lunedì 16 dicembre 2013

Heroine of the resistance: Lalla Fatma N’Soumer

Lalla Fatma N'Soumer, heroine of the Djurdjura, was born in a village near Ain El Hammam in 1830, the year when the French occupied Algeria. Her real name was Fatma Sid Ahmed. The nickname, NSoumer, was given to her because of her  strength and because she lived in the village of Soumer.
Fatma's father was the head of the Quranic School, which was linked with the Zawyia Rahmaniya of Sidi Mohamed Ibn Abderrahmane Abu Qabrein. At a young age, Fatma memorized the Qur'an, simply by listening to her fathers disciples when they chanted the various surats (chapters). Those close to her described her as having a stupendous memory and being greatly gifted.

After her fathers death, Fatma directed the Quranic school with her brother, Si Mohand Tayeb. She took special care of the children and the poor. In addition to her great piety, her notable wisdom, and piercing intelligence, she had an excellent reputation throughout the region of Kabylia. Fatma NSoumer was only sixteen years old when French soldiers occupied Kabylia.

The region was taken like the country's other regions, not without violent fighting. But the insurrection led by Lalla Fatma NSoumer remains one of the most important because of this lady fighters bravery and nobility. The enemy referred to her as the Joan of Ark of the Djurdjura, a comparison that the religious Fatma NSoumer did not accept. Armed with an unshakable faith, she threw herself in bloody battles to push back the enemy.
In Oued Sebaou, in 1854, when Fatma was 24 years old, she gave the French army (several times her superior in number and supplies) a lesson in courage and determination. During this famous battle, led by Mohamed El Amdjed Ibn Abdelmalek (nicknamed Boubaghla), who almost gave the French troops the advantage, Fatma, heading an army of men and women, took control and led her people to victory, a victory that was heralded throughout Kabylia. The mosques, zawiyas, and Quranic schools burst into chants of praise in honor of the heroine of the Djurdjura.
General Randon, who did not accept this defeat, asked the inhabitants of Azazga to help him reach Fatma NSoumers quarters and to end "her legend and misdeeds." The response to his emissary was to "Go to the one who sent you, and tell him our ears cannot hear the language of he who asks us to betray." The reaction of the general in turn was that "as long as they remain deaf to our appeals, I will make them hear the sound of our cannons."
Fatma NSoumer did not give up. Even after the fall of Azazga and the ferocious repression by Randons troops, she mobilized the population and led more battles. She called her people to "fight for Islam, the land, and liberty. They are our constant, and they are sacred. They can neither be the object of concessions nor haggling." Her strong personality had a strong influence on all of Kabylia, shown by the sacrifice and determination of the people during all the battles, especially those of Icherridene and Tachkrit, where the enemy troops were greatly defeated. The latter took place on July 18, 1854, and resulted in a heavy toll for the enemy: 800 dead of which 56 were officers and 371 injured.
Randon finally asked for a cease-fire, which was accepted by Fatma NSoumer, a political and military strategic decision. She planned to use the period of the cease-fire to improve her organization and reinforce her troops. The fields were plowed and sowed, and arms factories were installed in all corners of the region. However, this cease fire, like other signed cease fires and treaties, like those with Emir Abdelkader, was not respected by the French. After three years, in 1857, they broke their word after having prepared their armies and launched offensives against several large cities which where, until then, difficult to overtake.
Fatma NSoumer, whose influence motivated the fighters for freedom, appealed to the people for a last and supreme effort. It was a matter of occupying three strategically important positions. Surrounded by women of the region, Lalla Fatma directed the fight and encouraged the volunteers who remained. The battle was lost, however.
In the same year, Fatma was arrested, imprisoned in the Issers then in Tablat. The French soldiers spent her fortune, which had been used toward caring for the disciples of her brothers zawiya. Her rich library, which contained a rich source of scientific and religious works from the region, was completely destroyed.
Lalla Fatma NSoumer died in 1863. The hardship from her incarceration and the frustration from her inability to act against the aggressions and insults to which her people were submitted, affected her so deeply that her health deteriorated. She was only 33 years old.

martedì 26 novembre 2013

Hawa Aden Mohamed: a woman of courage

Hawa Aden Mohamed has dedicated her life to advancing the health and education of Somali women and girls, to providing both emergency and long-term assistance to internally-displaced Somali families, and to abolishing the practice of female genital mutilation. Ms. Mohamed began her work over three decades ago by founding the Refugee Women’s Relief and Development Center. 

