issue 3. SOURCE

Cover art by Knar Hovakimyan.

Cover art by Knar Hovakimyan.

Editor's Note

As a kid, I often wondered what stories were contained in a dumpling. Hailing from St. Petersburg, my mother’s mother made us pilmeni—boiled meat dumplings—when we visited her house outside of Tripoli, Lebanon. My father’s mother made us manto—steamed meat dumplings—when we visited her house in Jeddah. 

I’ve always known that my father’s mother, a ‘Bukhari’ Saudi—a term that refers to the city of Bukhara, but encompasses most Central Asian Saudis—came from Uzbekistan. Escaping the Red Army’s Muslim purge, my family found a smuggler, jumped into coffins in the Fergana Valley, and made its way to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Makkah, and finally, Medina. We don’t have photos or belongings from that era. We were allegedly from a farming village called Ekin Tekin, which doesn’t exist anymore—at least not on paper. Similar to my mother’s mother’s Siberian roots, that part of my heritage was always on the periphery, a distant and inaccessible past.

In March of this year, I became the first person in my family since the 1920s to visit Uzbekistan—and it was as if my two grandmothers shared the same kitchen. I had pilmeni as an appetizer and manto for the main dish. I had pirashki with my borscht and finished off with a juicy, sumac-sprinkled kibab. I had kasha for breakfast and baklava for dessert. I drank vodka with a mosque printed on the label, the word “Allah” clearly inscribed on its minarets. I saw Soviet-era apartment complexes towering over a dilapidated fourteenth-century mosque. My memories of St. Petersburg and Jeddah, which had occupied such distant portions of my mind, suddenly knit together as though they had always been of the same place.

SOURCE interrogates our overlapping roots, seeking to broaden our notions of the archive. Dynasties come and go, obscuring our access to the past. To ask questions, we often turn to libraries, museums, and monuments—which, unlike people, do not wander. But where can we look to find the wanderers? Which objects tell their stories?

The contributors to this fourth issue demonstrate our power to produce our own histories, unmarred by the legacy of empire. They study the composition of their soils: matriarchal face tattoos, listening to Mozart in Syria, cycles. They reclaim our identities from those who have exploited them: our hair, our narratives, and our alienation. And they remind us of a heritage of survival: prison reform and protest justice, skating and fishing, birthdays. Most importantly, they show that, wherever we are and whether or not we know it, we carry our stories with us.


Cannot be Contained

By Nadeen Shaker

Spirit of Nasr

By Shady Shebak

Bn3eed Nafsana

By Wafaa Abu Saadah

A Museum in Every Home

By Rund Al-Arabi

The Birthday

By Shawk Alani 

Libya is Blue

By Farrah Fray

La Familia

By Dina Albogammi

The Beetle

By Shaikha Khalifa


By Nayla Al-Khalifa

Liminal Belonging

By Bergen Hendrickson


With Ahmad Sahli by Yousef Hilmy

Before We Were Banned

By Azmi Haroun

Perpetual Movement

An Exhibition by Lizzy Vartanian Collier


By Hamza Bilbeisi

No Cash Allowed

By Sandra Esmeralda De Anda


With Yumna Al-Arashi by Andrea Deniz

Ubiquitous Follies

By Sara Khan

Suspended Orbit

By Knar Hovakimyan

Grow Along

By Hajer AKA Eclectic Yemeni

Hidden Truths

By Shehana Udat


By Maryam Jamal


By Rawand Issa


By Hawazin Alotaibi

Don’t You Know Who My Mother Is?

By Tracy Chahwan

Mozart Can Be Syrian

With Kinan Azmeh by Azmi Haroun

Hamed Says

By Benjamin Stevenson

Digital Spirituality

By Amr Alngmah