British Museum celebrates over a decade of collecting Contemporary Art of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) with new exhibition as per BWW News Desk. But why a decade of collecting contemporary art of the MENA? Let us find out.
The exhibition will debut in February 2021.
In February 2021, the British Museum will celebrate over a decade of collecting contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa. Featuring over 100 works on paper from the collection, Reflections: contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa weaves together a rich tapestry of artistic expression from artists born in or connected to countries from Iran to Morocco. These artists reflect on their own societies, all of which have experienced extraordinary changes in living memory. From drawings by artists trained in Paris, Rome, Beirut or Jerusalem (1) to works associated with the Syrian uprisings (2), the exhibition challenges perceptions of the contemporary art of the region, with a range of works of great complexity and beauty.
The works in this exhibition reflect the British Museum’s position as a museum of human history, past, present and future. The CaMMEA (Contemporary and Modern Middle Eastern Art) acquisition group has been central to the speed at which this collection has come together in recent years and its remarkable breadth. This collection of works on paper includes drawings, screenprints, photography and artist’s books. While works by artists of this region have been collected by the British Museum since the 1980s, CaMMEA was formed in 2009 with the guiding principle of enabling future generations to see what was being produced during a particular time as well as to record significant moments in the history of the MENA region.
Reflections highlights issues of gender, identity, faith, politics and memory. Also communicated within the exhibition are ideas about poetry, music and war. The artists whether living in the countries of their birth or in diaspora, belong within the globalised world of art, and many allude to the artistic or literary heritage with which they are associated.
At the outset of the exhibition, Nicky Nodjoumi’s The Accident (2013) (3) challenges preconceptions about Middle Eastern art and highlights the complexities of being an artist in diaspora. From there, the first room focuses on the uses of figuration and abstraction with important works including Marwan’s Gesichtslandschaft (4) (Face Landscape, 1973) in which he transforms his own likeness into a landscape reminiscent of the land of Syria, or Yehuda Bacon who evokes the memory of family members who perished in the Holocaust (5). Huda Lutfi’s Al-Sitt and her Sunglasses (2008) (6) and Hayv Kahraman’s Honor Killing (2006) (7) bring their own perspectives to the female gaze. Monir’s captivating mirror drawing is informed both by the architectural heritage of Iran, and by philosophies of minimalism and abstraction (8). For Burhan Doğançay, inspiration for his abstract paintings is found in the urban walls of New York (9).
The second room is entitled Tangled Histories and shows political struggle, revolution and war across the region through the eyes of artists. While there are works relating to a specific event, such as the burning of the National Library of Baghdad in 2003,(10) or the demonstration by women against the enforced wearing of the hijab in 1979, (11) others emerge from and address longer-running struggles, and focus on the complexities of the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Lebanese Civil War or the ongoing war in Syria. Further works highlight one of the defining issues of our time, that of exile and migration through the photographs of the late Leila Alaoui. (12)
Visitors will be encouraged to explore further by visiting the British Museum’s Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world (Rooms 42-43) where additional works from this collection will be displayed including Taysir Batniji’s painting (13) exploring the notion of being between worlds, Khalil Joreije and Joana Hadjithomas’ photography and drawing series Faces (2009) (14), and a collection of artist books.
Venetia Porter, Curator, Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art, British Museum said: ‘The acquisition of many of the works in this exhibition is thanks to the tireless work of the members of the CaMMEA group. We are so grateful to them for working with the museum to acquire such interesting and important works for the collection. Through the prism of personal experience, the artists in this exhibition present us with a refracted image of a region: there is no one narrative here, but a multiplicity of stories.’
Posted by Usama Soomro in his blog on is a response to a question that everyone who knows the Middle East pondered about. It is about whether T. E. Lawrence maker or demolisher of the modern Middle East? So here is it is.
