art of resistance, Egypt

Egypt: The Women Of The Village.

Hidden Hope/photo © Heba Khamis/

I was raised in a small village, in a humble, hardworking environment. Stories with such background always find a special place in my heart, I can relate to them and I can understand their depth, the struggle they are telling.

When it comes to harsh village life, in many places of the world, women are still those who get the worst of it. The Women of the village by Egyptian photographer Heba Khamis gives insight into such story.

It is a story about village women in Egpyt and their everyday journey, a journey they take because they need to do it in order to survive. They face hunger as they search for a better life – job, money, being able to provide for themselves.

In a country like Egypt, where a major part of society cannot imagine a place for a woman except in her home, with her family and under her husband’s control – this journey in search for work is particularly significant and risky for women.

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“Um Alaa comes from Ezbet Sakhawy in Kafr al-Sheikh. The village is named after her family. Traders come to her house so that she can buy whatever she needs, while the rest of the women have to go to the markets. Each village market is held on only one day of the week. This means that if any of them wants something during the week, she has to go to a different village.”

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“Seda, known as ‘Um Dalia’, works in Khurshid market in Sayah Kafr al-Sheikh. She is judged for sometimes showing her bare arms as she works. Though she has daily contact with the city, she still lives in a conservative society. Um Dalia is the mother of five girls, all of whom have completed higher education. She has managed to marry off three of them. Her next goal is to find husbands for the remaining two.”

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“Her struggle begins as the sun rises, hurrying to catch the morning train to Alexandria. If she fails, the day is lost because there are no other cheap trains. The only remaining option then is to hire a car with other women for LE50 per person.”

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“Hope for a better life is Salma’s companion. She is a 22-year-old a university student in her third year of study. Her subject is the origin of religion. Salma must organize her week carefully, rationing time for study and travel, covering her university costs and taking care of her family. As the eldest daughter, she is the one who looks after her sick father. Because of all these demands on her time, she attends university only one day a week, on Sunday. She has to work all the other days of the week. In the foreground, Hamida, 44 years old, is married and works to ensure that the children of her late brother have a decent life.”

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“Soad takes cover under her scarf. The village beauties are on a constant journey that will not end until their lives come to a close. They have nothing but patience to ease their aches and pains. As she said, ‘I want to rest before I die.’ But then she remembered that she still has a daughter to be married and to furnish her house.”

This beautiful and important photo essay was published on Panorama, a platform for showcasing the best photojournalistic coverage of under-reported corners of Egypt and issues of interest to the greater Arab world.

The photograher, talented Heba Khamis, is now at a great crossroad in her life – and she needs a little help. She got a half scholarship from The Danish School for Media and Journalism in Denmark to study photojournalism where they will offer her a fee waiver but without any stipend.

She now started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money  which would help her accept the photojournalism grant, develop her skills and – give us many more great stories like The Women of the Village. If you can, please help her and share her story – even if you donate only a couple of dolars – it’s important!

I hope to hear and see much more of her work in the future.

//all photos © Heba Khamis//

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art of resistance, travel, Yemen

Yemen: In Beauty And Sorrow.

jon/Yemen, photo © Jonathon Collins/

Baga (Nigeria), Fotokol (Cameroon), Sana’a (Yemen), Kuwait City (Kuwait), Khan Bani Saad (Iraq), Kabul (Afghanistan), Baghdad (Iraq), Maiduguri (Nigeria), Ankara (Turkey), Beirut (Lebanon), Paris (France). Just some of the places that saw horrible terrorist attacks this year. Fairuz keeps on playing for two days in my room – Habaytak bisayf.

I loved you in the summer, I loved you in the winter,

I waited for you in the summer, I waited for you in the winter

The circle of love and sadness, life spinning. I feel like Fairuz can fill the space with her voice, as far as the sky goes. Somehow, her voice always brings comfort. I hope there is a way to find comfort for those who lost their loved ones in Nigeria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Lebanon, France… And all the other places that didn’t make it to this list – that were left out, their tragedies still unrecognized.

