‘arabic coffee’, 2014, performance and installation

Kelise Franclemont, 'arabic coffee', 2014, performance and installation in 'Collaborationem' at St Saviour's Church, Pimlico, London. Image courtesy the artist. Photo credit Tom Butler.

Kelise Franclemont, ‘arabic coffee’, 2014, performance and installation in ‘Collaborationem’ at St Saviour’s Church, Pimlico, London. Image courtesy the artist. Photo credit Tom Butler.

The centuries-old coffee ritual is a custom of deep cultural significance, where this rich dark drink, often served with dried dates or other sweetmeats, is a traditional gesture of warm welcome offered to all guests who happen by. An old Middle Eastern proverb goes something like, “A single cup of coffee creates a friendship that lasts for 40 years”.

My first taste of Arabic coffee was nearly 25 years ago, by the hand of a Palestinian woman who is also my friend. What fond memories I have of the many enjoyable hours accompanied by these tiny cups, and not long after that first afternoon, how proud I was to serve from my own ibrik, a very tasty and authentic “qahweh arabiya” to make my Palestinian husband feel right at home.

It’s many years later, and those friends are miles away in a time that was decades ago; nonetheless, they are never far from mind and even now, I often crave this delicious drink, stirred with so many memories.

In ‘arabic coffee’, I have appropriated this beautiful act of hospitality again as my own, in order to explore an aspect of my personal identity as I create a moment that is enriched by sharing in which I invite guests to share a cup of coffee and a conversation with me, making memories with new friends and old.

‘arabic coffee’ is part of ‘Collaborationem’, a group exhibition at St Saviour’s Church, Pimlico, from 3-6 July 2014.

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