I first encountered Gertrude Stein through her avant-garde poetry in Tender Buttons, an evocative series of short poems that forced writing to its breaking point with sentences like: “Dirty is yellow. A sign of more is not mentioned.” I met her blindly, only through her words, yet I already fell for her eccentricity. I knew there was something wonderful behind the mind that put down on paper the bold tongue-in-cheek yet unbelievably serious statement, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. I just had to explore her art further. So I began scouring old journals and artist profiles to learn more about her.
Little did I know that the radical art Stein created could almost be rivaled by the art that she nurtured in the artists around her. I found multiple sources that called her the ‘mother’ of modernism, but after getting to know more about her, I am sure that she would scoff at such a title. After all, she left the United States in 1903 to flee the pressures of gender norms. She was also bored with medical school and seeking an outlet to express her eccentric point of view, she settled down in Paris, where she intended to pursue a life free from heteronormativity. She opened a salon in her home for the world’s creative mind, including some of the world-renowned names such as Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. She was the voice of this ‘Lost Generation, the group of American expatriates flocking to Paris– and even coined the term.
The way I see it, she brought together these esteemed artists and in many ways, elevated them through her no-nonsense critique of their work. I had always internalized that a woman inspiring other artists (typically male artists) was a muse. That term is loaded, as there were often sexualized or romanticized elements typically tied to a muse. Instead, what I admired about Stein was that she was a mentor to the ‘greats’. I see her as a woman that had an undeniable presence in her time, respected by those around her.
Nothing about her was conventional and she embraced her own strangeness, something that drew me to her further. Stein deserves the title of a trailblazer of the modernist period and of queer identity at the time. Stein’s essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene were among the first story to be published about homosexual revelation, containing the first noted use of the word “gay” in published works to refer to same-sex relationships. She also hosted one of the first avant-garde exhibitions in the United States, funding it with the money she collected from her art dealerships. I have no doubt that every piece of art in the period has her fingerprint.
And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her accomplishments either. Stein didn’t believe that women must be modest, proudly proclaiming “I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” She never sold herself short, a habit I found myself doing as I presented my own poetry or other writing. I was still working with my own feelings of inferiority, belittling my stories as ‘just’ relevant to female-identifying communities. While she wrote about women and her partner, she didn’t restrict herself to writing women’s stories. I found it so refreshing to see her unabashed pride, as it reminded me to take hold of my own achievements and to be confident. No matter how unconventionally and ‘weirdly’ I experimented with my creativity, I learned that I could (and should) still demand to be taken seriously.
Regardless of all this, I don’t think she should be idolized. I often like to give powerful women in difficult situations the benefit of the doubt, as do most of the historians and writers that grapple with creating a retrospective of Stein’s life. I witnessed a trend in the way that they wrote about her, that she was ensuring her safety as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France by making these questionable alliances with Nazi figures. As much as I respect her as a feminist and as the backbone of the Lost Generation of artists, I cannot excuse her political affiliations and ironic, confusing pro-Nazi expressions.
At the end of it all, Stein didn’t strive to be accepted or allow herself to be molded by the society around her. She carved her own place into history and I believe it is important to commemorate it, lest she is lost in the shadows of her male counterparts. As a woman in the art world, looking at Stein as an example liberates me and allows me to embrace subversive expressions of creativity.
My hesitance with being creative started with a set of simple words on my screen: “Nowis the perfect time to write your book!” I encountered variations of these words on Twitter, against the scenic backdrop of a forest in an inspiration post on Instagram. They seemed to follow me everywhere I clicked. These words became a trickling of an inner voice in my head that demanded one thing: write a book. Write the book.
At the time, we were all in our first few weeks of the world-wide lockdown. There was a wave of posts that encouraged people to look at the bright side of staying home. After all, we had the many privileges that came with being able to have our own spaces during this time. We didn’t have to share a common eating space with colleagues and we could work in our pajamas. It wasn’t all bad, right?
Not to mention, while we self-isolated and stayed inside, our schedules had significantly cleared up. These reminders and gentle pushes served as an incentive for us to sit down and do the things we said we’d do if we had more time. My current circumstance, if I would have let it, could have been inspirational. This was the time I had been waiting for, so why wasn’t I typing away?
I imagined myself as an artist who was finally in their own element with nothing but time and energy to create. Cocooned away in blankets, frantically typing away at her next screenplay, she uses the time she would have spent commuting to work to instead perfect her craft. Or perhaps I’d relate more to a woman whose hands dance in the warm light streaming through the window. There are paint streaks on her cheeks and the coffee in her mug has gone cold.
