the arts.

When you create, what inspires you?

I started writing in 2014 few years after the war began in Syria. I found it cathartic and heartbreaking at the same time to mourn and cerebrate the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world: Aleppo. I want to leave a record of our inhumanity and all the countries that are part of this global conflict. Intellectually speaking my first inspirations were Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwich. Their depiction of the Palestinian conflict struck a cord in me. Later on I became interested in Greek philosophy and T.S. Eliot. George Orwell and Franz Kafka were a very important influence in the writing process of my first novel.

Tell us about the specific inspiration behind your accepted piece.

Watching the news on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and reading the figures of death and destruction I thought that at the centre of this conflict is the city of Jerusalem, and thus the poem was a good way to channel my frustration.

What is your medium of choice? Why?

I write poetry and fiction. I write poetry because it is a sort of meditation on language. It is not always logical so I like the depth and chaos in it, I always try to guess what a poet meant by a certain word, phrase, or poem. Fiction is more orderly, it is rooted in storytelling tradition, it has to make sense and tell a story. Arabic poetry has a long and old history that goes back to pre-Islamic Arabia with the Hanged Poems of Mecca where poets competed and the winning poem was hanged on AlKa’ba The cube where the grand pilgrimage take place. Fiction is a European form and it’s a great medium to tell detailed stories and enter the reader into that world. Both medium are part of my identity, I am Syrian-Canadian.

How did you first discover your love for creating?

After attending a spoken words events in Calgary, AB where I discovered the magic of creating and performing poetry I decided to start writing poetry. I wrote my first poem on Canada Day 2014, listening to the sound of fireworks was mesmerizing and disturbing because it reminded me of a bombing campaign in Aleppo 2012 on a Ramadan day right before breaking the fast. I decided then that I had to write something.

fēlan is old English for feel. What makes you feel anger?

Injustice and ignorance make me angry. It makes me angry that the Palestinians have to pay with their blood and land for a crime the Germans committed. It angers me to see the war in Syria rips

the country into pieces, the destruction of ancient history, the destruction of society, knowing that there were no seed of conflict in Aleppo when I was there in 2009-2012. Somebody from the outside decided to start a war in Syria. This conflict is all about money and all the weapons producing countries are part of it. What the hell happened? I’m trying to answer that in my writing everyday of the year.

***

The alphabet is the most dangerous substance in human history.

mohamad.kebbewar@gmail.com


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