Afghanistan, art of resistance

Afghan Star.

Afghan Star (2009) is a documentary (directed by Havana Marking) about the Afghan Star musical contest programme (modeled on the UK’s Pop Idol). It is a story about the power of music and the great risks Afghan people go through to appear on the show. The show is extremely popular although the government tried to ban it several times, and people are often “advised” by the radicals not to watch it or support it in any way.  In Afghanistan, singing represents much more – it is an expression of freedom, a brave one.

The documentary follows the 2008 contest when it’s down to nine contestants, and focuses on two women, Setara and Lema, and two men, Hameed and Rafi. The focus is on women in particular, Satara who sings with emotion and includes dance in her final performance, an action that puts her life in danger; Lema who is traditional, but her very appearance brings death threats.  Another important aspect is that the three finalists are from different tribes, and each makes a plea for Afghan unity. Through singing in the show they get to meet each other and stop looking at themselves as “others”, but appreciate every person as a human being, as an artist.

I highly recommend this documentary, and here are some of the snaphots I made, to get you to dig deeper.

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 For more on the movie, go to IMDb.

For more on the Afghan Star programme (it is still on), visit their official website and check out the Season 9 TOP 3 Elimination (2014).

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art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Beauty of Resistance: Surf Club, Gaza.

I’m all about the beauty of resistance, not just merely surviving through harsh conditions, but finding creative ways to give birth to life when you’re surrounded by (the constant glimpses of) death. That is why I love stories like Darfur Sartorialist, Syrian artists breaking world records in the midst of war, or parkour in Gaza.

It’s about finding freedom within you. It has to work within a limited physical area (like Gaza), yes, but it helps breaking the imposed restraints. Because – you choose to live and not be defeated and not be depressed. It gives you strength to go on in life and – fight back.

This is another story about the beauty of resistance.

Andrew McConnell is famous photographer whose work was featured in most of the world’s biggest publications, he has won two 1st place prizes at the World Press Photo Awards and many other awards. What I like about his work is the fact that he’s always driven by a desire to tell the stories that remain underreported in the international media. From Congo to Gana, from Syria to Gaza.

One of those stories is a story about the surf club in Gaza. Here are some of McConnell’s photos.

foto1Mohammed Abu Jayab gestures to his dughter as he walks from his home in Shati Refugee Camp, Gaza.

foto2Mohammed Abu Jayab teaches his son to surf at his home in Shati Refugee Camp.

foto316 years old Amer al Dous paddles out to sea from Gaza City.

foto4Ibrahim Alamassi breaks through the surf off Gaza City.

foto5Sabah Abo Ghanem, 11, and Kholoud Abo Ghanem, 10, look at the horizon off Gaza city. The girls are cousins and together with their two sisters they represent the only female surfers in Gaza, borrowing surfboards when they can.

foto6Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline, seen from Gaza City.

foto7As the last of the light fades, Mohammed Abu Jayab paddles through the surf  in the hope of the final waves, Gaza City.

foto8Ali Ayrhim walks along Sheik Khazdien beach with his sufrboard, Gaza City.

foto9Surfers melt candles onto their boards before going to surf off Gaza City. Surf materials like wax are impossible to find in Gaza.

/all photos © Andrew McConnell/

For more on McConnell and his work, visit his official website.

For more on the context of the recent events in Gaza, I recommend the latest piece by Rashid Khalidi for New Yorker.

To end this post:

We teach life, sir!

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art of resistance, Iran

Rapture (Shirin Neshat).

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 Shirin Neshat: Rapture

Rapture, one of Neshat’s early works, consists of two projections shown on opposing gallery walls. One projection shows a group of men dressed alike in Western-style white shirts and black pants. The other shows a group of women wearing traditional Iranian dress, including the chador,which covers their heads and most of their bodies, and in some cases, the niquab, a face covering. Despite these garments, the viewer is able to decipher individual features and expressions.

The installation, which is 13 minutes long and shown in continuous loops, shows elegiac and meditative scenes of the two groups. As the women traverse landscapes of sand and stone, the men navigate the stone architecture of an ancient city. As the women cry out—whether in celebration or anger, it’s unclear—the men unroll Persian prayer rugs and quarrel. In the final scene, the women gather on a beach, where they maneuver a small boat into the crashing waves. As their bare feet break the sand surface, the hems of their chadors become wet with salt water. Ultimately, six women remain in the boat as it drifts out to the sea.

Although art historians reference Neshat’s upbringing in Iran and her experiences in the United States as a way to shed light on her body of work, Neshat herself is neither dogmatic nor clear about her intentions. “From the beginning,” she said in a 1999 interview with art critic Arthur Danto, “I made a decision that this work was not going to be about me or my opinions on the subject, and that my position was going to be no position. I then put myself in a place of only asking questions but never answering them.”