One of the places of (silent) constant sorrow this year is Yemen. I wrote so much about the beauty of Yemen, about the importance of it, but I still feel the need to talk about it and I still feel the need to share everything I can.

I recently discovered a beautiful photo essay by Jonathon (Jon) Collins – the way he captured Yemen and its people is mesmerizing. Collins is a freelance photographer and writer based in Sydney and his work aims to show that every corner of the world has a story to tell, and for every landscape there is a memory.

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About his experience of Yemeni culture, he says:

“Another key aspect of Yemeni culture is that life is not insular, and the typical nuclear family structure we are used to in Western societies does not apply; in fact, a much wider network is considered to be family.

It is the most memorable part of travelling in the country to me: sitting down to a meal and sharing it with a group of people all from a single plate; stopping the car to give a lift to families on the side of road; getting handed the best qat leaves from a new friend; or sharing chai with another from a used tin can.

In every restaurant or in the home, you will see an arm waving to welcome you to sit and share with another. It is an undeniably generous quality that says a lot about Yemeni culture.”

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Collins also talks about the way people cope with harshness every day brings upon them:

“In light of everything the Yemeni population face, they carry on with such an incredibly humble and humorous demeanor in everyday life. In conversations about corruption in politics, the growing presence of Al Qaeda, the ongoing problem of water scarcity, or whatever other major issues the nation is experiencing right now, you will still hear a joke, then laughter, and most will say, ‘it will get better in time, Inshallah’. Life must go on in the meantime.”

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He continues to say:

“It may have developed as a mechanism to cope with disruptions to everyday life, or perhaps it is simply another historic trait of the Yemeni people; but one thing that surprised me was just how incredibly funny the people in Yemen were. I cannot count the amount of times I was in stitches laughing at a joke made, someone’s dry humor, sarcastic comment or watching a scene unfold that felt more like a comedy stint than real life.

Whether it was a group of women pretending to slap a man for short-changing them at a market stall, the owner of the sweet shop getting teased about how many desserts he ate, someone trying to speak English without knowing more than three words, or joking over the size of the qat bulging in someone’s mouth; the laughter was contagious. Yemenis are easily the most hilarious locals I’ve experienced in all the countries I’ve been, and it made each day I spent there so much more enjoyable.”

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/all photos © Jonathon Collins/

For the full interview with Collins and his photo essay from Yemen, visit Passion Passport, and to find out more about his work visit his website.

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art of resistance, Libya

Libya, Where Art Thou?

li/Dawn at Tripoli, Libya, photo © Naziha Arebi/

It’s so hard to get informed about Libya these days. It’s like Libya doesn’t exist for the mainstream media. Not even a glimpse of life there, not even a small peek. Where are you Libya, how are you?

One of the rare places where I get a small insight in the situation in Libya during the last couple of years, is a tumblr page run by Naziha Arebi, Libyan photographer and artist. I don’t know Arebi, but I thank her and her stories.

Sometimes they disturbed me, sometimes they made me happy – and every new story was a proof that Libya is still alive, that there was some normalcy – like seeing seasons changing, people going to work.

Here are some of Arebi’s photos from various parts of Libya, taken in the period of last three years (2012-2015).

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/all photos © Naziha Arebi/

For more on Arebi and her work, visit her page.

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art of resistance, South Sudan, Sudan

To Be A Poet: Story Of A Refugee.

i-d-activist-of-tomorrow-abe-nouk-to-perform-at-sydney-opera-house-1444199564/Abe Nouk, photo © Ben Thomson/

Abraham (Abe) Nouk is a poet, MC and author. He came to Australia as an illiterate Sudanese refugee and has become an award-winning spoken word artist and poet. His family arrived to Australia in 2004, as UN High Commission designated refugees. He taught himself how to read and write English in just three years after arriving to Australia.

