An experience that I share with pretty much everyone living in a diaspora is growing up with feelings of confusion and uncertainty in regards to identity and belonging. Although I have always felt accepted and as though I am part of Scotland, my Iraqi heritage has always been very important to me. There is so much that I love about Iraqi culture, from its fascinating history to the hospitality of its people. Some of my most cherished memories of Iraq are simply of sharing a meal with my family. Meals always consist of a large spread with an array of dishes.
For me, food and the art of cooking is a beautiful way to celebrate and show appreciation for my heritage. Cooking Iraqi dishes is a simple way for me to stay connected to Iraq and everything that it represents. I recently decided to start sharing recipes online as a way of celebrating the flavours of my rich culture. Iraq is a place that has constantly been misjudged and misrepresented, and so I feel that it is important that we, as Iraqis, share our positive associations with the country. Through sharing we are able to show people the beauty and richness of our heritage. I hope that, through posting recipes online, I can introduce some people to a part of my cherished culture.
To feel that I am part of two different cultures is a privilege. Although, there have been times where I have felt as though I am not “Iraqi enough”. This feeling has led to a sense of guilt, leading me to wonder what it is that even makes me Iraqi. I have come to realise that none of the things that I like or dislike, that contribute to my identity and personality as an individual, make me any less Iraqi. Similarly, I have often wondered what it is that makes me Scottish. Is it my accent, the fact that I say ‘wee’, or simply that I was born and brought up here? Does not liking Irn Bru make me less of a Scot?
I am realising more and more that I don’t need to obsess over how I define myself – that it’s okay to just be ‘Luna’ without getting so caught up with the labels. Of course, my feelings around this change as self discovery is a constant journey. But something that is clear to me is that I have a deep connection with both Iraq and Scotland, and that I am grateful that I am able to incorporate my Iraqi culture into my life here in the country where I was born and raised.
By Luna Issa