There are uncountable hot and cold stories of Turkish, British, and German soldiers, families, and agents of World War I, most of the stories are evident and some of them are unclassified. Here is the story of a 5.5-inch young boy who changed the geography and demography of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia in the first world war. Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British agent, army officer, diplomat, and archaeologist. He was born on the 16th of August in 1888. He is known as a renowned person of first world war. His played a role in espionage during the Sinai and Palestine movement and the Arab rebellion against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. His activities and association made him popular. In the rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. He made his name public as Thomas Edward Lawrence. His work for the people of Arab and their lands described him vividly in his writings, his deeds and in the historical aspect of history. His fame internationally coined him as Lawrence of Arabia In a film which was released in 1962, that film Lawrence of Arabia is one the great movies of all time. This film is based on his work and activities in wartime. He was a student of archaeology, history, and culture in Jesus oxford college. While studying in Oxford he spent much of his time in studies. He was fond of learning new languages, cultures, history, and religious wars. During his studies British declared the war against the ottoman empire and Germany, he had two brothers, they joined the British royal military. While serving in France they killed. Their death affected him deeply. He served as a junior archaeologist in Carchemish working for the British Museum on archaeological excavations in ottoman Syria in 1910. When the war breaks out in 1914, he joined the army as a second lieutenant. He was employed at the geographical section of war, for office works he was sent to Cairo as a map officer and liaison. His knowledge about Arabs and Arabia helped British intelligence in Cairo. However, behind the Arab mutiny, he united the Arabs to fight for their rights and their land. Until the primary warfare the total region, as well as today’s Asian nation, Syria, Israel, Asian country, Yemen, the petty Persian Gulf Dubai and Egypt, were nominally a part of the Turkish Empire with its capital at urban centre – nominally, as a result of the British Empire in impact ruled Egypt and also the Gulf states, and possessed the port of city. When the Arab rebellion started in 1916 he was posted to undertake dangerous missions inside the territory of enemies. Arabs revolted against the Ottoman Empire because the Ottoman Empire subjugated some Arab states like Syria, Damascus, and Hejaz. Hussain bin Ali started the Arab revolt against Turks. His interest in his academics made him able and his credibility helped him to do all the dangerous missions. He used to disguise himself as a common person for the secret missions. One of his secret missions was stared when the Arab revolt began in 1916. He used Arab nationalism as a weapon, the reality behind the rebellion, were some certain British people who encouraged and supported Arab revolt against the colonial rule of Turks. When he posted to Cairo, he made his mind that he has to join the group who is already fighting against Turks so he decided to join the group of guerilla campaigners, which was lead by Amir Faisal bin Hussain sheriff his father Hussain was the ruler of Hijaz state(now part of Saudi Arabia). Hussain sheriff said to his people that no power on earth can take away the land of Arabs from Arabs. He was guaranteed from the British if the Ottoman Empire demolishes they would be guaranteed self-rule. Hussain sheriff had four sons named as Ali, Abdullah, Faisal, and Zaid. All these four led and fought the Arab revolt with support of British, on the agreement that after the war they would never intervene in the Arab land. He got major success when he bombarded the railway line in Hijaz(province) which was the only source of food, weapon and only route of travelling from Arab to turkey for ottoman empire. After a year of the Arab revolt, Lawrence advised Alfaisal to attack the port of Aqba. Alfaisal assaulted the port and conquered the city of Aqba in 1917 the most strengthening city among the ottoman empire. Aqaba could have been assaulted from the seaside, but the narrow mountainous defiles leading were strongly defended and would have been very difficult to attack. So they did form the backside of the Aqba fort that strategy which was given by Lawrence led Arabs towards victory. What is now in Jordan. Some of the historians say the Lawrence had sexual relations with his friend and assistant named Dahom whom he taught the camera work and from him, he learned the Arabic language but what so ever for the Lawrence he lead to the great Arab revolt, which led Arabs towards sovereignty and independence. Although, In Arab revolt, there were many people apart from Lawrence who led rebellion like Hussain ibn Ali who founded a secret society in Damascus to fight for Arab independence and power. Apart from demolishing railway line in Hijaz and occupying Aqba, he took part in many militant activities one of the activity was carved out in 1918, Arab revolt occupied Damascus. After the accomplishments of his mission in the Middle East, he joined the royal air force. He got his retirement from the royal air force on February 26, 1935. He was returning to home so he can enjoy the retirement. While returning to the home he faced motorcycling accident on May 13 in 1935, which took his life forever.
