art of resistance, Syria

Paintings By Boutros Al-Maari.

boutros//all images © Boutros Al-Maari//

Boutros Al-Maari was born in Damascus in 1968. He has held several solo exhibitions in Paris and Damascus, and participated in a large number of group exhibitions in Damascus, Beirut, Alexandria, Hanover and Paris. Al-Maari currently lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.

Through his paintings he transmits a feeling of the contemporary and the traditional, all on the same canvas. In a way, his paintings are an exaggerated drawings of the typical characters from the Syrian daily life, with a twist of magic in them.

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For more on Al-Maari and his work, and many other great Syrian artists – follow the page Syria.Art on Facebook.

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art of resistance, Morocco

Harry Gruyaert | Morocco.

par43959//all images  © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos//

Just last year, a first English language monograph of Harry Gruyaert’s work was published. Gruyaert is a famous Magnum photographer, and for the last four decades he has managed to surprise the world of photography.

His work is never about stereotypical exoticism, and he treats all of his subjects and all of the countries he wanders around with his camera the same way.

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I like all of his work, especially the photos taken in Morocco between 1976 and 1988. Throughout most of those years Gruyaert worked out of a Volkswagen Kombi van, travelling from one place to the next, his cameras and equipment thrown in the back.

MOROCCO. Marrakech. In the medina (old district). 1981.

The way Gruyaert uses light, shapes and colors, transforms ordinary moments into art. The people in his photos get to keep their mystery, and that is a rare magic.

MOROCCO. Rif. Chechaouen. 1987. Street life in the Rif mountains. Walls are often painted in blue and white.

In an interview with the British Journal of Photography, Gruyaert said that he was always “interested in all the elements: the decor and the lighting and all the cars: the details were as important as humans”.

He captures people, but he also captures time, details, surroundings, context… It’s about humans being a part of, and not a whole.

MOROCCO. Essaouira. Ramparts & fortified walls of the city. 1976.

“It’s purely intuition. There’s no concept. Things attract me and it works both ways. I’m fascinated by the miracle where things come together in a way where things make sense to me, so there’s very little thinking”, Gruyaert explains.

To me, Gruyaert’s work is a wonderful way of taking in and capturing life, the way it is. He once said he discovered how to see – that might be the best way to describe what he does.

par44624//all images  © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos//

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For more on Gruyaert and his work, go to his Magnum profile.

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art of resistance, Egypt

Scarlett Coten | Still Alive.

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Scarlett Coten is an independent French photographer who dedicates herself essentially to personal, long term projects. The Arab countries are at the heart of her photographic practice, which explores the themes of identity and intimacy.

One of her wonderful projects is Still Alive, a plunge into the little known Egypt of the Bedouins. From spring 2000 to the summer of 2002, Coten shared the day-to-day life of the men and women who live in the Sinai desert, between the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez, from Rafah to the shores of the Red Sea.

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Coten describes her experience: “I photograph my hosts, those that ask me to, those that pose. These are my guiding line. Gestures and laughter replace the spoken word. Time seems different, the people too.

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It’s a hot summer. From one area of shade to another, we reach for each breath of air, each lift of the breeze. I no longer know which day it is; we live in the present.

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In an interview with Culturist, Coten says how she fell in love with “the cheerful and curious people, who consent to pose for me, and do so with delight.” She explains how she’s greeted with still alive! at every meeting.

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These photographs are the illustration of the humour, enthusiasm, vibrance, diversity and modernity of a people little-known to the world beyond their desert. They are forgotten, destitute but – still alive! And they find so much pleasure in that – in being alive.

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To find out more about this lovely project and see more of Coten’s wonderful photography, visit her official website.

//all photos © Scarlett Coten//

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art of resistance, Sudan

Ahmad Abushakeema: A Thousand Portraits From Sudan.

tumblr_o5uwd6vyhe1uw89o0o1_1280//all photos © Ahmad Abushakeema//

Photographer Ahmad Abushakeema saw Sudan’s “diversity in ethnicities, tribes, religions and backgrounds” but he also saw the lack of documenting it. He thought of using his skills to show this diversity and is now taking one thousand photos to portray his country and its people.