Hawa Aden Mohamed, who has come to be known in Galkayo as "Mama" Hawa, has created spaces where displaced women and girls, victims of all sorts of abuse and violence, can find safety, opportunity and be protected and sheltered. Her work stems from a belief that education lies at the root of everything, especially for girls.

Mama Hawa is also a vocal campaigner for women's rights, particularly opposing female genital mutilation (FGM). Her sister died from an infection after she was circumcised at about the age of seven. In addition to advocacy, Mama Hawa's centre provides counselling for circumcised women and girls and survivors of gender-based violence. Every year, some 180 women benefit from these programmes and many lives are saved.

In 2008, Mama Hawa received the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award presented by Human Rights First in honor of her work to improve the quality of life for Somali women and girls affected by Violence. 

Currently, Mama Hawa serves as the Executive Director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development (GECPD), a community-based organization in the Puntland area of Somalia. Since it’s founding in 2000, GECPD operates primary and vocational education programs for impoverished, displaced, and minority women and girls and works within communities to promote women’s rights, including combating the grave problems of gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. 

giovedì 21 novembre 2013

Suor Marie Keyrouz: Un fenomeno vocale liturgico che si possa ascoltare nel mondo.

"Per ascoltare un concerto di suor Marie Keyrouz non basta un cd, bisogna vedere le mani" scrive sul forum di "Le Figaro"

Marie Keyrouz nasce a Deir-El-Ahmar, vicino alla città di Baalbek , maronita di origine e melchita di congregazione religiosa, ha fondato l'Institut international de Chant Sacré a Parigi.

Senza trascurare le musiche antiche d'Occidente;  è riuscita suor Marie Keyrouz a fare arte dalla propria vita e fare della propria vita una opera d’arte. Studiosa di musicologia e antropologia, Marie Keyrouz spazia dal gregoriano al repertorio lirico sacro classico (Bach, Haendel, Mozart). La sicurezza della tecnica vocale le permette una grande intensità espressiva; per questo viene spesso accostata a Maria Callas e Oum Kalsoum, la più celebre artista araba della storia.  La sua arte attraversa la spiritualità che attraverso una relazione tra suono e  lingua crea una sintesi artistica,misteriosa, magica dell’intero monoteismo.

Ha cantato sotto le bombe della guerra in Libano, e la sua melodia è diventata un messaggio di pace per tutti i popoli della terra e perchè chi canta, dice suor Marie, "prega tre volte".

Ascolta la sua intervista

martedì 12 novembre 2013

Los Caprichos

Francisco Goya, considered to be "the Father of Modern Art", began his painting career just after the late Baroque period. In expressing his thoughts and feelings frankly, as he did, he became the pioneer of new artistic tendencies which were to come to fruition in the 19th century. 

He is more commonly known for his moving and often disturbing oil on canvas; however, he can also be considered as one of the most important and talented etchers ever to have tried the medium. While it is due to his magnificent rococo inspired portraits that he can claim the epithet "Last of the great masters", it is his post-1790 paintings and, more importantly, his etching and aquatints that earn Goya the ascription "First of the moderns".

However, Goya is perhaps better known for creating images critical of changes in the world around him. His later work famously records scenes of violence and destruction during the Napoleonic wars and openly comments on social injustice and senseless cruelty within Spanish society.  Goya bravely expressed these feelings through his paintings and graphic art. Los Caprichos, his first series of etchings, clearly shows his willingness to record the world as he really saw it, with all its horror, tragedy and ugliness.

Animals, Beasts and Monsters
Many of the 80 prints in Los Caprichos contain imagery of animals, beasts and monsters in a variety of comical, melancholy and sometimes disturbing compositions. 
Donkeys, parrots, bats, goblins, devils and witches not only illustrate the extremes of Goya’s imagination but symbolise his observations of the darker themes of human behaviour in Spanish society. 

