Announcing Lamma: A Journal of Libyan Studies

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new journal focusing on the academic study of Libya!

Lamma: A Journal of Libyan Studies

Lamma is an academic journal which aims to provide a forum for critically understanding the complex ideas, values, social configurations, histories, and material realities in Libya. Recognizing, and insisting on, the urgent need for such a forum, we give attention ­to as wide a range of disciplines, sources, and approaches as possible, foregrounding especially those which have previously received less scholarly attention. This includes, but is not limited to: anthropology, art, gender, history, linguistics, literature, music, performance studies, religion, sociology, politics, and urban studies in addition to their intersections, their subfields, and places in between. The journal particularly welcomes articles that adopt innovative critical, theoretical, and postcolonial approaches. Lamma is a space where these fields interact and draw from one another, and where scholars and students from inside and outside of Libya gather to redefine and reshape “Libyan Studies”. For these reasons the journal takes its name from the  Arabic word lamma (لمّة) ‘a gathering’.

There is a wide range of research on Libya that deserves to be represented and disseminated to scholars and students both in Libya and in Europe and North America, but for which a forum which brings them all together does not really exist. Such a forum would actively reach out to find them and bring their research to light, ultimately working to shape and define what ‘Libyan Studies’ is. Furthermore, there is great interest among Libyan students both in Libya and abroad in accessing research about their country in order to fuel and motivate their own studies; many of these students seek, but do not find, accessible research on topics of contemporary relevance. Now is a critical time in the history of Libya, with instability and conflict threatening not only the country’s prospects for a peaceful and productive future, but also threatening efforts to broaden educational and research horizons in tandem with Libyan scholars and students. It is imperative that we find the means to support these efforts.

We believe that access to research is not the privilege of a few but the right of all and that knowledge production should be inclusive. Hence, Lamma is an open-access journal published in conjunction with open-access publisher punctum books (punctumbooks.com)—it will be freely available online as a PDF, and in physical form for a low price.

Besides research articles and reviews of important publications, we also hope to include relevant translated and original literary work, and offer the journal as a platform for the publication of specialized workshop papers or guest-curated collections.

(This announcement will soon be posted in Arabic.)

Finally, all the relevant information about Lamma can be found via the links at the top of this site. Check back soon for updates!

Exhibit: Jewelled Tales of Libya

The exhibition Jewelled Tales of Libya, curated by Najlaa El-Ageli and Hala Ghellali, will take place at the Arab British Centre from 19 to 27 January 2017.

Jewelled Tales of Libya is a rare exhibition which will explore the diversity and historical identity of a country through its tradition of fine jewellery. By showcasing this rich cultural heritage, the exhibition aims to tell the stories behind the adornments and symbols that feature heavily throughout the geographical expanse that we know as Libya.

Alongside a display of 45 pieces of authentic Libyan silver jewellery from the 1920s to 1960s (comprising chokers, belts, headpieces, bangles, silver slippers amongst many other pieces), the exhibition will show 13 original vintage photographs, that belong to the curators’ private collections. Dating back to the early decades of the 20th Century, the images of Libyan women were taken by the Italian cameramen, (such as Aula, Nascia, Rimoldi and others),who established studios in Libya during the European colonisation and who contributed to the Orientalist strand of photography.

In contrast to this old collection, the exhibition will also feature more recent photographs taken by the talented Libyan photographer Sassi Harib, whose work captures the essence of Libya’s Southern women adorned in their jewellery.

Furthermore, Hala Ghellali, one of the curators, will be giving a talk about Libyan jewellery, its symbolism and the history of silver making in Libya on 24 Jan, 6:30pm – 7:30pm @ The Arab British Centre (admission is free).

How Long Have You Been With Us? by Khaled Mattawa

How Long Have You Been With Us? Essays on Poetry by Khaled Mattawa has just been published by the University of Michigan Press.

“Khaled Mattawa, an American poet of Libyan origin, explores various dynamic developments shaping American poetry as it is being practiced today. Arising from an incredibly diverse range personal backgrounds, lyric traditions, and even languages, American poetry is transforming into a truly international form. Mattawa, who also translates Arabic poetry into American English and American poetry into Arabic, explores the poetics and politics of cross-cultural exchange and literary translation that fostered such transformation. The essays in this collection also shed light on Mattawa’s development as a poet and provide numerous portraits of the poets who helped shaped his poetry.”

Libyan Twilight: The Story of an Arab Jew

Darf Publishers has recently released the memoir of Raphael Luzon, a member of the Jewish community of Benghazi, entitled Libyan Twilight: The story of an Arab Jew. Luzon is also the co-author of an Arabic collection of interviews with members of the Libyan Jewish community, entitled سالتهم فتحدثوا: دراسة حول يهود ليبيا (I asked, and they answered: A study about Libyan Jews). From the publisher’s blurb:

Libyan Twilight is a short memoir that discusses the forgotten Jewish community of Libya. As a child growing up in Benghazi, Raphael Luzon experienced the pogrom that followed the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The Libyan Jews were forced to abandon their homeland and seek refuge overseas as a result.

The narrative jumps between the present and past, starting in 2012 where Raphael finds himself in a jail cell in post-revolution Libya amidst political chaos. He rewinds 45 years to a time when Libya was his home, just before the Muslim community ousted the ‘Arab Jews’. They spoke in a Libyan dialect of Arabic and had been rooted in North Africa since the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC right up until 1967.

Left with no choice, the Libyan Jews were forced to flee Benghazi and find settlement elsewhere, leaving a rich culture behind in Saharan sands. Luzon tells the story with an air of dignity rather than resentment. He opens the lid on a box of memories that reflect on the repercussions he and his community experienced over the last 50 years. As a memoir of exile, Libyan Twilight bursts with nostalgia and gives voice to a forgotten tragedy.

Shackled to his Libyan heritage, Luzon relives his life in Italy, Israel and London through a series of charming anecdotes. Sentiments aside, Libyan Twilight is about a man’s quest for justice. On a self-assigned mission, Luzon strives for closure on the deaths of his family in Tripoli during the pogrom. Nobody was convicted, nor were they granted a funeral. Luzon’s honorary pursuit for redemption places revenge aside, as he sets out to achieve a trial, a conviction and a funeral for the lost Libyan Jews.”

The book can be ordered directly from Darf Publishers.

Contemporary Art from Libya

This week a major achievement for the Libyan arts has been accomplished: the publication of Libya:Hurriya, the Imago Mundi catalog for Libyan contemporary art. Under the curatorship of the tireless Najlaa Elageli and Noon Arts, the Libyan contribution to the Benetton Collection’s contemporary art project—producing an illustrated catalog of contemporary artists from every country—has finally been realized. For the first time, there will be a widely-available book containing the work of Libyan artists. Libyan art has often been overlooked in works on, and exhibitions of, contemporary Arab art, and information on the artists and their work is incredibly hard to find. But now, everyone can have this beautiful book in their home and/or exhibit space, helping to spread the knowledge that interesting art is being made in Libya and by Libyans too.

The work selected for the catalog can be browsed online here and includes dozens of artists, some well known to Libyans and some less well known. Congratulations to Najlaa Elageli and all the artists on this milestone!

The catalog is available for online purchase at an extremely reasonable price and can be shipped anywhere in the world.

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.