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Homeland
Heba Farid
EgyptGALLERYCONVERSATION
For me the question is a personal account of my experiences. I was born in 1966 in Cairo, during a time when Egypt witnessed Nasserite socialist control of the country, after liberation from British colonialism.

We were on the verge of war with Israel and also at the beginning of a voluntary exodus of thousands of academics that left the country for the West.

For the educated middle-class families that upheld a conservative lifestyle combining Egyptian, Arab, European and Islamic values, it was especially difficult to absorb the shock of their children leaving "home" and entering a hostile West.

Regardless, many people left Egypt including my younger brother and I as well as many cultural refugees of my generation. The years we lived abroad, with only occasionally showing up in Egypt for short periods of time, brought for us alienation, polarization and a doomed sense of homelessness. During those years, choices in my family life were revealed to me the contradictions, irreconcilable differences, ironic similarities and ultimately schizophrenic identities we had constructed for ourselves in an attempt to pin-down a semi-coherent or at least tolerable East/West self-image.

I struggled to overcome prejudices: both inherited and imposed, and tried to create a homeland by negotiating my existence as an immigrant within a foreign yet familiar landscape. As an artist living abroad, I became familiar with and an existing framework and industry – information, exposure, dialogue, community, funding. Living in Egypt, I found myself dealing with the "old World in transition, afraid to look at itself".

The cultural refugees of my generation have similar stories. We represent an important yet missing part of a very recent history of the Middle Eastern and North African Diasporas. We, carry with ourselves an entirely different set of values, back to the "homeland". We are somehow ahead of history, unknown, unrecognizable, and by locating ourselves within difference here, we become even more incomprehensible.
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