In Plates 37 to 42 a series of donkeys dressed as humans plays on the common association of the donkey or ass with foolish or stubborn behaviour. Works portraying the donkey as teacher, music connoisseur or doctor, question roles of knowledge and wisdom in society, while another showing a donkey having his portrait painted by a monkey ridicules the pretentious..

Goya’s distorted caricatures of animals and monsters, and everything in between, examine the more comical and disturbing examples of human behaviour in 18th century Spanish society. For the viewer, they are often bizarre, puzzling or uncomfortable to look at, but without a doubt they stimulate imagination and reflection.

more info:

mercoledì 6 novembre 2013

La diversità è la base su cui si costruisce la vera uguaglianza. -- Moni Ovadia

Moni Ovadia : Lettera di un ebreo agnostico al Papa

".....mi chiamo Moni Ovadia, sono un ebreo agnostico di professione saltimbanco che pratica il suo mestiere contrabbandando la spiritualità dell’esilio ebraico, soprattutto nelle sue espressioni umoristiche e paradossali. Nella vita e sul palcoscenico, sono un “attivista” che, nei limiti delle sue capacità, ma con passione, si impegna a favore dei diritti degli ultimi e delle minoranze, della loro dignità, della giustizia sociale e della pace. Talora mi capita anche di pubblicare le mie personali riflessioni su libri, articoli e altri scritti. Le scrivo per assolvere un dovere e un impegno cogenti. Alcune settimane fa, con decine di migliaia di persone in Italia e non solo, ho condiviso la perdita di un grande amico, un fratello, un Maestro. Si chiamava Andrea Gallo, Don Andrea Gallo, era un prete cattolico. Sì, un prete cattolico!............ continua lettura"

domenica 27 ottobre 2013

‘No Woman, No Drive’: Saudi women battle to take the wheel

Several Saudi women risked arrest by taking part in a protest against a ban on females driving on October

26. They got behind the wheel and posted videos online of themselves doing so. Others who had planned to take part, however, stayed home after the government warned of prosecutions and punishments. Several activists said they received threatening phone calls telling them not to participate. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. The ban is informal, rather than enshrined in law.


 Activist and writer Tamador Alyami said clarification was needed from the authorities: “They are giving us confusing messages. There’s nothing clear about it, no clear law, no clear punishment, so the message is not clear and that’s why we’re fighting for it.”

 The campaign has sparked a wider debate in Saudi society over how women are treated. Social activist and comedian Hisham Fageeh recorded an ironic video, entitled ‘No Woman, No Drive’ and posted it on YouTube on the day of the protest. Fageeh’s unique twist on Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ had been viewed more than 140,000 times within hours of being posted online.


mercoledì 16 ottobre 2013

Le Mélomane and Georges Méliès

Le Mélomane (The Music Lover) 1903 - It's a short movie film of the French illusionist and filmmaker Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938). Know as the  "Cinemagician", he was famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema.

In this short movie a marching band appears, and the band-leader prepares to give them the music for the song he wants them to play. He has prepared a large staff above their heads, and he now creates notes by making duplicates of his own head, placing them on the staff, and completing the notes with sticks and other implements taken from the band members. When he has finished, the players attempt to perform the music that has been written in such an unusual fashion.

Naima Akef, Egypt belly dance legend

Naima Akef (7 October 1929 - 23 April 1966) was a famous Egyptian belly dancer during the Egyptian cinema's golden age and starred in many films of the time. Born in the Nile Delta to the Akef Circus family, whom her grandfather, Ismail Akef was the founder, after retiring from his work as a gym teacher and trainer in the Egyptian Police Academy. He opened his small circus in Bab El Khalq district in Cairo, where he built it into a famous animal training and acrobatic extravaganza, and helped build the foundation for Naima's future stardom.

Ismail took Naima under his wings when she was just a toddler, training her in various arts of Circus performance. Her parents were a popular acrobatic act and by the age of 4, Naima was travelling and performing with the family. In fact, she was reportedly the best trapeze artist in the family.

