Faiha Abdulhadi (Occupied Palestinian Territories)

Faiha Abdulhadi’s biography


I started to learn literature and poetry at an early age when I was first learning my alphabets. I learnt by heart a good amount of poetry verses that I used to recite with love as did my parents who made me love the Arabic language, poetry and all forms of literature.
Poetry has formed a space for freedom where I could breathe and has opened windows for my soul that could not be unlocked by the social ambience of my city, Nablus. There was no better time spent than that with our family friend, the poet Fadwa Touqan at our residence in Yasmineh. We listened with passion to her lovely poetry. The best time I had, was when someone asked me to recite some of her poetry.
At the elementary school level, I used to go with my sister Fadia and read books at the Municipality Library in Nablus. We read literature, historical literature, philosophy, etc. We read Najib Mahfuz, Yousef Elsibaie, Abdelhalim Abdallah, were introduced to history through the stories of Gurji Zeidan, and had a look at philosophy when reading Plato, Aristotle, and Alsafa Brothers’ Letters. Nablus Municipality Library had its great educational impact on us, as it was our spring of knowledge, and remained a beautiful trip to enjoy during our stay in Nablus city.
I imitated my sister in writing letters to my friend Abeda signed by Alsafa Sisters after I got across her letters to her friend Suhair with the same signature. Those letters formed the early stages of my revolt against ignoring women and marginalizing them in areas of knowledge, namely, in philosophy. I was attracted to the vagueness that contained the Alsafa Brothers’ Letters, to the philosophical questions raised such as metaphysics versus natural existence or the issue of destiny versus choice. They were known to be one of the oldest chains that communicated between Arab Islamic thought and other philosophies and religions. I was amazed by their religious openness that renounced fanaticism, and by their use of mind in what they discussed in their Letters. They declared that they do not refuse any science, ignore any book or fanaticize with any ideology, as they believe that their opinion encompasses all other thoughts and overwhelms all other sciences.
During my academic studies, I was attracted to literature and was unmoved by historical studies. I felt the difference between the human history and written history. I never liked abstract memorizing to acquire good grades, the matter that made me escape the humanities studies to the sciences at the high school level. This was not because I liked science courses, but escaping the rigid humanities material that requires rigid memorization such as history as taught by my school at the time.
Literature accompanied me all my life and was my savior and companion in difficult circumstances at school, in prison, at the university and all through the broader life.
In prison, the book that we used to borrow from the prison library was the best companion for me and my friends and prison mates. Poetry words, especially those that were musically composed, had their great role in our solidarity, exchange of secret messages and stand against torture and interrogation. I wrote poetry in prison and sent it to the late Ghassan Kanafani who published it in Alhadaf magazine as my first published poetry.
At the University, few lines of poetry written on a piece of paper saved me from joining the Faculty of Commerce, as my grades were not high enough to make me eligible to join the faculty of Arts & Literature, having spent a good time in prison before sitting for the high school exams. These lines of poetry allowed for my acceptance to the Faculty I desired at the University of Jordan.
I was dedicated to the serious literature studies only during the last University year. Moreover, I did not find a more dedicated field, as I once again, continued to pursue during my post university studies at Cairo University.
I was attracted to Literature Criticism in the areas of theatre, short story and novel. I dedicated my studies to this field and was pleased to correlate these studies with my practical experiences as I worked among Palestinian women community in Cairo.
I was thrilled when I was introduced to the Social History from women’s perspective as I found a cross point in the methodology it provides by rewriting history from women’s perspective with that of literary criticism that sets the rout indirectly for social political change when shaking for granted ideas and challenging preset models.
As I go deeper into the theory and practice of Oral History, I feel that I am stepping into the vast human world that is full of complications and fertility at the same time. Social history, in fact, forms a fertility base and an indispensable reference to literary work. It contains rich social culture including stories, narrations, songs, ballads, folk stories, proverbs, axioms, paintings, folk dancing with related songs and music. All flow deeply into the human soul to come out mixed with its innate depth.
