Italian colonial rule and Muslim elites in Libya

Here, an article analyzing Muslim elites in Libya during the colonial period:

Baldinetti, Anna, “Italian colonial rule and Muslim elites in Libya: a relationship of antagonism and collaboration”, in ‘Ulama’ in the Middle East, edited by M. Hatina (Brill, 2009).

Abstract: “In Libya, under Italian rule, ‘ulama’ (علماء), Sufi shaykhs and other religious dignitaries played an important role, as Islam not only legitimated the resistance but also became a fundamental element in colonial policies. However, the relationships between the colonial authorities and the religious elites, beyond what the colonial laws prescribed, have as yet not been examined, except for the Sanusiyya order. This paper aims to fill this research gap, focusing mainly on the region of Tripolitania.”

The conclusion reads: “Islam constituted an important element in Italian colonial policy in Libya, and the colonial authorities always paid particular attention to indigenous Muslim elites. However, the “politics of chiefs,” which was based mainly on an exaggerated patronage polìcy, did not help to overcome sectarian, tribal and regional divisions.

The Italian colonial authorities did not develop a well-defined educational policy aimed at modernizing the traditional elites or forming a new “evolués” elite useful for meeting administrative and economic needs. As noted, the —the institution charged with reforming the local elite—was established only in the mid-1930s, in the closing phase of colonial rule. Even then, its impact on the emergence of new elites was negligible, due to the small number of students admitted each year. Moreover, the Institute of Islamic Studies in Tripoli (المدرسة الاسلامية العليا) was not very popular among native circles because its educational program was perceived as too “Westernized.” Hence the Italian administration did not significantly alter or influence the structure of the Muslim elites in Libya, nor did it contribute to the emergence of new ones.”

As always, those who are interested in reading the piece can drop me a line.

The Arabic dialect of Tripoli | لهجة طرابلس العربية

pereira-parler-arabePereira, Christophe. 2010. Le parler arabe de Tripoli (Libye) | لهجة طرابلس العربية. Estudios de Dialectología Árabe 4. Zaragoza.

This book is the most recent linguistic description of the Arabic dialect spoken in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Based on fieldwork over the course of several years, it provides a detailed look at the dialect of Tripoli from the viewpoint of Arabic dialectology, but goes beyond the usual approaches in including a thorough description of syntax. Furthermore, it is the only book to be written on a variety of Arabic in Libya since the early 1980s. Christophe Pereira is a Maître de Conférences at INALCO in Paris.

 

Libya in Motion: short documentaries

Libya in Motion is a series of short films that were made over the past three years by emerging Libyan filmmakers  and produced in collaboration with the Scottish Documentary Institute. They were made during workshops in Libya, organised by the British Council and run by Scottish Documentary Institute, in partnership with the Advanced Institute of Art Techniques – Tripoli.

“From Tripoli to Benghazi, meet a grandmother sewing the national flag with relish, a young woman determined to become a film director, a fisherman philosopher, illegal migrants caught in limbo in a detention centre, a group of young filmmakers trying to fund their fiction film and many others. A collection of brief insights into the lives of people trying to find normality in a world of chaos.”

The list of films is as follows. A few are already available online.

Tripoli (2012)
Grannys FlagsDirected by Naziha Arebi
Graffiti – Directed by Ibrahim El Mayet & Anas El Gomati [See trailer]
The Secret Room – Directed by Ibrahim Y. Shebani

Benghazi (2012) 
The Salesman – Directed by Ibrahim Algouri
Poet of the Sea – Directed by Farag Akwedir
The Driving Lesson – Directed by Omar Bushiha

From Tripoli (2014-2015)
The Mosque – Directed by Farag Al-Sharif
The Runner – Directed by Mohannad Eissa
The Sandwich Maker – Directed by Samer S. Omar
Land of Men – Directed by Alaa Hassan Saneed & Kelly Ali
Dead End – Directed by Ahmed Aboub
Drifting – Directed by Samer S. Omar
Mission Impossible – Directed by Naimi Own

Exhibition: Diana Matar’s Photography

An exhibition of photography by Diana Matar will be at Purdy Hicks Gallery (65 Hopton St, London SE1 9GZ) from 13th May till June 6th.

