art of resistance, Egypt, travel

Cairo’s Souq El Gomma: A City within a City.

Jason Larkin is a photographer whose work I already introduced writing about Cairo Divided – The Escape of the Elites. He has done a lot of projects in Egypt, Cairo particularly, but each one of them seems so fresh and inspiring. His work never feels worn-out, it never screams been there – done that. There’s always a buzz of excitement and discovery  which just goes to show how Cairo is a true city of stories, a city of diversity, and a well of inspiration. And Larkin is great at capturing that.

Larkin’s project, Souq El Gomma, captures Middle East’s largest informal market gathering.

Artist statement:

” ‘A city within a city, built in the morning light, and which disappears with the last of the day. An infinite and intertwining network of commerce colliding for just a few hours a week.’

Invisible City, Italo Calvino

This story is an exploration of the myriad people, objects and spaces that make up Cairo’s Souq El-Gomma, the Middle East’s largest informal market gathering. Every Friday this trading metropolis materialises, with no formal direction or control, no one idea and ultimately no boundaries, it encompasses the aperture between the living city and the city of the dead. Colonised by the economically marginalised the trade is in the detritus of the city, here Cairo’s flotsam and jetsam is sorted, salvaged and sold on. This organic and dynamic entity offers up a window into the lives of other people and more fundamentally a window into the life of the city itself.

Commissioned by The National M Magazine. Published in Sowar Magazine, Ojopedez.”









/all images © Jason Larkin/

For more of Larkin’s great photography, visit his official website.

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

Victor Klemperer’s Diaries: Palestinians and the Red Indian fate.

Victor Klemperer’s diaries I Will Bear Witness (1933 to 1941), To The Bitter End (1942 to 1945) and The Lesser Evil (1945 to 1959), provide a unique insight of the day-to-day life under the tyranny of the Third Reich.

It is incredible to go through his story (and the story of his wife, Eva), the story of a German Jew in Dresden and the efforts to survive as the Nazis gain power and the years of terror unfold upon Klemperer and his family. Paying attention to many details, Klemperer presents the war reality in all of its aspects – from food and diet, medical care, transportation, finances, suicides, household searches, restrictions and evacuations to the language of war propaganda.

Victor KlempererVictor Klemperer /photo via Bundesarchiv/

That is all very much known and Klemperer’s diaries have become standard sources when it comes to Third Reich. Cristopher Hitchens is just one of many who praised Klemperer’s work. In his review, Hitchens wrote: “There is a horrid fascination in reading this day-by-day chronicle as it unfolds, along with each cuff on the head and gob of spittle, because we know what’s coming, and he is only beginning to guess.” He goes on to describe Klemperer :

He is intensely aware at all moments, perhaps because of his consciousness of being a ‘survivor,’ that death is only a breath away. He is one of the great kvetches of all time, endlessly recording aches and pains, bad dreams, shortages of food and medicine, snubs and humiliations. And, like everyone else, he wants everything both ways. In particular, he wants East Germany to be an open democracy with a real intellectual life, while insisting that all manifestations of reactionary and racist spirit be pitilessly crushed. This double-entry bookkeeping is something that he usually has the courage to confess (‘between two stools’ becomes his preferred cliché) even when he knows that the contradiction is not resolvable.

What is little less known and less talked about when it comes to Victor Klemperer and his writings is his criticism of Zionism.

“Until 1933 and for at least a good century before that, the German Jews were entirely German and nothing else,” he writes in January 1939, six years after Hitler came to power. Nazis insisted on the concept of blood and race, and that was the biggest evil, Klemperer thought.

In that aspect, he often compared Zionism to Nazism, saying that  like Nazism, Zionism turns the Jews into a separate racial category. He was a man who very much believed in assimilation, in the peaceful coexistence of different identities, so Israel as an exclusively Jewish state was not an option he would support.