Then, there is also the image of a struggling artist who perseveres against all odds. Their hand is shaking, but resolute, as they photograph minute details of their surrounding, working with what they have. This artist scrapes the barrel for their inspiration, regardless of the clamor outside. Fair. But we need to remind ourselves these are heavily romanticized ways of approaching creativity.
Reading the pandemic was the perfect time to ‘write my book‘ made me feel discouraged. I felt bogged down. I was in mourning for the perfect end to my senior year that now would never be. Trapped in my room, I felt the need to escape. Writing allows me to delve deep into myself – something I could not have been bothered with before the pandemic hit. However, as any writer can tell you, it is an incredible feeling to share your work, but writing can be a terribly lonely and internal process.
I wasn’t partaking in much leisure creativity in those early days. Even writing my college senior project, a creative fictional piece, felt like a chore. All my energy went into listening to the voices that streamed out of my laptop during the last of my online courses.
All I wanted to do was scoop out my mind and leave it in a warm tub to rest. I watched movies, listened to music, and chatted with my roommates, using up the energy I had left on reserve. I didn’t feel inspired to produce some great masterpiece. But I had all the time in the world to do it. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, why wasn’t I writing my book?
Weren’t the arts meant to be those places where we could escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?
Over time, I felt myself spiraling. I didn’t have an idea of what I would write. I just felt like I had to make something productive out of my time. I genuinely felt I was going to disappoint myself either way, whether I chose to pick up my pen or not.
This is all sounding gloomy, but actually, there were times when I wanted to be creative. When I felt that sudden urge to set off and start working on a new piece of writing or pick up painting as a hobby. I knew when I started working I would feel good about it, but the benchmark had been set so high that I felt discouraged.
When I was packing up to move back home, I stumbled upon a product of my literary past. I had written up a small outline of a short story sometime in January. Immediately, I wanted to drop everything, move aside the boxes from my desk, and bring the story to life.
I had an epiphany- this mindset of creating perfect art was (and is) toxic. Creativity doesn’t have to be productive. Weren’t the arts meant to be an escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?
I am not wasting my time even if nothing comes of the writing– I am perfecting a craft.
Art didn’t need to be performative either. It didn’t have to wear the fancy label of a ‘novel’ or perform for an audience. I didn’t need to parade around and place a glossy cover over the pages. Instead, I needed to give myself permission to not even have to finish whatever project was in my drafts. Ultimately, I must accept no creative pursuit is ever wasted. I am not wasting my time if nothing comes of the writing. Rather, I am perfecting a craft. As for talent, there is no wasting that unless I don’t use it.
The sooner I realized I could follow my creative instincts without oppressive expectations, the sooner I felt creatively liberated. Whether it bethrough sporadically writing a scene of a story or picking up (and putting down) a paintbrush when I feel inclined, I shouldn’t have felt pressured to fully pursue my creative urges if I didn’t want to. I should be allowed to surrender to that flurry of excitement and passion to simply express myself. Then, when the passion was over, to let it go. Truly, I didn’t even have to show my creative work to anyone or look at it ever again.
I am teaching myself creativity isn’t meant to always be translated into something productive. The funny thing is I often did return to those pieces and paintings and continued to work on them. But that was only possible when I didn’t feel the heavy benchmark of producing a bestseller or a museum-worthy mural on my shoulders.
If you’ve still got Eid gifts to buy, eyes bleary from scrolling through shops online, then you’re in luck. These brands have you covered with one-of-a-kind gifts for family, friends, and loved ones. We’ve gathered some of our favorite products and treated you with some special The Tempest discount codes and offers!
Give the gift of an everlasting glow with this cleanser, toner, and serum combo. Trust us when we say that the Army of Youth Serum is out of this world! By Noussou is founded by UAE-based sisters on a journey to provide a range of all-natural, vegan and chemical-free skincare products so that women can safely pursue clearer skin.
Get it on their website for 180 AED. Or use the code: FRESH15 for a 15% discount!
Support sustainable fashion with these beautifully ornate handmade metal clutches, made out of eco-friendly materials. This red and gold clutch is an accessory like no other. Organiq Living is an in-line store selling Ethical & Sustainable Lifestyle Products. Browse their clothing and accessory line for more great options.
The Paintlet is a bespoke painting kit that includes everything you need to make a beautiful acrylic painting. This is not just for the artistically inclined people in your life! Anyone can have fun painting with this kit. With the rise in DIY culture as we spend a lot more time indoors, this would be the perfect gift to help someone pass the time in a creative and enjoyable way.
Henna is a wonderful gift to give to loved ones. Especially this henna, which is all-natural. It’s beautiful when applied, fun to learn and draw, a unique way to channel your creative self, and when you apply it with others, it’s an opportunity to bond as you spend time together.
