The A-Word Reclaimed

How performance art can change the way Americans identify with the Arab world.

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As he took the Millennium Stage, K'Naan borrowed from his personal narrative and pain-filled childhood in war-torn Mogadishu. His performance put a human face to the cold news reports of the combat abroad—that of his murdered girlfriend, Fatima.

Damn you shooter, damn you the building

Whose walls hid the blood she was spilling

Damn you Country so good at killing

Damn you feeling, for persevering


His free show during Arabesque’s opening weekend brought in droves of listeners—many of whom shared K’Naan’s East African roots. They stood in line for nearly an hour to hear K’Naan’s raspy recollections of his old home. And while there was no pretty bow tied around his past, the Dusty Foot Philosopher was insistent on attaching a silver lining: “We're not mourning; We're celebrating.” It is a festival, after all.

The Palestinian-American poet and political activist refuses to be branded by the misperceptions of her culture. Certain things just won’t fly with her. And “exotic” is right there at the top of the list.

don’t seduce yourself with my otherness