In I Will Bear Witness, Klemperer writes:

“To me the Zionists, who want to go back to the Jewish state of A.D. 70 (destruction of Jerusalem by Titus) are just as offensive as the Nazis. With their nosing after blood, their ancient ‘cultural roots’, their partly canting, partly obtuse winding back of the world they are altogether a match for the National Socialists. That is the fantastic thing about the National Socialists, that they simultaneously share in a community of ideas with Soviet Russia and with Zion.”

In 1933, he writes: “I cannot help myself… I sympathise with the Arabs who are in revolt (in Palestine), whose land is being ‘bought’. A Red Indian fate, says Eva.

In the times when the horrors of holocaust are wrongfully used, as Norman Finkelstein puts it “to justify criminal policies of the Israeli state and US support for these policies”, it is extremely important to read Victor Klemperer’s diaries, diaries of a Jew who, in the midst of the greatest atrocities and injustice done to his people, found it in his heart (and mind) to criticize the injustice done to other people (people far away, with whom he shared no blood, no language, no history), the injustice done by Zionist while establishing the Jewish state of Israel. It’s a history lesson we ought to pay attention to, for future’s sake.

art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Remembering Mustafa al-Hallaj: The Master of Palestinian Art.

Mustafa al-Hallaj (1938-2003) was a Palestinian artist, a pioneer of Arab contemporary art, and a true icon when it comes to graphic arts in general. After the 1948 war, Hallaj’s family moved to Damascus, and he spent most of his life in between Syria and Lebanon. He lost 25,000 of his prints in Israeli attacks on Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon war but managed to save the wood and masonry cuts he used to make them. In 2003, Al-Hallaj successfully rescued his famous work Self-portrait as Man, God, the Devil  from an electrical fire in his home studio, but died after running in to save other works. He was buried in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.


Tex Kerschen describes Self-Portrait as Man, God, the Devil as a master work of fantastic and folkloric imagery:

“Mustafa Al Hallaj’s masonite-cut print Self-portrait as Man, God, the Devil is a fable in which he cast himself as man, god and devil, released from the boundaries of political regimes. It is a master work, a continuum of fantastic and folkloric imagery that spans ancient and modern times. He juxtaposes a vast and often idiosyncratic menagerie of symbols —bulls, camel men, birds, lizard-like creatures and fish, with fantastic landscapes and episodes of ancient and modern Palestinian life. The animal hybrids of Hallaj are remniscient of Hieronymous Bosch. It reads cinematically, frame by frame, and is over 100 yards long. It is intricate, outlandish, and epic, full of figures from ancient mythology– bulls, birds, fish, and hybrids. Scenes from Al Nakba and the universal history of human oppression, such as mass hangings and forced marches, spill into representations that draw from his extensive erudition and his own syncretic imagination.”

hallajselfportraitwebSelf-portrait as Man, God, the Devil (detail)

Hallaj was a founding member of the trade union committee of the General Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists and helped establish an art gallery in Damascus dedicated to Naji al-Ali, famous Palestinian cartoonist (Handala, the Palestinian defiance symbol, is one of Ali’s most famous characters).

Remembering the first encounter with al-Hallaj in the article for Jadaliyya, Samia Hallaby writes:

We ran into Mustafa one afternoon on Hamra Street, and he invited us to drop in later that evening to his tiny, humble abode. After several artists had arrived, Mustafa went out to bring food, alcohol, and cigarettes; as he was the exquisite master of ceremonies, the salon began when he returned. My impressions from our brief visit are confirmed by artist Samir Salameh, who lived and worked in Beirut from 1972 through 1979. He describes Mustafa’s Hamra Street studio as an open salon where artists congregated, and where food, drink, and conversation were enjoyed. Salameh remembers that ‘All the artists felt tied to the cause . . . We talked about sincerity in art and a commitment to our subject matter . . . If an artist was concerned with politics and did poor work we would help him improve . . . Many of us liked Picasso and felt he was the master of modern art. We always talked about Diego Rivera and the Mexicans . . . We loved the Futurists and the Cubists.’ Throughout the revolutionary artistic and intellectual flowering in Beirut of the 1970s, Palestinian liberation artists engaged in a spirited dialogue on aesthetics; and Mustafa was at its inspired center.

