Meet writer, musician who tour to do good

Meet writer, musician who tour to do good
They were here as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Dubai - They fled the war in their home countries and found solace in art. They created bridges to serve humanity and become better version of themselves.


Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Sat 10 Mar 2018, 8:22 PM

Last updated: Sat 10 Mar 2018, 10:32 PM

Using art for advocacy encourages using a focused lens and freezing moments to develop relationships with people in need, artists have said, on the sidelines of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
Sudanese-American poet Emtithal 'Emi' Mahmoud uses poetry and spoken word to advocate for the refugee crisis and disadvantaged communities. "Giving has become like a transaction. If you give money to a homeless person and walk away, you deprive yourself of the chance to really knowing the person and engaging in a conversation," said Mahmoud, who was named one of BBC's 100 Most Inspirational Women of 2015.
She decided to spread messages from refugee camps across the world through her spoken word after she realised that no one really knew the feeling of being displaced. Mahmoud's family had fled the war in Sudan to go to Yemen, and then to the US in 1998. 
"Poetry allows you to see the needy as people. It helps you turn 'giving' into something more vocal between people who might not have anything in common." Her first book, Sisters' Entrance, is a collection of 49 poems that will be published in early 2018.
Graduating from Yale University with a degree in anthropology and molecular cellular developmental biology, Mahmoud is known for her work with the UN, White House and visits to different refugee camps around the world. 
She joined the 'How to do good' tour in January 2017 that recorded good causes of humanitarians globally and performed to standing ovations in Oslo, Stockholm, The Hague, Brussels, Paris, London and New York.
For years, she had a constant feeling of being lost and not knowing where home is. By expressing stories through the spoken word, she wants to make sure people don't have to live the way she lived. "I can't get the feeling of home back in me, even after visiting Sudan at the age of 7; but maybe it isn't too late for other people."
Last week, she walked 100,000km in 30 days to raise awareness on people internally displaced in Darfur and to spread the message of peace. "I can't make all dreams come true nor fulfil all peace plans, but what I can do is give voice to it."
She urged the youth to push back the silence and make it through the hard times. "Young women should never forget that the rights they have today are an effort of millions of women who fought for such rights," she said. "On the days where the going gets tough, remember the women who did this for us and realise there are other girls we are doing it for," said Mahmoud. 

The violin saved her life

Violinist Mariela Shaker, 27, lived the horrors of the Syrian civil war. Her house in Aleppo got bombed several times, causing the death of her relatives and family members. 
In 2013, she received a music scholarship in Monmouth College and that was her ticket out to the US. After a 17-hour risky bus ride to Beirut and then a flight to the US, Shaker made it her mission to use the violin to build bridges and raise awareness of the plight of Syrian people. 
"Music is a powerful tool to spread peace and I hope it inspires people for a change. I hope it helps them connect together on a common ground. 
"In war, I played music as my way to forget the war and express my pain and sorrow. Music is my bridge to a whole new world."
After dedicating herself to studying music despite limited resources and poor English, Shaker was granted asylum in the US and received another scholarship for pursuing her Master's in Music Performance at the DePaul University. In 2015, she was honoured as the champion of change in the White House.
She said her hard work was driven by proving that Syrians can be successful if given the opportunity. "I hope we stop viewing refugees as a burden and include them instead of excluding them. If given the chance to live, they can do wonders to themselves and others around them." 
Shaker plans to continue her musical journey to promote "peace over hate and heal people's pain."
She took part in the New York City edition of the 'How to do Good Speaker' tour, held at the Lincoln Centre in May 2017, and received a standing ovation for her moving violin recital and talk about Syria.

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