fadl fakhouri

Fadl Fakhouri, 1st generation Palestinian-American

Interviewed by Asma Barakat and Shanaz Deen in New York City, 07/28/22

Transcribed by Asma Barakat, 08/02/22

(00:00) Asma Barakat: This is Asma Barakat interviewing Fadl Fakhouri in New York City on July 28, 2022. So Fadl, can we start with you just telling me about where you’re from and where you were born?

(00:12) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah. Well, also, thanks for having me. I always love these sorts of projects and especially the emphasis on oral history as a way of maintaining records. And yeah, so glad to be here. Yeah, where I’m from where I was born. All of that I was born in San Francisco, California. I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in a small suburban farm town not too far away from San Francisco. And I spent most of well, not most, but maybe every few years in the summer, I would go to Palestine. Yeah, I feel like I can ramble on forever. So let me know if I should. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, my family is in Khalil, both parents are from Khalil. And that’s pretty much where like, 99% of my family is, including my sister and my mother right now. And my father’s kind of like, retiring there and whatnot. But yeah, pretty much everyone is there. Yeah.

(01:19) Asma Barakat: Very cool. How does it make you feel with them kind of being there, and you here, any homesickness or anything?

(01:30) Fadl Fakhouri: I think, because of my age, I’m 25. And I feel that that’s an important age for being separate from your family and kind of practicing who you are, in addition to finding who you are. So I actually prefer the distance at this point in my life. And yeah, I’m also building my own relationship with Palestine. So I don’t trap myself in this sort of family lens, or sort of a very framed view of Palestine. I’ve been trying to go out of where my family is and meet more people and make my own friendships. And yeah, just beyond uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and whatnot. Yeah.

(02:21) Asma Barakat: Very cool. Hopefully, we can get into that.

(02:23) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah.

(02:27) Asma Barakat: What traditions or kind of cultural practices do you have if any? And if you get them kind of from your family, or which new ones are you making for yourself now and why?

(02:39) Fadl Fakhouri: I think that I’m definitely informed by my upbringing. And I’ve been realizing this so much that you can disagree or agree and cherry-pick what you choose to self-identify with. But you can’t really change how you were raised and what you were influenced by. But I mean, I was raised Muslim. I’m not religious. I haven’t really been religious since I was 16. But I have been learning the difference between culture, religion, spirituality, politics, and just what people believe. And yeah, I don’t know if I fully answered that.

(02:45) Asma Barakat: Yeah, anything you say is totally fine. Do you want to get into maybe the story of your family’s migration here since they are back in Palestine right now, kind of how that works?

(03:44) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, I feel like it’s not a story you usually hear for especially Palestinian American narratives. I feel that there’s so many people that were born and raised here that are disconnected from Palestine and don’t have a lot of access to the homeland and I grew up very much in contact with my family back there and also being persistently reminded that I am Palestinian. So I really grew up with a strong sense of being Palestinian and not to have this be lost. Whatever definition of being Palestinian that means. And, yeah.

(04:37) Asma Barakat: Awesome, yeah that’s very cool. Since you do have family that live there still and you do have that attachment to Palestine, I think it’ll be very interesting to kind of ask the question, we have a question that says, what this home mean to you? So do you have somewhere specific you would call home?

(05:00) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, it’s also very interesting because I mean right now. So for context for listeners, we’re sitting in Chashama Gallery at 1285 Second Ave, in New York, and at our Columbia MFA summer show that we organized by the students. And actually, my work in the show is titled ‘Home’. And for that work, it is a house key in a mouse trap that is set. So if you touch the mousetrap, it’ll go off. And then right in front of the mousetrap is an outline of a door and door knob and peephole. So you’re outside of the door of the home. And so, I mean, with this work, specifically, it’s about inaccessibility to a home and even the taunting and violence of trying to access whatever home is, and it’s an imaginary or it’s something that can’t actually be reached. But this is more so in the literal sense of home, or the more traditional, less individualistic idea of home. I think, for me that home is wherever I feel most comfortable, and I can be myself. And I also tell people that home is where the good food is. But it just depends what sort of nourishing you’re trying to get. So that’s home for me.

(06:36) Asma Barakat: You know, I think maybe all of the interviews that we have, feeling comfortable and food comes up in every single one.

(06:42) Fadl Fakhouri: We have good food.

