B I O G R A P H Y
Ali Hussain was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1984, amidst the Iran-Iraq war. Although he has no memories of that decade-long conflict, he does recall vividly the First Gulf War that awoke him on a fateful night in 1991 to a changed world and life trajectory.
A year after the war, Ali and his family migrated to neighboring Jordan, where they lived the next six years before finally moving to the United States, where he has continued to live for the past 2 decades.
After finishing his high school and college education, Ali pursued a doctoral degree in Sufi studies at the University of Michigan, Department of Middle Eastern Studies. It was during this rich intellectual journey that Dr. Hussain discovered creative writing, and art generally, as a crucial medium for identity formation and self-discovery.
Dr. Hussain's initial motivation to pursuing a doctoral degree in Sufi studies was to become an intellectual thinker among his coreligionists in the American Muslim community. That direction changed drastically as his attachment and love for creative writing and the arts grew and prospered.
That journey culminated in 2018, towards the end of his doctoral studies, when Dr. Hussain founded Nostalgic Remembrance Inc., as a platform to explore the sacred dimensions of the creative process and cultivate our inner artistry. Since its inception, this organization has put together several online and on-site workshops, lectures and retreats on various topics pertaining to art, creativity and culture, with Dr. Hussain as the lead instructor.
Alongside this teaching experience, Ali Hussain has also self-published several works, both creative and academic, including: Mystical Musings of a Contemporary Dervish, The Souk of Nostalgia: A Childhood Between Rivers and Mountains, Art in Memoirs: Setting Forth, Rumi and Gibran: In Conversation, and Video Games and Sufi Spirituality: From the Teachings of Sufi Masters Shaykh Hisham Kabbani and Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi. In 2021, Dr. Hussain founded Art in Memoirs Publishing, an open platform for writers and poets to share their creative vision with the world in print.
Dr. Hussain's other artistic proclivities include photography and music. His creative vision may perhaps be best explained as an attempt to decipher meaning at the intersection of word, color, and sound.
W R I T I N G
What makes Ali Hussain's writing unique is his focus on the creative process itself as a subject. The context and content embrace in his poetry and prose, both of which serve as introspective journeys into the heart of the creative process.
The beginnings of this sojourn can be found in his first publication, Mystical Musings of a Contemporary Dervish, which can be purchased from our store. One particular entry in this collection of essays and reflections: "The Light of the Blessed Tree: Islam's Intellectual Imperative in Modernity", emerges as the only truly academic essay that Dr. Hussain has written over the years, wherein he makes the case for a healthy cultural engagement between Islam, as an intellectual, cultural and spiritual tradition, with American society at large.
Since that publication, Dr. Hussain has tried through his writings to present himself as a poet who still cares deeply about issues of culture and spiritually, albeit through the medium of poetry and dance of words. In The Souk of Nostalgia: A Childhood Between Rivers and Mountains, the author journeys into his own past in war-ridden Iraq and Jordan in an attempt to share with his current self and readers how words can reveal the ability of both, imagination and memories, to embellish the past. Most importantly, coming to terms with the death of a past as it existed physically and accepting its imaginal existence in memory can be a source of tremendous healing and personal growth.
More recently, Dr. Hussain has focused on short poetic reflections as a creative outlet. This is the focus in the series Art in Memoirs. In the first volume, Setting Forth, the author explores the role of language in expressing what artistic inspiration and the creative process seek to achieve. He undertakes this project through approximately 40 reflections, ranging from "the thirst of music" to "a conversation at the marketplace", all the while returning in form and meaning to the creative process as a movement that undergirds our interaction with the world.
When Spring meets Autumn,
suddenly the falling leaves perform a symphony of pure life
in their march from the heavens of greenery
towards the desert of annihilation.
- Art in Memoirs: Setting Forth, "The Meeting of Seasons"
You can purchase all of Ali Hussain's publication at our store.
P H O T O G R A P H Y
Photography arrived more recently at the shore of Dr. Hussain's imagination. Nevertheless, he had been exposed to this craft since childhood through his father, Dr. Zohair Mohsen, entomologist and nature photographer. Dr. Hussain's vivid memories of attending his father's photography shows in Jordan color his motivation to pursue this art form today.
Whereas most photographers perhaps perceive the objective of their craft as an attempt to render or capture their objects in a narrative form that most naturally and authentically reflects its physical existence in the world, Dr. Hussain views photography differently: as a medium to alter our perception of the world, not only through conventional methods such as focus or perspective, but also color. Many of his photographs, such as the one below, involve heavily editing objects whereby their color and texture no longer reflects their physical form but rather highlights the artist's own emotional vision of these artifacts. In this way, photography can be considered painting through lens, as opposed to brush.
As he continues to expand and develop in this craft, Ali also hopes to combine his poetry and photography into unique art works to share with his audience, as products that can be purchased here, on the Nostalgic Remembrance store. We will keep you updated on this exciting new product line, coming soon!
M U S I C
Music has continuously accompanied Dr. Hussain throughout his life. From the nostalgic songs of the 80's that remind him of a fleeting childhood in Iraq or the timeless songs of Umm Kulthum, Farid al-Atrash and Abdul Wahab that anchor him in the golden age of Arabic music, the art of sound is a creative constant in a life of diaspora and migration.
Dr. Hussain's earliest attempts to learn music was the piano. Sporadically, through the years, he learned the basics of music theory, although never formally enrolling in classes.
In 2017, Ali began his journey with the Oud, the "king of Arabic instruments" and his current musical passion. As the ancestor of the lute and - by extension - guitar, the Oud is truly a meeting between east and west. It is for this reason primarily that embracing this instrument, literally and metaphorically, is an endearing and emotional experience for Ali Hussain, the artist and migrant.
Just as photography mingles with poetry in a singular creative vision, so does the Oud also converse with poetry in Hussain's attempt to translate the ineffable artistic inspiration into a tangible experience. In October 2020, Ali was able to finally debut his music and poetry at the Village of Razjan in Sterling, Virginia. During this event, themed "The Sound of Poetry", Hussain read excerpts from his - then - latest publication, Rumi and Gibran: In Conversation, with accompanying riffs on the Oud.
In the near future, Dr. Hussain hopes to continue touring with his music and poetry, both as a solo performer and alongside local and nationally renowned musicians and artists.
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