Film festivals

The sixth Dubai International Film Festival has just started, with much star-wattage and fanfare. It will host the premier of the film Nine, a musical starring Daniel Day Lewis and Nicole Kidman, and of James Cameron's new sci-fi film Avatar. Meanwhile, here in Cairo, the Goethe Institute is putting on a more modest film festival of short independent work from the region. It starts today, and you can get the program here. The schedule I have only been able to find in German online, but Egyptian films are showing today at 1pm, followed the Algerian and Lebanese selection.
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Links for Dec.08.09 to Dec.09.09

Les voix de la nation : chanson, arabité et caméléonisme linguistique | Culture et politique arabes | Very interesting post on Arab singers adopting accents and styles of different countries -- has great clip of Abdel Halim Hafez trying out a traditional Kuwaiti song.

✩ Comment l’Algérie a exporté sa « sale guerre » au Mali : Algérie-Maroc | How Algeria exported its dirty war to Mali: AQIM conspiracies.

Fatwa Shopping « London Review Blog | On Nakheel and Islamic finance.

The women who guard other women in conservative Egypt | On female bodyguards.

Yemen’s afternoon high - Le Monde diplomatique | On the drug Qat.

US Congress frets over anti-Americanism on TV in Mideast | The leading inciter of anti-Americanism in the ME is Congress itself, when it keeps voting for wars for Israel.

Baladna English | New newspaper launched in Syria, but nothing on its site yet.

EU Action Plan on combating terrorism | Document on EU CT strategy.

What the US Elite Really Thinks About Israel « P U L S E | Most Council of Foreign Relations members think US favors Israel too much - v. interesting analysis of foreign policy expert poll by Jeffrey Blankfort.

‘The Battle for Israel’s Soul’ – Channel 4 on Jewish fundamentalism « P U L S E | British documentary on Jewish fundamentalism.

BBC News - Dubai crisis sparks job fears for migrant workers | On South Asians in Dubai.

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - Israel must unpick its ethnic myth | Tony Judt.

The Interview Ha’aretz Doesn’t Want You To See « P U L S E | Interview Ali Abunimah not published by Haaretz.

Attention Christmas Shoppers: Top Ten Brands to Boycott | Sabbah Report | Brands to boycott at Christmas.

FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Egypt’s media warn ElBaradei off politics | On the campaign against ElBaradei.

✩ Flourishing Palestinian sex trade exposed in new report - Haaretz | Amira Hass: "Young Palestinian women are being forced to into prostitution in brothels, escort services, and private apartments in Ramallah and Jerusalem..."

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Assume The Position

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An exhibition at the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, starting on Sunday 13 December 2009. “ASSUME THE POSITION” December 13, 2009–January 17, 2010 Opening: Sunday, December 13, 7–9 pm This group show takes as its starting point the loss of focus. Distraction as diversion. The offstage moment becomes central, the minor player the star, the prop the protagonist, the interior monologue the script. Attention gets shifted to the “wrong” thing, questioning what the main event actually is, and who, in fact, is the audience. In some works, the artist inserts her or himself to create a disruption; in others, events are reframed through different means. Participants turn passive and viewers become active, as politics and conflict receive a sidelong glance—a reality just outside the picture that influences everything that lies within it. Debord’s iconic spectators, transfixed in their 3-D glasses, have been replaced by actors and audiences who are continually sidetracked. Sanja Iveković and Jill Magid make use of police officers as cast and crew: Iveković sets them in motion via a trio of actions on her balcony; Magid’s romantic city tour is filmed entirely by public surveillance cameras. Reversing positions, Walid Raad imagines the point of view of a camera operator and a possible reason for his wandering eye. Peaceful landscapes become charged in Cyprien Gaillard’s film, where empty settings are interrupted by sudden clouds of smoke, as well as in Osama Dawod’s photographs, which capture protesters at the G8 summit in an off-moment. David Levine re-crops performance art documentation to show only the onlookers—some paying rapt attention, some talking among themselves—whereas the accident scenes shot by Enrique Metinides and Egyptian press photographers illustrate that nothing attracts our attention quite like a good disaster. Outside the gallery, Amal Kenawy’s performances mix an invited audience with an accidental one—the passers-by on the street. Curated by Nikki Columbus Artists: Osama Dawod Sanja Iveković Cyprien Gaillard Amal Kenawy David Levine Jill Magid Enrique Metinides Walid Raad . . . and press photographs from the collection of Amgad Naguib
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A wonder of a book