(06:43) Asma Barakat: We do. Does Palestine in any way kind of influence or affect your art? And if it does, could you maybe explain?

(06:55) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, Palestine definitely has impacted my art my way of thinking, I have stepped away from more quote, unquote, political ways of working. I mean, it’s still very political, but it’s just not with the imagery and symbols and all of that, that one would think of when thinking of political work. But Palestine has definitely informed me in terms of, you know, from day one, as soon as I knew I was Palestinian, that lies are very prevalent in the world, and things are mislabeled as well, is another thing. So, you know, my Palestine was called Israel. And so I noticed that whatever title or label you put on something doesn’t mean that it is actually that and a lot of the times that is a tool for hiding a lot of mistruth. Yeah. And also just thinking about borders. I think borders have definitely come up in my work, both in terms of borders of the states, borders of identity, and interpersonal boundaries as well. Yeah. And since it is scattered in terms of diaspora and mainland or homeland, I’m also thinking about positionality a lot. Yeah. And it’s just and it’s not just Palestine that is influencing that, but other identities as well and experiences.

(08:35) Asma Barakat: That is a very nice answer. If I remember, you did say that you grew up Muslim.

(08:43) Fadl Fakhouri:  Yeah.

(08:46) Asma Barakat: So was your family, religious growing up? Kind of talk to me about?

(08:50) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah. Yeah, I think this also ties to imagery, slash labels, or just face value again. Because when I was younger, I used to think like, oh, my, for example, my mother and my sister don’t wear the hijab in the US. So I guess we’re not that religious, or that conservative or whatever. But then you know, you get older, you get wiser. And then you see that that’s not exactly the case at all. And I feel that if you do think that hijab equals conservative, or hijab equals XYZ, then you are not correct at all. But yeah, I kind of like don’t know how to even answer it because I do believe that my family is conservative, but then they also negotiate and compromise with their environment. So I mean, for example, like my father runs a liquor store in San Francisco, but then he went to, and it’s a very Palestinian thing to do in San Francisco. And I mean, he went to a Sheikh to get a fatwa beforehand, like just a blessing that this is okay. And blah, blah, blah, blah and all of that. But yeah, what was I saying? I keep losing my track of I keep going on tangents and whatnot. Oh, yeah. My family and religiosity. Yeah, so I mean, they’re definitely religious. But it’s, again, a difference between religiosity and conservatism. Yeah, they yeah, they do the whole thing. Yeah. And I think the older that they get, they go more into religion, which is very common. Yeah.

(10:39) Asma Barakat: What about your own personal relationship with religion? Do you have one or spirituality practices?

(10:46) Fadl Fakhouri: I think, for me, my relationship with religion is it’s, I mean, it’s been since probably 16 since I started questioning it. And it’s actually really funny, because the way that I started questioning how I was raised, and what the rules are, and what’s haram, and what’s halal, and what’s makruh, and all of this. Actually, I had a really huge crush on this girl. And I was, why can’t I date her, datings haram. And again, this isn’t the religion or whatever, but, what people will mask as religion. And so then that was sort of my point eight or starting points and initiative for questioning more. And then it’s kind of just been a journey since then. And trying to separate and distinguish between religion and tradition, culture, and how people will use those things as scapegoats for their own personal views, which I feel can be very problematic and disrespectful towards the aforementioned things.

(12:04) Asma Barakat: That makes a lot of sense. I think that’s very common.

(12:07) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah.

(12:08) Asma Barakat: For a lot of us. So would you say your understanding of kind of your faith has changed since, in the ways that it influenced your childhood? And maybe now your beliefs?

(12:18) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, I think that I mean, I was raised very much being pushed in a certain direction. And this is very common for Palestinian Americans, just like Palestinians in the diaspora, where, since religion is a form of culture, then the families or the parents that emigrate, try to really take and push more than they would if they were in Palestine, which is why I feel like a lot of Palestinians in Palestine tend to be more chilled than abroad. Because, yeah, we’re raised pretty strict out here, because that’s a form of culture, and we don’t want to lose the culture and whatnot, but yeah.

(13:07) Asma Barakat: Yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot. It’s kind of like trying to make up for something, maybe.

(13:12) Fadl Fakhouri: Right.

(13:13) Asma Barakat: Something, they feel something is lacking.

