Hope this doesn’t come over as selfish promotion, but I wanted to share this Tumblr of an online magazine where I’m one of the writers/editors. I’ve reblogged a few articles here before but if you are interested in art and culture from the ‘Arab and Islamic world’* I recommend this blog and magazine.
About it and us: we’re a small team from Belgium and the Netherlands who want to bring articles in Dutch and English about art we feel has been either neglected or portrayed as 'exotic’, 'world music’ etc. in the mainstream Dutch and Belgian media. We wanted to bring a new medium that shows our worlds and countries in a way where its inhabitants are seen as human beings. That may sound weird, but in mainstream media here our people are rarely shown in a context that is not about 'countries with corruption’, 'poor countries’, 'underdeveloped countries’, 'war-torn regions’, 'oppressed people’… while we see a region with people who have ambitions, dreams, create art and express themselves and show their lives with all their beauty and struggles through art. Another part of our motivation to write is to just be ourselves and tell about what we see and like about our heritage instead of waiting for (white) European mainstream media to write our stories for us.
*This description is temporary: we’re looking for a better way to describe the worlds of our magazine because not everyone here/there is Arab or Muslim, and not everything is 'Islamic’.
Ghita Benlamlih of GB Art & Photography is 24 years old and was born and raised in Rabat, Morocco. Benlamlih’s art collages are very popular. Under the label GB Art & Photography she designs digital art works inspired by popular culture. Benlamlih draws her subjects from everyday life and links them to icons and symbols of the Western lifestyle and media.
Read more in English here. In het Nederlands hier.
Boubouteatime is the blog of visual artist and designer Bouchra Benhalima, born in Algeria but raised in Paris. Bouchra started her blog four years ago for the pleasure of running a web magazine about art, and because she wanted to share her collage works and present them as daily articles.
The use of patterns like zellige is her art works’ signature. This fascination was caused by her local architecture history and her roots in Morocco and Algeria. “What really made me to be fascinated by zellige is a simple story. From age 4 to 18, I had the good fortune of travelling in Spain with my family, more precisely in Andalusia, cradle of hispano-moresque culture and architecture. That really influenced my art.”
Aleppo is his home, Beirut the city that encouraged him to become a better person. One and a half year ago, the 24 year old Samer Saem Eldahr fled to the Lebanese capital where he converted his small apartment to a recording studio. For his new album Gool l’ah he electronically revamped Arabic music legends like Abdel Halim Hafez and Oum Kalthoum as a tribute. Hello, Psychaleppo!, as his music project is called, is absolutely an asset to the Arabic underground scene.
Redouan Tijani, one of our regular photographers, visited the oldest mosque in Shanghai, the Songjiang Mosque during his stay in China. The Songjiang Mosque, located in the Songjiang District, is the oldest mosque of Shanghai. It was first established during the Zhizheng era (1341-1368) of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Later, the mosque underwent many renovations. However, the mosque still retains some of the architectural styles of the Yuan and Ming dynasties.
With this painting I was expressing a hope for a time when both languages are represented equally, not just in the constitution – because it’s an easy step to get it written in the constitution – but in every aspect of Libyan life. The difficulty is merging both of them so they become equal parts of society, whilst maintaining their individualities, like in education and media. It is a process that will require people to open their hearts and to let go of fear and to see each other as fellow human beings first and foremost and that each person in this world has the right to express themselves and celebrate their language, religion and culture. We need to stop fearing the other, and start embracing instead. There is room for all of us.
British-Libyan Taziri Gadmour spoke with us about how her love for Tifinagh and language in general inspire her paintings. Read the interview here.
The Arabic language is gaining importance in the digital world. There is an abundant development of numerous Arabic typefaces going on in response to the demand for various Arabic translations and uses. Written Visuals is part of this movement, playing with Arabic words in a visually cheerful way.