Writing in The New Yorker about Neshat’s two-channel projections, Peter Schjeldahl wrote, “Neshat’s elegant, two-screen meditations on the culture of the chador in Islamic Iran emit an icy heat of suppressed passions; they are among the first undoubtable masterpieces of video installation.” 

For more, go to Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

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art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Children of Gaza.

Anthony Dawton lives and breathes his photography. It’s his life, he says. Various NGOs use his skills of capturing the moment (UNICEF, Red Cross Lebanon, Save the Children, etc), and he always tries his best.

He has done some wonderful projects in the Middle East, and one of them is Children of Gaza. Children are the greatest victims in Gaza, not just those killed (and many of that 1000 + number in these last three weeks are indeed children) but those who have survived but lost their parents, lost their limbs, lost their homes, lost their schools, lost their hospitals, lost their playgrounds.

Children should never go through that. There is no excuse for that, and no comfort in ocassional brave reports from justice-biased journalists (although I applaud them for that), or in ocassional celebrities tweets, bravely tweeted and deleted (them I do not applaud that much), there is no comfort while the general silence drowns the screams. While there’s no real changes. As King of Crimson put it:

Knowledge is a deadly friend
If no one sets the rules
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying

(These) children deserve better.

gaza_01Khan Yunis.

gaza_02Gaza City.

gaza_05Beit Lahya.

gaza_06An Nazlah.

gaza_07Beit Hannoun.

gaza_08Deir Al Balah.

gaza_10Government Girls’ School.

gaza_11Petrol is a rare commodity. Khan Yunis.

gaza_19Heba: she sells packets of tissues to car drivers in the middle of the main road in Gaza City. She spends her spare time at the Al Qattan Centre library.

 /all photos © Anthony Dawton/

For more on Dawton and his work, visit his official website.

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art of resistance, Iraq

Iraq – Body Counting and Life Cartooning.

Today (27th of July) Iraq Body Count counts:

Saturday 26th of July: 48 killed

July casualties so far: 1, 285 civilians killed.

Documented civilian deaths from violence (since 2003): 126, 691 – 141, 611

Total violent deaths including combatants (since 2003): 193, 000

Bad days, bad months, bad years for Iraqi people. How to deal with it? Here’s one way.

Abdul Raheem Yassir (b. 1951, Qadisiyah, Iraq) is widely regarded as one of the best political cartoonists now working in Iraq, responding to the absurdity of his circumstances with ironic humour and poignancy. His style is smart in the way it suggests innocence, knowing in its directness. His work is politically charged and socially critical, and – very important – widely accessible.

Here are some of his great works.

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 /all images © Abdul Raheem Yassir/

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For more on Abdul Raheem Yassir and his work, visit his facebook page and Ruya Foundation.

//Iraq Body Count (IBC) records the violent civilian deaths that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Its public database includes deaths caused by US-led coalition forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others. IBC’s documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violent events leading to the death of civilians, or of bodies being found, and is supplemented by the careful review and integration of hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures. If you can, help them by spreading the word about their important work and donating.//

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art of resistance, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Beyond the architectural text (Middle East).

The Damascene House is beyond the architectural text

The design of our homes…

Is based on an emotional foundation

For every house leans … on the hip of another

And every balcony…

Extends its hand to antoher facing it.

Nizar Qabbani

Peter Gould is an Australian artist. In 2002, he began traveling around Middle East and was inspired by cities like Fes, Damascus, Istanbul and Mecca, with his work resulting in a great visual fusion of classical Islamic design elements with his vibrant, fresh graphic styles.

His photography is maybe best described by one of his curators:

Peter’s photography is as much about the spiritual as it is about the visual, offering no questions or answers but rather affording the viewer to simply being in that moment and that moment at first glance seems to curiously exist without time or consequence.”

010-Beirut-2Beirut.

015-MeccaMecca.

025-JerusalemJerusalem.

029-IstanbulIstanbul.

033-DamascusDamascus.

037-MuscatMuscat.

038-MuscatMuscat.

039-NizwaNizwa.

040-NizwaNizwa.

043-AbuDhabiAbu Dhabi.

fesFes.

marrakeshMarrakesh.

/all photos © Peter Gould/

For more on Gould and his work, visit his official website.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Lebanon, Palestine

Beirut to Gaza.

This is Beirut (22nd of July), during a demonstration against the latest assault on Gaza. Names of Palestinians killed by Israel in the last two weeks were hung on huge banners in Raouché and protesters also threw flowers into the sea.

Newest data (24th of July): 736 Palestinians have been killed and over 4563 have been injured.

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/all photos © Jamal Saidi / Reuters/

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