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.