In the interviews, al-Hallaj talked about the symbols in his artworks saying: “I get my symbols from literature. I made a reading plan for myself in 1952 and I am still on schedule. I read everything but I concentrate on literature and folklore of the world, with the guideline that one of the mind’s eyes is a telescope and the other a microscope.”


His artworks and all the details they carry within them, serve as notes and reminders, as mirrors and reflections – of Palestinian history, Palestinian struggles, and Palestinian life throughout time. It was his revolution, his great act against oblivion and that is why Hallaj’s contribution to the art of resistance  remains indispensable. As Samia Halaby writes:

“‘As one peruses the print, each part is called forth by the previous image,’ he affirmed. In one section is a figure bent at right angles from the waist, holding up a graveyard on his back. A bird that the artist called a ‘Hodhod,’ the Afro-Eurasian Hoopoe or ‘Stink bird,’ precedes the man. Because the bird has a smelly bump on its head, according to Mustafa, in folktales it is said that it carries its dead mother buried in its head. About the man in this particular section of his frieze he revealed:

‘Our friends when they die are buried in us . . . Their bodies go to the graveyard but their personalities stay with us. We Palestinian artists are an orchestra. We are one choir… We have many friends and many died. We are a walking graveyard of these personalities who left.’

Mustafa was honoring lost comrades in struggle as he poured decades of his experiences into this work.“


For more on Mustafa al-Hallaj, read the full article by Samia Hallaby on Jadaliyya.

//all the images © the artist’s estate. I found them on Mustafa al-Hallaj facebook page//

art of resistance, Iran

Newsha Tavakolian returning Carmignac Gestion Award: “My integrity cannot be bought”.

Newsha Tavakolian, great Iranian photographer who covered many conflicts in Iran, but also a war in Iraq, natural disasters and social issues all over the Middle East, found herself in the midst of a different turmoil last couple of months. She has returned a 50,000 Euro award from a French foundation she says persistently altered her work to reflect a completely negative and stereotypical assessment of Iran and refused to stop when askedHere is Tavakolian’s full statement, published on her facebook page.
 Newsha Tavakolian, Look, 2013.
In recent months I have been named as the winner of the 2014 Carmignac Gestion photojournalism Award, a 50.000 Euro grant for a photographic project about Iran. My winning this award has been announced twice, in the Financial Times, in two full-page advertisements, I began working on this project in December 2013, completing and delivering the work to the Foundation in July 2014 as scheduled. The news of my winning the grant was announced subsequent to the delivery of the project at a reception during the Arles festival this past summer. Naturally I was extremely happy.Today I am announcing that due to irreconcilable differences over the presentation of my work, I am returning the cash award and stepping down as the winner of the Carmignac Gestion Award for photojournalism 2014, canceling all my cooperation with this foundation and its patron, the French investment banker Edouard Carmignac.  My acceptance of the terms of the award from the Carmignac Gestion Foundation was based on the understanding that I would have full artistic freedom as a photographer to create a work that is faithful to my vision as an established photojournalist and art photographer. Unfortunately, however, from the moment I delivered the work, Mr. Carmignac insisted on personally editing my photographs as well as altering the accompanying texts to the photographs. Mr Carmignac’s interference in the project culminated in choosing an entirely unacceptable title for my work that would undermine my project irredeemably .Mr Carmignac’s insistence on changing essential aspects of my work would have resulted in completely changing the nature of my project from a subtle attempt to bring across the realities of life of my generation in Iran to a coarse and horrible clichéd view about Iran. His insistence on changing the name of the project from”Blank Pages of an Iranian Photo Album” to the overused and loaded title, “The Lost Generation” was simply not acceptable to me. Over the past months I have been engaged in a number of discussions with him directly, about the nature of this grant. I tried to convince him that as the creator of this project, I am entitled to my artistic freedom. Whilst I absolutely welcome other points of view, I cannot accept that anyone other than myself should have the final say about my work. But at no point would he accept this as my right. Recently I sent him a private email, in a last-ditch attempt to explain another reason why he should let me have control over my work. I explained that living in Iran as I do and where photographers can be arrested for what the government may deem offensive, he should refrain from changing the title of my work, making it unnecessarily controversial.
Girls smoking, Newsha Tavakolian
During my 15 year career I have taken many risks as a photographer, covering protests, wars and other events, but those risks have always been based on my own judgment and decision. In reply to my email, Mr Carmignac and his foundation have chosen to maliciously interpret my attempt to dissuade them from changing the name of my project to a title that I deem unsuitable to the spirit of my work, by declaring that I have pulled out of the award because of pressure by the Iranian Government in the following statement:

