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.

New PhD: Najah Benmoftah on Tripoli Arabic

Warmest congratulations to Najah Benmoftah, who has just completed her Ph.D. at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris with the following thesis:

Benmoftah, Najah. Des ligateurs de cause: étude contrastive entre le français parlé à Paris et l’arabe parlé à Tripoli (Libye). Propriétés syntaxiques et fonctionnements pragmatico-discursifs. Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 (2016).

Abstract: This contrastive linguistic thesis describes and contrasts the syntactic properties and the pragmatic-discursive function of parce que in spoken French in the seventh district of Paris and some of its Arabic equivalents in spoken Arabic of Tripoli (Libya) : liʔǝnna, ʕlēxāṭǝṛ , māhu and biḥkum.

Regarding the spoken Arabic of Tripoli, these ligators may belong to two different grammatical classes : they may be conjunctional ligators and / or prepositional ligatorrs. It depends on their degree of grammaticalization. While liʔanna and māhu are conjunctional ligators that introduce causal clauses organized around verbal or non-verbal predicates, ʕlēxāṭǝṛ and biḥkum can be used as prepositional ligators and introduce circumstantial complements or be grammaticalized as conjunctional ligators and introduce causal clause.

In addition, these ligators can occupy a canonical position when the ligator follows a main clause and introduces a causal clause, or a non-canonical position for which there are two cases : either the utterance begins with the causal which is introduced by the ligator of cause and is followed by the main clause, or the utterance begins with the main clause which is followed by the causal not introduced by a ligator of cause ; the latter is found at the end of the causal and closing the utterance. From a pragmatic point of view, changing the order of the constituents when ligators and causal clauses are not in canonical position allows the focalization of the causal clause.

Unlike the spoken Arabic of Tripoli, the examination of the Corpus “Français Parlé Parisien des années 2000 (CFPP2000)” shows that parce que is conjunctional ligator. It introduces a causal clause organized around verbal predicate, rarely non-verbal. parce que can occupy a canonical position when the ligator follows a main clause and introduces a causal clause, and a non-canonical position when parce que follows “c’est” and introduces a causal clause. However, it can not be postponed and it does not accept either suffix. When parce que introduces several causal clauses, it may be taken but in reduced form “que”, giving a series of “que”. In addition, from a pragmatic point of view, when the utterance begins with “c’est parce que” this structure allows to focalisation of the causal clause.