I love Qatar tells us about how and why Qatar National Library (QNL) hosts discussion on illegal trafficking of manuscripts across MENA region.
Qatar National Library brought together experts from the Arab region to discuss the fight against the illegal trafficking and smuggling of manuscripts heritage items across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Qatar National Library is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Preservation and Conservation Center (PAC) Regional Center for Arab countries in the Middle East, the opening speech at the event was given by Dr. Hamda Al-Sulaiti, Secretary General of the Qatari National Committee for Education, Culture and Science.
Director of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Preservation and Conservation Center (PAC) Regional Center at Qatar National Library, Stephane Ipert, said “Documentary heritage is particularly at risk for trafficking, as its less likely to be protected by national legislation than other artefacts, and is easier to move illegally.
“For several years, trafficking and smuggling of heritage items from libraries and archives have been rising. In the MENA region in particular, this phenomenon is greater due to the number of nations suffering from conflict, upheaval and impoverishment.”
General Director of the National Library of Tunisia Dr. Rajaa Ben Salamah said “Libraries play such important roles in the preservation and restoration of documentary heritage and forgotten treasure. We can help by building a network and raising awareness of the pricelessness and cultural value of artifacts, and making them available to all through digitalization and publishing, as well as preserving the originals.”
General Director of the National Library of Tunisia, and Dr. Alsharqi Dahmali Member of the Advisory Council of the International Council of Museums in Morocco also participated in the event. The event was moderated by Maxim Nasra, Coordinator of IFLA PAC Regional Center at the Library.
As a PAC Regional Center, Qatar National Library aims to create a professional network of collaborative assistance to exchange knowledge and share successful experiences toward the preservation of documentary heritage throughout the region.
Arab women outnumber men in pursuing university degrees, but since it seems there is still a lot to do, this initiative is more than welcome. It is the New U.S.- Middle East Partnership Initiative in Lebanon that could help to redress the worldwide exclusion of women from participation in peace negotiations and related political processes in particular in the Levant region of the MENA.
To this end, a sizable grant from The U.S.- Middle East Partnership Initiative will cover a full semester for up to 900 students per an article of Zawya of July 8, 2020, elaborates on how Students to profit from new U.S.-Middle East partnership initiative tomorrow’s leaders’ program.
The U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has awarded LAU MEPI-Tomorrow’s Leaders (LAU MEPI-TL) a grant of $10 million for a new Tomorrow’s Leaders Gender Scholars (TLS) Program to strengthen undergraduate student awareness, preparedness, and skills in gender education and activism. For the last 12 years, MEPI has been providing scholarships to promising students from across the MENA region to study at either the Lebanese American University or the American University of Beirut.
The grant aims to redress the worldwide exclusion of women from participation in peace negotiations and related political processes because of discriminatory laws, social stereotypes, institutional obstacles, and in particular, to promote inclusiveness at a time when women’s active involvement is pivotal during the current crises across the MENA region.
By supporting pedagogic interventions in higher education and endorsing the delivery of gender studies courses to increase the awareness of university students on gender disparities, MEPI’s objective is to build a culture of inclusiveness and foster an environment for women’s success in the workforce, leadership positions, and policymaking arenas.
This substantial grant covers up to two academic years starting in the Fall 2020 and it targets students who have demonstrated strong academic performance and a need for support towards their tuition fees.
Up to 900 students will benefit from full tuition for at least one semester provided they enroll in and complete a gender course, as well as engage in a relevant conference where they present their subject-related papers, and publish on their scholarly achievements in academic journals such as LAU’s own Arab Institute for Women’s flagship journal Al-Raida. To this end, the School of Arts and Sciences at LAU has designed a bespoke program, a Gender Series of courses, that consists of multidisciplinary sets of problems relating to national, regional and global issues around Gender and its manifestations in the social, economic, political and cultural lives.
