Poster from the Tripoli Trade Fair 1930 (Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection, The Wolfsonian, see McLaren 2002, p. 178 for details)
Brian L. McLaren, “The Tripoli Trade Fair and the Representation of Italy’s African Colonies“, The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 24, Design, Culture, Identity: The Wolfsonian Collection (2002), pp. 170–197.
Extract: “The most significant exhibition to be organized in the Italian colonies was the Tripoli Trade Fair — an annual display of metropolitan and colonial goods held between 1927 and 1939. This series of exhibitions closely paralleled the representation of Italy’s colonies at similar events held in Italy and elsewhere in Europe during the same period. Indeed, all of these exhibitions were intended to communicate the value of Italy’s colonial possessions to a wider audience, while also establishing stronger economic and commercial ties between Italy and North Africa. However, the Tripoli Trade Fair also was a crucial medium through which an image of Italian society was disseminated to the indigenous populations of North Africa. There was, thus, a relationship between the Tripoli Trade Fair and its potential audiences that was more complex than that at fairs in the metropole. It not only represented Italian industry and culture in the colonial context, it was also the mechanism for a complex process of exchange between Italian and North African culture. Using a wide range of material — from postcards, posters, and publicity photographs to pamphlets and catalogues — this essay examines the Tripoli Trade Fair as a constantly evolving hybrid of metropolitan and colonial identities…”
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).
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.
Muhammad al-Zwawi (محمد الزواوي) was a Libyan caricaturist who lived from 1936 to 2011. Over a long career mainly in Libya, he produced a vast number of caricatures which commented on everything from social and political life in Libya, to Libya’s relationships with other countries, to politics in the world at large. His relationships with the powers-that-were were often complicated, as he critiqued a wide range of social and political issues. But his caricatures concerning Libya’s politics with other Arab nations were regularly published in the regime’s main newspapers, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
The only publication of, or on, al-Zwawi’s work in the West that I know of is a little-known book produced in German in 1984 by a small imprint called Edition Wuqûf, in collaboration with al-Zwawi himself. The book is divided into two parts. Part One includes three main chapters: I. Overview of the the history and present situation of caricature in Arab lands, II. Caricature in Libya, III. Remarks on the historical and social background of al-Zwawi’s caricatures. Part Two contains something like over a hundred caricatures with German captions (original Arabic text within the caricature is left as is). Here is an example:
“Look at the big words on the desk (I am a revolutionary! Serving the citizen is a sacred duty!), none of which have made it into his head.”
The main Arabic language publication of his work is an album with over 300 of his caricatures entitled الوجه الاخر ‘The Other Face’ that appeared in Libya in 1973.
The Other Face. Social and Political (Drawings) 1966-1972.
Online galleries of his work can be found here and here.
The Libyan-Canadian artist Arwa Abouon will show her latest exhibition “Birthmark Theory” in London from October 20 until November 7, 2015 at the London Print Studio, with the support of Noon Arts.
“Birthmark Theory will be a retrospective exhibition for a London-based audience on Abouon’s work going back over ten years, highlighting some of her most iconic and award-winning pieces to date. The 33 year-old’s unique approach has always been to use the motifs and symbols from her Islamic background and to juxtapose them with her Western-Canadian credentials. She creates pieces that reflect on what defines identity when one belongs to two different cultures. At the same time, she subverts any prejudices that may be held by outsiders regarding the same. Courageously employing herself and her family members as art models, her poetic diptychs and installations express and illustrate the possibilities of reconciling what might seem to be at odds influences, of a liberal versus conservative environment and also as to her being a woman. But in the process of introspection and the act of creation, she finds a happy individual medium to celebrate the colourful mix rather than this becoming a source of struggle or conflict.”
Abouon’s own description of the retrospective (from her website):
The subject of human biology within Islamic tradition describes the fetus receiving its soul and prewritten destiny within the mother’s womb on the 120th day of growth. This show represents a timeline of the body of work I was meant to create and grow with. Either a short or long spanned life, it is my birthright to live through it with all its lessons. We must remember our lives are uncertain, each evening we sleep and the morning after we awake, we thank Him for an opportunity to make it better once more.
The following is a supplication, which we must recite when we wake in the morning: ‘All praise is for Allah who gave us life after having taken it from us and unto Him is the Resurrection.’ / ‘Alhamdu lillahil-ladhi ‘ahyana ba’da ma ‘amatana wa’ilayhin-nushur.’
I title this show ‘Birthmark Theory’, because, through all my downfalls and accomplishments are important markers such as emotional scars to ‘wrinkles that indicate where smiles have been’. I must represent Him in this life and for me, these marks are but coordinates to the map which journeys me back to Him.
Libyan Flavours is a “movement to celebrate the traditions and cultures that unite Libya.” Its byline is: ليبيا: نكهات مختلفة – روح واحدة “Libya: different flavors, one spirit”. To that end, the people behind it have produced so far three beautiful videos showing different aspects of Libyan culture integral to all regions and groups. On their Facebook page, you can also find relevant photos and videos contributed by other users.
Noon Arts, a collective of Libyan artists, will present an exhibition from July 14–23, 2015 at the Arab British Centre in London.
The Melting Pots “will showcase a mix of artwork that considers the open concept of a city in relation to both Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya. It will present the subjective interpretations of each artist as he or she depicts a deep relationship with either one of these two ancient metropolises.” The exhibition flyer continues:
With colorful paintings, intelligent photography and questioning installation art, every piece is a form of creative contemplation upon the history, the present and the future of these sister capitals as well as the realization that neither one can be easily defined. Both have gone through difficult phases and both have proved to be equally defiant, strong, resilient, embracing, deceitful, chaotic, glorious, alluring, haggard, tired, old and frail. And much more than that…
Despite all the odds both of these cities are still standing today and have become major works in progress that prove to be precious to the artists involved in this exhibition. Finally taking into account the recent witnessing of the oppression that lasted 42 years, these two dear Libyan melting pots – one that graces the West and the other that graces the East – will continue to simmer for many more years and decades to come.
The artists whose work will be in the exhibition are:
- Najla Shawket Fitouri
- Hadia Gana
- Ibrahim Tawati
- Adam Styp-Rekowski
- Nawal Gebreel
- Muftah Abudajaja
- Hasan Dhaimish
Support Libyan art and artists and go see the exhibition if you’re in London! Here’s another image from the Arab British Centre’s website: