In the digital age Muslim women are finding themselves caught between contradictory social values: to self-promote or to cover up. But what is the cost to life at either extreme?
In the Arab world we not only “give face” but we “whiten faces” by singing someone’s praises or “darken faces” with insults. In Kuwait, you humiliate someone by “cutting [their] face”. And things get even more complicated when we begin to talk about women’s faces. From my vantage point, it seems we are divided between two extremes: either dissecting women’s faces or cutting them out of public view altogether, in one hand the plastic surgeon’s scalpel and in the other the censor’s black marker. get PDF
Ramadan was over now. It was Wednesday so it was still a couple days until Friday prayers and lunch after. Diwaniya had happened the night before, and it wasn’t football season. So tonight, Abdul Rahman could try and find some Quran verses on his phone to send to his coworkers over their group chat. Maybe he would order KFC for a late night snack. He wondered which wife’s turn it was to cook. The older woman was better at chicken but the younger one definitely made the richer sauce. get PDF
A number of shrines dotted around the Gulf in Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and Kuwait as well as in the Levant have been erected in the name of Al Khider, although many have been demolished. Women hoping for health and fertility arrive at these sites with talismans, stitched flags, and bottles of rosewater, which they sprinkle as they pray for children
Al Khider’s legacy in Kuwait is a troubled one – shrines built in his name were demolished three times – once in 1937 and two more times in the seventies (the latter being in 1977) – after a fatwa was issued by Sheikh Al Jarrah claiming that the shrine and the famed site of Al Khider’s footprint on Failaka island drew a kind of reverence that was tainted with polytheistic blasphemy or sherek. Although it isn’t mentioned in the fatwa, polytheism had been central to Failaka island for thousands of years, where there was a shrine dedicated to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt by followers of Alexander the Great. >>>
‘I have seven daughters. Seven,’ says Um Fayez, holding up seven tattooed fingers. ‘And only one son,’ she continues.
Um Fayez has been a sadu weaver since she was 15, maintaining an age-old Bedouin tradition refined through centuries by the Arabian Peninsula’s nomadic population. Sadu textiles have been used to make Bedouin tents, carpets and pillows and decorative accessories for camels or horses.
‘I love this stuff,’ says Um Fayez, holding up a handful of deep, tan woollen fluff. Her eyes light up as she starts spinning it onto a spindle.
‘This is camel. I don’t dye it when it’s camel, I keep it natural. When I get sheep’s wool I dye it red, green or purple – or I keep it white. Black wool is hard to get, because black sheep are rare. But I like that too.’ >>>
In al Gharaballi’s and Al Qadiri’s latest work, Mendeel Um A7mad (NxIxSxM), Nadia, Iqbal, Sarah, and Majida gather for the women-only ritual of Chai Dhaha, a pre-noon affair of tea-drinking and shit-talking. The multimedia installation is composed of a 12- minute film projected inside a tissue box of unreal proportions, measuring 7 x 7 x 30 meters. The artists identify the tissue box as a national icon of Kuwait—not a single room in the country is considered inhabitable without one, and the post-oil boom population’s hyperbolic emphasis on cleanliness and grandeur is astutely communicated via installment of the "Hi Tissue" box, sponsored by the National Paper Company of Kuwait itself.
Of equally epic proportions as the giant tissue box cum screening room of Medeel Um A7mad are the diverse personalities portrayed in the looping fifteen-minute film—intimating that their conversation is one that eternally circles around itself.
I identify with the Greece that existed before the Euro Zone and before the printing press. I identify with the Greece of city-states, of sexual decadence, of Gods dedicated to the universe and not vice versa, of fountains named for nymphs, of the very real underworld—the Hades and the river Styx leading to it, the Greece of the honored dead and the celebrated living.
My country is literature and make-believe. It’s not the bloody earth of Palestine that I have yet to lay my hands and eyes on. It’s not my Kuwaiti bank account or my parents’ house in Mishref. It’s not California where I learned to learn critically, or Beirut where I learned to learn for myself and not others. The only comforting truth is, I occupy my own body. There is no exiling me. get PDF
I walk in the middle of summer, in the middle of Ramadan, in the middle of Beirut, in the middle of Basta, in the middle of the street. There is no way forward with so much baggage, but I push on. We are weighted by our emotions, by our pasts, by our bundles of self-consciousness; and by the effort of all the connections we make.