(13:15) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah. I mean, I feel that I am at a really good place in terms of my relationship to faith. And I mean, just personally, I believe that there is a higher power, but I don’t think it’s that simple. I think of it more as, I guess, physics. But beyond that, because it’s kind of like gravity, but a sense of gravity that we can’t grasp as easily is kind of how I feel. It’s like, these things are here. We’re all here. But doesn’t have to be explained. And we don’t have to make sense. But just be a good person. Don’t hurt anybody. Don’t judge anybody. Yeah.

(13:57) Asma Barakat: Definitely. In the ways that your kind of faith or spirituality beliefs have changed, have they ever kind of, informed you about what has happened in Palestine and what continues to happen in Palestine and still inform you about those things now?

(14:22) Fadl Fakhouri: In terms of, sorry, my relationship or view of faith and how I view what is going on in Palestine?

(14:31) Asma Barakat: Kind of how maybe your faith or your spiritual beliefs helps you kind of understand liberation or resistance or freedom, struggle?

(14:42) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, I think that it’s, it’s almost the opposite in a way because it’s been a tool for I mean, Judaism has been used as a tool and in a very violent way that’s not true to their religion to take something that is not theirs, yeah. And because it’s like Zionism does not equal Judaism. And so, I mean, that’s kind of how I’ve been informed. Yeah, my relationship with faith. And how it can be misconstrued and misrepresented is basically what is informing my view of what is happening, and has been happening. But yeah, yeah, it’s just like a starting point of religion to carry something out and make it less tangible. Because then your own, you’re like arguing with God at that point. So then it becomes an argument that can’t really go anywhere, because we can’t get to God. Yeah.

(15:48) Asma Barakat: Yes, I really liked what you said.

(15:52) Fadl Fakhouri: Thank you.

(15:55) Asma Barakat: So I guess we can kind of talk about since you and your family may differ on some beliefs now about religion, or maybe spiritual practices and beliefs. Do you think that has kind of changed your relationship with Palestine, like from other generations in your family?

(16:25) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah. It’s kind of a trauma response, to be honest because at times, it can be confusing to tell what is Palestinian, and what is religion? And what is culture and what’s tradition? And then it’s like, oh, but there are people who are Palestinian that think just like me, it’s not just yeah, Palestine has been misrepresented as something that it is not. And we have to make sure that we remember that and remember that if there’s someone like me, then there’s more people like me, and I do meet a lot of cool Palestinians. I do meet so many cool Palestinians. It’s just in terms of what spaces I go into, and we all find each other. But yeah, I’m definitely not. You’re not going to find me in the more traditional spaces, I guess. Yeah. So yeah, I don’t know. I think also, my last trip to Palestine really helped me because it made me build my own relationship with Palestine. So I wasn’t just in Khalil, which is known to be more conservative, I legally crossed the border and into thamania wa’ aribeen, ’48. And I met up with a lot of cool artists, Palestinian artists. And anti-Zionist Jews who are living there. And yeah, I got to have my own experiences there. And that made it much more real.

(18:08) Asma Barakat: That’s awesome. If you’re comfortable. Could you talk about maybe the last time you visited Palestine a little bit more if you have anything else to say?

