June 1 2017 /// Children of sunny Syria (2)

After having brought home all the goats sound and safe, Habeeb and Zareefie are seated around the dinner tray, and the mother announces that they will soon have to move to the booth because the house's warmth will have to warm the silkworms that their father has started to breed. The mother hopes that this year the worms will produce a lot of silk, though the profits are getting scarce, and their small village of weavers and craftsmen who produce silk at home must now compete with the rayon industry, and with the speculations of "foreigners". After dinner, the father invites Habeeb to help him in the barn. Habeeb suddenly thinks of the school, and of Jidry, his cousin, son of uncle Salim who owns a shop in the bazaar. Jidry already knows how to read and write, and often entertains the village men with readings and wonderful writing performances.
They are all very proud of Jidry and Habeeb is a bit jealous.
But before closing his eyes that night, listening to the hasty steps of his sister who is still working on the roof to pick up the peppers left in the sun, Habeeb decides that her sister is more worthy of studying than him, and that he will give her those five coins hidden in a hole in the ground floor of the living room, those that the mother conserves for him.

This is the story of a discovery. An illustrated children's book, written in 1936 by an American missionary in Syria, is spotted by the artist 80 years later in a book stand in New York, right in the time of the great Syrian exodus to Europe, and of the long columns of refugees on the march that we observe with distress on TV. A discovery that seems a sign, and that becomes the starting point of an artistic action that consists in the translation process. A translation and transition process that is not only happening through languages ​​- English and Italian - but also through the time machine of geopolitical upheavals and of communication ​​- the analogue of the press and the digital of the video stream, the visual and sound digitization that will preserve this item of paper destined to disappear giving to it a new meaning. Today, as this crisis seems to escalate day by day, it is the beginning of a performance in episodes that will tell the small and big adventures of two Syrian brothers, Habeeb and Zareefie, their goats, their village surrounded by mulberry trees and their loving parents. A story that emerges from 1936, from the romantic fantasy of a Western missionary, and that through the past - and the "timeless" literary flesh - whispers in the ears of the present.

The book
Children of sunny Syria
by Myrta H. Dodds
illustrated by Margaret Ayer
New York, 1936



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