I have a guest writer on the blog today. I first met Maha Moussa 10 years ago while I was working for the British Council in Cairo. Maha was interested in learning English, and was a wonderful hostess to me, taking me around the markets and secret places of Cairo, walking along the Corniche, teaching me about Egyptian food and taking me to cultural events, including Sufi dancing. It was a wonderful time.
When I moved back to the UK, we lost touch, until one day she popped up on facebook and said “hello”. Maha has lately been studying English again, and she sent me an essay that she wrote for her teacher. I was impressed by it, not just because of the competency of the English, but because Maha engages with her subject with a great deal of honesty, joy and optimism. It is the second essay she has written on the course. Before now, Maha was all self-taught – writing to friends in the West, and meeting Westerners in the markets. I think it is impressive for that feat alone – but above and beyond that, she raises some really wholesome points and some great, uplifting descriptions. It is very different from the way that I write – and I hope you enjoy the change!
Arts and Their Impact on Human Relations – by Maha Moussa
Music, Singing, Dancing, Drawing, Poetry, Movies, and Plays, each of them is an important aspect of the culture of different countries and their civilizations. As such, they help us to form our ideas of life with many different perspectives.
There is no need to learn to be an artist, or even to study The Arts in order to feel the beauty which we see in the painting of the great works of Leonardo Da Vinci, or in the painting of an unknown person who lives in a slum area in India, for example. Napoleon Bonaparte said: “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and yes, this is true . There is also no need to speak several languages to be able to enjoy the wonderful music and songs that we listen to in different languages. All we need is to learn how to feel, to see, and to listen to these inspiring arts, by using our senses, our hearts, our minds and our consciousnesses. We can follow our desires to become acquainted with other people’s cultures and deal with them on a human level through their arts. That is all that we need to appreciate art.
One of the most famous quotes by Victor Hugo is: “Change your opinion, keep to your principles, change your leaves, keep intact your roots”. Thus, to be proud of our roots, our civilization, and our culture’s artistic heritage is something truly good and healthy. This sense of pride should help us to have a deep sense of understanding and respect for the cultures and arts of other countries, too. It gives us a wonderful chance to know more about the arts that contribute in some way to shaping the hearts and minds of other people, and affects our ways of dealing with each other in life. The fact is that, the global exchange of arts between countries, such as music, singing, dancing, drawing etc., provides opportunities for humanity to open the door of knowledge, to help people to add richness to their values, their dreams, and their ambitions to create a smooth path to communicate with other wonderful people around the world, and accept their differences. In this way, we learn to accommodate others in a way that is less severe or intolerant, regardless of their beliefs, their customs, their religions, their nationalities, or even their lifestyle. This shared gateway frees us to meet each other naturally and respectfully with more flexibility, respect, and tolerance.
Someone once said about music: “Music expresses feeling and thoughts without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.” So, if anyone has the opportunity to watch or to listen to any of the various music performances that come to Egypt from different countries such as: Korea, America, Zambia, France, Ireland, Pakistan, or India, etc., I think that the most useful way to be able to enjoy and feel this music is to let your soul go free and clear your mind, as if you are traveling to those wonderful countries and attending these performances by yourself. This is my advice from personal experience.
A few months ago, in the last Month of Ramadan, I was attending one of the greatest and most talented performances that I have ever seen in my life, along with one of my foreign friends, who was working in Cairo at the time. This wonderful show was one of religious music. It was the international annual festival of “Samaa for sufi music and chanting“. It was a new cultural event that started 2 years ago. It is held annually during Ramadan, in one of Cairo’s oldest and most iconic Islamic buildings, El Ghoury Dome, or Qobat Al-Ghoury. The event I attended this year at the festival had bands from many countries, such as: India, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, while the core band had members from Egypt, Indonesia, and Akabila. This wonderful performance was a mixture of Islamic religious chanting, Coptic hymns, and Opera songs, at the same time. All of these bands were glorifying God, and His messengers Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, but with many languages and in various musical styles. They provided to the world through their music ”a message of peace“, to explain that God created us equal. Regardless of the religions or the beliefs we follow, we all are humans. When my friend and I were listening to them, we felt as if the amazing music and sounds came to us from heaven. All we could do was just enjoy the Islamic Sufi chanting and the Coptic Hymns and we felt that there was no difference between them. When the whole group said the same words together, such as; Allah, God, Mohammed, and Jesus, we became surprised at how they felt the pleasure and the power of their words, and how they transferred that feeling to us, even with our inability to understand most of the languages in which they were performed. We had no choice but to respond to their music and their songs. Really we felt as if we had already traveled to each country.
In my opinion, there is no specific way to enjoy the different kinds of arts; every person has the absolute freedom to see, to listen, and to taste the art in the manner that suits him or her. Art and freedom are two sides of one coin. Thus, our freedom creates a sense of love, care, tolerance, and respect between peoples. So let us know and learn more about each other from our arts and our cultures. They translate many great and deep meanings in life into one common language we can all understand. Art provides us with convincing answers to many questions that we have in our minds about others, and the answer always is this: that we are all human, just human.