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, 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, Iraq

Dunya Mikhail: Tablets.

dymaxion/artwork by the amazing Hayv Kahraman/

The following is a poem Tablets by the great Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail. I am posting it together with the great artwork by the Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman. Coming from Iraq, both of these great women have dealt with otherness, with being a refugee, with giving and leaving a part of yourself (forever). See it in their work, acknowledge it, respect it, remember it.

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She pressed her ear against the shell:
she wanted to hear everything
he never told her.
.
A single inch
separates their two bodies
facing one another
in the picture:
a framed smile
buried beneath the rubble.
.
Whenever you throw stones
into the sea
it sends ripples through me.
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My heart’s quite small:
that’s why it fills so quickly.
.
Water needs no wars
to mix with water
and fill up spaces.
.
The tree doesn’t ask why it’s not moving
to some other forest
nor any other pointless questions.
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He watches tv
while she holds a novel.
On the novel’s cover
there’s a man watching tv
and a woman holding a novel.
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On the first morning
of the new year
all of us will look up
at the same sun.
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She raised his head to her chest.
He did not respond:
he was dead.
.
The person who gazed at me for so long,
and whose gaze I returned for just as long . . .    
That man who never once embraced me,
and whom I never once embraced  . . .    
The rain wrecked the colors around him
on that old canvas.
.
He was not with the husbands
who were lost and then found;
he did not come with the prisoners of war,
nor with the kite that took her,
in her dream,
to some other place,
while she stood before the camera
to have her smile
glued into the passport.
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Dates piled high
beside the road:
your way
of  kissing me.
.
Rapunzel’s hair
reaching down
from the window
to the earth
is how we wait.
.
The shadows
the prisoners left
on the wall
surrounded the jailer
and cast light
on his loneliness.
.
Homeland, I am not your mother,
so why do you weep in my lap like this
every time
something hurts you?
.
Never mind this bird:
it comes every day
and stops at the branch’s edge
to sing for an hour
or two.
That’s all it does:
nothing makes it happier.
.
House keys,
identity cards,
faded pictures among the bones . . .    
All of these are scattered
in a single mass grave.
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The Arabic language
loves long sentences
and long wars.
It loves never-ending songs
and late nights
and weeping over ruins.
It loves working
for a long life
and a long death.
.
Far away from home — 
that’s all that changed in us.
.
Cinderella left her slipper in Iraq
along with the smell of cardamom
wafting from the teapot,
and that huge flower,
its mouth gaping like death.
.
Instant messages
ignite revolutions.
They spark new lives
waiting for a country to download,
a land that’s little more
than a handful of dust
when faced with these words:
“There are no results that match your search.”
.
The dog’s excitement
as she brings the stick to her owner
is the moment of opening the letter.
.
We cross borders lightly
like clouds.
Nothing carries us,
but as we move on
we carry rain,
and an accent,
and a memory
of another place.
.
How thrilling to appear in his eyes.
She can’t understand what he’s saying:
she’s too busy chewing his voice.
She looks at the mouth she’ll never kiss,
at the shoulder she’ll never cry on,
at the hand she’ll never hold,
and at the ground where their shadows meet.
.
• • •
.
This poem was translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.
All of the artwork (paintings and illustrations) is by the amazing Hayv Kahraman – visit her official website for more. For more on the poetry of Dunya Mikhail, visit her official website and the Poetry Foundation.
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art of resistance, Syria

Five For Friday: Postcards From Syrian Refugees.

Postcards of Hope are the result of a series of art therapy workshops in Ramtha, Mafraq, Irbid and Zaatari camp organised by International Rescue Committee (IRC) . More than 70 Syrian refugees participated in the workshops, mainly women, adolescent girls and boys as well as children.

As it is stated on the official site of the project, “the postcards were a tool to encourage Syrian refugees to dare to dream, dare to hope again and are their messages to the world. Through the postcards created, images, refugee testimonies, and video, the resulting body of work presents a unique insight into the hopes and wishes of Syrian refugees living under harsh conditions.”

I am posting only five postcards today, but be sure to check out the rest.

1. “Despite the pain, the hope remains

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2“I hope to live a flourishing life among my children”

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3. “The love between the people”

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4. “The calm of the sea”

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5. “I hope to go back home”

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//all photos © IRC//

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Previous Five For Friday:

Costs of War

Conversations With History

Iraq War Documentaries

Graphic Novels on Israel & Palestine

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Afghanistan, art of resistance

Souvid Datta: Contemporary Kabul.

I love photography. Sometimes it speaks in a language louder and more comprehensive than words do. When it comes to Afghanistan, I always try to show diverse photo projects and essays. From Massimo Berruti’s black and white photographs which show the daily distress, destroyed lives and broken country to Riverboom’s interesting twists in their Baechtold’s Best – Afghanistan series.

Today, it’s Souvid Datta and his project Contemporary Kabul. I stumbled upon his work while reading an article in The Guardian and I am really happy about this little discovery. About his Contemporary Kabul project, Datta states:

Common, contemporary perceptions of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, is based on three decades of war coverage. From the Soviet and Mujahideen battles, to Taliban rule, US invasion and subsequent security struggles, the stories and images most internationally pervasive are those coloured in conflict, bloodshed and tribulation.

Today, the Kabul that exists is one of many faces. One where bombed out buildings stand aside fresh internet cafés. Where more children and girls are attending school that ever before. Where shops and streets are populated by musicians, artists, athletes and activists who are trying to live connected to 21st century lives in spite of the massive infrastructure problems and the ever-present military attacks. Against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s first and messy democratic transfer of power as well as the Taliban’s recent tide of violence, this series explores contemporary trends in youth culture, arts and daily life. It is an ongoing, unfinished project.”

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The everyday life in Kabul is a life in a twilight zone between war and peace, as many of the different photo essays I wrote about show. This one lets a little more sunshine in.

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I think it is visible that a lot of time and dedication went into this photo project. This isn’t one of those cases where a photographer picks a ‘hot spot’, snaps hundreds of photos in couple of days and then leaves. Datta took his time to discover the culture of Afghanistan and meet its people.

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It’s refreshing to see such a detailed and in-depth look at Kabul at this moment in time. I think more of this kind of work – with genuine interest and emphaty – is needed in the photo-journalism community.

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Enjoy these photos but also remember war is still out there – and just tomorrow one of these faces could never again smile, watch a film, fly a kite, run, play, study, walk, work or  breathe.

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Undeserving and senseless death is nothing new in Afghanistan. Luckily, strength and resistance are also ever-present.

//all photos © Souvid Datta//

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For more on Datta’s work, visit his official website.

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