Order for 10 AED per cone (you can customize a gift hamper of various products!) by direct-messaging their instagram account.
This gift box is a treasure trove of delicious chocolatey goods! Packaged beautifully, this gift includes one packet of ground cacao, one packet of cacao nibs, one family sized Chocolatl, and one Gianjduja chocolate spread. These are all guaranteed to be delicious, but possibly the most exciting one is the Chocolatl, with which you can make traditional hot chocolate made from pure cacao. The varying levels of dark chocolate in these artisanal delights that come in many different flavors make for a lovely gift box to enjoy. Whether it’s for someone with a sweet tooth or just someone you know who would enjoy a stellar cup of hot coco, this is a sweet, thoughtful gift.
Stay comfy this lockdown with loungewear from Dimension. These hoodies not only have a good social message but can be worn around the house and to run small errands. No one said staying in could look this good! Dimension is a UAE-based brand with a mission to bring oversized LA inspired streetwear style to the Gulf. They also sell trendy silk scrunchies and beautiful art prints.
Get it on their website for 40 AED. Or use the discount code for 15% off using the code: TheTempest
Who doesn’t love lgaimat? The crisp fried dough balls coated with dates syrup are loved by all. Digging into the traditional Emirati dessert is what makes Eid so special. But what if you could make your own at home? Treat Me Gluten Free is a licensed home business that sells a nut-free and gluten-free lgaimat mix that everyone will love. Make it on your own and gift a platter, or gift the mix for a thoughtful and fun Eid present.
Order it on their website for 32 AED. Or use the code: tempest10 for 10% off, valid from today until Aug 24, 2020.
It may be intimidating to buy perfumes online, as the scents can be hard to imagine. But Arcadia makes online perfume shopping so enjoyable with the carefully crafted narratives that accompany each scent! Their curated gift set of the best-selling scents is sure to win over the lucky person that receives it. Arcadia by Amna prides itself on bringing unexpected sensory experiences by mixing and distilling quality essences. The company’s commitment to sustainably sourcing its ingredients makes it even more worth supporting.
Shop their gift set on their website for 500 AED. Get 20% off entire online order using our exclusive discount code: TEMPEST active from July 29 until September 15.
A soap sampler is a perfect set to give someone special as they can try out an array of special scents and even take it with them on-the-go. Give a gift with a cause. Not only does this soap bar set look good and come in aromatic scents like damask rose and lavender bay leaf, but also, every purchase supports artisan partners from vulnerable communities in Syria and Lebanon and helps preserve an ancient heritage. The bags and packaging are all eco-friendly as well.
This beautiful saffron cotton blanket with its textured weave, kantha stitching, and frayed edges would be a statement addition to any home. It comes in a wide variety of colors such as navy blue, forest green, and pale pink. Whether used as a blanket or a throw, its refined, light touch can make any room feel cozier. Anyone who receives this is sure to feel thankful that their living space is that much brighter.
Get it on their Facebook page for 400 AED (it’s usually 500AED, but there’s a special summer discount!)
11. Luxury Gift Set from Urban Quill
Urban Quill is a luxury gift studio that aims to simplify your gift-shopping experience by curating gift boxes based on themes. Got a friend that is using this lockdown to follow along to Chloe Ting workouts? There’s a fitness guru box perfect for them. Or for the person that just wants to Netflix and chill. Or a handsome dad. There’s something for everyone. But, if you want to go the extra mile you can even customize your own box.
Shop the Noir gift box on their website for 305 AED. Their range of ready gift boxes starts at 130 AED. Get 10% with the exclusive discount code: Eid10.
Who doesn’t love a gift made especially for them? This UAE-based Instagram store specializes in making every gift unique by embroidering names onto its selection of products. The new collection of Customized Prayer Mat gift sets would be a great Eid gift for couples, mother & daughter, friends, and family.
These handmade cheese boards are a creative gift for the ones that love being in the kitchen and preparing aesthetic dishes for their family and friends. Carpe Diem Space has been created with a lot of passion and love for art, nature, and craftsmanship. Each product at Carpe Diem Space is designed to add color, style, and personality to your space.
For the one that is always ahead of the fashion curve. This mini handbag is so trendy and will instantly elevate any outfit. Boutiqna is UAE-based but delivers worldwide and its collections are at affordable prices so that every lady can feel fashionable.
Brighten someone’s day with this beauty haul box containing all the best products from a variety of different beauty and skincare brands. Haul in One is the hottest beauty subscription box in the UAE and there is just enough time to give one of their special, customized hauls for the upcoming Eid. Just go onto their website and fill in your loved one’s information for this out-of-this-world gift.
Gift a haul on their website for 299 AED. Get 10% with the exclusive discount code: TEMPEST10.
