Dina El- Baradie is a 22 year old student at McGill university, majoring in International Management and minoring in Middle Eastern studies. I first met her in October 2014 during one of McGill’s student-run events and I was severely moved by her spoken poetry performance. That evening, I had worn heavy eye make up, and little did I know that it was going to run down my face only moments into her 'Are You Comfortable in Silence?' performance.
After the performance, I walked up to her and congratulated on her spectacular artistry - it not only moved me but inspired me to work and create art with her. As I walked up to her with excitement, telling her how fantastic she was, and how I would like to film her and work with her, she chuckled and almost brushed me off! She was probably thinking "who is this weird stranger and why is she talking to me?"
I wondered if she had her own YouTube channel but she quickly dismissed my presumptions by saying that she “only did this for fun,” and that she had no trace of her work online. I was so disappointed that the rest of the world couldn't have access to the feelings I felt during that performance, and I had this urge to share how she moved me and inspired me. Hence, this is why we finally collaborated, filmed multiple videos and this blogpost today!
A few months passed and Dina and I were both caught up with school, work, and other things things. Every time I met her and told her we need to meet up to film her performance, she wasn't quite comfortable about the idea. I sort of had to give her an hour-long speech along with a handwritten list of 'reason's why she's awesome' (which should be on her mirror somewhere) to finally convince her to perform on tape. I'm not going to lie, being on camera is not an easy task - I mean I take photos and I only have to deal with one angle. Being, on film is a whole other world and you're completely in 3-D form. However, when she gave in, and I was ready to roll ! *evil laugh*
During our process, Dina and I bonded over many things. One of the things I found was very similar to myself was our shared struggle to find and label a geographical entity that we can call "home." Dina, like many other students I've met at McGill University is a TCK - which is an acronym for THIRD CULTURE KID.
In an interview with me, she said:
"...but what really defines me is that I have Egyptian parents, a Canadian passport, and a Saudi residency. It’s that I am Third Culture. That I’ve been both blessed and cursed with moving around throughout my life, and that because I have no permanent place to call home, my loyalties lie scattered across the globe. That I cannot fully identify with the culture of my parents, nor the culture of the society I am a part of. Instead, my culture lies somewhere in the middle, and shared with other TCKs. That no matter where I go “home” to – Udhailiyah, Cairo, or Montreal – I’m always still missing home. And I wouldn’t trade this for the world."
It's absolutely hard to fit oneself into a category, but Dina found a niche where she can truly be herself. She continued, "that being said, I identify as Muslim and I am very in tune with my Arab identity. And for me that means being able to relate many different kinds of people and empathize with many struggles. I also identify as an activist, and I think all of these factors come into play in my writing."
We had some ups and downs to find the correct "mood" for her poems. It was my not-so-brilliant idea to film Dina outside in Montreal's -30 degree celsius weather. I was the self-proclaimed "creative genius" behind the planning, and the poor girl had to listen to me and perform poetry in the bristling cold. We both froze to hypothermia, while crying icicles down our cheeks; therefore, we decided to shoot the next morning before our classes start at 8:30 in the morning.
The next morning, on February 12th 2015, I woke up at 7:30 and expected Dina by 8:30. We both had class at 10:00 am we wanted to film this as soon as possible as I had set a deadline for publishing the video and the blogpost. I have to say, everything went according to plan and we frolicked our way to class by 9:30 am.
During the entire project, Dina and I spoke a lot and I asked her how she got into poetry in the first place. Her iris rolled to the top left corner of her eye as she started to think and remember. She said: "I started writing poetry in grade 7, after I discovered I was capable of using words to move people. It was an English assignment, and we had to read it to the class. Two classmates in tears and a backhanded compliment from a douchey boy was what I got out of it, and for me that was huge. I started experimenting (and still am experimenting) with spoken word, though, in my first year of university, after I was introduced to Suheir Hammad. I saw her stuff and was like: 'I want to do that'. She is still my favorite spoken word artist."
I personally admire Dina because she makes time for her art and she devotes time to improve her craft despite having a crazy packed schedule. I am not fond of people who constantly complain about how they don't have the "time" to do the things they love - if you don't have the time right now when you're a young unencumbered individual, when will you have the time? Years down the road when you are juggling a job, a family and a household - then, you certainly won't have the time!
I was curious how Dina related to poetry and how she used it as a tool in her daily life. She responded: "for me, poetry – like all other forms of art – serves two functions. One: it is medium for delivering messages. In this sense, it can serve as a form of activism. Two: it is a means of personal expression – a form of self-healing. Sometimes that’s airing out frustrations with the injustices of the world. Other times it’s ridding yourself of the words you wish you could say to someone, but for some reason can’t… or maybe just won’t. Or maybe you can, but telling them directly wouldn’t do the power of your emotions justice. This piece, 'Give Me Your Mind', was one of those pieces"
Please engross yourself in Dina El-Baradie's piece "Give Me Your Mind" embedded in a YouTube link below. Make sure you watch the video in HD 720p quality (quickly click the little gear on the left of the screen to change the quality option). We wanted to release this video right on Valentine's Day to fall under the theme of love. I must say it has been a beautiful creative process and I am just delighted that I was able to work with a young talented artist like her. I hope everyone watching this video is inspired by her the way I was moved by her upon hearing the piece way back in October.
It's been a pleasure working with you Dina, it really has!
Until next month folks ----
à tout à l'heure!
Mina lives in the chaotic city of London, United Kingdom. She uses writing as a way to bring calm the chaos.
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