In the Presence of Absence, 2022. Digital photograph on satin with chainette fringe trim, 34×58″. Loose Ends group exhibition. Photos 1-5 by Karen Asher. Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA), Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg, MB, June 3-24, 2022.

In the Presence of Absence is dedicated to my late father. The satin print is a still life made up of mine and my dad’s objects, following a tradition of creating an altar on his death anniversary. The title of the piece is after Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s book, that he wrote as an elegy with death at his doorstep, discussing diaspora, exile, and longing.

“Longing is the absent chatting with the absent… Longing allows distance to recede… Longing is the sound of the wind… Longing takes you around it’s country like a tour guide in heaven. It takes you to a mountain where you used to take refuge to wallow in wild plants until your pores soak up the smell of sage. Longing is smell… Longing has a favorite season: winter. It is borne of the first drops of water on dry grass and heaves deep sighs of feminine hues, craving moisture. Rain is the promise of a universal wedding. Rain is a promise that what is sealed will open into an essence and that the infinite will reincarnate itself in nature… Longing is a frustrated poet rewriting the same poem hundreds of times… Longing is exile punishing the exiled and the exiles shame of admiring the music and gardens of exile… Longing for the beginning, for the way the key was inserted into the door… Thus, longing is born from every beautiful incident and not from a wound… Longing is a scar inside the heart and a country’s fingerprint on the body… It is lost time protesting the sadism of the present… Longing is an ache that does not long to ache. It is the aching stirred by pure air coming from a distant mountaintop, the ache of searching for a past happiness. But it is a healthy kind of ache, because it reminds us that we are afflicted with hope and are sentimental.” – Mahmoud Darwish, 2006