He is now also a founder and director of Collingwood youth arts space, Creative Rebellion Youth. About the importance of art he says: “I think only art can save us in these times of conflict and political misunderstanding. Art is the only focus that might keep us from destroying the world – it’s an avenue for social change – once people get busy with art everything else falls into place.”

There is a short new documentary about Abe, called To be a poet: A Story of a Refugee. See it and listen to his wisdom, his ways of love and togetherness. Remember it in these times of refugee(s).

This is not a play

This is life

And some of us just want to live

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art of resistance, India

Arundhati Roy on Returning Her Award to India’s Top Literary Institution.

roy//photo © Stuart Freedman/In pictures/Corbis//

This was published in Jacobin Magazine.

“Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for the Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am ‘shocked’ by what is being called the ‘growing intolerance’ being fostered by the present government.

First of all, ‘intolerance’ is the wrong word to use for the lynching, shooting, burning, and mass murder of fellow human beings. Second, we had plenty of advance notice of what lay in store for us — so I cannot claim to be shocked by what has happened after this government was enthusiastically voted into office with an overwhelming majority*. Third, these horrific murders are only a symptom of a deeper malaise. Life is hell for the living too. Whole populations — millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and Christians — are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.

Today we live in a country in which, when the thugs and apparatchiks of the New Order talk of ‘illegal slaughter’ they mean the imaginary cow that was killed — not the real man that was murdered. When they talk of taking ‘evidence for forensic examination’ from the scene of the crime, they mean the food in the fridge, not the body of the lynched man.

We say we have ‘progressed’ — but when Dalits are butchered and their children burned alive, which writer today can freely say, like Babasaheb Ambedkar once did, that ‘To the Untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors,’ without getting attacked, lynched, shot, or jailed? Which writer can write what Saadat Hassan Manto wrote in his ‘Letter to Uncle Sam’?

It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with what is being said. If we do not have the right to speak freely we will turn into a society that suffers from intellectual malnutrition, a nation of fools. Across the subcontinent it has become a race to the bottom — one that the New India has enthusiastically joined. Here too now, censorship has been outsourced to the mob.

I am very pleased to have found (from somewhere way back in my past) a National Award that I can return, because it allows me to be a part of a political movement initiated by writers, filmmakers, and academics in this country who have risen up against a kind of ideological viciousness and an assault on our collective IQ that will tear us apart and bury us very deep if we do not stand up to it now.

I believe what artists and intellectuals are doing right now is unprecedented and does not have a historical parallel. It is politics by other means. I am so proud to be part of it. And so ashamed of what is going on in this country today.

*For the record, I turned down the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2005 when the Congress was in power. So please spare me that old Congress vs BJP debate. It’s gone way beyond all that. Thanks.”

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art of resistance, Iraq, Syria

Iraq to Syria, Syria to Iraq.

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//photos © Moises Saman/Magnum Photos//

Eight years ago Riverbend escaped from Iraq with her family, searching safety in Syria. Upon her arrival to Syria she wrote:

“Syria is a beautiful country – at least I think it is. I say ‘I think’ because while I perceive it to be beautiful, I sometimes wonder if I mistake safety, security and normalcy for ‘beauty’. In so many ways, Damascus is like Baghdad before the war – bustling streets, occasional traffic jams, markets seemingly always full of shoppers… And in so many ways it’s different.

The buildings are higher, the streets are generally narrower and there’s a mountain, Qasiyoun, that looms in the distance. The mountain distracts me, as it does many Iraqis- especially those from Baghdad. Northern Iraq is full of mountains, but the rest of Iraq is quite flat. At night, Qasiyoun blends into the black sky and the only indication of its presence is a multitude of little, glimmering spots of light- houses and restaurants built right up there on the mountain. Every time I take a picture, I try to work Qasiyoun into it- I try to position the person so that Qasiyoun is in the background.”