Her first cousin was a renowned dance trainer and choreographer and it has been said that he trained dancers from Casino Badia all the way to modern-day superstar Dina. Together, the Akef family travelled across the country and around the world.
In 1943, at the age of 14, Naima's parents separated and the Akef Circus disbanded. The only life Naima had known had come to an end but her grandfather used his connections to get her an audition with Badia Masabni. Needless to say, Naima was hired on the spot and quickly became Badia’s clear favorite.

At the time, Naima Akef was the only performer who could sing and dance. Further to that, Naima’s suppleness in dance seamlessly combined the strength and flexibility she developed as a young acrobat with a grounded Balady energy. According to the Belly Dance Museum website Naima Akef’s graceful performance was never vulgar.

As a result of Circus upbringing, Naima understood elements of creating a successful show. She had her own chorus line that she trained and choreographed, in addition to creating her own dance steps for maximum effect. Naima is rumored to be the first to dance completely choreographed numbers, at the time her contemporaries such as Samia and Tahia, did mostly improvisational dance even if the chorus line was choreographed.

In 1949, around the age of 20 she had starred in her first film and because of her quick rise to fame and her increasing popularity, the other girls at Casino Badia ganged up on her in an attempt to get rid of her. Having been raised in the circus, Naima was probably no shrinking flower. She took them on and won, but the ongoing tension from the situation led Badia to make the hard decision to let Naima go for the sake of peace with the majority of her dancers.

Once Naima left Casino Badia she worked for Badia’s rival Beba Azzadine. She also joined one of the first professional Egyptian folkloric groups, Leil Ya Ain Group, which went on to find success internationally. It was on one of the Groups tours to Moscow that Naima participated in the Youth Festival’s folklore dance contest and won first place. Her name and picture is still listed in the Bolshoi Theatre’s Hall of Fame today.

She then went on to dance at the Kit Kat Club. It was here that Naima met Hessein Fawzy, a famous musical film director. It was soon discovered that Naima had a natural talent for the screen to add to her seemingly unending list of talents. Her life would be changed forever by this fateful meeting. 

Naima Akef changed the dance into something completely free of sexual innuendoes and it became about flexibility, beautiful execution and elegance on the stage plus her sense of humor She could work in one place, and she could also use a large area- she was fundamentally trained in the circus.

mercoledì 9 ottobre 2013

Zaghroutah : L’inno della gioia

Scommetto che pochi di voi sanno cosa significa letteralmente questa parola, anche se sono sicura che foneticamente tanti di vuoi l’avranno sentita almeno una volta nei vari film americani ambientati in Medio Oriente. Spesso questo suono è stato associato alla esoticità dei luoghi e, assieme ad altri elementi come il velo, gli harem, i beduini e lo stesso deserto, ha contribuito a disegnare da parte degli occidentali questa  regione e a creare i classici stereotipi riguardanti il medio oriente, che, purtroppo si sono rivelati sfalsati dalla vera realtà dei posti e soprattutto della gente del luogo.
Con questo mio piccolo articolo voglio portarvi all'interno del mondo femminile e alle tante tradizioni che fieramente tuttora vengono rispettate e tramandate da madre in figlia: La zaghroutah.

Cos’è la zaghroutah?
La zaghroutah è una forma di suono vocale, tra il canto e l’ululato, che viene praticata dalle donne in tutto il Medio Oriente ed in vari paesi del sub-continente africano. La zaghroutah è il suono che per eccellenza rappresenta l’immensa gioia, e viene di solito eseguita in occasione di matrimoni, la sera del henna, per celebrare una nascita, durante le feste folkloristiche, la dabka ed altre celebrazioni. E’ un suono che rappresenta la felicità e la gioia.

La storia di questo suono “zaghroutah” risale ai tempi dell'antica Grecia, dove questa pratica sonora veniva già utilizzata dalla popolazione come espressione di gioia, di festeggiamento o di sacrificio .
Omero cita spesso queste espressioni sonore (ululati) in numerose sue opere, così come Erodoto, citando la pratica dell’ ululato eseguita nel Nord Africa descrive:

Da parte mia penso che i forti lamenti pronunciati nei nostri riti sacri derivino proprio da lì. Per i libici, Le donne sono particolaremente dotate a tali generi di suoni e riescono a pronucniarli molto dolcemente.

