Ray petersen –
The burgeoning literary talent of Oman has again been recognised outside the Sultanate, as youthful University of Nizwa student Rua Salim al Mashaari captivated a lively Parisian public and media throng last week.
A devotee of Jacques Vert and Charles Beaudelaire among the foremost French poetic influences, Al Mashaari nevertheless has a special empathy for the inimitable English playwright, William Shakespeare, seeing “the romance he brings to his writing, and Romeo and Juliet,” as the best. Not bad literary role models then!
The young poet beat of the competition from 4000 other hopefuls to achieve a memorable triumph, which follows on from recent international recognition of Omani author/novelist, Abdullah bin Mohammed al Ta’ei. Her initial enthusiasm stems from recognising what she termed, “an easy relationship between Arabic and French,” and the subtleties and similarities between the two languages as she “got deeper into it.”
A competent Arabic, English and French speaker, Al Mashaari, as Dr Khalfan al Harrasi, Head of Department of Foreign Languages at the university commented, “Epitomises exactly what the University of Nizwa is seeking to produce, articulate, urbane, global citizens, capable of functioning anywhere in the world, and to do so with sophistication and artistry, as this young woman has, demonstrates the success of the institution’s initiatives, and of course, her own immense talent.”
In fact, Al Mashaari explained that, “meeting fellow students from other countries such as Canada, Tahiti, and across Africa has created a real enthusiasm for their cultures.” Laughing, she said, “We communicate all the time, and though sometimes it’s not easy, I always feel so good after talking with, or e-mailing them.” In doing so she responded to that search of young academics for a taste of other cultures and societies.
“An ode to my mother,” is how the young poet reflects upon her prizewinning effort, in an “obviously passionate and emotional offering,” according to Dr Gabruck, her mentor. “Rua would be a success in any field however she was attracted to the French language by its beauty. I would like to think that her love for her mother shines through in that unique manner of the language, and to have achieved such literary, poetic, recognition, such a short time after taking up an interest in the language, is simply amazing.”
Accompanied to Paris by the Head of the French Section, of the Department of Foreign Language, Dr Djamila Gabruck, Al Mashaari received a surprise boost to her journey to France when the national air carrier, Oman Air, upgraded her to business class prior to her departure from Muscat in celebration of her achievements, and the upcoming National Day celebrations.
Though becoming something of a media veteran, having featured in print earlier, and on the Oman TV ‘Coffee in the Morning’ show, Al Mashaari was amazed by the media presence at the prestigious location of the Town Hall of the 4th arrondissement in Paris. Though initially overwhelmed by the cameras, television presence, and the general noise and hubbub, Al Mashaari received and acknowledged her Certificate of Award, reassured no doubt by the presence of Dr Gabruck, and Omani Embassy representative Duaa al Hamri.
Meeting prominent French poet and journalist Louisa Nadour was “inspirational and exciting,” for her young protégé, explained Dr Gabruck, “and she handled the occasion, the media, and her public appearance duties like a veteran.” Following the ceremony, Al Mashaari visited the Arab World Institute, and of course, the iconic Eiffel Tower. However one of the inescapable highlights of Al Mashaari’s visit was being invited to the Omani Embassy in Paris, to meet with the Ambassador His Excellency Dr Ghazi al Rawas for a brief discussion, and more photos.
This is a young Omani who has been challenged throughout her university studies by frequent absences from her family, and especially her mother. Yet she has found ways to, not only function effectively in her studies, but to tell the world what her mother means to her in poetry, which is in itself not easy, but in a second/third language, even more difficult. To have done so with aplomb speaks volumes for her talent and artistry.
Rua al Mashaari is a proud Omani, who counts herself as privileged to have represented her country her first time overseas, and looks forward to the opportunity to prove herself in the job market. “I would really like an Embassy, or a Tourism position,” she said yesterday, “So if there is a diplomatic, or tourism opportunity out there, maybe they will give me a call?” Any intending employer could do much worse than this intelligent, well-spoken, ambitious young woman, for whom the sky is the limit.