I wear short-shorts in the middle of one of Beirut’s most conservative neighborhoods, Khandak El Ghamee, also known as Basta Fouaa and Tahta, the upper and lower parts of the neighborhood marked by Shia mosques like bookends on a shelf. When men look at my thighs I repeat my mantras, the onslaught of self-cheerleading that comes with living in the Cult of the Self. Own it. Goddess energy. The Divine Feminine. All bodies are sacred. get PDF
The politics of scale are aptly identified in the Kuwait’s pioneering art pavilion at the Venice Biennale, entitled “National Works,” and forms a useful framework for tracing Kuwait’s cultural development. Featuring artists Sami Mohammad and Tarek Al-Ghoussein, curator Ala Younis aims to “re-interpret Kuwait’s modernization project.”
Kuwait, upon the discovery of its oil in the late 40s, positioned itself as a global giant of generosity. This kind of well-intentioned self-regard is illustrated in the works by artist Sami Mohammad, which mirror the birth of Kuwait as a nation. Younis contextualizes the naiveté of Kuwait’s nation-building project by placing Mohammad’s works alongside those of Palestinian-Kuwaiti artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein, whose “K-Files” photographs shed light on Kuwait’s grand national ambitions and the slow decay of its modern infrastructure. Furthermore, the pavilion highlights how Kuwait’s inception has been problematized by neoliberalism and post-Gulf War individualism, also the turning point at which 600,000 Palestinians were exiled from the country. >>>
She was going to be a mother of the bride for the first time. Linda’s head roared with the sparkling pain and blinding glory of her daughter’s upcoming nuptials.
Her bedroom in Beirut let in much more sunlight than the one in Jeddah and she wasn’t sleeping well. She sipped deeply from the glass of sparkling water and lime that she kept at her bedside table alongside the remote controls to the three different satellite services and hence all the global news channels – flicking through them again although she already had seen all the headlines. News anchors’ guilty faces sandwiched between crumbling buildings that fell away to advertisements for skin whitening creams that faded to nuclear agreement talks which made way to Korean pop stars in plane crashes and religious leaders coming out of limousines.
‘The water used to come right up to the front door,’ says Laila Al Hamad. She stands at the entrance of a one-level building that’s been her family home since the 1960s, located on Kuwait’s long, seaside Gulf Road. Once a house and a beach residence, it now houses Zeri Crafts, an organisation created to elevate Kuwait’s cultural heritage.
With teak shutters and rectangular windows, the house looks much like most traditional Kuwaiti houses. One room opens up to the next, for the ease of family life and to allow the cool air to flow. But the quarters in this house are not arranged around a courtyard as is often the case – they all face the sea. The family property has served a number of purposes, from being rented to expats from Palestine and later serving as living quarters for Al Hamad’s sister upon her return from university to finally, today, housing an office and shop. ‘Opening up Zeri Crafts here felt like an opportunity to re-own the idea of ‘home’,’ says Al Hamad, who has lived abroad for a good deal of her life. >>>
LAG: There were some really interesting themes in this exhibition, namely the concerns of Palestinians that moved to and lived in Kuwait but also the spirit of consumption that has taken over modern Kuwaiti audiences. You really reached out to them in a way that they could directly identify with and yet at the same time you encouraged them to read the subtext.
AY: It was a smaller society that met on so many levels and in so many places. When consumer items appeared, they were known about and acquired, the same with TV and radio. And for many Palestinians there was no place to go back to in the summer, so they very much invested in their homes and cars because that was home for them.
Dialogue on Political Graffiti from the Middle East w/Dr. Christiane Gruber
Media Majlis - Northwestern University
Self-Love is a Commodity
لماذا يحتاج المبدعون إلى الراحة؟
Taking Rest Intentionally
Not on Photography but on its Exclusion
Consuming the Short-Story Cycle: Gender, Class and Consumption in Literary Meals
The Problem with Today's Heroes
The Spring Sessions - King Ghazi Hotel
On Tarot and Foucault's Panopticon
Ivan: an Exhibition - Engaging the myth of Narcissus through contemporary design
Critical Pedagogies: Seeking Self-determination in Today’s Beirut - on Ashkal Alwan's Home Workspace Program
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Episodes : Public Diversions - on public space and architecture in Kuwait
Portal 9 Journal
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The Changing Room in London
Kuwait: Open the Doors
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Kethra: the Kuwait's 1st Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale
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Cannibalism, Consumerism and Crocodile Tears
Museum of Manufactured Response to Absence
MinRasy Projects, curated by Ala Younis
Harper's Bazaar Art
Khalid al Gharaballi & Fatima Al Qadiri
Mendeel Um A7mad (NxIxSxM) – Obsessively, Compulsively Kuwaiti