(18:15) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, it was such an eye-opening experience. And I really have been realizing in the last few years, how sheltered I was. And it’s like, damn, there’s so much that I haven’t seen and it’s not just parents or family. It’s also the genocidal state of Israel that is sheltering us from what is real. It was I had a lot of mixed feelings because I had to first off I had to go onto this. Well, I don’t know if I should say all of this, I guess I’ll probably keep some information out in terms of legalities and whatnot. Yeah, maybe we could bleep out the part where I said I illegally smuggled myself, I entered the country in ways that the state would not approve of. Except, well, I will say this though, I went the same route as Palestinian construction workers will go for work and Israel knows this because Israel exploits Palestinians as Palestinian workers working in Israel or whatever that is for cheap labor because they don’t have like the cards or whatever permits. I mean, this happened with my father as well. And that’s a big reason of why he moved here because yeah, I’ll just dive into this real quick. He was the food and beverage manager of a five-star hotel in I want to say Tel Aviv Yeah, it was Tel Aviv and yeah, he got to the top of this hotel or whatever, and one day, and he didn’t have a permit, and one day, he was just arrested and he was like, “You know what, no matter How high I get in terms of class or whatever I’m still or respected, or social capital, I will still be treated as Palestinian.” So that led him to immigrate to the States via refugee status. And, yeah, where was I going? Yeah, my last trip to Palestine. Yeah, I had a lot of mixed feelings because I started off in Tel Aviv/Yaffa. And it was just, I don’t know, privilege is something that I think about a lot and in terms of informing positionality. So it’s just, “Oh, am I supposed to be here?” But, I’m curious. And I don’t think it’s necessarily me, or the individual that should be blamed for the privilege that they have. But we should more so focus on the conditions that provide this, why do people have more privilege than others? And try not to hate each other? Because it’s not my fault that I had the opportunity to sneak into there? And, yeah, I mean, I wasn’t going to see Tel Aviv, either I was going to meet my friends and whatnot, and most of them live in Haifa. Or Al Quds, but yeah, as soon as I got to Tel Aviv, so this is also another layer to because a lot of Palestinian Americans don’t have access to Palestine, which I have the privilege of having and having dual citizenship as well. But, no one who’s a Palestinian American pretty much, unless they only have the US passports or whatnot. But even then, Israel still denies, no one is going into to thamania wa’ aribeen, or ’48. Because yeah, just like no one’s doing that. So it was really weird to be in Tel Aviv, and I had some sort of eerie sense. I was also anxious, because I was like, they’re gonna find me, they’re gonna catch me, I’m gonna get in so much trouble, all of this, which I didn’t get in trouble. And I understood the quote-unquote, other side or whatever. This liberal progressive Israeli side, this Zionist side, I understood it because I was like, I was in this bubble. And I saw the bubble. And to be honest, Tel Aviv is cute, which really troubled me, you know, it’s like oh, I can understand why they don’t know. Because Israel does such a good job at hiding this information from them. So of course, they don’t view the state as a bad thing. They’re living in this very cute, liberal, sheltered, isolated bubble. And that just was a lot for me to handle. But it was just like, I really do get it. And I understand, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right. Of course, it just means that I know, damn this is they really do hide this information from them. Yeah, it’s just so cute and privileged. I think Tel Aviv means like little hill or spring hill or something like that. Even the name is just like ‘spring hill community’ or whatever, you know. So it’s just like, Yeah, but then I went to Haifa and Al Quds. I liked Haifa more, but it’s very coexist-y. I think it’s like 70%. Israeli, or whatever words they use, and then 30% Palestinian, with Israeli citizenship. So they so called get along, on a day-to-day basis. But then when things really go down, that’s when you tell who you can tell who really has the power and the power dynamics that are prevalent that are just hidden away. Yeah. And then I went to Al Quds right, that’s the last thing. And then after that, I came back to Khalil. And when I was there, I mean, it’s interesting. Not because it’s something that I didn’t know, but I was wearing something that was pretty visibly queer. I mean, it was just orange pants and black tank top. And then it’s the people who did harass me, weren’t Palestinians, the people that were harassing me were Jewish settlers. And so yeah, I think that’s important information to have out there is that Palestinians will get thrown into this box of being homophobic, transphobic, XYZ phobic, but then it’s like, they’re not really, I mean, there is obviously that that’s prevalent, but it is also interesting to know that, hey, the other side is that. The world, even we’re here in New York and it’s like, hate crimes are here too, you know? Yeah.

(25:06) Asma Barakat: Very true. And one thing I would love to say is propaganda is definitely one of the strongest drugs in our world. So it makes sense as to why people living in ’48 wouldn’t be aware. I don’t know how comfortable you are talking about being queer and openly talking about that. If you do, has that even influenced, maybe your positionality on Palestine or even about faith?

