Christina Hajjar, Homesick, performance, 2017. Photo by Callie Lugosi.
“Homesick” is part of a working series of experimental performances in response to my experiences of Lebanese diaspora. This series involves cooking with my mother and recording her recipes since she does everything from body memory. With each food item that I learn I perform a reflective response to deepen my connection and engage in a feminist praxis between the kitchen, my family’s stories, feminist scholars, Arab writers, and my body.
“Homesick” was conceptualized when my mother told me that oil of oregano brought on an immediate visceral reaction to picking wild oregano in her youth in Bekaa Valley, located in rural Lebanon. When dried, crushed, and mixed with other ingredients, oregano is the base of zaatar, which is then spread over dough and baked. Rationing a ten year old jar of oregano, my mother mixes her zaatar consisting of 50% Lebanese ingredients and 50% zaatar sourced from a Canadian grocery store. Having grown up eating zaatar and knowing my mother’s love for it, I grasped on to her nostalgic sentiments of finding something that mirrored the true smell and taste of oregano.
“Homesick” represents the failure of mimicry, yearning to understand my mother’s experiences and memories, longing for a home that I have not yet even visited. In the bathroom—a site of ritual, self-care, contemplation, and self-gaze—I taste the oil of oregano deeply with the new knowledge imparted by my mother and I feel the burn of repetition in my throat.
My process of intergenerational learning bonds my mother and I. Through performance art and other research methodologies, I continue to gain empathy for her experiences and can in some ways reconcile the distance between here/West and there/East, her/mother and I/daughter.
This work is inspired by Tina Takemoto’s “Open Wounds” in Sara Ahmed & Jackie Stacey’s Thinking Through the Skin, which reflects on her and Angela Ellsworth’s collaboration, “Her/She Senses.”
“Homesick” was published in Living Hyphen, Issue 1: Entrances and Exits (2018).