Friday, November 27, 2015

What is a homeland?

“What is a homeland?"

She leaned forward, surprised, as though she didn’t believe what she heard. She asked with a delicacy that contained uncertainty: “What did you say?”

“I said, what is a homeland? I was asking myself that question a moment ago. Naturally. What is a homeland? Is it these two chairs that remained in this room for twenty years? The table? Peacock feathers? The picture of Jerusalem on the wall? The copper lock? The oak tree? The balcony? What is a homeland? Khaldun? Our illusions of him? Fathers? Their sons? What is a homeland? Is it the picture of his brother hanging on the wall? I’m only asking.”

Excerpt from 'Return to Haifa' by Ghassan Kanafani, translated from Arabic

Good question, Ghassan. What is it that makes me think of this 'homeland' everyday? A land that I was not born in, a land where I never lived? What makes me cling to other people's memories it created, scrutinize its black and white photos, follow closely its news with a heart twinge? Where does it come from - this deep sense of nostalgia, for a time and place I've never officially belonged to, that never seems to let go of me?


  1. Very few people are lucky enough to call just one place a "HOMELAND"

    My father was lucky enough to have been born, grew up, lived and raised children then died and buried in one place. He would have been able to call our birth place Homeland, but after him, we moved on for the sake of a better life as resources became limited and politics started hurting.
    I know all of the material goods will be left behind me and since I along with my husband made a home here, it became homeland for my kids.

  2. Your last line reminds me of The Motorcycle Diaries: "How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?"

    It's strange, isn't it? I feel a bit like you - born in Oz, yearn for Sri Lanka. But I think at the core of it, I can't really belong to a place. I fall in love with them, but I'm detached too. I think my 'homeland' is made up of the people I love, and wherever they go, so expands this homeland. Even then I'm not so sure.

  3. The question always troubles those who can't find the life they want in their original "homelands", where they are born, and probably lived most of their lives. I asked myself this questions thousands times when I failed to feel "at home" in the country I was born to, and asked myself everyday the same question when I moved to London. Neither countries (home or host) felt like a homeland to me, as if I am reclaiming the nomadic identity of being Arab: always on the move for a better life

  4. Where have you been, my blogging friend? i miss your posts. If you ever do get this message, let me know if you ahve started another blog somewhere else as I would love to read your writing again. Insha'allah you are well. Insha'allah your family is also well. Thinking of you! Take care.

  5. I agree with Laila on this one; my garndparents live in India, and sure that's where I'm from, but I've lived in Dubai almost all my life but it's hard to think of this as home knowing that I'd be deported if my visa expires :P But yes. Home is now wherever my family is. If we up and moved to Aussie tomorrow, I'd call Aussie home, I guess.
    Maybe 'home' or 'homeland' is just that feeling you get when you walk into a building/house, knowing your mom would have made your lunch and your dad would be on the couch, and your siblings would be doing whatever teens do.

  6. Just sending you a little love. Take care, Girl. Thinking of you with all my heart.


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