Come viene eseguita?
Di solito quando una donna vuole eseguire una zaghroutah il primo passo è quello di portare la mano davanti alla bocca, come se la si volesse coprire. Successivamente Il suono viene generato facendo oscillare velocemente la lingua ai lati della bocca o dei denti con una sequenza rapida; questa combinazione di movimento crea un suono caratterizzato dal timbro vocale alto e vibrato. L’effetto finale del suono deve risultare una suono simile a “Lolololoolololoeeeey” o “Lolololoolololoeeeesh”.

La zaghroutah in Palestina
Il matrimonio, oltre alla notte del henna (vedere articoli precedenti) e la zaffa, è uno degli eventi più importanti nel mondo arabo, dove la zaghroutah gioca un ruolo importante nella tradizione folcloristica, specialmente quella palestinese e dei paesi del levante. Assieme alla zaghroutah vengono solitamente associate delle canzoni tradizionali, cantate dalle donne (tramandate da madre in figlia da generazioni) nelle quali la semplice zaghroutah si trasforma in zaghreet, trasformandola in un'altra importante forma musicale/sonora eseguita solamente dalle donne. Durante il matrimonio solitamente una donna inizia con questo sonoro "Heeey Hee ..." o "Aweeha ...", poi si prosegue con una piccola poesia o poche brevi parole in rima e infine in conclusione viene eseguita assieme a tutte le donne una zaghroutah ad alta voce "Lolololoolololoeeeey". Può risultare per un udito occidentale come un insieme di suoni indecifrabili o urla insensate, ma questa forma antica di suono e di canto popolari palestinese è la testimonianza di un popolo che ha una storia e una radice che risalgono ai tempi dei tempi, una civiltà che non è stata creata solo 'ieri' e dal nulla, ed è la conferma che la cultura e le tradizioni sono vive e radicate alla terra madre.

Esempi di zaghreet:

Canto tradizionale:

giovedì 3 ottobre 2013

Remembering An Arab Portrait Photographer Zaida Ben-Yusuf

On the 21st of November 1869 Zaida Ben-Yusuf was born in London to a German mother and an Algerian father, but became a naturalised American citizen later in life. She operated – for ten years beginning in 1897 – arguably the most fashionable portrait studio on Fifth Avenue, New York, while at the same time contributing work to numerous publications and the period’s most important photography exhibitions. 
Despite her young age and her recent arrival in America, she attracted to her studio many of the era’s most prominent artistic, literary, theatrical, and political figures. In 1901 the Ladies Home Journal featured her in a group of six photographers that it dubbed, "The Foremost Women Photographers in America.
Zaida Ben-Yusuf died on 27 September 1933 in Brooklyn.

venerdì 27 settembre 2013

Roger Waters family portrait

Waters - on the knee of his mother,
Mary - with his father, Eric and brother John,
shortly before his father was killed

“Daddy's flown, across the water...leaving just a memory, the snapshot in the family album, Daddy what else did you leave for me...Daddy, what'd you leave behind for me?” Roger Waters

‘It was just before dawn one miserable morning in black ’44,’ sings Roger Waters, former member of Pink Floyd, in When The Tigers Broke Free, the song he wrote about that day. 
‘The Anzio bridgehead was held for the price of a few hundred ordinary lives.’
Eric Fletcher Waters was the son of a County Durham coal miner and Labour Party activist. He won a scholarship to Durham University and became a school teacher. In 1939 he was a Communist and a committed pacifist and refused to take up arms, driving an ambulance during the Blitz instead. But he was changed by the nature and scale of the unfolding conflict. He signed up to fight against fascism.

That was how he came to be a second lieutenant in 8th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, part of a force that landed on the beaches at Anzio in February 1944 and was told to hold the town.

The 31-year-old’s name is one of 4,000 listed on a memorial to those who were killed in action at Anzio but whose bodies were never found. His youngest son Roger was four months old when it happened; just old enough to have appeared in a family picture with his father, taken shortly before Eric’s deployment to Italy.