“Newsha Tavakolian, the 33 year old Laureate of the 5th edition of the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award has pictured the Lost Generation in Iran during a 5 month work. Once the award has been announced, the Government has put the Laureate and her family under severe pressure. In order to protect Newsha Tavakolian and her family, the Carmignac Foundation has decided to adjourn the exhibition, initially planned for November in Paris and thereafter in Italy, Germany and the UK.”

As far as I can see, this statement is a natural continuation of the persistent attitude I have encountered at the Carmignac Foundation, namely to err on the side of controversy. All presumptions in this statement are absolutely false, and laughable. I am not in any way under threat at least no more than other journalists who are in Iran. I believe the real reason for the cancellation of my project is the simple fact that Mr. Carmignac did not get what he wanted, namely, full control over my work according to his own established idea of how Iran should be represented.
The statement above is a desperate effort to try to force me into accepting his version of my project, by hoping that I would fear the Iranian authorities more than I would fear him. It is tantamount to a threat. All my life I have faced censorship and pressures from the mighty and powerful here in Iran. The Carmigniac Award , to use the Foundation’s own description of the prize, is supposed to be “committed to champion the personal and, by definition, minority view”. In my case at least, this has turned into a laughable opposite. As a response to my refusal to have my work editorialized, Mr Carmignac has now “adjourned” the exhibitions I was promised under contract and has indefinitely postponed the publication of a book which was ready to go to print.
77b51b2975Taxi driver (A taxi driver in his car on a rainy day. Behind him a poster of an upcoming performance of Samuel Beckett’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’), Newsha Tavakolian

As a professional, I honoured my part in conceiving, realizing and delivering the work that I had promised to produce. Mr Carmiggnac and by extension the Carmignac Gestion Foundation have failed to fulfill their part of our collaboration. I am disgusted by Mr Carmignac’s behaviour, and highly disappointed over his lack of professional integrity as a self styled patron of independent photojournalism, a profession that according to his Foundations’s mission statement is undervalued and fraught with danger. To encounter unscrupulous behavior from mighty patrons was the last thing I expected when I joyously accepted this award.
I am now left with little choice but to pull out of this award because of the insistence of the Carmignac Gestion Foundation to compromise my artistic integrity and independence. I hereby return and officially step down as the 2014 laureate of the Carmignac Gestion Award for photojournalism. My artistic freedom and my integrity cannot be bought.”
 For more on Newsha Tavakolian and her photography, visit her official website.
art of resistance, Iraq, movie/tv propaganda

The Book To Read: Robert Fisk & The Age of The Warrior.

