Welcome Mat, 2017 - Julie Brown Neu

Welcome Mat, 2017

Welcome Mat art quilt with Arabic words Ahlan wa Sahlan

The Muse seems to be stuck on political work lately. This new piece is no different. This piece is entitled “Welcome Mat” and it is roughly the size of one at 20″ x 30.” I used fusible, raw edge applique to add the Arabic letters, which say “Ahlan wa Sahlan,” meaning “Welcome.”

Welcome Mat art quilt with Arabic words Ahlan wa Sahlan

I studied Arabic for more than five years (3 1/2 years of Modern Standard Arabic as an undergrad and 2 years of Classical Arabic as a Masters student) and fell in love with the language. Arabic is extremely well-organized and the script is beautiful to write. Ahlan wa Sahlan has always been one of my favorite phrases because of its meaning but also because it’s a lovely design. There are two equally sized words ending in the same letters, connected by a rounded letter meaning “and” with an upturned H in the first word balanced by a dipping H in the second.

What this piece means to me:

The United States of America is called a country of immigrants. While this does not recognize the citizens who are native to this land, it does speak to the vast numbers of people who have come here from other places (my ancestors included).  More or less, we welcomed them. We erected an enormous statue in the harbor in New York to welcome them inscribed with:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But today, we are turning away the “homeless, tempest-tost” refugees because many are Muslim. The President has attempted to ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries, claiming national security, but terrorists have not come from those countries, and as Timothy McVeigh brings to mind, terrorists don’t have to be Muslim. The wave of “America First” nationalism that is coursing through the country concerns me because it does not represent the welcoming “land of freedom” that I believe us to be and that I expect us to be. Ultimately, I think that open arms and an open door will do more to counter terrorism than anything else and that’s why I’ve put out the  welcome mat.

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