Eric Waters died on a battlefield in Italy on February 18 1944 because of the foolishness of the generals he served.

mercoledì 25 settembre 2013

Qahwa: Un'esperienza di tradizione araba e di ospitalità.

Il caffè in arabo viene chiamato qahwa,  ed è una bevanda molto importante legata alla cultura araba e all’ospitalità, in particolar modo quella relativa ai beduini del deserto . Quando un ospite si presenta in casa, il caffè deve essere sempre offerto, così come l'ospite deve rigorosamente accettare perché il non farlo sarebbe un gesto di scortesia. 
Parlando di caffé arabo accade spesso di confondersi con il caffè turco, credendo che sia appunto quello arabo, quando invece sono due bevande totalmente diverse.  Quello turco non lo si può bere subito, è più denso e lo si deve lasciare a depositare, così che la miscela del caffè e le spezie si depositino in fondo alla tazza. Quello arabo, invece, viene versato su una tazza diversa e molto più piccola rispetto a quella utilizzata per il caffè turco, si versa solo per 1/3 della tazza, lo si deve bere velocemente ed inoltre c'è un determinato rituale da eseguire sia da parte dell'ospite che il padrone di casa, che vi dettaglierò in seguito (vedere figura uno).

Figura 1
La particolarità del qahwa è il suo forte profumo esotico, dovuto al cardamomo principalmente, anche se può anche essere realizzato con altre spezie, come cannella o zafferano e allungato a volte con l’acqua di rose. Queste profumazioni vengono aggiunte ai chicchi del caffè che sono stati tostati e, successivamente, con l’utilizzo di un mortaio particolare fatto in legno chiamato (mihbaj),  vengono pestati tutti a assieme fino a ottenere una polvere sottile.
A questo punto questa polvere profumata viene mescolata assieme all’acqua e portata ad ebollizione dentro una particolare caffettiera chiamata (dallah). Questa operazione va ripetuta due o tre volte e serve a rendere più denso e ricco il caffè. Da notare che il caffè viene servito tipicamente amaro, motivo per cui spesso viene servito assieme i datteri.  La combinazione di un sorso di caffè e un pizzico di dattero, enfatizza il profumo esotico delle spezie, marca maggiormente il gusto amaro del caffè, restituendo allo stesso tempo il gusto dolce naturale del dattero.
Quando arriva l’ospite, il padrone di casa ha il compito di servire il caffè di persona, e lo fa seguendo un determinato rito composto da sguardi e gestualità con la mano, che vengono eseguiti tra i due. Si inizia con il versare il caffè nella tazzina e porgerla all'ospite con la mano destra. La tazza del caffè non viene mai servita piena, ma si fanno solitamente 3 giri di caffè, per un determinato significato (vedere figura due).

Figura 2
Nel caso l’ospite volesse ancora un giro di caffè, basta porgere con la mano fissa la tazzina al padrone di casa; in caso contrario, scuotere la tazza davanti a lui o mettere la mano sopra la tazza, sono segni di sazietà  o che semplicemente si intende saltare quel giro.  Questi rituali sono legati ai vecchi significati che si erano instaurati nelle tradizioni beduine, e che sono passati poi di generazione in generazioni e tutt’ora, almeno fino ad oggi, fanno parte anche dei riti della tradizione araba.
Questo tipo di bevanda non viene bevuto quotidianamente nella società araba, come avviene invece per il caffè turco o il the, per colpa del suo lungo tempo di preparazione e anche perche è riservato principalmente all’arrivo degli ospiti; viene comunque preparato in occasioni molto speciali, come la nascita di un figlio, ai matrimoni, in ricorrenza con le feste religiose, ai compleanni e addirittura per le occasioni di funerali. 

lunedì 16 settembre 2013

Red أحمر

Passion in arabic calligraphy and woman.

Photo: Fatima Abbadi

venerdì 6 settembre 2013

Syria: Musique d' Alep

Aleppo is one of the oldest inhabited cities in history. It knew human settlement since the eleventh millennium B.C.  Old Aleppo was contained within a wall, 3 miles in circuit with seven gates. The medieval castle in the city, is built atop a huge mound rising 50 m above the city. The current structure dates from the 13th century. It is said that the name Halab means "gave out milk," coming from the ancient tradition that Abraham gave milk to travelers as they moved throughout the region.

