" Forget art, put your hope in ice -cream " Words by Charles Baxter that our Kids from Mosul definitely agree with.
5 pm on Friday afternoon has become our date time. I have a date with five giggling and very tenacious girls and one mischievous boy who have just, literally just, as in this past week just, escaped or have been rescued from Mosul after three years of enforced life and attempted stripping of identity under the rule of the black flag people.
I asked a leading question...So what flavor ice cream do you like? Whoops. These giggling kids had no concept of what ice cream is. I dove into my freezer and pulled the glorious stuff out. And as they ate their first taste of ice cream ever in their lives, over dishes stacked with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry decorated with Oreo cookies found in the local Carrefour Hypermarket, they began to record their journey of freedom from Mosul.
This is a drawing by a nine year old who refused to bow to three years of brainwashing, telling her that she is not a Yezidi, she is an infidel, the daughter of infidels. She refused to submit to the Koran. She took care of her seven year old sister and every day told her that the black flag people are lying and that she is a Yezidi and she would get them home. To their people, their land and their inheritance.
The day came, a day just one week ago, a day of mass of shelling and bombing on their area of Mosul. The nine year old, grabbed her sister and ran.No fear, no hiding for shelter, raw intuition. She just knew it was the time of escape and the direction would happen. They ran barefoot. They trod on shrapnel. Their feet bled but they kept going. Finally, as in a long finally they came across Iraqi troops, though they had no idea of the identity of the soldiers. She told her small sister not to say that they are Yezidi. One woman, also running for her life, saw them, and made an act of compassion, putting the two girls under her wings, running with them until the liberation forces came to their rescue. A Moslem fleeing with Yezidis risking all that was left to escape Mosul.
Over ice- cream she drew this picture. Longing for her mother, her brother and her home. Her home was destroyed by the black flag people. Her mother...no info. Her brother, same. Her father, she does not even speak of him. Below is the pic of her seven year old sister who does not even know how to draw. Her first opportunity. Ice cream and art!
And then there is this 8 year old. Brighter than a button, stubborn, determined, opinionated and brainwashed. She was forced to read the Koran every day and to quote it off by heart. She was forced to work hard, child labour. She is one angry kid. Rightly so. Her softness, that age of innocence is still hidden there and will ultimately win.
She didn't talk much. Between the ice-cream and her drawing, she was busy if not intensely preoccupied with running all over the house collecting items and hiding them close to the front door. Hoarding. I asked her father, how's her eating. Binging. She has been in a place of hard labour and deprivation for three years. Now she thinks ahead, has probably made an inner vow not to lack again.
Her Dad is struggling. He was totally rejected when he went to the camp just outside Mosul. She told him that he is an infidel and she wanted to return to Mosul and the black flag people. She came, screaming and shouting that she was Muslim and not Yezidi and wanted him to die. Dad is wounded. Dad also needs help. We sat and talked about that blend of kindness, compassion, boundaries and tough love for an hour or so.
Life around our kitchen table. That table can talk. That table has seen laughter, joy, frustration, anger, despair, hope, planning, strategy, confusion, chaos, brightness, tears. It will absorb much more and serve many more glasses of ice-cream to our Kids from Mosul.
"There is a tray full of glass sundae dishes filled with brightly colored ice cream. Strawberry, pistachio, black raspberry, pink, green and purple. I like the colors next to each other and wonder what impossible things I can draw about ice cream. Maybe melting rivers of it. "( Linda Mullaly Hunt, Fish in a Tree)
Maybe that will be our drawing theme for our ice-cream date next Friday. Same time. Same place. The Yellow Table.