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Abushakeema’s ongoing project was created to portray a thousand different faces from Sudan in an artistic attempt to tell the tale of a nation that’s made of various ethnics and backgrounds. Be sure to see more about it here.

//all photos © Ahmad Abushakeema//

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art of resistance, Israel, Morocco

Remembering Ronit Elkabetz: A Thing Of Soul & Beauty.

ronit/From the film The Band’s Visit/

Ronit Elkabetz died. It’s hard to believe it, but it’s true – there will be no more films featuring the lovely and talented, bright and insightful, funny and beautiful beyond words – Elkabetz.

She was only 51, the cause of her death cancer. During the last twenty-five years she became a true diva of Israeli cinema, one of Israel’s most respected artists – she was an actress, director and screenwriter.

Elkabetz was born in Beersheba, to a religious Moroccan Jewish family originally from Essaouira. She became an important voice for Mizrahi women – her uncompromising and daunting work helped push Sephardi women to the cinematic forefront. The ethnic, class, and gender oppression of the Mizrahi women was an issue Elkabetz deeply explored in her work.

Michal Aviad, who cast Elkabetz as the lead in her film Invisible, said Elkabetz taught her film. Speaking to Haaretz, Aviad said:

“She had an enormous heart, she was terribly funny and she knew how to distinguish good from bad with brilliant clarity. And her heart was in the right place – politically, morally, as a feminist, as a Mizrahi, whatever it was.”

From 2012, Elkabetz served as president of Achoti (Sister), an organization set up by Mizrahi feminists. She worked as a volunteer, before the group asked her to be its president.

Gett/Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem/

In 2010, Elkabetz received a lifetime achievement award from the Israeli Film Academy for her contribution to Israeli cinema. During her career, she played the roles of single mothers, prostitutes, immigrants, hairdressers – those who are struggling, those who choose to live differently, those stuck in the middle of nowhere, those at the margins of the society.

I will never forget her as Dina in The Band’s Visit, Ruthie in Or and Viviane Amsalem in the trilogy To Take A Wife, Shiva and Gett. Her witt, smile, her broken china voice and the way I believed her from the first moment she appeared on the screen – it was magic, a thing of beauty that is joy forever.

ttaw1/To Take A Wife/

She believed that the cinema has to build a new world and bring about change. She wanted to be involved in projects that investigate the soul, to act and direct only things that can influence and change reality and society.

Alongside her dominant role in Israeli cinema, Elkabetz also starred in French films, including some directed by André Téchiné and Fanny Ardant.

She will be truly missed and remembered as one of the greats –  her soulful ways made all the difference. Elkabetz was human, and in her case – that word should be taken with all the romance and beauty that it entails.

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Previous Remembering… sessions:

Remembering Leila Alaoui: The Moroccans

Remembering Mahdi ‘Amel: The Importance of Resistance

Remembering Samir Kassir: Life as Courage, Death as Silence

Remembering Hassan Fathy: To Build With The People

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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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Afghanistan, art of resistance, travel

The Beauty of the Wakhan Corridor.

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First time I was introduced with the beauty of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor was through the photos of Benjamin Rasmussen. The Wakhan Corridor is a unique territory stretching from the far north-east of Afghanistan all the way to China, Pakistan to the south and Tajikistan to the north.

It made me happy to see a new photo essay about the Wakhan Corridor on Agence VU. Andrew Quilty took some extraordinary photographs capturing the harshness of the area (you can feel the coldness through the photos) but also the mesmerizing beauty of the Corridor and its people.

Quilty writes:

“Like the territory itself, Wakhanis seem insulated from the turmoil that has gripped greater Afghanistan the last four decades. However foreigners are welcomed in the Wakhan,without any sense of suspicion. The iconic blue burqa—ubiquitous elsewhere—is nowhere to be seen. Instead, women and girls wear vibrant, red scarves that flow from round skull-caps as they undertake daily chores which seem less dictated by gender than elsewhere in Afghanistan.”

Here are some of Quilty’s photos, and for more – be sure to visit Agence VU.

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//all photos © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU//

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