Aleppo is considered even one of the main centres of Arabic traditional and classic music with the famous Aleppine Muwashah موشّح , Qudoods and Maqams (religious and secular poetic-musical genres). Aleppines in general are fond of Arab classical music, the Tarab, and it is not a surprise that many artists from Aleppo are considered pioneers among the Arabs in classic and traditional music. The most prominent figures in this field are Sabri Mdallal, Sabah Fakhri, Shadi Jameel, Abed Azrie and Nour Mhanna. Many iconic artists of the Arab music like Sayed Darwish and Mohammed Abdel Wahab were visiting Aleppo to recognize the legacy of Aleppine art and learn from its cultural heritage.

Aleppo is also known for its knowledgeable and cultivated listeners, known as sammi'a or "connoisseur listeners". Aleppine musicians often claim that no major Arab artist achieved fame without first earning the approval of the Aleppine sammi'a.

Aleppo hosts many music shows and festivals every year at the citadel amphitheatre, such as the "Syrian Song Festival", the "Silk Road Festival" and "Khan al-Harir Festival".

For more details about Aleppos various musical styles, click on the following link:

giovedì 5 settembre 2013

Culture and heritage in a single promo

يا هالعريس بلادك ما اريناها
يا بدلتك من جبل عجلون قطعناها
واتفصلت في حلب واهتزت الشام
يا نجمة الصبح فوق الشام عليتي
الجواد أخدتي والأنذال خليتي
يا نجمة الشام وين عليتي
الجواد أخدتي والأنذال خليتي
نذر عليّ إن عادوا الأحباب ع بيتي
لأضوي المشاعل وأحني العتاب

venerdì 30 agosto 2013

martedì 20 agosto 2013

Don Hong-Oai : Master of Pictorialism Photography

Little is known about Don Hong-Oai, an extraordinary Chinese photographer which through pictorialism he created a series of amazing photographs that look like Chinese traditional paintings.

Born in 1929, in Guangzhou, China’s Guangdong province, Dong Hong-Oai left his home country when he was just 7, after the sudden death of his parents. Youngest of 24 siblings, he was sent to live within the Chinese community of Saigon, Vietnam. There he became an apprentice at a photography studio owned by Chinese immigrants and learned the basics of photography. During this time he became particularly interested in landscape photography, which he practiced in his spare time. At 21, after doing a series of odd jobs, he became a student at the Vietnam National Art University.

In 1979, a bloody border war started between Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, and following a series of repressive policies that targeted Chinese immigrants, Dong Hong-Oai became one of the millions of “boat people”who left Vietnam during the 70s and 80s. At the age of 50, speaking no English and knowing no one in America, the artist arrived in San Francisco and was even able to set up a small darkroom. Selling his photographs at local street fairs he was able to raise enough money to travel back to China periodically to take photos of surreal landscapes, and more importantly study under the tutelage of Long Chin-San, in Taiwan. This famous master, who died in 1995, at the age of 105, had been trained in the traditional art of Chinese landscape imagery painting,  which wasn’t intended to accurately depict nature, but to interpret nature’s emotional impact. The dramatic monochromatic landscapes created using simple brushes and ink combined different art form (poetry, calligraphy and painting) and allowed artists to more fully express themselves.

At one point in his career, Long Chin-San started to experiment with ways to translate that impressionistic style of art into photography.He developed a method of layering negatives to correspond with the three tiers of distance and taught his method to Don. Looking to better emulate the traditional Chinese style, Don Hong-Oai added calligraphy and his seal to the image. In the 1990s, his new art modeled on the ancient style started drawing critics’ attention, and soon he didn’t need to sell his photography from small stalls in street fairs. He was now represented by an agent and his work was being sold in galleries throughout the U.S., in Europe and in Asia, to private art collectors but also by corporate buyers and museums. He was in his 60s and for the first time in his life he had achieved some level of financial stability.

