Arts and Culture in the Mideast
- Published on Monday, 06 May 2013 00:00
- Category: Culture
Last month, fashion bloggers, designers, and “it” girls from all over the world graced the front row of the 6th annual Fashion Fighting Famine fashion show, held on March 31st at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine, California. It was a frenzy of fashionistas posing for photographers in their edgy outfits, or attempting to snap a picture with their favorite fashion blogger.
Dubbed the “largest fashion show for Muslim designers in the United States,” the FFF event aims to provide more than just a spectacular fashion show. Every year, the Southern California-based organization chooses a different charity to support and raise funds for. It also hosts a “Shop for a Cause” bazaar that brings together established and upcoming modest fashion labels, making these brands accessible to the public. Every purchase made at the bazaar contributes a portion to FFF’s Cause of the Year.
- Published on Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00
- Category: Culture
If you’ve been to your local H&M store recently, you would have noticed the promotions for H&M Conscious with the slogan “Don’t Let Fashion Go To Waste” placed around the floor. The campaign is an initiative led by the Swedish retailer to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental impact and to run its business in a manner that is “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.” It aims to reduce the amount of textiles that end up in landfills every year by asking customers to bring them their old clothes in exchange for a discount voucher. The clothing that is collected will be sorted out to be re-worn, reused or recycled, and if these aren’t the options then the textile is used to produce energy.
The global fashion industry has been moving in the direction of increased sustainability and social consciousness in recent years. Campaigns such as TOMS’ “One For One Movement” and the eco-fashion brand EDUN founded by Bono and his wife Ali Hewson to sustain long-term jobs in third world countries have improved the fashion world’s image for being shallow and wasteful. Fashion ComPassion is one such brand that is changing the way fashion works, quite literally. It is a socially responsible fashion retailer providing a platform to brands that work directly with women in underprivileged and war-torn areas in South Asia and Africa, including the Middle East. The goal is to create jobs and provide skill training as a sustainable means to end poverty.
- Published on Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
- Category: Film
Ben Affleck's 2012 political thriller "Argo," about the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis, reached the streets of Tehran, Iran via the black market soon after its theatrical release in the US. The film's depiction of the historical event and its portrayal of Iranians at the time and its winning the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture, drew mixed emotions from residents of Tehran. These reactions are notably different across generations of Tehranis due to their respective familiarity with Iran at the time of the Hostage Crisis.
Sara, a 21-year-old accounting major, explains, "It all depends on how you look at the film. If you want to want to look at it from an artistic point of view, (then) it was a very beautiful film. However, because they wanted to appeal to the audience's emotions there were a lot of exaggerations. It's true that at the beginning of the Revolution, revolutionaries and the Basiji did not do good things. However, 'Argo' doesn't provide a collective image of Iran's population ... It only depicts the revolutionaries and the people that were against the Shah."
- Published on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 00:00
- Category: Art
Though most Americans have distanced themselves from any association with the Iraq War, March 19, 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the United States-led invasion. Perhaps the occasion provides the necessary impetus to reflect collectively on one of our country’s most misguided and tragic military exploits. Ironically, it may be only through the gritty lens of a photojournalist’s camera that we see most clearly what has been so glaringly obscured by the government — the heartbreaking consequences of war on the Iraq’s civilian population.
Eye Level in Iraq: Photographs by Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson, currently on exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, features the work of two seasoned American photojournalists who spent two years photographing the buildup and the aftermath of the Iraq War from cities such as Baghdad, Fallujah and Najaf, beginning in 2003.
- Published on Monday, 11 March 2013 00:30
- Category: Art
History has a way of finding itself in the voice of heroes. Not so much for the heroines. Women, often the backbone of revolutions, almost always find themselves relegated to the backdrop after the honeymoon of victory wears off. Equals during protest, but second-class citizens under new governments and band-aid-approach “reforms,” Empowerment does not necessarily mean Equality.
But empowerment does provide opportunity for the unified whole that comes when otherwise-muted voices are amplified, not only breaking down myths and stereotypes but also building intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding. This is the goal of Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art and Voices, a provocative and groundbreaking online global exhibition from the San Francisco-based International Museum of Women (IMOW). Curated by Samina Ali, an Indian-born Muslim known for her 2004 novel Madras on Rainy Days, the show is an international showcase of the themes and issues faced by female artists who either self-identify with Islam or are labeled Muslim because of familial, cultural or religious background. Exploring and challenging the broad spectrum of perceived status, agenda, and realities lived by Muslim women today, the exhibition gives voice to their passions, their accomplishments and their expressiveness- redefining both individual and collective identities as artists and activists.
- Published on Sunday, 03 March 2013 00:00
- Category: Culture
When I first came to Al Ain, I had little idea of what to expect. One of the first things you notice as a Westerner coming to Abu Dhabi is the fact that the local women are “faceless.” That is, that most of the Emirati women here wear what is known as “niqab,” a Muslim face covering for women which only allows the eyes to be seen. As a foreigner trying to familiarize myself with the culture and customs, the niqab was a huge barrier for me, blocking me from engaging with the local women or seeing beyond the vast black sea every time I entered a mall.
- Published on Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
- Category: Art
"Cairo writes, Lebanon prints and Baghdad reads." ~ Arab proverb
When the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, it was said that the Tigris River first ran red with blood from those murdered and then black from the ink of their books. Baghdad has been the literary epicenter of the Arab world since the Mesopotamians invented cuneiform, the first form of writing, in the 4th century B.C.
And no place has pulsated with a stronger literary heartbeat than Baghdad's historic Al-Mutanabbi Street, the bookseller quarter--a crooked, winding thoroughfare running from Al Rasheed Street to the Tigris River, and once described as Baghdad’s “third lung”. For at least 800 years, Iraqis have bought and sold books, sipped tea, smoked nargila and argued about politics and literature on Al Mutanabbi Street, named after the revered Iraqi poet, Abu at-Tayyib Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Mutanabbi. It was the place where you could find translations of Shakespeare interspersed with Shi’a religious texts, Agatha Christi mysteries, ancient Greek poetry, comic books, American magazines and Osama bin Laden cassettes. Iraqis from all faiths and social classes —writers, students, intellectuals and even lovers --have sought refuge on Al Mutanabbi Street throughout the country’s turbulent history.
- Published on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 00:00
- Category: Film
Katie Couric suggested we need a Muslim Cosby Show. We say a Muslim Seinfeld. Like other minorities in the past 50 years, normalizing Muslims in mainstream media comes not from pointing out cultural differences, but from finding empathy- even humor- in the eccentricities and neurosis that every society shares, and the shared experiences of being seen as an American who happens to belong to a particular culture or faith. Hollywood likes labels- it thrives on defining its characters within stock categories. But film’s most enduring personalities are those who defy boundaries, who stay in our heads because we can’t cleanly classify them.
“The negative perception of Muslims is fueled in part by the media,” remarks director and UCLA grad Lena Khan. “Whereas we see every other group normalized by film and television, we [Muslims] are still missing. In this film, we are telling an entertaining story that happens to have a Muslim character.”