I remember the feeling of warm sand under my feet, my shoes in my right hand. It was a pair of beaten up Dr Martens, the same boots I had worn since I was a kid that had followed me around the world, in all those places where human life is cheapened and reduced to survival.
The sun was setting, but the warmth remained. The gentle clapping of the waves somehow absorbed every sound around. There were families behind me, with children running, laughing, parents calling them home, as it would be time for dinner. All I could hear was the rush of the Mediterranean, a vast body of water that had calmly surrounded so many places I should be able to call home. Palestinians cannot call Haifa home. My feet have known Haifa, but so many indigenous to this place never have.
I have talked about home, not just the physical element, but the idea and ideal of home, with Mx Yaffa for years. I have approached Blood Orange with that knowledge of the extreme privilege I have held, being able to return to Belfast safely, on my own terms, on my own time, and without any obstacle. Home is not a privilege. Home is a right. Home is an entitlement. Colonialism, occupation, and genocide are weapons forged in the fire of controlling, destructive, and bloodthirsty power. Resistance to this absolute desire for annihilation has always floored me, like a flower blooming from beneath the concrete. A flower that smells like orange blossom.
In Blood Orange, Yaffa asserts, declares, cherishes, and opposes. It is an ode to the sense of self; to the knowledge of identity; to reverence to our ancestors; to claiming, and reclaiming, a language, an appropriation of the land, an understanding of the elements, and the acute pain of displacement. In “I Am”, perhaps its most powerful core, Yaffa fearlessly and powerfully declares,
I am not
A Palestine you
You can't wipe out
I am inevitable
This inevitability is what has powered independence movements since the dawn of our belligerent humanity. We are told the arc of history always bends towards justice, but justice’s arm is not even-handed, to say the least. This inevitability transcends man-made structures, the pathetic fragility of the nation-state, the inherently unsustainable idea of supremacy. It is inevitable that Palestine will be free. It is inevitable that we, as a collective, will one day be free. Our lifetimes are just that; short, ephemeral, insignificant. The intimacy we feel towards our own idea of freedom and liberation is what endures. It is okay to feel small in the face of a grand revolution, and this is how Blood Orange made me feel: I was dwarfed by the luminous revelation of this inescapable future.
With the simple question, So / Where do / The motherless / Go? Yaffa forces us to face our idea of displacement. In a world full of foaming-at-the-mouth screams for blood and soil, have we forgotten about Palestinian, with no right of return? Have we forgotten about Armenians, chased from Turkey to the Caucasus? Have we forgotten that the celebration of a diaspora, regardless of its ethnic origins, is one always borne out of atrocities? In this same blog, I had talked before about the end of legal sovereignty, this idea that our norms could be the way out, a hopeful and inclusive vision for an utopic future. In this constant struggle between the advocate and the legal professional, between the prosecutor and the activist, I have found a narrow, dry and somewhat loveless place in which to stretch my legs.
Blood Orange challenges those narrow, occidental world views. It shatters those pre-conditioned ideologies by not just expecting, but demanding, a genuine, true way out. A way out for all the oppressed. No longer containing classifications of skin colours, no longer expecting compliance with half-baked democracies, seeing beyond all of this, all of this noise, this undignified fist fight for power. A utopia.
All that is left for us, the readers, is this:
Our blood filling
Trees and canyons
Sea a blood orange
Like an eclipse that
May we see an end to this blood shed in the name of control, and may all see the waves in Haifa. May we all be freed from a seemingly unstoppable appetite for hate. As Stefan Zweig once wrote, may we all see a dawn to this long, cold night. Mx. Yaffa gave us one. Least we can do is listen.
Yaffa As, 2023, Blood Orange. Meraj Publishing. ISBN: 9798223130505. Buy from Rainy Day Books.
➽ Sarah Kay is a human rights lawyer.