Sometimes gifting an experience, rather than an object, is the way to go. This photographer is offering a special Eid discount of 50% off to female entrepreneurs who wish to have their business portraits or lifestyle branding images done. Whether it’s for revamping their online presence or they’re just getting started on a new professional venture, this will be an unforgettable gesture of support to a loved one. The session will include four portrait shots and is currently only available to women based in Dubai.
Gift a session on their website for 495 AED (this is an Eid special, regular prices are 990AED – what a great deal!)
17. Judgement-free Decluttering and Organizing Services from Decluttr Me
There’s definitely someone in your life who came to mind when you read this, right? Sometimes we don’t realize just how many items we hold onto without ever really finding a place for them. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who just moved and is struggling to figure out where things go in the new place. Either way, decluttering is a daunting task. With the gift of Decluttr Me’s services, you can gift consultation and hands-on help (ranging from the half to full-day options!), as well as expert tips for the future.
Gift any of these three packages on their website by filling out the contact form with the details you want to provide. You will then be informed of the exact cost. Be sure to quote temp10 for a 10% discount!
Since we’re spending more time indoors (sigh), we’re probably wearing pajamas more than ever before. Giving the gift of a glamorous outfit is sure to make someone’s day, encouraging them to celebrate their beauty. This is probably more suited for friends or family whose dress sizes you know, but either way, Modest Me has a wide range of loose, flowing clothing that will make any woman feel like a queen. Be sure to check out their Eid collection especially!
Hesitant about dress sizes but still want to get something that your loved one can wear and cherish? Jewelry is another great gift option! These earrings from a bespoke jewelry designer in Dubai will be an elegant statement piece to any outfit.
A classic silk pajama set are the perfect gift for that cool older sister in your life. The luxurious feel of the silk along with the cute look of a matching set is sure to make your loved ones feel extra comfortable at home and ready for bed.
If you’re not exactly sure about the size or color they would prefer, you can still go for a gift card from Sleepjs. It still shows that you put thought into the gift and that you care about your loved one’s comfort and practice of self-care.
Keeping with the sleep theme, silk pillowcases are an incredible treat to gift to a loved one. Coming in sleek packaging, the mulberry silk pillowcases makes for much less friction compared to traditional cotton pillowcases. This is great for so many reasons. It’s hypoallergenic, thermoregulating, and gentle on both your skin and hair. Maybe most importantly, it feels so luxurious! Who doesn’t love to be pampered for a good night’s rest?
These 100% silk scrunchies protect against hair damage, reduce frizziness, and naturally repair hair– all in your sleep. What more can you ask for? Whoever is the lucky receiver of this gift will be over the moon with the results. They come in packs of 3 in two different color schemes “Oreo” and “Vanilla”.
23. Organic Handmade Cold Processed Soaps and Scrubs from Adrita
If you think soap can’t be a great Eid gift, that’s because you haven’t tried the ones made by Adrita. Coming in beautiful colors and made of all-natural ingredients, these handcrafted skincare products are made in small batches and produce zero waste.
Whether you have loved ones who are already interested in organic, eco-friendly skincare, or maybe some who have yet to be introduced to the amazing benefits of using such products, these beautiful artisanal soaps are sure to be a well-received gift. As a special Eid bundle offer, you can get two organic soaps and one organic scrub.
Add the Eid spirit and a sparkly flourish to any baked treat with these Eid cake toppers. Choose from 7 different colors and finishes, from matte gold and bamboo to white, birch, and mirror gold. There are also different size packs to choose from, with the standard being 5 pieces and going up to 50. These will be sure to please anyone as well as look great on their social media feeds.
Not everyone is taken by material gifts, some prefer thoughtful presents like greeting cards. Surprise your loved ones with this pop up Arabian teapot that is sure to amaze them and make a great ornament on their coffee table. Abracards were named the Middle East’s leading handcrafted pop-up card company and looking at their products, that comes as no surprise.
Send out this beautiful gift set to your loved ones and share the happiness of togetherness. You Rock Dubai offers beautiful and stylish gift boxes for every occasion. Their limited edition Eid soy wax candles and reed diffuser gift set is scented with traditional Oud and aromatic Amber Noir.
Order it on their website for 195 AED. Get a 20% discount with the promo code: tempest20.
Preserve your cherished memories with this customizable photo book. This is a gift that will never be forgotten. Instorya is all about looking back at all your memories and sharing them with others. All you have to do is download the app, select the photos and size, and the rest is taken care of!
Order up to 105 pages of a softcover photobook on their website for 135 AED. Use the code: INSTANTSTORY for 20% discount on your first order!
