I met Nadia Choucha for the first time at the launch of the second edition of her book Surrealism & the Occult at the Autumn Equinox, 31st of October 2018, held at the Freud Museum.
Choucha is a striking looking woman, with extremely unusual and attractive features. These are combined with an intense presence and commanding glance. She is the most magician-like looking wo/man (short for woman and/or a man; in other words a human being) I've ever seen, bearing in mind that I have been to all sorts of magician, wiccan, mysticists gatherings, local and international.
Else to say I've seen plenty of people who have the ambition to belong to themselves whilst influencing the world (influence, not influenced). But it is Choucha who looks like she is actually doing it.
There is nothing quotidian or common about Choucha. Nothing in her looks similar to anything I have seen elsewhere. Her hairdo doesn't fit in any category, nor her clothes, despite being black. Nothing in her speaks of any category or social stereotype. Yet she is not weird or scary. She is somehow homely-alien and very natural.
Choucha's command of language is equally extraordinary. At all times she speaks as though she is reading a previously written, well researched, meticulously elaborated, finely edited script. It's as if she has had a video preview of our encounter, made notes of my questions and worked laboriously on her answers. She speaks smoothly, with great erudition, with no hesitation and with all the possible punctuation that exist in English. When you read Choucha's answers in the interview (see Books subpage), please try to imagine and believe that this is exactly how she speaks.
For our second encounter Choucha chose Mirth, Marvel and Maud, Walthamstow, presuming that on a week-day afternoon the spacious pub would be empty and quiet. What we actually found was a DJ playing dance music to a crowd of crawling toddlers and a sea of screaming mothers. Hence, the interview couldn't be recorded. "How very surreal", said I and spent two careless hours in Choucha's lovely company leaving to her all the work on writing down the answers of my questions once back in Scotland.
This second meeting left me with the vivid impression that "Nadia Choucha and I, we are surreal twins; so similar, that we have nothing in common".
And here are some of the markers of that Similar/Nothing in Common Surreal Twinhood:
- Both our fathers are Iraqi / Hers Assyrian Chaldean Christian; mine Arab Sunni Muslim. (To be honest the fact that her father was Iraqi cought me completely unprepared, as neither her name, nor her looks hinted such a possibility to me. Having in mind that a) I am not alienated from the Arab community in general, and the Iraqi community in particular b) I have worked and am still working with different minority groups within the Arab community in general, and the Iraqi community in particular. As I told you, there is nothing common about Choucha).
- Both our mothers are "not-exactly European"/ Hers Scottish; mine Bulgarian (never mind that for the time being both countries are EU members). Geographically viewed: Her mother is from the extreme North-West; mine from the nearly extreme South-East (with Greece being the proper "extreme").
- Both our mothers were "high-fliers"/ Hers working in the UN; mine in cancer research
- Her surname is Choucha/ My parents used to call me Chouche or Choucho, until I had a child. Once I had my son they started calling me by my name, while calling my son Chanchoun. (I forgot to ask Choucha what her surname means. Most Middle Eastern names have a meaning. As for Chouche, Choucho or Chanchun, I have no idea either).
- We both grew up with books, as both our grandfathers were booksellers/ (There must be an antithesis to this point too. I'll have to ask her)
- We both had teenage rebellion/ Hers - breaking with religious upbringing and education by going into art, magic and drug experimentation. Mine by breaking with a secular upbringing and the Islamist school, situated in a communist country, I was attending (the sole option to learn Arabic at the time) and by auto-initiating my baptism into Eastern European Orthodoxy at the age of fourteen. With the whole affair being kept secret from my parents, and with my thirteen years old friend posing as a God-Mother.
I told you : Similar to the point of nothing in common.
The two hours spent in the light of Choucha's presence, and specially the perfection of her verbal expression, left me rather distraught: "Iva", I told myself, "You need at least 20 more years reading English before writing another word!"
After realizing how traumatizing the idea of 20 years non-writing is I pitied myself "Ok, at least a year".
But as we all well know, good intentions don’t last long and the usual bad habits take over.
And here I am, pass the Winter Solstice, already writing.
27 December 2018