Noor Sleiman

Mama and baba survive as two designers in their own right. Brave mama, resiliently carried our family on her back through postcodes as we battled family crisis after family crisis; she’s taken literal bullets for the people she loves. Proud baba, after years of rigorous army training moved his entire life away from the country he would’ve defended, determined to build a new life. Baba works tirelessly to create legacies, while mama works to fill the gaps before we all slip through them.

In the 23 years that I’ve observed my parents as they moved through this city, I’ve learnt more about design than any schooling could teach me. How to overcome trauma, fear and loss, and how to seek relief, smiles, cries and awakenings. The invisible parts of the process, that make or break humanity.

When I first learnt how to spell my name, I wrote it all over mama’s sewing cabinet - her sacred trove of all the tools she needs to mend any problem. If anyone ever comes searching for evidence of our existence, they’ll find our entire lives documented in off-cuts from the pyjamas she made for me when I was four, to the jeans she hemmed last month. My grandmother used these very skills to sew underwear for the village, and fed an entire family. Patching and hemming and starting from scratch, these skills inspired me to create with my hands.

When I was seven I loved entering baba’s study to flick through the pages of handwritten prayers he would then bind into hardcover books. Indigo ink splashed on scrap-paper from the many fountain pens he uses to perfect his script. Words that only his hands could pass on, intricately inscribed onto pages of Reflex. A rebellion against academia and terror, these books will never know the true weight of their content. I still can’t believe that such impeccable handwriting comes from somebody who was barely able to begin high school, let alone finish it.

Baba teaches me how to document the most sacred rituals, the kind that people fight wars to erase. Mama teaches me resilience and how to repair anything – a survival technique in case these wars ever break out. I continue to learn that the most practical solution may seem crazy to others, but shiny and new do not always amount to the best. My parents, two designers who would never identify as such, design an entire existence for themselves while the world around them continues to design them out.

Mama tries so desperately to forgive and move on, baba is so determined to preserve. Together they’ve forged paths in a place that was never built to accommodate them, but sometimes we have to cover our tracks behind us. I’ve grown into a fragmented legacy holding this rich history in my hands. How to preserve it when there’s still so much to heal? How can I work through this process, my life-long protest, and find a way to design us back in?

Noor Sleiman

Noor Sleiman is a Melbourne-based designer currently working for Buchanan across brand development, television and digital advertising, print design and responsive web projects. Previously she’s worked at Brandbuild, and interned at The Company You Keep after completing her honours degree in Communication Design at Swinburne University of Technology. Recently, Noor has been researching her Syrian-Lebanese heritage to document her ancestral history. In an effort to shed light on a conflict-torn region and its people, as well as the migrant experience to Australia, her written and visual work focuses on ethno-religious practices and family traditions, and how they are impacted by war, migration and displacement.

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