The perfect gift is one that’s both useful and carries sentimental value. With a personalized tote bag from Sew A Gift, which comes with a zippered pocket inside the lining, give your loved one a gift that they will always cherish. You can specify exactly what design, colors, words, and pattern you have in mind, and Sew A Gift will do their best to work with you and sew it into reality.
Get it on their website for a price range of 12-85 AED.
Here’s a gift for any young ones that you’re shopping for! This children’s wooden toolbox set presents endless opportunities for kids to play, be imaginative, and learn problem-solving strategies. With such carefully crafted miniature wooden tools in their own toolbox, each one painted with a non-toxic finish safe for kids, this makes a great hands-on toy for children.
It’s pretty easy to see why these went viral during the last holiday season, and we’re here for it. The agate comes in a wide range of beautiful colors, making for elegant, eye-catching keychains. Get matching ones for family and friends or many uniquely different ones for the loved ones you have in mind. The keychain can include any few words in lovely calligraphy – it could be a name (or even just the initials if you want it monogrammed), a special date, or maybe a word or a quote with personal significance.
Get it from their website for 35 AED (comes with gift box)
Himalayan salt lamps are a unique statement piece to any household and create a calm, relaxing atmosphere. As we’re all spending more time indoors, a gift like this to make someone’s living space more enjoyable would be much appreciated. To make it even more special, you can contact U Own Calmness about the engraving service they offer in both Arabic calligraphy as well as English.
Get this by direct-messaging their Instagram account. Prices start at 60 AED and the lamps with Arabic calligraphy are 200 AED.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve been a creator – molding clay into tiny people, building houses out of cardboard, stitching scraps of cloth together.
It’s been such a big part of who I am that some days, I forget that I have the power to create even though I’m still doing it. And sometimes, finding that power comes with finding a creative space.
I write but it somehow seems so normative, I draw and it feels average. That fire – that feeling or realizing that you are creating something out of nothing is exceptional – and that’s the feeling you need to always connect with.
I carry my creativity with me wherever I go. As a teenager, I suppressed it because my school didn’t care much for those who thought outside the box. I was almost afraid of it, afraid of claiming the title of artist in a world that didn’t seem to have the patience or creative space for art.
Then, I lived in Rome for four years – four years of history, art, and literature coming together, pulsing through the city.
Everywhere I went, there were artists and art. Everyone was staking a claim in the metropolis mess of the city of the past. Taking cover to paint on a lone bridge in the city, singing in the middle of a crowded piazza, and drawing at the modern art museum.
Trapped in the crevice of Trastevere, there were open mic nights every Wednesday night, space where all kinds of writers, artists, creators came together and read or played their sounds of music – there is always a creative space for artists in Rome.
And god, I belonged. There is no one that wouldn’t belong there. That’s the true power of art.
Now, it’s been three years since I’ve moved back home to Karachi. The artist community here is growing. There’s been a revival coming and you can feel the city come alive with shows, readings, and crafts, but getting your foot into that door is not an easy task.
It’s not enough to just show up and say, “okay, I’m here, I’m an artist, and I’m ready to be a part of this movement”.
Here, everything comes down to the clique game. I go to open mics, and yet somehow I feel like poetry loses against the strumming of guitars, beatboxing, and comedy.
People want fun. And laughter. And hope. Confetti dancing in the open air.
The thought that art, sometimes, has to be geared towards the sole purpose of entertainment frustrates me. More so because I know it takes a lot more to sit down and read a story, as opposed to listening to a song or immersing yourself into a piece of art. It’s a commitment, one that most people aren’t ready to take. It’s not like I’m writing mainly for other people, I always, always write for myself before anything but the idea that the work you put into the world may not have the value you hoped for… that’s what we need to work on.
I always hear about poetry nights and open mics just for writers, so I know they’re happening. I myself have hosted some as well but the problem is deeper than that. The problem is that you can’t just walk out your door and find a place to share your work. Karachi isn’t like a lot of cities, it requires effort to find the things you want to do, and sometimes, after a long day of work, you don’t really want to make that effort. And what ends up happening is that your writing takes a back seat.
You become complacent. You forget that writing is a craft that needs constant work and care and nurturing.
So, for myself, I’ve decided to take some time off and really focus on my work, community or not. At the end of the day, being a writer is lonely and it’s a journey that you gotta take on your own.
So find that room of your own, claim it, and create some beauty with your words.
“Life is not fair. I was born in a loving family. I was born with a smart head and had good people around me. I didn’t complain about how fair it is. Many people in this world don’t have these things. Why should I complain now?”