From the gallery website: Purdy Hicks is pleased to present their first solo exhibition by Diana Matar. Photographs from four series of works, mostly photographed in Egypt and Libya, will be shown in the exhibition: Evidence, Disappearance, Witness and Still Far Away.

Diana Matar’s work is concerned with memory. Often spending years on a theme, she attempts to capture the invisible traces of human history. Specifically she is concerned with power and violence and the question of what role aesthetics might play in their depiction. Her photographs are conscious of the past and are the result of a rigorous enquiry into the possibility that a contemporary image might contain memory. Time is an integral element in the making of her work, both in the sense that her photographs are often taken at night, where film is subjected to long exposure times, but also in the sense that her work arises from a cultivated patience that is attentive to the resonance of a particular place.

Works from Still Far Away have never been exhibited before. The colour landscapes focus on post revolutionary Libya and the silent resonance of its dictatorial and colonial past. Disappearance is a work that uses the enforced disappearance of the artist’s father-in-law as an anchor. Jaballa Matar, a Libyan political dissident, was kidnapped in 1990 and not seen by his family again. For six years, Diana Matar scanned through places—first in Egypt and Italy, where anti-Gaddafi dissidents were active, and later in Libya after the revolution – in search of traces of her father-in-law. Though her work is about Jaballa Matar, he is nowhere to be found in any of the photographs. The series is a sustained enquiry into how photography might convey the absence of a person no longer with us. For Evidence Matar systematically photographed architectural spaces used by the regime to disappear people over a period of 42 years. She has said their existence stands in as a kind of imperfect evidence to the events that went undocumented by the regime. In Witness Matar explores specific sites in Rome where the regime attacked dissidents living abroad. These four bodies of work explore the depths with which the regime affected society and intimate family life and they query the role photography might play in focusing on events often hidden from history.

Matar writes, ‘What ties my work together is its relation to history – if I photograph a building I am not interested in its structure, but what happened inside. If I make an image of a tree I am concerned not by the form of its roots or length of its trunk, but by what it has witnessed over the course of its life. When I take a portrait of a person I don’t care about what they look like, what fascinates me is what they have experienced in the past.’

Diana Matar is an artist working with photography, testimony, and archive. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Matar has been the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award for Fine Art, the International Fund for Documentary Photography Award, and Arts Council of England Individual Artist Grant. A major installation of her work Evidence was shown in the major exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern travelling to Museum Folkswang Essen; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2014 – 2015. Her first monograph, Evidence, was published in November 2014 by Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam and chosen by New York Times Photography Critic Teju Cole as best book of the year. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Santa Barbara Museum, Santa Barbara and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Arabic dialect of the Jews of Tripoli | لهجة يهود طرابلس العربية

The city of Tripoli in western Libya was home to a thriving Jewish community until about the early 1970s, when various political and social factors pushed the remaining members of the community to emigrate, completing the process of Libya losing its Jewish communities begun several decades earlier. Now, Libyan Jewish communities are still thriving, but in the diaspora, principally in Italy and Israel.

Since many members of the community still speak their Arabic dialect at home, it is still possible to do linguistic fieldwork and describe Libyan Jewish dialects. However, so far no dialects except that of Tripoli have received attention.

The most important study of Libyan Jewish Arabic is The Arabic dialect of the Jews of Tripoli (Libya) by Sumikazu Yoda (Harrassowitz, 2005). Yoda’s work is the only detailed description of a Libyan Jewish dialect that exists. Although written for a linguistic audience, it also contains the transcription and translation of a fairy tale (“The Sultan and the three sisters”) as well as a glossary, both of which are useful for the non-linguist reader who might want to get an idea of what the Jewish dialect of Tripoli was like.

Fortunately, Yoda also made his recording of that fairy tale available online, which you can listen to below. It was narrated by Mere Hajjaj Liluf (میري حجاج ليلوف), who was born in Tripoli in 1925.

For those who speak Libyan Arabic, the main differences to note are that t ت becomes ch چ, h ه disappears, and q ق is pronounced q and not g. So for example انتا is pronounced انچا and تعالى sounds like چَعْلا che3la. Or instead of hada هدا you hear ada ادا. I’d be interested to know how much is understandable!