(25:39) Fadl Fakhouri: Well, I’ve done a lot of research, not just books, of course, but lived experience as well. And I know about the construction of sexuality, I know about the construction of gender. And there’s different ways of dealing with it. And there’s a lot of semantics involved in terms of, oh, queer people have always been around. It’s just, I mean, there’s different labels, and whatever. This conversation has been around for a while. And, yeah, I just, I don’t know. Its kind of like, my priority is the real world, not the theory. And yeah, I mean, even though it plays an important role, but it’s just, I want to focus more so on the violence and the influence, which obviously can happen from theory, and more theory should be influenced by the real world, but unfortunately, that’s not the case, because it’s very Ivory Tower, isolated, privileged and similar to Tel Aviv in a way, you know, in a bubble, so they’re not actually seeing, and it’s, oh, now we can get why these scholars are writing the way that they are writing and, but yeah, I mean, it’s important to distinguish the two. Yeah, what I can say is, I don’t know, I’m happy, and I found my own tactic and negotiation of, and compromises of dealing with that. But I’m in a very, I mean, you caught me in a really good place, I guess, with it. With my queer identity, just because I don’t know. I’m like living my life now. And, I mean, a few years ago, I was outed, and then I went back into the closet, because I was like, I mean, I don’t really to identify too much as anything, but I was like, Oh, I’m just like, bisexual, and then I just kind of took it back. And then I went back into the closet, and oh, no, it was this whole thing. And then recently, I was kind of re-outed, I guess. And then you caught me in a good time, because that was maybe like, three or four weeks ago. When was it? It was pretty much like exactly a month and some change ago. But I’ve pretty much dealt with a lot of it. And it was good for me to be fully out. I wouldn’t say it was out because I didn’t say anything myself. I’m just going to do me and everyone can watch this show. And that’s a political move to because I don’t like to really identify or anything like that too much. Rather, it’s like I get identified and a lot of identities. I think most identities derive from oppression and needing to identify a target that you can, therefore, extract and exploit and be violent towards. So yeah, but now I’m just in a good time, where it’s like these words don’t, for me, personally, don’t do much for me. And even when it comes to, for me personally, like pronouns, I’m chill with anything. Obviously, I’m going to respect other people’s pronouns. But for me personally, I don’t know, I sometimes also like to play with it, because it’s like, oh, this is what he can look like, this is what they can look like, you know, and this is changing what he looks like. And I don’t know, it’s just for me, I’m just having fun with it at this point. And there’s some privilege in that too. And yeah, it took so much fucking work to get here. Yeah, there’s people like find trust and love in community. I’ve talked to so many people about this. And it’s like, damn, I really was not alone. I thought that I was that my family was worse than a lot of families. But no, pretty much everyone even if they are now accepted by their family has gone through the same bullshit and that gives me a lot of hope and I have a lot of chosen family and yeah, it’s nice to now feel unified because I don’t feel like I’m living a dual life or anything like that. So that’s why I say everyone can watch the show because there’s only one program now. Yeah.

(30:14) Asma Barakat: That makes me happy for you. What you were saying about identity is very interesting. And I’m curious about how would I phrase this. The identity of being Palestinian in America kind of, how do you process that?

(30:41) Fadl Fakhouri: Oh, yeah. No, that’s interesting to think about, especially for me, my most recent experiences. I went to Mexico City, and then it was interesting to feel more American there. I mean, my Spanish is intermediate and whatever. Because I tried to actually involve myself in the community. And yeah, but it was interesting to feel American there, like really American there. But then in New York, I feel pretty Palestinian. Especially if I’m wearing my keffiyeh. And then, yeah, I guess it kind of it depends on where Palestine is a conversation, I think. And I mean, it’s a conversation everywhere. But there’s definitely places where it’s more relevant, like New York, where every other person has an Israeli passport pretty much. I mean, not actually. But that’s an exaggeration. It feels like it. But yeah, I think that being Palestinian in America, in the US. It depends where you are. I guess I wouldn’t want to answer just as the US but globally, how that changes and how I’ve seen that change. It’s just interesting. I also use that to create my own definition of being Palestinian, which doesn’t rely on tradition. And it’s just like, Yeah, I’m Palestinian. And this is my Palestinian narrative, no one can take that from me. Even if I didn’t speak Arabic, I wouldn’t view myself as less Palestinian. And in fact, anyone who does judge other people for that is very mean, and rude. Because like, it’s hard to learn Arabic out here. I had the privilege of going to Palestine many times and taking classes there too, or the privilege of attending university and also taking classes and then learning my fosha. And also having people to talk to in Arabic. So it’s just connections and privilege and whatnot. And I’m very aware of that. And anyone who doesn’t recognize that is fucked up.

(32:59) Asma Barakat: No, yeah. I agree with you.

(33:01) Fadl Fakhouri:  I don’t know if I’m allowed to curse on this.

(33:03) Asma Barakat: You can say anything that you want. But yes, I’ve also come across things like that just amongst my family in America, how we’re all very different and where we are with our Arabic. So it’s interesting to think about, and it is very true, what you said how being Palestinian does depend on even where you are and the conversations you’re having.