If you're still looking for Christmas presents, I recommend Daniyal Mueenuddin's quite amazing In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. The book is a collection of linked short stories (characters that are central in one, will flitter through the background of another). Two of them had appeared previously in the New Yorker, and they are both magnificent. Mueenuddin is a great talent: his writing seems to overflow with wonderful, memorable images; his stories take swift, striking turns. For example, describing a secondary character, an old man: "The oversized head had settled heavily onto the shoulders, like a sand castle on the beach after the sea has run in over it." The book has received many positive reviews. The stories are set in Pakistan, between the 1970s and the present. Mueenuddin presents a view of Pakistani society that is deeply divided between haves and have-nots, absolutely ruthless, and in which sex is a form of leverage and romantic love is often a delusion and the beginning of a downfall. Yet--despite the fact that almost everyone involved is fighting desperately for a foothold of some sort, and generally losing that fight--there are moments of beauty, hope and tenderness. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda writes that "Because of Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Rohinton Mistry, to mention just a few of the most prominent authors, American readers have long been able to enjoy one terrific Indian novel after another. But Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is likely to be the first widely read book by a Pakistani writer." Yet as Amit Chaidhuri, in a review of Nadeem Aslam's latest book, points out, Pakistani writing has had a growing international audience for some time now:
What is Pakistani writing? Whatever it might be, it seems to have taken up newsprint lately. Things have been changing quickly and irrevocably over the last seven or eight years: a great symbol of American capitalism was destroyed by two aeroplanes; this was followed, some years later, by a crash in the market no less resounding and sudden; in South Asia, Pakistan (marginalised and nearly abandoned by post-Cold War politics) has been veering between being a frail democracy and becoming a basket case. In no obvious way connected to all this, a handful of Anglophone writers has recently been emerging from that country. Most of them are young, and have written one or two or three books; some, like Mohsin Hamid and Mohammed Hanif, have successful careers and lives elsewhere. Their work is not part of the long 20th century; they are not a necessary component of a post-colonial efflorescence, as Indian Anglophone writing appeared to be in the 1980s; they are not in any clear way a part of a national literature; they do not bring with them the promise of offering to the reader the ‘sights and sounds’ of what used to be, in Kipling’s time, North-West India. They are a 21st-century phenomenon, appearing at a time when the new supposed fundamentals of this century – free-market dominance, the end of history, the clash of civilisations – suddenly seem frayed and ephemeral. Pakistani writers are interestingly poised: implicated in both the unfolding and the unravelling of our age.
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The Knowledge Holder Doesn't Choke on Cleverness

Words Without Borders has run a fascinating excerpt from a book by Turkish-German author Feridun Zaimoglu, entitled "Koppstoff: Kanaka Sprak vom Rande der Gesellschaft." "Koppstoff" means "head material," and can refer both to the Muslim headscarf and the thoughts that pass through one's head. The rest of the title has been translated as "The Knowledge Holder Doesn't Choke on Cleverness." The book is the second in a series: The first contained the thoughts and feelings of 24 male Turkish narrators. This book purports to transmit the voices of 26 Turkish women living in Germany, each prefaced by an author's explanation of where this particular voice comes from--although as the introduction at WWB points out, the work's ethnographic framework cuts both ways, seeming to bolster verisimilitude but also injecting the suspicion that these voices have been crafted by the author. In any case, the work's accomplishment is that it sounds very fresh and very true. Here's a bit of the thoughts of Necla Hanim, "a 63-year-old cleaning woman:"
ı understand their eyes exactly, ı know all about their figuring me out: the fat uniformed cleaning lady, who does exactly as she's told: Don't use more than two capfuls of cleaning solution in the half full water bucket; so she did understand that after all; we can't really complain about our Turk. My sign is completely frozen. Even if other German women's smocks are colorful, ı'm the flowered auntie. Güzel oğlum, bunlar ıslah olmazlar. But we say, when we're together in a nice group amongst ourselves: ı have so and so much Almanya on my back, so and so many tons of Almanya dragging me down, and ı'll never be able to lose that weight: this is the lot of everyone, what you take from the hand into your mouth, what you eat of your lot, and this lot turns your cells into listless gummy animals, into Scheytanstuff in god-created soul, that turns more and more into a filth-feeder. We eat dirt and it has never tasted good to us.
As you can see, the book is written in a way that mixes Turkish and fluent but ungrammatical German ("Almanya" is the Arabic--and I guess Turkish--word for Germany; "Scheytan" must mean devil). The English translators have done a great job of maintaining this very alive, very expressive language.
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Book ban to end, Middle East for sale (culture links)

