in Memoriam for Shuhada’ Sadaqat
“These are dangerous days, to say what you feel is to dig your own grave.”
— Sinéad O’Connor, from Black Boys on Mopeds
The responsibility of the artist is to reflect the world as they encounter it and to imagine something new.
There are many ways to tell the truth: through gentleness and the soft scent of roses, through the angry slash of paint on canvas, through the delicate sweep of ankle and foot on a wooden floor, through the howling of a voice through the shrieking feedback of a microphone.
Some of us are lions. Some of us are lambs. Some of us are both.
The artists I love best straddle the thresholds of day and night, love and anger, fear and hope, joy and anguishing pain.
The artists I love best all have broken hearts, for a heart cracked open brings truths to light.
Shuhada’ Sadaqat, the great Sinéad O’Connor, is dead. Her music was fierce, loving, gentle, and incandescent. Rage poured from her lungs, and so did wonder.
One translation of Shuhada’ Sadaqat is “witness to the truth.” Shuhada’ witnessed the truth, over and over. She also told the truth, repeatedly.
Telling the truth got her vilified and attacked from all sides. The aftermath of truth-telling, I imagine, added more cracks to her heart. Somehow, she managed to reach inside that open vessel and keep making music.
That is what we all must do, those of us fortunate to have the skills, tenacity, or support needed to survive.
She wrote and sang after severe childhood abuse at the hands of her mother and representatives of the Catholic Church. She sang through raising her own children, spiritual journeying, and through mental illness setting her to flight until her wings were singed and she crashed once again to this broken, beautiful earth.
Through it all—until the death of her son—she continuously returned to hope. Through it all, she sang. Despite dishing out its worst, she loved this world.
I will be forever grateful to her for witnessing and speaking the truths she experienced. I will be forever grateful to her voice.
Sinéad O’Connor—Shuhada’ Sadaqat—is one of the artists who took hold of my heart when I was young and never let go. Her bravery helped me to become braver, too.
My wish for us all is a little more courage and a lot more love. Let us tell the truths we encounter. Let us make art. Let us live.
T. Thorn Coyle
Portland, Oregon, July 2023
This memoriam was made possible by my Patreon supporters