Mona El Husseini was part of artsUNITE’s Unmute: Virtual Artist Residency in March 2021.
Do I quote myself? Very well, then, I quote myself; (I am large. I contain multitudes).
Welcome to Today. It is some time in April and it has happened before and it will happen again. The moon goes in cycles and so goes my story.
I have been reading myself for the past month. Literally, reading the journals I have filled up with thoughts, dreams and inner world happenings over the past 7 years. If I can weave a tapestry of patterns I have graced, then my work can be touched, creased and held. But that is not what I am meant to produce, as I am a native of the world of the untold, where things move in traces and memory is a shrine made of bones. I relay my interior in fleeting images that I hope to echo in affect – by the time it gets to the mind, it has perished into phosphenes. I tend to sensations first, and follow up with bones and membranes.
“Perhaps my subconscious mind is just as loud as my rational mind, but its voice is subtler and doesn’t speak in words,” I wondered in April 2018.
This process has taken me on a solipsistic journey with myself, of myself, by myself. It’s a holy trinity of grace, womanhood and blood. I have made amends with my past selves and I have grown into celebrated realizations. It’s a coming back, always, to themes of a pelvis, blood and dreams. I self-induce myself into a state of nostalgia as I flip through pages of incessant longing, summoning loved ones back to here. I use a well of dreams and surreal stories to revive my present days. I breathe life into tasks in attempts to express the fluid and the fleeting. I have been led back to the marvel of my body, and for the first time I am claiming it as my own. It is an embodied returning to the land of vast wonder. I come to an eventual encounter with the source of all that is steady and wave salute to the vessel of all in flux.
Following the advice of Joseph Campbell and remembering that it is all about trials and revelations, I adopt a practice of experimental play. I search for a stage that will vaguely portray vivid dreams. I return to my pelvis upon reading: “The pelvis as fertility, as source, rejuvenation, as coffin and cradle, death and rebirth. The pelvis as hands, hollow, held together only on the outside, up in prayer, empty to receive and to give out, to hold and nurture. The pelvis as connection and as an incubator for the solitary. Home for the hermit,” I soliloquized in April 2019. I paint repeated motifs of my pelvis in red, pink and violet hues – in revelation of the colours radiating from the cave walls of my existence. An insight made seen.
I pray for a rite of passage and embark on many a hero’s journey. To go from girl to woman is a solitary traverse but I have managed to give birth to myself and to carry the eternal child within. I rejoice at the sight of the colour red after a 3-month wait. The menstrual cycle is a duet with the moon and I wonder if occasionally they part ways. I go back to the beginning, “I hid my menstruation when it first happened, I never told anyone about it and I wasn’t ready for it. I felt shame and guilt and I kept it all to myself.”
In a dream I yell, “When you tell me to be quiet or not say this or that, you shame my existence. You deny my womanhood, but I have the blood to prove it.’ Fighting the male in my past, and less in my present, but still.” More dreams in red: “Had dreams of my Thalassemic deformed blood cells, suffering during my period.”
An accomplice of the moon, Anaïs Nin watches over me, in a timeless grand-motherly presence. She says of dreams, “They have a long life, dreams. I have dreams now which I had as a young girl. They have an odd durability for something not quite real.”
I write scribbles of wonder about the dead and the old, “What draws me to those who have lived the times I wish I had lived in? I romanticize the living past in them. I feel I can almost live lost times through their lives and their stories. In their wrinkled skin and eyes of ancient colour I connect to that which pulls me the strongest. I long for a time I wasn’t yet brought to this body, so perhaps the feeling of being an older person trapped in a younger body is a realization or an affinity with being a woman, an embodiment rather, a presence of a womb and an eventual identification with that…a ripe femininity that encompasses the mighty, the male, and the old, the wrinkled, and the wise.”
I make art as an expression of gratitude and I bow to the ones past and those that still play.
For years I have been turning to pen and paper for respite and relief, rushing to preserve joy and smearing ink with tears. I ask, I answer, I remind myself. I am met with my whimsical multitudes and I finally embrace them all. It’s a coming back, always. Here I find a center and I superimpose layers of myself in pages, “I feel that writing here centers me. Or that it is an external center of some sort. I haven’t written here in so long and that’s not a good sign. I feel fragmented and out of sorts. Out of myself. Out out out. Time to tune in. To feel and to sense. To tiptoe around the hurt and the exposed. To create. There is room here. Room for shelter and room to hide. There are vacant veins of blood. There are empty slots for the past that keeps coming up now. My heart was made for longing. Come back to myself before I scatter little bits to different people.”
Two years earlier I fill a page with one sentence: “I am here to hide. I am here to hide. I am here to hide.”
On the first day of a new year, I recalibrate myself with a consoling letter and so I end on a cyclical note. Live with the emptiness I shall. Find comfort in the void. The space of things. Walk to the frequency of disquiet and roll my eyes in reverse. Get out before it’s too late. Sever my sticky shackles to explore the undiscovered. Trust the mystery above all. Surrender to the fall, to the break, of all sorts. Approach all with healthy indifference. Express interest in subtle tones. Be efficient in your excitement. Don’t fall for the chase, for the break, but rather for the clumsy landing, for the hurt and the blue. Soar to the ancient way of things, no matter where you land, and whichever direction the sun is, it will always shine.