Arab Israelis may have access to more books in Arabic soon, as Israelis plan to lift the ban on books from enemy countries like Syria, Lebanon (link found at the Literary Saloon). How much would it cost to buy Egypt? 7 trillion, according to...a very comprehensive art project. You can see the prospectus here, or read all about Jordanian artist Oraib Toukan's project, and other work on display at the recent Istanbul Biennale.
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Birds of the Nile

Fathi Abdel-Waheb and Abeer Sabry Fathi Abdel-Waheb and Abeer Sabry My last foray into the Cairo Film Festival was to go see عصافير اانيل ("Birds of the Nile") last night. The film is based on the work of the novelist Ibrahim Aslan, which already inspired a great Egyptian film, the 1991 Kit-Kat. "Birds of the Nile" is no Kit-Kat, however. At least from what I saw: I didn't stay through the film. I'll admit that extraneous factors may have made me impatient, yesterday: I'd gotten up at 6am to go to Alexandria and back, and the Good News Cinema at the Hyatt for some reason played the film with the volume turned up to ear-splitting levels. In a more tolerant mood, I might have staid through the film--but I doubt my final opinion would have been different. From the trite and obvious sound track (funny music for funny scenes; sad music for sad scenes), to the indifferent cinematography, to the melodramatic clichés, to the voice-over narration, it all reminded me of a soap opera rather than a film. There was none of the lightness, irony and surprise of Alsan's work. Unfortunately, because I'd really been looking forward to this one. The poster for the 1991 Daoud Abdel-Sayed film Kit-Kat The poster for the 1991 Daoud Abdel-Sayed film Kit-Kat
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Arab Booker nominees announced

The nominees for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (commonly known as the Arab Booker, because it's partly managed by the Booker Prize Foundation) have been announced. The prize was launched in 2007 and the winners so far have been Baha' Taher for Sunset Oasis and Youssef Zeidan for Azazel. Taher's work is available in English and Zeidan's will come out in English next year--one of the $50,000 prize's goals is to encourage translation of Arabic literature. The press release says that this year: There were 115 eligible submissions, from 17 Arab countries - Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria. The long list of nominees after the jump.
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The Mummy

The_Night_of_Counting_the_Years Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Fund recently helped restore the 1969 classic المومياء\ ليله ان تحصی السنين ("The Night of Counting the Years/The Mummy") by Shady Abdel-Salam, and the film was shown at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and, last night, at the Cairo International Film Festival. (Apparently, Scorsese saw "a completely pink" 16 millimeter version of the film, in 1976, at a home screening, and never forgot it.) The film is based on the true story of the discovery of an incredible cache of Pharaonic mummies, in the late 19th century, in the mountains near Luxor. The cache had been found by a local tribe, who kept its location secret and slowly sold its contents on the black market. But the authorities discovered the cave, and transferred its contents to the Egyptian Museum, where they are today. Framed by these true events, the film tells the story of two brothers, sons of the tribe's dead chief, facing their inheritance. The film is famously beautiful. Abdel-Salam paid great attention to costumes and scenery, and he used the Pharaonic temples in Luxor, the desert, the Nile river, the tribesmen and women and in their flowing black garments and the soldiers in their bright red tarboushes, to compose shot after breath-taking shot. The pace is slow, solemn, dream-like. The dialogue is all in Formal Arabic, much of it is close to prose poetry--and it's declaimed like poetry. A friend I saw the film with compared it to Greek tragedy. The film raises the question of nationalism versus tribalism, of historical identity, and of how one lives with and what one makes of the past. None of this is resolved neatly: the final scene, which is truly stunning, shows the young tribal chief--who has made the "right" decision and handed over his tribe's pilfered patrimony to the state's modern, knowledge-seeking archeologists--in a state of evident pain, loss and fear. It's a very slow film, and the acting can seem stilted. But the deliberate pace allows images to grow unforgettable, and the film's solemnity is what gives the story its power, its aura of legend.
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Culture links: Al Aswany and Darwish

The Complete Review takes a look at Alaa Al Aswany's Friendly Fire (just out in English) and finds that:

Al Aswany's writing is generally tighter and more consistent in these smaller, more concentrated efforts -- perhaps because he doesn't have to force bridges between episodes and takes the freedom to only write what needs be written. Yet the much greater scale and reach of his novels, and his free-wheeling mix of stories in them is a great part of their appeal, and while the stories collected in Friendly Fire are well done, the sum of them does not have nearly the power of, especially, a novel such as The Yacoubian Building.