(33:24) Fadl Fakhouri: Even just within historical Palestine too, you know, it’s crazy to think about class also within that because there’s I was in Rawabi, this new, there’s like an article that called it the Silicon Valley of Palestine, which it doesn’t feel like Silicon Valley at all, but it’s just very wealthy. And there’s a lot of shops there. And it’s just very wealthy. And then I looked at my maps, and I saw that I was less than 50 miles away from Gaza. And it’s just, yeah, things, mobility. A border is a border, it doesn’t matter how big it is, in terms of distance or any of that you can have a border, that’s paper thin, you know.

(34:14) Asma Barakat: That’s very true. This is a loaded question. I feel like this next one. Okay. So, being in the US, how do you survive or cope? Considering that this country, not only is Israel’s biggest ally but, also the fact that it is largely responsible for several imperialist projects around the world?

(34:42) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah. Right. I mean Yeah. How do I answer this? It’s kind of impossible in a way to answer that it can’t be that concise. I feel it’s so much because it’s like Palestinians come here as well, those who can come here. And I don’t know I think it’s just think it’s important again to not blame the individual and take out our frustrations on individuals, we shouldn’t do that. We should more so take it out on the bad guys. It’s just like we living here means that I’m on a foundation, not just that is anti-Palestine, but it’s also anti-indigenous to Native Americans and whatnot. And there’s a lot of anti that we have to, it’s just a big question. It’s a big thing. There’s a lot of badness. But there’s nowhere in the world that isn’t bad. Also, I don’t know I don’t that feels like a deflection. I don’t know, you have to, if for example, if you are a gentrifier or whatnot, give some of that money to the community and actually engage yourself in the community. And yeah, if you can’t take away the bad, then try to put some good out there is what I would say. Yeah. Because I can’t really stop the US from funding Israel $3.8 billion a year. I’ll try. I’ll tell people that Israel is bad. But yeah, it sucks. But it’s not all bad. Can’t hate yourself too much. That’s what they want you to do too, anyways.

(34:57) Asma Barakat: That’s true. You will try and fail.

(37:09) Fadl Fakhouri: There’s a Yeah, but there is a lot of guilt, not just in relation to Palestine, but just being an American in general. And also, Americans are annoying and don’t know a lot. Yeah, this country sucks at education. And it’s another bubble. Yeah. Y’all don’t know a lot. Y’all being me. I mean, I feel like I know a good amount. But there’s like, I’ve seen how much I don’t know, is the most important thing. Yeah, just being able to go to different places and talking to different people and all of that. Yeah.

(37:49) Asma Barakat: So a question that came up, was when you were talking about Rawabi and kind of how you were fairly close to Gaza? Can you unpack a bit more about like borders? And maybe your positionality in Palestine and in the US?

(38:09) Fadl Fakhouri: Is this like, are you one state or two state or? [laughs] I’m five states and they’re all Palestine. Actually, this whole world is Palestine, or we can call it Funland or something? I guess I don’t really understand the question. Yeah. Could you, yeah.

(38:39) Shanaz Deen: This is Shanaz Deen jumping in. But I’m just curious. You said you’ve been thinking about borders and positionality a lot. It’s come up in your work and your artwork. I’m curious. Like, what have your recent conversations looked like with yourself?

(38:55) Fadl Fakhouri: With myself in relation to borders.

(38:59) Shanaz Deen: Yeah, what are you thinking about?