For Written Visuals, Mohannad Al Mahayni (36, born in Damascus) and Abir Fawaz (26, Lebanese, living in the UAE) worked together for the first time out of a shared passion for Arabic fonts. Al Mahayni studied Fine Arts. Starting his career in the advertising world, he is specialized in what he calls “Arabisation and localisation“: translation, digital Arabic calligraphy, and Arabising layouts, logotypes and brand IDs. At the moment, Al Mahayni is a beta tester of the first online Arabic calligraphy font engine. Abir Fawaz holds a degree in Visual Communication and has been working on several projects as a graphic designer. She is currently developing her own typeface called Awal. Both are internationally renowned for their work.
I’ve heard people say that Arabic calligraphy is about the space between the letters, and its spiritual vocal art about the silence between the phrases. Could meaning be found in the absence of things, rather than in their presence? This was a thought I pondered upon during this first week of Ramadan. It feels like the first Ramadan to me. For the first time it’s not merely a struggle against hunger or thirst, but a conscious retreat to less of things, towards an enjoyment of the emptiness.
In the place we live in, I find it very easy to get a little lost in the culture of reaching outwards for happiness. To reach out for something that would make me feel good, alive or simply existing. It could be anything that could mirror my presence, anything that could be enjoyed, anything that could occupy my mind. Eating a delicious croissant, rechecking my mail, watching videos on YouTube, reading articles, listening to just another song. It’s a luxury to have access to all those beautiful sources. Yet at the end of the day I often find myself with very little empty time left to reconnect to what is real and to contemplate.
I’ve been missing the silence and the empty spaces. I remember how I felt it so clearly when I was in Morocco meditating on the roof at sunset, or during the spiritual Islamic ceremonies with the great masters of Quran recitation and devotional songs, or when I was with my grandfather sailing at sea at night.
From Spaces left blank, where Karima el Fillali writes about her Ramadan experience.
From article by Radia Assou: Art from the Islamic world in Brussels.
In the Cinquantenaire park in Brussels, Belgium, one finds not only the Grand Mosque but also the Royal Museum of Art and History. Here, a permanent and varied collection is to be found of objects hailing from the Islamic world. […]
At the metal arts section the helmet of Ibn Qalawun deserves particular attention. The helmet features an inscription with gold inlay which praises the Mamluk sultan Ibn Qalawun. It is a rare piece and the inscription is written in the elegant thuluth style, which is typical for the Mamluk period (1250 – 1517 in Egypt and Syria)
An interesting feature is that visitors are virtually guided by the Arab historian and sociologist avant la lettre Ibn Khaldun. He provides contemporary information from the era concerned and his quotes are displayed throughout the exhibition.
Sensual mysticism: ripping words in the name of love – or God
Article about Amir Sulaiman:
For Amir poetry is not primarily concerned with meaning. His poetry starts with sensations. Tasting and turning around different words and putting them next to each other, as strangers. It’s all part of the meaning he looks to express in his work: questioning what it would feel like to incorporate all those sensual elements that precede the meaning of a word in a poem. In his creative process it is the consciousness of the physical language that announces itself first even before the object itself: how one pronounces a word, the shape your mouth makes when you pronounce it, the way the air has to escape to form the end of a sentence: “It would be just a word that pops up, the sound of it… for example sleeplessness… the strangeness of how the syllables feel in my mouth and how I start liking it… and then the poem will start creating itself.. Usually I don’t know what the poem is about until I’m already in the middle of it…’’
Written by Zakaria El Houbba. Read more here in English or here in Dutch/Nederlands.
Stefan Turk (1974, Trieste) is a Slovenian artist and art historian living in the far northeast of Italy who currently works as a supervisor and educator in various art workshops and summer camps for children organised by local cultural organisations and schools.
Working in various styles and applying differing techniques, Stefan Turk’s kaleidoscopic artwork has a charming, inspiring and often multi-layered nature both literally and metaphorically. Comprising a multitude of expressions ranging from children stories’ illustrations, landscapes, figurative art and abstract images, a significant part of his work is unmistakably reminiscent of the Maghreb and Orient. Some pieces incorporate Berber symbols and Arab geometric patterns, whereas others employ themes derived from popular medieval Sufi stories related to Attar, Rumi and the exemplary Mullah Nasruddin.