(I've actually heard from a good many people now that they prefer these short stories to The Yacoubian Building, and definitely to the generally panned Chicago).

A lovely poem by Mahmoud Darwish. And an excellent piece at The Review on the relationship between Darwish's early, politically engagé poems, and his later, more inward-looking work. Robyn Creswell (who wrote a fine piece for Harper's on Darwish a while back) notes that:

It is difficult for the English reader to appreciate, for example, the extent to which Darwish’s late poetry is a complex mode of self-criticism. Darwish was always his own severest judge. He never allowed any one style, however successful, to harden into a method. His final lyrics are very distinct from the plainspoken, confrontational poetry that made him a celebrity while he was still in his early twenties. They are also distinct from the poetry he wrote in Beirut during the Civil War, or during the first Intifada, or the long foundering and bitter aftermath of the Oslo Accords. Indeed, Darwish’s late poetry is in an important sense a reaction against his earlier work, an attempt to escape the prisons of his former personae.

As the piece mentions, much of Darwish's work is available in English now.

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Cairo Film Festival

The Cairo International Film Festival kicked off yesterday, after the usual round of arguments and recriminations. You can find information about the films being shown if you look under the "cinemas" tab on the festival website. Of course the (only available at the last minute) schedule doesn't specify where the theaters are, or give any information about the films, whose titles have been translated quite sloppily into English. Par for the course: I tried dealing with the festival administration for my article and met with the usual combination of high-handedness and disorganization that characterizes so many state-run cultural events. The festival is always nice and a great opportunity to see interesting work. But it's also always marred by strange unprofessionalism: from asking participants and foreign journalists to pay sometimes ridiculous amounts for their festival access cards (and making them go through multiple time-wasting steps to get them); to being unable to guarantee saved seats to the director of a film premiering in the festival. No wonder they had to browbeat local directors into participating.
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Links for 10.28.09

FT.com / Middle East - Wait goes on for Dubai’s £10bn bond | "Where is Dubai’s $10bn bond? The question has been making the rounds in Dubai business circles, as bankers and executives wonder when the emirate will bite the bullet and ask the United Arab Emirates central bank – which is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi – for the second tranche of a $20bn bail-out agreed earlier this year." ✪ FT.com / China / Economy & Trade - Qatar targets increased gas exports to China | China hydrocarbons imports from ME increase. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Standing Up To Garbage | Interesting story about garbage collection problem, reveals govt. spending very little, military stepping in with recycling. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | NDP Promotes Gamal Mubarak On Facebook | Facebook users paid LE1500 to promote Gamal. ✪ Brown: Asking the wrong questions about Palestinian elections | Marc Lynch | Makes some good points about elections in the Arab world in general and the Palestinian ones in particular. ✪ Dar Al Hayat - The “Brotherhoodization” of the Arab World | Argues MB arrests only reinforce ideological core of the group and increases its popularity, allowing them to spread their intolerant populist message rather than engage in genuine politics. ✪ Arab winds of change | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Whitaker provides a short take on his new book, which I will be reviewing shortly: the Arab malaise is not just the regimes, but also the people. ✪ The disabled Palestinian standup helping refugees find their funny side | Stage | The Guardian | Very nice story on Palestinian disabled standupcomics: "I am officially the most oppressed person in the world," Maysoon Zayid recently told an audience in California. "I'm a Palestinian Muslim with cerebral palsy." ✪ Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water | Amnesty International | Amnesty's report on Israel cutting off water to Gaza. ✪ Envisioning an alternative Egypt, post-Mubarak - Haaretz - Israel News | Zvi Barel on Heikal and succession. ✪ bt - Waiting for a Trickle | "The boom, spurred by private and foreign direct investment, has paid off primarily for the country’s richest, according to the new report by the General Authority for Investment (GAFI)." ✪ The Race for Iran | New blog about the geostrategy of Iran, contributors include Flynt and Hillary Everett. ✪ Gaza water supply at 'crisis point' | "Amnesty International says Israeli policies and practices are denying Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip their fair share of the region's scarce water supplies" ✪ Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros: Why Are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic? - WSJ.com | WTF is the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth? This argument is stupid, you take the liberals you have, not those you wish you had. And how do these people get into the WSJ op-ed page? ✪ Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll - NYTimes.com | No wonder Matthew Hoh resigned: "KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials."
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Farouk's loss

