Let me begin by clarifying that I am not referring to New York City dearest New Yorkers. I am talking about Irbid, Jordan’s second largest city in which I have been living in for almost a year. Irbid, like other cities gets its city feel through its American restaurants (Papa John’s, Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, etc), universities, cafes, shopping mall, and traffic-filled streets. But it retains the unique Jordanian village feel via its bakeries, dukans (small convenience stores), vegetable and fruit stores, falafel and shwarma shops. Every now and then, I am surprised when I find little things that remind me of home, like bagels, real ice cream, gyms, and dance studios. Other times, I have no doubt that I, in fact, live in Jordan where things run a little differently. For one, I can’t be out on my own after 9pm. Cafes are almost exclusively reserved for men. Gyms are gender segregated: 6 or 7 exclusively for men, one for women, and another one that splits its business hours between men’s hours and women’s hours, women get 2 hours a day. Art is almost nonexistent, except for small shows at Yarmouk University like the one depicted in the photo below:
I attended this art show a few weeks ago and being a former art major that I was in college, I had a few expectations. I was thinking more of a permanent gallery space with walls that complemented the artwork, may be gave some space between pieces, etc. But no, that was not the case. The art itself was crammed into hall and pinned onto red velvet panels. There was no particular order as to where each piece belonged except for its association with an artist’s name. When you looked closer at the art you realized that there was a disconnect between the artist, media, and thereby the work. Everything felt as if it was based upon on a photo of something that was perceived or thought of as “art.” The artist’s creativity, thought, idea, imagination was not there. A little bizarre, but then again, I am in Jordan where the concept of art is different.
This, of course, contrasts to another Peace Corps volunteer’s monthly open mic nights known as “The Butterfly Effect: Irbid” that have come to provide the space and time for poets, singers, performers, and artists to expose their talents in the city. Being the supportive Peace Corps volunteer that I am, I too, have been participating. Each month, I make a few drawings/sketches that are raffled during the event in hope of spreading the appreciation of art and expression. Below is a picture of me talking about my drawing, the stance still makes me laugh:
Though I can’t say that I have been successful in convincing my art students to join us on Thursday nights, I for myself, can say that it is a bit liberating to make these drawings and be out after 9PM?!! Ha! You can only imagine how beyond excited I am for next week’s trip to London and LA–a city girl’s definitions of real city life.