Truck art is Pimp My Ride avant la lettre. Specialised artists ennoble pick-ups and trucks to art on wheels and taxis, rickshaws, vans and cars are not safe from paint either. In bright colours, complicated patterns and drawings of flora and fauna are hand-painted on the vehicles’ bodywork. This way, images of peacocks, tigers, birds, roses and fairy-like landscapes are displayed next to philosophical words of wisdom, sayings meant to make each other laugh, poetical verses and love messages. “Come with me to my town, my love”, “I wish I were a book you were reading. If you fell asleep and the book would fall on your chest, I would be close to you”, and “If your mother prays for you, it is like a breeze from heaven” are just some striking examples.
Work by artist Allayth Ibn Idris, an American born to Nigerian parents with a degree in Spanish who speaks Turkish and Italian. While working towards his BA in Spanish, he concurrently studies various romance languages and also began stuydiying the arts: screen writing, graphic design, sculpturing and painting.
“I have always loved Arabic calligraphy even before learning to speak the language. What I found uncomfortable, however, was the lack of a unique relationship between the words and the shapes they were given; I thus decided I would focus on creating this relationship. I thought ‘an attractive form pulls one in, then the meaning will keep one’; kind of like an illustrated dictionary teaching the language as well as bringing the words to life.”
Een échte Belgo-Marokkaan heeft nog warme herinneringen aan de reis naar Marokko met de ouders. In de spreekwoordelijke goeie ouwe tijd was de reis op zich al een avontuur. In een busje zaten ontelbare kinderen volgepropt, het dak was volgestapeld met zaken die mama en papa een jaar lang bijeen hadden gespaard en nu hadden gewikkeld in een oranje of blauwe zeil. De buren keken altijd vol bewondering en onbegrip als de pater familias met zijn zonen een hele dag op het dak van de auto, kartonnen en tassen zat te sjouwen. … Dit jaar stond de discussie op voorhand niet in het teken van ‘wat ga ik allemaal meenemen voor wie’, maar over het al dan niet vasten onderweg. Nog voor we vertrokken begon mijn moeder de zwaarte van de reis te relativeren. … Maar ik maakte haar duidelijk dat ik van plan was om onderweg te eten en te drinken, of het nu ramadan was of niet. Het kon er bij haar niet in dat ik niet van plan was om te vasten. Ze dacht zelfs dat ik blufte.
If you had asked the young Reda Abdel Rahman what he desired to become when he grew up, his answer would not have been ‘doctor’ or ‘engineer’. “An artist!”, he would say – and many years later this is an accomplished fact. ‘Legend’ is the name of the exhibition that showcased some of his work at Gallery Misr.
Born in the ‘City of Beauty and Enchantment’ on the west bank of the Suez Canal, Reda Abdel Rahman was bound to be fond of nature. Even in Cairo he picked one of the greenest areas to reside and work in: Dahab Island, in the Nile: “I live close to nature. It makes me feel close to the environment Ancient Egyptians were working in. On Dahab Island there are Muslims and Christians, churches and mosques. They don’t have any problems at all with each other – so far.”
The Minya born painter graduated from Minya University’s College of Fine Arts, a faculty amidst greenery, surrounded by Ancient Egyptian cultural heritage. Reda Abdel Rahman grabbed this opportunity with both hands. He benefited from his five-year student career to visit places like the Bani Hassan tombs, the ancient city of Abydos, and Sohag more than regularly and let Ancient Egypt touch his soul.
Made by an Egyptian
Ancient Egypt does not only constitute an inspiration source for the artist. Incorporating some of its artistic elements is Reda Abdel Rahman’s way to make clear that his paintings are by the hand of an Egyptian. “This is not the only way to portray my Egyptian identity,” he adds. “I also insert Coptic elements, such as halos, and the use a certain type of side view.” The painter is not able to pinpoint who exactly had an influence on his work: “I learn from everyone. I can even learn from my students. I don’t think that there are wrongs or rights when it comes to art. I do what I do, and that’s my message.”