Those who tell the stories rule the world
The great thing about travelling is that it takes you out of your comfort zone, your storytelling comfort zone that is. While I have visited a number of countries in the Middle East over the past 15 years, I was reminded of this when I last travelled to Doha, Qatar and the UAE – to Al Ain, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Storytelling is universal and the response I get from people when they ask me what I do, and I tell them I am a storyteller is almost universally, “What a great job.” My response is, “Its not a job it's a passion.”
That said, its also my job and its one that’s transportable around the world, across cultures, social boundaries, age, religion, race and gender. That’s what I like about being a storyteller, as soon as I let people know that’s what I do, they want to share their story with me.
So, it’s been an interesting 10 days in a couple of the Gulf nations. I attended the 4th Qatar Businesswomen’s Forum in Doha –lots of stories there–and then met with various people, families and companies in the UAE.
I also read an interesting article in the November edition of Qatar Today titled The Eternal Enemy, about documentary maker Dr Jack Shaheen. Dr Shaheen created the documentary Reel Bad Arabsbased on the book he has recently published. The documentary and book is a thorough review of how the West’s view of Arabs has been skewed by Hollywood. Shaheen watched over 1000 movies and read all their reviews. The clear stereotype: “Arabs were lecherous sheikhs, sexualised belly dancers, nomadic Bedouins, spoilt rich boys, faceless and voiceless women and terrorists.” (www.qatartodayonline.com/arab-stereotypes-the-eternal-enemy/).
The article even quoted a movie I really like, Kingdom of Heaven. I actually like Saladin (the western version of his real name by the way, Salah ad-Din which means The Righteousness of the Faith.)
It struck me that a constant theme that came out of the Qatar Businesswomen’s Forum was that of Gulf women having to or needing to counter the West’s view of them, that Gulf women were capable, empowered, able businesswomen. This was their story and they wanted to tell it. It seemed to me they were telling it to the converted and that the real challenge was and is to tell their story outside the comfort of their own countries.
This is a challenge in more ways than one. It’s one thing to share your story in your own country in the comfort of your own group and some ‘internationals’. It’s another thing altogether to leave this comfort zone and really share your story with others in their cultural setting.
What I know is that sharing stories and being courageous about this is how people all around the world will develop understanding, be less fearful of others and accept people from other cultures, countries and religions as ‘just like them’ – a mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunty . . .
Those who tell the stories rule society. Let that be us!
Let me know if I can help you tell your story.