These are the words of the renowned mathematician, Maryam Mirzakhani, who passed away at the young age of 40 of recurrent cancer. Maryam is the first and the only woman mathematician, to have won the Fields Medal, considered an equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The Fields Medal is awarded every four years, to persons who have made distinguished contributions to Mathematics. Maryam was honored for her groundbreaking work in studying the dynamics and geometries of curved surfaces. Born and raised in Tehran, Iran; Maryam showed exceptional brilliance in the subject during her middle school years, going on to complete a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
In terms of her achievements and her caliber as a mathematician, her life is nothing but exemplary. However, the more I read about Maryam, the more I see her as an artist, who simply loved what she did. To me, Maryam’s life is the definition of the labor of love, a quality that every creator must possess in order to produce the best work possible.
Through her values, she metamorphosed the idea of leading life with passion, becoming an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Maryam showed the world the value of enjoying the process. In her own words, she described herself as a “slow thinker”, who had the patience and the optimism to tackle the most challenging issues of theoretical mathematics.
Like a dreamer, she doodled over large white charts laid out onto the floor, scribbling formulae on the margins of her mathematical drawings.
The chart acted as her canvas and her ‘painting’ represented the beauty that she saw in solving a complex and time-consuming problem. Her drawings gave her a window to the possibilities that the geometric complexities represented, and with it the drive to find answers through them.
Another aspect of Maryam was her remarkable quality of being optimistically ambitious. She was undeterred in the face of tough mathematical problems, and found answers not just through sheer grit but also uncomplicated hope.
Her colleague, Alex Eskin, remembers, “She is very optimistic, and that’s infectious. When you work with her, you feel you have a much better chance of solving problems that at first seem hopeless.”
However, most importantly, Maryam held the simplest values in the highest regard as her way of life. She valued her family and her work, without caring much for distractions.
Her husband, Jan Vondrák reminisced this quality of hers, stating, “She didn’t worry about what people said. People criticized her. She really didn’t care. She knew what she wanted to do.”
Like a dreamer, she doodled over large white charts laid out onto the floor, scribbling formulae on the margins of her mathematical drawings.
Maryam’s fortitude and strong character were the reasons she continued working despite suffering from critical illness in her last years. She did not have answers when she began, but she had the uncompromising belief that she would figure them out eventually.
And that is the kind of force that can move mountains. As I discover more about Maryam, I believe that each one of us driven by a passion, can derive hope and strength from her life, and forge our way ahead.
Mourning doesn’t only involve missing those who have passed on – it also involves a lot of introspection and thinking about the meaning of life. At least, it did for me.
When I lost my grandfather earlier this year, I was prepared for his death. I knew he was going to die – but I never could wrap my head around the fact that all the love that flowed through him was gone. It wasn’t just tragic. It was confusing.
I was his only grandchild, and I lived with him and my grandmother while my mom worked. My earliest memories are of him teaching me about the world, reading to me, or taking me on adventures.
My grandfather was born in South Africa in 1934. He wasn’t like many people his age. Despite his age, and despite the fact that he was indoctrinated into accepting apartheid, he was surprisingly receptive to learning about concepts like white privilege, oppression, and feminism. When I called him out on having harmful views, he listened to me, apologized and made an effort to adjust his thinking.
Engaging with older people on political matters can be tough. It can be incredibly frustrating when your own relatives hold bigoted opinions. It was in these conversations that I realized how different I was: few of my friends had grandfathers – or indeed, parents – who’d engage with their ideas instead of condescending to them.
[bctt tweet=”Mourning doesn’t only involve missing those who have passed on – it also involves a lot of introspection and thinking about the meaning of life.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Men are often socialized to be stoic, cold, and violent. In feminism, we often talk about ‘toxic masculinity’ – that is, harmful norms about masculinity that hurt men and everyone around them. In many families, toxic masculinity means that men feel compelled to condescend to the children and women around them.
Luckily for me, my grandfather didn’t buy into those ideas. Instead, he was gentle, nurturing, kind, and sensitive. He encouraged me to think for myself, and respected my ideas and beliefs. One seldom sees examples of men being unashamed of their genuinely nurturing and compassionate nature.
I struggled to process that such a remarkable, loving person was only a temporary inhabitant of the world. Did his life now mean nothing?
In the few days after my grandfather died, everything felt sunless: there was no warmth or light anywhere. My brain was buzzing with questions about the meaning of life. All I wanted to do is lie in bed, eat, and watch YouTube videos.
I watched a lot of Bob Ross videos during that period of mourning. Bob Ross is a painter who famously hosted a show called ‘The Joy of Painting’ in the 80s and 90s. In the show, he’d teach viewers to paint landscapes. Since his voice is so soothing, the show is relaxing – like an ASMR video.