Social history from women’s perspective correlates between the individual perspective and needs with the wider perspective of the people, the nation and its needs, a matter that provides an understanding of the areas of strength in both spheres. Social history cares to record the details, grasp the feelings of others, and not just to record an event. It depends on observation, listening, and participating with others. In addition, it concentrates on caring for the minute details and recording the hidden voice of women, in addition to redefining terminologies used by women in a trial to have a deeper reading to their ideas and feelings.
Oral history coincides with the new perspective of women as when using this methodology; women are allowed to speak on their own, for themselves expressing their views to the world. Women learn to exercise their right of expression thus learning to trust their own powers, and to gain the experience that is enforced by more usage of their simple rights.
Literature from women’s perspective cares to give esteem to women’s voices and to raise them high. It also cares to unveil the works of unknown women writers that had their works buried or ignored. Here it coincides with Social history although still different in the language. Oral history commits to the spoken language, while Literature rewrites the events in its own artistic language.
My interests crossed and coincided. I hated the one voice in all fields of knowledge, in politics, culture, criticism and innovation. I believed in multiples of voices with wide arenas, in the interlinked fields of human and scientific knowledge, a matter that made me believe deeply in democracy.
I tried to be faithful to literature in its relation with history and life and to history in its relation with humanity.
I believed in the power of the writer who beholds genuine talents to utilize humanity in his/her writings, especially when he/she is deeply involved in politics, without having political slogans overtake his/her literature. Ghassan Kanafani was the best model in my opinion to represent these ideas of how to correlate and detach literature and politics.
I explored Ghassan Kanafani the creative writer when I wrote my book “Waad El Ghad; Study in Ghassan Knafani Literature”. He wrote novels, short stories, theatre, literary articles, articles in politics, in addition to his paintings and artwork. Ghassan developed his creative tools through artistic trials; a matter that added to the Palestinian and Arab novel, and made him the symbol of harmony in human fields of knowledge.
The subject of women, however, forefronts all my writings as I explored their role in history, in literature, poetry and in life.
When I studied the stories of Palestinian heroism that exist in our culture, I found that most of them talk about the man/hero, with little reference to the woman/hero. The heroism I was looking to explore was that in the battlefields and popular resistance. However, when we dig into the roots of this trend, we find it related to the woman model that has been engraved in the minds of men and women. It does not necessarily follow logical reasons as much as it follows a number of preset cultural and ideological forms that have the power of the myth.
I explored the Palestinian feminine heroism (heroin) when writing my book “Models of woman/hero in Palestinian contemporary novel” ‘Types of Heroines in Palestinian Novel’, by studying the novels where the main moving characters were women. I also investigated Palestinian women’s current issues when writing my books “Palestinian woman and memory”, “Bibliography of Palestinian Oral history”, “The Political Role of Palestinian Women in the 1930’s”, “The Political Role of Palestinian women in the 1940’s”, “The Political Role of Palestinian Women in the 1950 until 1965″, and “The Political Role of Palestinian Women since 1965 until 1982″. With these books, I selected marginalized women, forgotten women, and women pioneers in a trial to shed some light over their historical roles as of the 1930’s.
In my creative writing published books, “Will the Two Parts Combine?” and “The Rose of the Soul”, I’ve highlighted women personalities that I have interacted with through personal contact, reading, or listening to their voices.
And then,
In spite of my awareness of the intertwinement of the different fields of human knowledge and the interconnection amongst them and in spite of my current involvement in oral history; creative writing remains the nearest to my heart.
Poetry sneaks into my writings, tickling me, I fiddle around with it, and it responds. It throws me with its arrows leaving me heavily wounded. I shiver in its presence, I am horrified. I approach and retreat / I retreat and approach / It frightens me / I am frightened for it / I approach; thorns shed my blood / I retreat; nostalgia kills me.

I loved you, I went farther
I loved you, I came closer

I read you
I feared you
I protected you

I carried you beneath my skin
Within my deep soul
You were scarce

I approached
Thorns shed my blood
I went away
Nostalgia killed me

Oh beautiful
My friend
My lover

Oh, dear poetry


Her personal website: http://www.faihaab.com/web/

This story is also available in العربية

This post is also available in Arabic.