Culture, capital and community…

Rebecca’s Blog:
We had the pleasure of dancing on a shared program at the Amman Contemporary Dance Festival with a Norwegian duo. They used interactive video and a complex range of contemporary dance vocabulary, rich with gesture, contact improvisation and a theatrical edge. The Norwegian Ambassador in Amman, Jordan attended the show and we were, as a result, invited to join him and his family and the cast and producers at his home for a post-show celebration.

Amongst the many amazing moments performing and meeting people that evening, I am thinking a lot today about my conversation with Lina Attel, Director General of the National Centre for Culture and Arts in Amman. She is a vibrant woman with an expansive and generous intellect. Lina is passionate about living in Jordan and the context this provides for her personal and professional life. Along with Frances, we talked small talk and art talk and eventually moved into talking about the big picture. I asked her about homelessness in Jordan because we had walked the day prior in the downtown area and this was not present in the city as we see in San Francisco and the Bay Area in general. With millions of people living in Amman, we wondered how this was possible…

Lina explained that everyone feels the obligation to take care of others. Whether this is motivated by a sense of empathy or a sense of pride, it is nonetheless an important element of the culture here. Everyone looks to themselves and to others to take care of those in need. The government doesn’t provide subsidy; rather, the people and NGOs and other charities, and especially the mosques, take care of those who need help. From this specific question, we immediately got into that big picture, talking about materialism as a driving force in identity and what other forces might be core in our identity. When Lina explained that she thought the difference was that, in its roots, her culture is a tribal culture, I was feeling many things: moved, inspired, sad, disappointed, hopeful and aware. I have long thought about how we could, in our culture, keep the best of capitalism (a reality unlikely to change soon for us) without losing a sense of tribe, community, family [insert your own word here – anything that expresses a way of life that connects us beyond fulfilling our own needs.] If we could do this…this has been a question for me. I have tried in my own way to create a personal life that would honor this mode of life beyond self and understanding that this culture is informed by this need from its roots was a revelation. It helped me see better where I live and come from by seeing a beautiful fact of someone else’s culture. Yes, Jordan has many challenges to contend with, but this fact made me see something that we might be missing on some level in the United States. And that, perhaps, each of us finding a way to commit to this tribal element in our culture would be a way of blossoming from where we are now…and honoring some of our human history’s traditional ways of living and living together.

By no means wanting to be didactic in this posting – I hope that comes through. But it was an impossibly beautiful moment that captured, for me, one of the reasons I am so honored to be on this trip: learning from someone who is both in love with and in critical dialogue with her own culture and helping me to remember to continue to do the same in my own. –Rebecca

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~ by ninahaftandcompany on April 23, 2010.

One Response to “Culture, capital and community…”

  1. It’s the journey, not the destination, and What a journey you are having–both personally and professionally! Enjoy every minute.

    Love,

    Barb and John

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