(39:00) Fadl Fakhouri: What am I thinking about? Yeah, I mean, I’m thinking about borders, not just as a geographical or material thing. I’m thinking about borders also as a concept, as word, as image, as symbol. Yeah, I think that there’s also borders that we put up ourselves, and actually, there are some necessary borders, I would say more so boundaries, like interpersonal boundaries, and yeah, like, what are your boundaries and whatnot, that sort of thing. But it’s also predicated, yeah, predicated on the fact that there are fucked up conditions. So it’s like, why do I need for example, to set up this boundary? It’s because something hurt me or something will hurt me and it’s like, why does that hurt me? Well, because there’s bad things in the world and whatever. And it doesn’t have to make sense. So that’s another thing that I’m thinking about too, is that you don’t have to make sense. And that nonsense is necessary. And there should be more benefit of the doubt for people who have good intentions. I mean, there’s obviously the need for harm reduction and learning your lesson, and rehabilitation and things of that nature. But yeah, if we’re going to be discussing something that is bad, something that is problematic if we’re discussing the problem, and we don’t have the answer yet, then we’re probably going to get a little messy. And I think that there should be more forgiveness in that regard because people are trying. Yeah, and I’ve experienced this myself. It’s a case of impact versus intention. Yeah, I just think that we don’t have all the answers and that we shouldn’t play like we do have the answer. But we should experiment. And I think experimentation is necessary. And no one knows all the same information, no one is educated in the same way. So and there’s different players, that’s another thing that’s really important. Tying to positionality, it’s where you can impact the most, and what you are good at and what you think you can be good at, and what you want to be good at, and all of that. There’s so many different roles, I’m an artist, for example. But there’s also probably other roles that I can take on but for right now I’m being an artist. And also, to be honest, it’s not about just doing the things, the tactics in the way that they have existed for so long. So for example, I’m not an organizer, so I’m not going to try and organize a protest, I don’t know if I’m good at that, or if I would be good at that. But I am aware that I have things that I can do. And I’m also not going to do them in the way that they’ve been done forever. So for example, if I am discussing Palestine in my work, I’m also going to do myself a favor and be as authentic to myself as possible. I’m not going to just be the Palestinian artist, you know, so I’m not going to just make work that is just about Palestine because that would be so unfair to me and unfair to others, because I wouldn’t be able to share who I am to the max and it’s most liberating if I do view myself as more than just Palestinian and especially because I’m living in the US in the capital of capital, in New York City, and the large apple. [laughs] The Big Apple, the large apple, the grandiose apple. Yeah, so it’s I don’t know if there’s certain things that I can’t speak to anyways, and that’s why I kind of don’t want to just be looked at as the Palestinian artist because I never lived there. I’ve never lived there. I have my immediate family members who now live there. And I visited many times, but I don’t know all the answers. I know a lot. I know a lot from different angles to and perspectives. But I don’t know, in the sense of I don’t know, it’s interesting to me to think about occupation vacation. So it’s like, yeah, it’s like a t-shirt. I went to Palestine, and all I got was a gun in my face, like a rifle in my face. And it’s weird. That’s exactly how I think it is. It’s like you have the souvenir, but then it’s also like, damn, I did pick up some trauma while I was there. But then I also get to leave and is it fucked up that I leave? And then there’s this sort of allegiance that I feel that a lot of us grow up with where we feel that maybe it’s not necessarily the fact that we believe we need to return to Palestine, but we put a lot of weight on our shoulders in terms of trying to chase that could have been, which is a Palestinian who was, I don’t know. I think about it all the time like I’m Mediterranean or whatever. I’m swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. I’m eating this Mediterranean diet and a time, or I don’t know if that time ever existed where there wasn’t violence. I mean, I know it didn’t exist, but I do think about the dream where I could have just been like, eating kaak wa’ falafel janb al bahar. And yeah, but I don’t know that’s not the world we live in. But we do. I don’t know. I’m happy. Thankful. It’s summer. Yeah, it would have been so hot and sexy to be Palestinian in Palestine where there is no occupation. Did I answer the question?

(45:16) Asma Barakat: Yeah, definitely, that makes me think of survivor’s guilt.

(45:20) Fadl Fakhouri: Right. Scarcity Mindset as well. Yeah.

(45:23) Asma Barakat: We all have that. I know, I definitely do. Gosh, I was going to ask something and then I did forget.

(45:37) Fadl Fakhouri: Ask me my zodiac my sign.

(45:41) Asma Barakat: I’ll guess that after. Oh, when you did talk about kind of, thinking about returning. Like, do you want to go in more in-depth about that, like the right of return?

(46:03) Fadl Fakhouri: Right? I guess this would be, it’s interesting because I guess it is another parallel to I mean, this is fresh off the top of my head. So it’s, forgive me if I say something that’s not so concise and clear. But it does make me think about when there was this narrative of the right of return to Africa, and post-slavery and whatnot. I mean, there’s still like different types of slavery today. But there was a lot of talk about returning to Africa and I’m not too educated on this, so I can’t speak too much about it. But I do know, for a fact that not everybody wanted to go back. And I think that’s similar to Palestine. It’s kind of just like, it would have been nice, but it’s like, I don’t want to, I don’t see myself living in Khalil, at least. Yeah, that’s like one thing. And then it’s like, oh, well, if I wanted to move to Haifa, then there’s some tension about that. Because it’s like, oh, I have friends there. It would be cool. But then it’s also like, I’m living technically, in Israel or whatever. And I don’t think I don’t even know if I could do that. Because I have the dual citizenship, but it’s also just a guilt thing as well. And then that’s just weird. And I don’t know, it’s a lot of mixed feelings and complicated. Well, I wouldn’t say complicated, just feelings are feelings and they feel. Yeah, I don’t know. No one should go anywhere. They don’t want to go. Yeah.