Bob Ross wasn’t just a good art teacher: in his show, he has the sort of aura that makes me think children loved him. He seemed calm, content, and warm. He encouraged everyone to paint, believing we all have inherent artistic talent. He rescued small animals and nursed them to health, often showing them off on his show. He was well-known for his sweet catchphrases, where he spoke about painting ‘happy little trees’ to house small wildlife, often saying that ‘We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.’
Something that struck me about Bob Ross was how similar he was to my grandfather. Having never met Bob Ross, I can’t speak about his personality, but it was hard to watch his videos without remembering my grandfather’s kind and warm nature. Coincidentally, both my grandfather and Bob Ross were examples of what men could be if they shook off toxic masculinity and embraced their innate compassion.
Bob Ross passed away many years ago, but he keeps on giving to the world through his videos. They teach people not simply to paint but to practice kindness – kindness to nature, kindness to those around them, and kindness with themselves. It goes to show that the things that survive for generations are not just toxic ideas and inhumane systems of repression: kindness has a legacy too.
People pass on, and somehow, the personality that inhabits their body disappears into thin air.
Except it doesn’t. Whether we plan on it or not, we teach people through our words and actions – and that impact remains after we die. My grandfather has passed on, but that doesn’t mean his life counted for nothing. It was surely not meaningless, because he brought meaning to those around him.
Famous or not, we leave a legacy by affecting each person we meet. We have to decide whether that legacy is one of kindness or not. Mourning has not taught me the meaning of life, but it has reminded me of the importance of choosing compassion in an unkind world.
Valentine’s Day is coming up – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here.
Valentine’s Day, is, in my opinion, kind of a trash holiday. The day itself is supposedly rooted in violence and sacrifices, according to one source, and although it has evolved into an opportunity to show affection, Valentine’s Day is so heavily commercialized that it lost its good intentions a long time ago. Think: White Castle reservations and endless jewelry commercials. The holiday is also promotes, almost exclusively, heteronormative narratives, which isn’t cool either.
If you’re single, Valentine’s Day and the hype around it can be stressful, obnoxious, or even triggering. At the very least, it can feel like a day that you’re not “allowed” to participate in, even though that’s completely false. If dating isn’t your thing, if you’re grumpy about Valentine’s Day in general, or if you’re looking for ways to show yourself love on February 14, we’ve got a list for you.
1. Take yourself out to eat because you earned it
So what if everyone is dining out with their significant others? If you want a medium-rare steak, by all means, go to Ruth’s Chris and order one. Going to a restaurant alone may seem awkward at first, but after you realize that you’re the best date you could ever ask for, it’s a lot less intimidating.
2. FaceTime a single long-distance friend so you can bitch about Valentine’s Day together
Since all your friends who are ~in relationships~ will have no time for you on this bogus holiday, this is the perfect time to reach out to friends who have moved away due to work, school, etc. Complain about those shitty NECCO heart candies that are hard enough to break teeth and the fact that capitalism has ruined love for you.
3. Enjoy a glass (or a bottle) of wine by yourself
I think many of us would be lying if we said we’d never consumed a whole bottle of sweet red or Riesling (it can’t be just me) by ourselves on a night in after a crappy day at work or a week of exams. Or, you know, just because. No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.
[bctt tweet= “No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.” username=“wearethetempest”]
4. Get a massage to relieve the irritation of seeing happy couples everywhere
On a more serious note, massages do provide many legitimate benefits. They can ease stress, promote flexibility, decrease migraines, and improve blood circulation. They are great for self-care because they have positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.
5. Take a salt bath and float away from your problems
No, really, float spas are a thing, and I didn’t know this until recently. Float therapy involves pouring large quantities of Epsom salt into water in pods or dark rooms. The result is that you feel completely weightless when floating. Float therapy is good for meditation, joint pain, and stress relief. I know friends who have done it, and they say it’s trippy but amazing.
[bctt tweet= “I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.” username=“wearethetempest”]
6. Netflix and chill…
…by yourself. While other people are giving cheesy gifts to each other and showing uncomfortable amounts of affection, show your Netflix account some love by starting a new show or catching up on a series that you’ve neglected. There’s no shame in loving your TV and your bed.
7. Get outdoors and away from people
If it’s warm enough in your part of the world, rent a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy some peace and quiet on the water. Take a hike, walk your dog, or escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single. Other humans can get annoying. It’s refreshing to go off the grid, if only for a couple of hours.
[bctt tweet= “Escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single.” username=“wearethetempest”]
8. Start a new art project
If you’re creative and know how to paint, draw, sculpt, sew, knit, carve, or any other artsy endeavor, use the evening to begin a new piece of work. The best I can do is draw a second grade-esque stick figure with stringy hair and dots for eyes, so if you have the talent, please let me live vicariously through you.