This morning I found myself digging through my books, searching for Robert Fisk’s The Age of The Warrior (2008)I did it only to read the preface again. The first time I read this amazing collection of Fisk’s writings, I remember the overwhelming feeling and (already then) the need to go back to and through it again. So I do it, from time to time, and I still discover the power and importance of this preface – so I decided to type it up and share it here.

main_largeRobert Fisk

Iraq, I suspect, will come to define the world we live in, even for those of us who have never been within a thousand miles of its borders. The war’s colossal loss in human life – primarily Iraqi, of course – and the lies that formed a bodyguard for our invasion troops in 2003 should inform our understanding of conflict for years to come. Weapons of mass destruction. Links to al-Qaeda and the crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. We were fooled. Yet I sometimes believe that we wanted to be fooled – that we wish to be led to the slaughter by our masters, to race for the cliff-edge with the desperate enthusiasm of the suicide bomber, our instincts awakened by something that should have been buried at Hastings or Waterloo or Antietam or Berlin or even Da Nang. Do we need war? Do we need it the way we need air and love and children and safety? I wonder.

Anger is a ferocious creature. Journalists are supposed to avoid this nightmare animal, to observe this beast with ‘objective’ eyes. A reporter’s supposed lack of ‘bias’ – which, I suspect, is now the great sickness of our Western press and television has become the antidote to personal feeling, the excuse for all of us to avoid the truth. Record the fury of a Palestinian whose land has been taken from him by Israeli settlers – but always refer to Israel’s ‘security needs’ and its ‘war on terror’. If Americans are accused of ‘torture’, call it ‘abuse’. If Israel assassinates a Palestinian, call it a ‘targeted killing’. If Armenians lament their Holocaust of 1, 500, 000 souls in 1915, remind readers that Turkey denies this all to real and fully documented genocide. If Iraq has become a hell on Earth for its people, recall how awful Saddam was. If a dictator is on our side, call him a ‘strongman’. If he’s our enemy, call him tyrant, or part of the ‘axis of evil’. And above all else, use the word ‘terrrorist’. Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Seven days a week.

That’s the kind of anger that journalists are permitted to deploy, the anger of righteousness and fear. It is the language of our masters, the Bushes and Blairs and Browns, the Kinkels and the Sarkozy and, of course, the Mubaraks and the King Husseins and the Arabian kings and emirs and the Musharrafs and, indeed, even the crazed Muammar Ghadafi of Libya – who signs up to the war of Good against Evil. For journalists, this has nothing to do with justice – which is all the people of the Middle East demand – and everything to do with avoidance. Ask ‘how’ and ‘who’ – but not ‘why’. Source everything to officials: ‘American officials’, ‘intelligence officials’, ‘official sources’, anonymous policemen or army officers. And if those institutions charged with our protection abuse that power, then remind readers and listeners and viewers of the dangerous age in which we now live, the age of terror – which means that we must live in the Age of Warrior, someone whose business and profession and vocation and mere existence is to destroy our enemies.“

Robert Fisk, The Age of The Warrior (preface)

You can buy  The Age of The Warrior on Amazon, and for more of Fisk’s writings – read his weekly column for the The Independent. Also, I highly recommend his books Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War and The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Afghanistan, art of resistance

Kabul’s Pahlawan Gym Club, Wedding Party & Baba Taxi.

This headline might not make sense at first glance, but it will soon. Thanks to Versus Art, I discovered M. Sharif Amin, Kabuli artist who paints metal signboards. According to his Versus profile:

Mr. Sharif Amin is in his 50’s. He is from the earlier generation of Kabuli artists who lived through the Taliban. Amin was painting metal signboards when he was not allowed to create art. He has been using recycled and sheet metal to make popular, lorry truck, old school art instead. His work is both contemporary and reminiscent of old ways of painting in Afghanistan. Very few of the younger generation artists are following this school. However Amin has found a following in the expat market who are taken by his charming art and new thought – marrying the contemporary and the traditional in an interesting medium.








//all images via Versus. Visit them if you wish to see more or buy M. Sharif Amin’s art//

art of resistance, Syria

The Feminism of Nizar Qabbani.