(47:55) Asma Barakat: There is a lot of guilt in the way that Palestinians are kind of put in different boxes, West Bank, living in the diaspora.

(48:03) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah. Yeah. Right.

(48:05) Asma Barakat: Living in ’48, Gaza. It is a lot. There’s a lot of guilt.

(48:09) Fadl Fakhouri: There’s a lot of guilt. Yeah.

(48:15) Asma Barakat: Is there anything else that you wish I had asked you throughout this interview? Or anything that you would like to say right now?

(48:24) Fadl Fakhouri: Anything that I would like to say? No, these were really great questions. I really enjoyed talking about them. I felt like I talked a lot. But I guess that’s the point. Anything I’d like to say I could just do some promotion? I don’t know. I don’t know when this interview will come out. But right now I’m in two group exhibitions. One is that Chashama as I said, 1285 Second Ave, that closes in a few days. And then there’s another show and that’s up for about a month at Half Gallery in New York, and I have a pretty cool highway installation there. Other than that, no, I guess it’s just the time to be like, self-indulgent and just drop my information, oh, no, I have a portfolio website which is Colonized.info. That’s past tense. So yeah, Colonized.info, and then my Instagram handle. I think that’s the only social media I have, is FadlFakhouri. F-A-D-L F-A-K-H-O-U-R-I. Also, say hi to me. If you ever see me, I’m pretty nice and whatnot.

(49:48) Asma Barakat: You are.

(49:51) Fadl Fakhouri: You got it, I have the Asma approval. Yeah. Say hi. holla at me. Yeah.

(49:58) Asma Barakat: So before we close out if any future generations listen to this, but especially future generations of Palestinians, what would you hope that they take away from your interview?

(50:08) Fadl Fakhouri: Yeah, I would hope that they, I mean, I grew up with a with in terms of idols, for example, it’s like, oh, who can I be? I didn’t know any Palestinian artists growing up. I mean, I’m still growing up. And yeah, so I thought it was either doctor, engineer, lawyer, whatever. And it’s like, I did actually do my undergrad in molecular and cell biology. And I was going to be a doctor. But that’s a whole other thing. And yeah, and then, what, later on in my teens, I was like, damn, the only idol I have is DJ Khaled. And then I found out oh, there are actually Palestinian artists. So I think that it’s an exciting time to be alive, too, because we are pretty much, all the Palestinians I know, here are, they were the first to be born here and their parents immigrated for the most part, there might be a few that I’ve met, that are the second generation to be born, or their parents came here at a young age. But yeah, I mean, this ties to why last, not last May, but like 2021 May, we got a lot of notice, because we have been here long enough. And we have a big enough population and social media presence that we got attention, you can’t ignore us now. So I think that’s exciting that we’re not easy to ignore. And we’re also a loud crowd too, even if there were just a few of us. So I think anyone who hears this in the future, if future Palestinian babies, would be excited to see that there’s someone who is able to be what they want to be and be authentic to that and not just do what they were taught. And I don’t know, the younger generation is pretty educated and aware at such a young age. Like I’ve seen, you know, for example, it’d be like a 13 year old, and they’ll be doing like that clock thing, like 13 reasons why capitalism is bad. And it’s just like, 13 reasons why I’m a leftist or whatever. They know a lot and they’re very comfortable to compared to my generation and generations older than me. But yeah, I think they’d be pretty hopeful. Like, we have a sign of hope is the bare minimum that I can see for sure things are looking good-ish. I guess. There’s hope. You can’t say necessarily good or bad, but there’s hope for sure. Yeah.

(53:03) Asma Barakat: Hope is a beautiful thing. We can close up this interview now. Thank you so much.

(53:09) Fadl Fakhouri: Yes, it was so nice talking to you. Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: