Opening night for Where You From? was everything I hoped. There was a steady stream of people throughout the evening taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Alexandria, Egypt. Karl from El Cajon was kind enough to supply a pair of goats-the hit of the show. The aroma of coffee, cooked meat, shisha, and decomposing trash filled the space nicely to the soundtrack of Egyptian street rap, pop, and songs from the golden era. The fifteen-minute loop video provided a supplemental visual that shared a glimpse of a ride along the corniche, male street dancing, a funeral, etc.
Throughout the evening I met several new people who heard my interview in KPBS and read the article in City Beat in addition to reconnecting with old friends. One younger man I met from Alexandria confessed that he was a little hesitant on attending because he thought he was in for a dose of American stereotypes about his city and country. He became sentimental and complimented me on how well I recreated his home.
An opening isn’t really an opening unless you piss off a couple of people or have a couple of wild cards enter into the mix. One lady was upset about the garbage and got into it with the gallery owner (Carlos) then found me. “My Egyptian friends would be offended by the way you depict their country.” My response was that I was only trying to recreate the space in which I live, and there are piles of garbage everywhere. Somehow she brought up Morocco as a comparison…that would be like comparing Tijuana with Madrid.
The highlight was the stumbling Arab drunkard. I was outside for some fresh air and he spotted my white camise (galabeya) and approached me speaking slurred Arabic. When I told him I didn’t understand him, he told me that he knew six different languages. I went back inside and he followed stopping random patrons to ask them how many languages they spoke. I found Carlos with his homies and pointed out the ticking time bomb. The man took off his shirt to expose a wooden rosary and proceeded to kiss the men on the Salafist election posters. He also molested and pulled the naqab off the mannequin. He was escorted outside and given a verbal lesson about respect. One of the homies asked if he wanted another black eye to match the one on his right. Before he left he said the goats were calling him and hurried back inside to kiss the goats goodbye. You can see the video below.
The evening ended with a dog coming in from the streets looking for attention and scraps of food. Leftover meat from the grill, Arabic bread along the walls, and spilled beer on the floor was the set menu for his evening.
Thanks to all those that helped make the show a success: Ana, Carlos and Adriana (Voz Alta), Chikle, KPBS (Claire and Maureen), City Beat, Karl (the goat man), Amira and her mom for the falafel and tahina, Sonny Kay for using a couple of his photos, Joyce Lujan-Martinez (for bringing us to Egypt), Schutz American School (Staff, workers, and students), Hab Z, Mr. Kofta (Gabe), Amira M (Arabic writing), Midori Z, Alexandria, and family and friends-I love you all.
c/s Bob Rob (Medina)