My newest article, The Feminism of Nizar Qabbani, is up on Muftah.

“Nizar Qabbani is one of the most famous Arab poets of the 20th century. From his direct, erotic poetry, addiction to women, and impulsive and passionate verses, to his constant criticism of Arab leaders and powerful calls for justice, sixteen years after his death, Qabbani remains an indispensable voice throughout the Arab world.”

show_942fa5a8-1879-4078-9c9f-8e2f5a190c9dNizar Qabbani /photo via Antika/

“Qabbani adressed many gender-related taboos, from the frustration of a woman whose husband will not satisfy her sexual needs, to the anguish of a pregnant mistress thrown out on the street by her lover for refusing to get an abortion. Out of his enormous love for the Arab world, Qabbani criticized what was wrong with the region, in the hope that progress and change for the better would come.”

It’s always inspiring to read and write about Qabbani. You can read the full article on Muftah.

art of resistance, Egypt

Cairo Divided: The Escape of the Elites.

Jason Larkin is a photographer that keeps on “producing” great work. He is internationally recognised for his long-term social documentary projects, environmental portraiture and landscape reportage. For me, it’s mostly his work in and around Egypt that keeps me excited. He did a wonderful series Past Perfect, photographing the museums of Egypt. By deciding how the past is presented and memorialised, museums not only preserve the past, they also play an important role in the construction of our ideologies, identities and the understanding and interpretation of ourselve.  That is why Past Perfect was Larkin’s way of revealing one more layer of Egypt’s identity. In Suez: A Life Line, Larkin captures the importance of the Suez canal,  a 192 km passage dividing Africa from the Middle East and a crucial source of income and foreign exchange for Egypt. Larkin’s Egyptian project I wish to focus on today is Cairo Divided.

Artist statement:

From a population of one million at the beginning of the 20th Century to over 18 million today, Cairo’s expansion has been rapid. Most capitals are magnets, but the speed with which the Egyptian one has grown in the last century is testament to both its remarkable centripetal power and surrounding vacuum of opportunity.


For centuries, Cairo’s growth has been checked by geography, bounded by a narrow strip of fertile, Nile-irrigated land, with nothing but desert beyond. Now, faced with the city’s barely contained chaos and alarmed by the growing slums, Cairo’s elites have begun to dream of escape. Along the Ring Road, billboards advertise exclusive new private developments – Utopia, Dreamland, Palm Hills, Belle Ville and The Egypt of My Desires. Cairo’s future, it seems, lies outside the city’s boundaries, in the desert, where it can be built from scratch.


Drawn in to these vast spaces, and surrounded by the drone of construction, I was mesmerised by the exposed layers of new urban centers being developed among the desert dunes. In focusing on these landscapes I wanted to capture the reality of fantasy lifestyles in mid-production, to document the extravagance of a few whose wealth put sharp focus on the fact that 40% of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.


The surreal remodeling of the landscape shows little appreciation for the environment it is rapidly colonising. From the decisions of a few, Cairo is morphing its periphery into its core whilst condemning the previous centre to a life on the margins. I felt witness to a mass exit strategy taking shape, and with the camera, recorded the foundations of abandonment in pursuit of self-interest and exclusive isolation.




/all photos © Jason Larkin/

For more on this project and Larkin’s other projects, visit his official website.

art of resistance, Lebanon

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: Enchanted in animation.

Inspired by the great classic by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet is an animated feature film, with chapters from animation directors from around the world.

Gibran’s book is a collection of poetic essays that are philosophical, spiritual, and for almost a century since its first publication (1923) –  inspirational. Gibran’s musings are divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, buying and selling, crime and punishment, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, good and evil, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.


Naturally, the animated version of such a classic comes as a big and exciting project. Director Roger Allers (The Lion King) assembled an array of internationally acclaimed animators to realize episodes from The Prophet, which are woven into the tale of a mischievous young girl (voiced by Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis) who attempts to free an imprisoned poet (Liam Neeson).