She continues:

“It is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria today. I believe it. Walking down the streets of Damascus, you can hear the Iraqi accent everywhere. There are areas like Geramana and Qudsiya that are packed full of Iraqi refugees. Syrians are few and far between in these areas. Even the public schools in the areas are full of Iraqi children. A cousin of mine is now attending a school in Qudsiya and his class is composed of 26 Iraqi children, and 5 Syrian children. It’s beyond belief sometimes. Most of the families have nothing to live on beyond their savings which are quickly being depleted with rent and the costs of living.”

That was eight years ago. Last couple of years Iraq and Syria have been closer than ever, united under the merciless rhythm of war drums. These charts show the heartbeats of those countries now.

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Eight years ago, Riverbend wrote: “The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death? How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest… How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?”

Today, we see refugees from Iraq and Syria crossing endless amounts of borders, risking their lives, traveling across the sea on lousy rafts and so-called boats, walking for weeks and months – and still not managing to find a safe place to lay their head and rest. We see that many of them, for a long time, are not and will not be able to allow themselves to dream, allow themselves to worry about the little moments – like going to work on monday or what to cook for dinner.

There’s no more safety a short car ride away. Baghdad is still burning, Syria is on fire too. And in Jordan and Turkey the word is out – “capacities for refugees full”. After Iraq to Syria and Syria to Iraq, where to next? Who will stop all Baghdads from burning and who will provide the shelter from fire in the meantime?

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Afghanistan, art of resistance

Afghanistan: Exiles of the Mountain of Oblivion.

11/photo © Seamus Murphy/

O exiles of the mountain of oblivion!
O the jewels of your names, slumbering in the mire of silence
O your obliterated memories, your light blue memories
In the silty mind of a wave in the sea of forgetting
Where is the clear, flowing stream of your thoughts?
Which thieving hand plundered the pure golden statue of your dreams?
In this storm which gives birth to oppression
Where has your ship, your serene silver mooncraft gone?

Light blue memories, Nadia Anjuman

It’s been almost a year now since I dedicated a post to Nadia Anjuman – Remembering Nadia Anjuman: One Day, My Hands Will Become Weavers.

A new book featuring her poetry came out couple of months ago, entitled Load poems like guns: Women’s Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan. It made me think of Anjuman again, made me dive into her poetry and admire it once more. And when I think about Anjuman, I think about the sorrows of Aghanistan.

Just last month, Obama extended the Afghanistan mission into 2017. And in these links of war, the news is also that his administration approved an $11.25 billion deal to sell four advanced, Lockheed Martin-made warships to Saudi Arabia (although Amnesty International has called on the US to halt arms transfers to Saudi Arabia or risk being complicit in war crimes in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is waging a U.S.-backed campaign against Houthi rebels).

Not surprised, but still surprised (you can feel both at the same time) and sad about this news, I went through Anjuman’s poetry and Seamus Murphy’s photo series from Afghanistan.

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Murphy’s photos carry the beauty I find in Anjuman’s poetry. Yes, they can be extremely sad, but yet they show a spark of resistance, a different view, a possibility other than indifference. An all of that is very subtle, very nuanced, very quiet.

One day my hands will become weavers

and upon life’s wasteland of a body

spin a gown with wheat and flowers

In one interview, Murphy said about his book Afghanistan: A Darkness Visible: “Although Afghanistan is obviously a troubled place, the book and the exhibition has very little of war in it, although most of the pictures are taken during wartime. But a lot of them are quiet pictures.”

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Unlike A Darkness Visible, the photos I chose to accompany this small note about Anjuman & Afghanistan are colorful, taken by Murphy mostly in 2009 and 2012, during his trips to Afghanistan. I think they are still quiet and still manage to catch the darkness in the most subtle of ways. But not just darkness – and that’ the beauty.

And why color this time? Because when I dream of Anjuman, I dream in color.

//all photos © Seamus Murphy//

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