The grant is extended to students from the School of Arts & Sciences, Adnan Kassar School of Business, the School of Engineering and the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing.
“We are proud of our affiliation with world-renowned academic institutions like LAU,” said US Ambassador Dorothy C. Shea. “You are recognized around the globe for the top-tier education you provide. That is a source of pride to the Lebanese people, and to us at the US Embassy. We are your partner, and we welcome this opportunity to strengthen our partnership and, fundamentally, to help Lebanese students.”
Thanking Ambassador Shea and the American people LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra said: “Your continued generosity and support of students in the Arab world gives them hope to attain their aspirations to improve their lives, and the lives of their loved ones and their community. The belief that education is the only answer to the ills that afflict society in Lebanon and the Arab world remains at the heart of our mission.”
The news comes at a crucial time as the university and the country wrestle with the growing needs of families in dire financial distress, as a result of the deepening economic crisis.
“At a time when Lebanon is undergoing such acute social and political change, coupled with economic distress and a pandemic to boot, it is heartening to receive such substantial support from MEPI to promote gender equity in the region,” said Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Management Elise Salem. “The grant will make a big difference in raising awareness and instituting policy change to achieve gender equality, while encouraging female leadership amongst students.”
In its twelfth year, the LAU MEPI-TL Program in AY 2019-2020 welcomed 36 new scholars from seven different countries. Earlier this year, the program celebrated 13 TL students who presented capstone projects focused on pressing social, economic, and cultural issues in their home countries.
“Indeed, MEPI continues to give hope to the youth of Lebanon and the MENA region,” commented Director of International Services and MEPI-TL Program Director Dina Abdul Rahman. “I dare to say that the Tomorrow’s Leaders Program is ‘lifesaving!’ It transformed the lives of hundreds of underprivileged talented young women and men for over a decade and continues to open up new horizons for our youth into a world of opportunity, prosperity, and success.”
The grant falls within LAU’s drive to alleviate the financial burden placed on students and their parents by Lebanon’s economic crisis. To that end, the university last year implemented a set of measures which included a yearly financial aid budget in excess of $50 million, and the launch of the Emergency Financial Fund last October.
As militant attacks get closer, Katarina Höije tells the story of a Malian town defiantly continuing its annual tradition of replastering a mosque. Here is :
An Ancient Mud Mosque Annually Restored
Rickety plastic chairs and tables line the winding streets around Djenné’s main square, where the mosque looms over the town’s low mud-brick houses. There are plates of riz au grastasty rice with meat and vegetables—and chilled soft drinks. Ivorian Coupé-Décalé music reverberates on soft mud walls. Djenné, a town of about 35,000 in the central region of Mali, is famous for its traditional mud-brick architecture and its UNESCO-protected mosque. Fifty-two feet (16 meters) high and built on a 300-foot-long (90-meter) platform to protect it from flooding, the mosque is the world’s largest mud-brick building.
Young men and boys run down the front steps of the mosque after dropping off baskets of mud. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)
Touching up its walls each year—crépissage, the French word for ‘plastering’—is a proud and exuberant ritual that involves the whole town. “The crépissage is the most important event of the year, even bigger than Eid al-Fitr, Tabaski (the Malian equivalent of Christmas), and marking the end of Ramadan,” says Yaro, a 30-year-old lawyer and host of the celebration known as ‘la nuit de veille.’ Sitting under a tarpaulin strung between two neem trees, Yaro watches as the crowds sway through the street.
The partygoers won’t sleep until after the event. The revelry will strengthen them ahead of tomorrow’s big task, Yaro claims, sipping a soft drink. “Tonight we party, and tomorrow we will celebrate our mosque and Djenné’s cultural heritage.” The residents of Djenné come together to put a new layer of clay on their mosque every April, just before the rainy season. The crépissage is both a necessary maintenance task to prevent the mosque’s walls from crumbling and an elaborate festival that celebrates Djenné’s heritage, faith, and community. It’s also an act of defiance.
