22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Hala Mohammad

Portrait Hala Mohammad
© Hartwig Klappert

Hala Mohammad was born in the Syrian port city of Latakia. She was raised in a liberal home, studied film at the Université Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis and later worked as a costume designer, script-writer and director’s assistant for Abdellatif Abdul-Hamid. In 1994, Hala Mohammad turned to poetry as well.

She has released five collections of poems to date: »Die Seele hat kein Gedächtnis« (1994; tr. »The Soul has no Memory«), »Über jenes milde Weiß« (1998; tr. »Beyond That Mild Shade of White«), »Ein wenig Leben« (2001, tr. »A Touch of Life«), »Diese Angst« (2004; tr. »This Fear«) and »Als klopfte ich an meine Tür« (2008; tr. »As if Knocking on my Own door«). She is part of a generation of modern Arabic women poets who give expression to their individual experiences as women and intellectuals in the Arab world. Her work is distinguished by the improvised character of her verse. In place of complex reflections, her work displays an interplay of spontaneous notions and immediate sensual perceptions, in particular in regard to phenomena dealing with colours and the sense of smell. At the same time, she focuses on the lyrical transposition of individual gestures and movements. In both her literary and film work, she examines the subject of memory and elementary emotions such as fear, alienation, loneliness and sadness. One common motif is the presence of another who even in absence is perceived as present to which the lyrical ego is bound in love. Mohammad consciously avoids complex syntax and uses a pared-down form of expression. She uses a form of modern Arabic free of dialectic elements. While in Mohammad’s first work the poems each had a title, in later works the poet numbers them instead to signify their role as independent parts of a multifaceted whole. The atmospherically dense verse lives on sequences of images characterised by a continual back-and-forth between reality and metaphor. The punctuation heightens the elliptical character of individual sequences.

Moreover, she works as a journalist for various Arabic newspapers. She has also directed several documentaries, such as »Qat‘at Halwa« (A Piece of Sweet, 2006), and »Rihla fi al-Thakira« (Journey into Memory, 2006), in which she presented a portrait of political prisoners in Syria. In »If Qassyoon Got Tired« (2006), she interviewed the Syrian author and poet Muhammad al-Maghut, who played a major role in revolutionising traditional forms of Arabic poetry through free verse. She is married to the Syrian director and screenwriter Haitham Hakki, whose 2009 film »The Long Night« examined the taboo subject of political prisoners from the perspective of the prisoners’ relatives. Hala Mohammad lives in Paris.