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  • Note from Lucerne: On Exile
    Manuel Vaca

Note from Lucerne: On Exile

Layale Chaker, a violinist in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, shares a reflection on a discussion about Edward Said and the concept of exile. Her note is reproduced below:

One evening in Lucerne, we gathered to watch a documentary film about Edward Said, where the late Palestinian intellectual chronicled aspects of his personal life, as well as some of his intellectual reflections. Although he discussed his thoughts on exile, he opposed them, once again, to any form of identity proclamation, and to glorifying exile into a romantic struggle, a longing for the ancestral land, for the orange blossoms, or the olive trees. It is precisely, to me, what makes his work so paradoxical and so difficult to understand. What is exile, if it is not an insurmountable pain, a ground crack between the human being and his native land?

After the film, Ronni Mann began the discussion with a question: “Which of you here feels exiled? ” Not more than three or four timid hands arose. This opened the floor for a discussion which soon took a path that started to answer my questions.

Exile concerns those who, uprooted, have always felt stateless, but it can also concern the uprooting chosen by musicians, who can only fulfill their engagement through voluntary detachment, and through taking a journey.

For musicians, exile can therefore take a metaphorical turn, as it becomes one of the conditions for creativity and artistic production, which carry within them an essential critical and dissident force. Our position as outsiders would then become an instrument of resistance, a gesture of emancipation and transgression, and a liberating alternative. Our instability, whether initially forced upon us or chosen, can become a vocation, and a medium of new possibilities, as it allows the emergence of forgotten truths and the birth of alternatives.

There is something greatly soothing when discussing and thinking about these subjects together. Reflecting upon our vocation as musicians in the context of the Divan, as well as in the wider context of artists in the world, can only guide us further into our chosen engagements and our goals. Becoming thinking musicians in order to better carry our aims… That is one thought that could resume this summer’s tour.”

– Layale Chaker, violin