"When I was standing in the Saddam Art Center in Baghdad, I saw rooms after room of portraits of Saddam Hussein. I then wandered up some stairs into a back room and saw a haunting painting of a nude woman clinging to a barren tree. Her head was hanging, bowed, and there was a golden light behind her like a sun. I stood motionless in front of the painting. I felt she had captured something within me. I took a photo of the painting, came back to America and over the last ten years have been digesting this painting and what it must mean to be an Iraqi woman now."
"As an American with a father who was born in Iraq, I naturally live on both sides of the issues. The first Gulf War was the most defining moment of my life. I was in school at the University of Michigan. I remember watching many of my fellow students at the bar cheering the war as it played out on TV, while I was worried if my family in Baghdad was even going to survive. Over a decade later, I think Americans are deeply questioning their place in Iraq, and wondering about its history: Who are its people? What do they want? Why are we there? Did we do the right thing?
So if you could imagine going to Baghdad and getting to overhear a Bedouin woman at her hairdressers telling her secrets about the man she loves and her heartache at why he doesn’t love her in the context of the above questions, my play becomes vitally immediate.
I intended to write a piece about the Iraqi psyche, something that would inform and enlighten the images we see on T.V. However, the play is equally about the American psyche. It is a dialogue between east and west.
The characters are deeply engaged in circumstances unique to them as Iraqis and yet through their passions seem to answer the concerns of the west. The audience plays a vital role in the show with each Iraqi character speaking directly to them in English as if they were a trusted western friend. I wanted the audience to see these women not as the ‘other’ but much more like themselves than they would have initially thought. I felt it was important to create a safe environment to experience both horror and humor, but ultimately to see the play as a celebration of life. 9 Parts of Desire is also about the need for feminine strength as a necessary part of any The material I gathered came from hours of gaining the trust of Iraqi women.
I had the right mix: I was half Iraqi so they opened up to me immediately, but I was also Western so they felt they could express fears or secrets that might otherwise be judged more harshly by someone from their culture. And most importantly, I had to share as much of myself with them as they were sharing with me.
My process was not one of formal interviews, but rather a process of living with, eating with, communicating compassionately and loving on such a level, that when I parted from their homes it was clear to all that we were now family. When an Iraqi woman trusts you it is because she has come to love you and that has been the process of finding and forming these stories."
"With rare exception, none of the stories are told verbatim. Most are composites and although based in fact, I consider all the women in my play to be dramatized characters in a poetic story. I liken it to song writing – I listened deeply to what each woman said, what she wanted to say but couldn’t, and what she never knew how to say."
P.S: All the quoted text is by Heather Raffo
Image Source: Google