Don Hong-Oai died in 2004, at the age of 75, but left behind an incredible volume of pictorialism work that is as popular today as it was when it first conquered the art world.

lunedì 12 agosto 2013

"Save the Holy Places" - 27 April 1948 published by the Washington Post Source

Title: "Save the holy places" / Herblock

Creator(s): Block, Herbert, 1909-2001, artist

Date Created/Published: 1948 April 27.

Medium: 1 drawing on layered paper : ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing.

Summary: Editorial cartoon shows two businessmen or diplomats, one holds a paper labeled "Palestine issue" and the other holds a briefcase labeled "U.S. diplomacy", the latter points towards oil wells in the distance and says to the other, "Save the Holy Places".

Jaffa – more than just an orange

The Jaffa Orange was the principal export of Palestine in the 1890s. The history of the Jaffa orange (and the city -the Bride of the Sea- after which it has its name) reflects the recent history of Palestine.  

The orange – Palestine’s heritage
The small bitter orange, Baladi, probably arrived in Palestine in the 9th century. The  Jaffa orange – as it was commercially named – probably arrived from Hindustan or Northern Iran in the 17th century. Regardless, by the 18th century Swedish naturalist Haselquist gave the first European account of oranges in Jaffa “ . . . . a forest of orange trees of a big size . . . .” The presence of grapefruit was first recorded in 1882.

A closer look at Jaffa Town
The town and port of Jaffa, its surrounding villages, together with the land, comprised an area of around 85 000 acres. Remember, Jaffa district with a population in 1946 which was 71% Jewish was the most colonized part of Palestine. By the 1940s, adjacent Tel Aviv had grown from a small settlement to the second largest city in Palestine - all in the space of 25 years.
Jaffa town was predominantly Arab with a population of over 100 000, of whom about 28 000 were Jewish. The rest of the Sub-District had a majority Jewish population. They, however, only owned 39% of the land. Arab owners accounted for a further 47% with the remaining 14% publicly owned.
Prior to the events of 1948, of the eleven localities with more than 750 acres devoted to citrus, only two – Petah Tikva and Kefar Sava – were Jewish settlements.

This was the Jaffa and district which was about to face a combined onslaught from the regular army, the Haganah, and the Irgun. Such was the affinity between the two terrorist organizations (both perpetrated massacres during 1948), they eventually merged.

I saw a scene which I never thought to see in my life. It was the sight
of the whole population of Jaffa pouring out on to the road carrying
in their hands whatever they could pick up. . . . . as fast as their legs
could carry them. It was a case of sheer terror.
The Palestinian Catastrophe Michael Palumbo (p.87)

Documentary "JAFFA, the orange's clockwork" 
Directed by Eyal Sivan, the orange’s clockwork narrates the visual history of the famous citrus fruit originated from   Palestine and known worldwide for centuries as "Jaffa oranges". The history of the orange is the history of this land. Through photography and cinema, poetry, paintings, workers of the citruses’ industry and historians, memory and present mythologies, Palestinians and Israelis cross and combine.

mercoledì 7 agosto 2013

Van Leo - An Iconic portraiture

Van Leo (Egypt, 1921-2002)
Self portrait of Van Leo
Born in Turkey to Armenian parents, Levon Boyadjian arrived in Egypt in 1924, the year the family settled in Zagazig. In 1927 the Boyadjian family moved to Cairo, where Van Leo was to make a name for himself that enabled him to live from his art for over 57 years and be recognised all over the city as the master of the photographic portrait. He died in 2002, having closed down his studio and donated most of his collection to the American University in Cairo, and to the Fondation Arabe de l'Image (Beirut). In 2000 he was awarded the Prince Claus Prize for his career.

Van-Leo’s camera zoomed in on mid-20th century Cairo – a period marked by sophistication, glamour and celluloid dreams on which the photographer thrived. Through his black-and-white photographs, Van-Leo worked to iconise his subjects and evoked a drama that more often than not resulted in copious self-portraits of the photographer, posed in numerous guises. From intellectuals and celebrities to laymen and more – all flocked to be immortalised by one of the Middle East’s great art photographers.

 Dont miss his collection visible at Rencontres d’Arles Photographie