The film is not going to be only a visual marvel. With a score by Gabriel Yared (The English Patient, Cold Mountain) that includes contributions from Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, and Yo-Yo Ma, it is also a captivating musical collaboration. Salma Hayek is producing The Prophet, and in the interviews given at Cannes, she talked about her paternal grandfather who was Lebanese. “In my ‎ very long career I haven’t been able to find an Arabic role to play,” she said. “This is a love letter to this part of my heritage.

She also discussed the timelessness of Gibran’s text: “When I read the book for the first time as a teenager the poem that touched me was the one about love,” she said. “In my 20’s and 30’s it was the one about good and evil. And now it’s about children. That’s what this book is, and what I hope the film is. It changes as you change.”


Gibran’s book can be found online, all the chapters.  Here are the excerpts from Love, Children & Self-knowledge.

On Love

“Then said Almitra, ‘Speak to us of Love.’ 
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.”

On Self-Knowledge

For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’
Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’ 
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
 The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

On Children

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘Speak to us of Children.’ And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am to see this film. If you are in Toronto, the film is premiering at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) this week, so do not miss it! If not – wait and stay tuned for more.

/all the images in this post via Variety Latino, they have a great collection of exclusive photos from The Prophet/

art of resistance, Palestine

Hala Alyan: Poems like spears.

Couple of months ago, I posted Hala Alyan’s poem Dear Gaza, I’m sorry together with the photos by Jehad Nga, from his series Something in the way (Iraq, 2010.).

Alyan is a Palestinian-American poet and writer. She was the winner of the 2012 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival Competition and her first book of poetry, Atrium (Three Rooms Press), won the  2013 Arab American Book Award. It was a powerful debut, and I am sure we’ll hear much more about Alyan’s poetry in the future.

Hala-picHala Alyan /photo © Three Rooms Press/

Today, I am posting two of her poems, Sahar & Her Sisters and Icon.

Sahar & her Sisters


Ink-haired quartet, born summers apart, they left 
their mother gasping, mouth dry. Womb limp 
as a starfish. Their father set fire to the midwife after the 
fourth, rammed into his wife bark etched with holy verses 
to free her of the cancer that is girl. This is what is meant by setting. 
Sahar and her sisters move like snakes through the seasons, cinder-
eyed, dizzy-hearted. They dig lungs in the soil. Elongated bones, 
lunching on goat meat, they grow with the chaos of carnivores.
This is what is meant by lullaby. Sahar and her sisters call each 
other Magda, short for Magdalene, short for the disaster of fetus.
They apprentice within gynic hallways. Uterus as asylum to the 
things they learn to erase. What does not wither will grow and 
Sahar and her sisters build a hut at the river’s edge, charge 
camel bones for their magic. The women arrive. Feather-spined, 
earth-damned and tired, they come to be emptied. This is what 
is meant by mercy. Clusters, token of semen and humidity, dahlia-
tinted, they are a luxury of red. A froth. Sahar and her sisters train
their own ovaries like a militia. Menstruate with the precision of 
choir practice. This is what is meant by romance. When a story comes 
to the village about women who love women, women who drain 
women, the fathers say, Close your legs, daughters. Say, 
You don’t love the way that I love so that can’t be love.


It is foxes,
foxes that come 
river’s edge, foxes 
that find 
Sahar and her sisters,
ink-haired quartet,
like constellations 
from the trees.


While the moon stoops in the early April sky,
I fold paper into a tragic crane. One magician
burns sand, another palms a tree. My crane
flickers her lovely neck and weeps. After the fire,
everything smelled of chartreuse, a red that
guttered in the neighbor’s dreams. A piano
turns bodies magnetic with music. I want to break
myself like egg for you, to pool in gold and lost.

For more on Alyan and her poetry, visit her official website.