What would you do differently to what you do now?
At the moment I am immersed in a performance of my own making, working with a brilliant ensemble of Arab Australian performers artists and thinkers. I have returned to the writing cave after many years of intense and engaged community cultural work and advocacy in Western Sydney. I love this work, have done it for 30 years and am deeply committed to it, but I need to write myself weary now. And I am quite loving putting that desire into practice.
Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by those who bravely stand up and say no in the face of obscene power. This year in March in Honduras, Berta Cáceres, an Indigenous environmental activist who railed against the tyranny of multinational and imperialist corruption was gunned down in her own home. She put her principles, beliefs and community before her own safety. She is a good one amongst us.
What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Working with marginalised communities has taught me that it is often the small acts that have the biggest impact. This question makes me think of the awesome Wangari Muta Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who tells the story of the hummingbird that tries to fight the forest fire by carrying water in its little beak. As all the big animals stand by and watch the hapless little bird flying back and forth, cynically decrying its efforts, the hummingbird’s response is an incantation for all of us who are impatient for justice and change: “I am doing the best I can”.
Favourite holiday destination and why?
If I am able to take an extended holiday, I go overseas. Beirut. Hanoi. Languedoc-Roussillon. London. Crete. These places I especially like.
When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
The Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and the South Coast of NSW are my two favourite go-to places. Natural beauty, sacred spaces; both bring out the reflective. They say that a walk in the woods is as good as meditation. I would say a walk in the woods or by the sea is meditation. After the daily trials of living in and negotiating the built clutter of the urban, the serenity of the land and the sea is indeed a blessing.
What are you currently reading?
I have piles of books everywhere. Three I am reading at the minute are: The Battle for Home: The Memoir of a Syrian Architect by Marwa al-Sabouni; philosophies of emancipation in the feminist journal Hypatia; and vegetarian Arab cooking. I love reading books about food and the culture of food. I have quite a collection of Arab cookbooks.
What are you currently listening to?
Ballaké Sissoko keeps me calm in the midst of a production; Mashrou’ Leila keeps me upbeat; Gawurra and Gurrumul nourish the soul; and Alsarah & the Nubatones keep me moving, being a sedentary sort of person.
Momentary. And that’s ok. So when I am alone and writing thinking reading writing, I love that. When I am with my big family, and the little ones are running riot, the table is heaving with food, and we are all together, I adore that. And when a small act of justice is delivered, that makes me happy too.
What does the future hold for you?
Having just consulted the remnants of my coffee cup, I see a vast mountain on the horizon. I need to reflect on that.
Paula is the Writer & Director of The Cartographer’s Curse – presented by the National Theatre of Parramatta and Third Space Productions at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 5 – 8 October 2016. For more information, visit: www.riversideparramatta.com.au for details.
Image: Paula Abood (supplied)