9. Write your autobiography because you’re incredible
Reflect on how flawless your single self is this Valentine’s Day and write about it so the world knows. Or, of course, just write in general. No matter your chosen genre, it can be difficult to find time to write and edit your work, so being alone on Valentine’s Day gives you a prime opportunity to sit down and make progress.
10. Nap because sleep is better than jewelry from Zale’s
I’m certainly biased, but let’s be real. No one ever said, “I got more than enough sleep last night!” so why would you pass up an opportunity to crawl into your cozy bed and ignore all your responsibilities?
Spending quality time with yourself on Valentine’s Day can be fun, liberating, and stress-free. If you’re single, take time to love yourself.
I discovered my passion for art when I was only four. Usually all I had to work with was a pencil and blank pages from my older sister and cousins’ used exercise books. Sometimes used papers and past year exams papers were useful too, as long as there was enough space for me to doodle any image in my mind. I had no colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors to paint and draw back then, but it didn’t dim my enthusiasm to create something from my imagination. Not even a bit.
From drawing simple objects like house, trees, and animals, I slowly but surely mastered some skills in realistic drawings. I was persistent in polishing my artistry even with limited art supplies. I taught myself everything, from line drawing to lifelike picture without any help from anyone or even taking an art class.
In my family, I wasn’t the only one with interest in the arts.
My brother was passionate about art too, but he only found it out when he was sixteen after he enrolled in a fine art class. His sphere of interest was wider than mine. While I mostly sketch on papers, playing with graphite and charcoals, he sculpts and carves his imagination into figures as well.
Instead of pursuing my dream of being an artist, I went to business school, just to fulfill my parents’ wish. But he somehow managed to slash his way through their orders and expectations and high hopes. He went to college and picked Fine Arts as his major.
There was one thing I admired about him – his courage in following his dream.
At first, I thought we could still bond over our shared passion for art, sharing knowledge and perhaps helping each other out when we ran out of ideas. But it never happens anymore. Not since he went to art school.
Two years ago, I remember showing him a portrait of Luke Evans I’d sketched. It was one of my finest pieces so far and I was really proud. I expected him to be at least a little impressed, even just a tiny bit.
I could see a flash of surprise on his face, but it wasn’t a pleasant one.
He began to point out every mistake I made. The shades and hue weren’t perfect, the pencil’s stroke wasn’t done correctly and my techniques were all wrong.
I was a little bit hurt by his comment but convinced myself to take it as a constructive criticism. But I couldn’t help but wonder: does it matter if everything I create turns out good?
The next day, he made his own sketch, a portrait of a girl. A perfect piece of art, done with all the right techniques.
Whenever my mother and other siblings complimented my art, he didn’t say a thing, unless if they asked for his opinions, and then his answer would be his usual criticism.
I would’ve appreciated his opinion if he at least suggested ways for me to improve, but all he did was point out the flaws and imperfections in my work. There was nothing encouraging, supportive, or positive at all. He felt as if he gained some right to express his judgment even more on my artistic works. He couldn’t help but compare my works with his.
Art has been my hobby, which I hope to make something greater out of one day. I have a personal collection of my work, but I haven’t taken the step to make it in to a professional portfolio or submit it for an exhibition. Meanwhile, my brother has created many pieces for school and exhibitions.
He’s a professional artist, and I’m just an amateur. He makes sure I remember that, all the time.
I, unofficially, became his competition. Sadly, I couldn’t say anything about his skills since I had no basic knowledge of art theory.
I always stayed silent when he spoke about art, his or mine, until one day, when my mother praised my talents in art, and he intervened.
According to him, my talent wasn’t enough without knowledge. Foundation was important to create a perfect masterpiece, and the best pieces of art were the ones made with correct techniques.
After years of silence, I finally spoke up: “I disagree.”
I told him art could be anything and done in any way the artist wanted it. I told him that art is how I bring my imaginative intensity to life, on the papers and canvases. I’ve learned a lot of ways of art making, but I’ve developed my natural techniques and styles, and my art is valuable too.
Art isn’t always about correct techniques of stroking, shading, and crosshatching. It’s more about expressing ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Art is the urge to express in any visual form. There’s no restriction in art. People are free to express it in any way they preferred.
Since then, he’s never said a word to me about my art.
I hope he’s realized that I don’t need those theories to articulate my thoughts and feelings. If I want to express myself, I choose my own techniques for that and I create beautiful art.
Art is more than just a relaxing hobby. It’s escapism, liberation, and empowerment. As soon as I touch my charcoal stick and open a new blank page of my sketchbook, I’m free to do anything I want.
And I certainly don’t need to follow anyone’s rules on how to do it, especially his.