The increasing instability in Mali’s central region—fueled by inter-tribal conflicts and growing numbers of militant and jihadist groups exploiting the absence of state security forces—now threatens Djenné and its sacred annual ritual. Local militants—some linked to the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), formed by the 2017 merger of several extremist groups operating in Mali—have invaded towns, destroyed markets, and spread their influence in central Mali.
A group of women carrying water needed for the mud mixture. Men and boys are responsible for bringing the mud to the mosque, while and women and girls are tasked with bringing water from the river. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)
So far, Djenné and its mosque have been spared, but the security situation in the region continues to deteriorate, and more frequent attacks are being carried out in Djenné’s orbit. “We knew that the militants were getting closer to Djenné,” says town chief Sidi Yéya Maiga at his home the day before the crépissage. This year the town council even took the extraordinary step of debating whether or not to cancel their cherished tradition.
In an act of collective resistance, they decided the show must go on. On the day before the crépissage, Nouhoum Touré, the master among Djenné’s 250 masons, heads down to the riverbank to check on the mud that has been left to soak for 20 days.
The crépissage is the most important event in Mali. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)
It’s the height of the dry season, and the river has shrunk to shallow puddles and inlets. The round pools that store clay until it’s time for the crépissage look like pockmarks on the riverbed. The mud comes from further down the river and is transported here by trucks and donkey carts. Younger masons then break the blocks into smaller chunks and mix them with water. In the final stages, rice husks are added to the mud, turning it into a soft and sticky paste. The rice works like a glue, holding the mud together and keeping it from cracking as it dries. The young masons then carry the mixture, in wicker baskets, to pits in front of the mosque in preparation for the event.
Early in the morning on the long-awaited day of the crépissage, Djenné’s residents gather by the mosque and wait for Touré to smear the first blob of mud on the wall. This is the starting gun.
There is a roar from the crowd as dozens of young men—some masons, some apprentices—run to the mosque. Smaller groups of boys raise wooden ladders against the mosque wall. Carrying wicker baskets full of dripping-wet clay from the pits next to the mosque, the young men begin scrambling up the façade, using ladders to reach the wooden poles protruding from the walls. Perching perilously on the wooden scaffolding, they pick up large blobs of clay and smear them on the walls.
The Djenné mosque the day before the crépissage. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)
Nientao, the mosque’s guardian, weaves through the crowd, his pockets filled with sweets for the workers. Thousands of muddy feet trample the paths around the mosque. As the sun begins to rise over Djenné, turning shapeless shadows into dark silhouettes, a group of boys and masons tackle the minarets from the roof of the mosque.
Four hours later, the morning sun shines on the newly plastered mosque. Dark, wet clay patches on the dried mud give it a sickly look. Touré is covered in mud all the way from his plastic sandals, which have miraculously stayed on his feet, to the top of his turban. “I think we did very well,” he says, sitting in the shade of the mosque. “Normally, we re-mud the mosque over two days. This time we managed to get it done in only one day.”
Residents carrying mud, from pits to the mosque ahead of the crépissage. (Photo: Annie Risemberg, The New Traditional)
A little later, there is a crack as the loudspeakers come on, then the sound of Djenné’s mayor, Balfine Yaro, clearing his throat. Everyone looks on in silence as he makes his way to the front of the crowd. He declares Djenneka Raws the winning team. Djelika Kantao and Yoboucaïna have prevailed. For the winners, there is pride, honor, and a cash prize of 50,000 West African francs, or about $90 (€80). “With the money,” says Kantao, beaming with pride, “I will buy new solar panels for the neighborhood, so we no longer have to live in darkness.”
Delve into a world of traditions being kept alive unique individuals through The New Traditional. This story and images are featured in the book.
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