For those of you who have been following Farouk Hosni's run for UNESCO, here's something I wrote for Foreign Policy right after his loss was announced. (Foreign Policy had a terrible piece earlier this month on the issue, and this was partly a response). I didn't mention it in the article, but it's worth noting with what lightning-speed the Minister has moved to squash any expectations that he might resign from his position (as he had reportedly promised).
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Amreeka

A film about the Arab-American immigrant experience is getting some attention, but unfortunately it seems from reviewsthat "Amreeka" (about a Palestinian single mom who moves from the West Bank to Illinois) isn't a very nuanced portrayal. I've been disappointed so far by the work I've seen focusing on the lives of Arab Americans--whether it's stand-up comedy like the Axis of Evil Tour (which pulled way too many punches) or the film "TowelHead" (which was voyeuristic and pointless). It's surprising because the subjects seems like such rich terrain right now, for both drama and comedy.
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Arabic lit, recently translated and reviewed

Several interesting reviews of recently translated Arabic fiction: In The National, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie reviews the latest by Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh, a book about her own mother's dramatic life. Wilson Goldie writes that al-Shaykh's works "walk a fine line between what could be considered prototypical chick lit and enduring literary fiction." Also at The National, John O'Connel reviews Bahaa Taher's "Sunset Oasis," now out in translation (from the consistently good Humphrey Davies) and getting a lot of attention. I liked Taher's "Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery" but I hesitated to read "Sunset Oasis"--even after it won the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction (often referred to as the Arabic Booker)--because of bad memories from his novel "Love In Exile", which drove me crazy with its clichés and self-indulgence, and which also featured a relationship between a Western woman and an Arab man. And the Complete Review looks at a recent translation of the novel The Hedgehog by the Syrian writer Zakaria Tamer.
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Links for 07.13.09

Settlers are encountering their first real opponent - Obama - Haaretz - Israel News | An interesting article even for an Obama-settlements skeptic like me. Provides good details and background. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s Fatwa – Tehran Bureau | "[TEHRAN BUREAU] In a very important development, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior cleric living in Iran, and one of the top two* marja’ taghlid (source of emulation) in Shiite Islam, issued a series of Fatwas, calling the Supreme Leader illegitimate and saying that he was working with the government against religion. Montazeri has called on people to take action against this injustice, even if they have to pay a heavy price for it." Egypt's President Mubarak planning to retire and transfer power to son - The Irish Times - Sat, Jul 11, 2009 | The Irish Times has a scoop. I really must get around to writing that post warning against following the hysteria of the Egyptian and Arab press on succession etc. MIDEAST: Succession Issues Face Key U.S. Allies - IPS ipsnews.net | Helena Cobban on Egypt and Saudi Arabia's dueling successions. Brothers divided by Gaza rivalry - The National Newspaper | Cool story on two brothers - one from Fatah, one from Hamas - and how they make do. News | Egyptians protest award to controversial writer | Sayed al-Qimni receives award, Islamists angry. Don't let it be said that the MB does not do this anymore. Israel phone firm's West Bank wall gag fails to amuse (Reuters) |
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Links for 07.09.09 to 07.12.09

Arab Reform Bulletin - Snapshot of the Economic Crisis | Intissar Fakir provides an overview of the state of economics in the Arab world in this special issue of ARB on the global economic crisis. The Crisis of Arab Masculinities « the long slumber | Interesting post from a cool blog I didn't know. Arab Reform Bulletin - The Current Crisis and Lessons of the 1980s | Steffen Hertog on how GCC countries learned from their 1980s recession and are handling the current crisis more easily. Dar Al Hayat - Ayoon Wa Azan (The Dreams of the American Empire are Over) | Jihad al-Khazen: "Iran is not a threat to the United States (and nor do I find it to be a threat to Israel). As such, any American who calls to launch a military attack on Iran and destroy Iranian nuclear plants is an Israeli-aligned Likudnik, who is betraying his country to the extent that he would sacrifice young American lives for the sake of a country run by fascists." Let's Welcome the Muslim Brotherhood! Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Interesting article discusses information revealed from raids on MB offices, notably on discussion on strategy, debate on whether to have a satellite TV station, and more. The Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary | TIP's guide to pro-Israel advocacy. Contains gems like "Americans want a team to cheer for. Let the public know GOOD things about Israel" and "freezing settlements is ethnic cleansing". TelQuel : ENQUÊTE. Pourquoi et comment Hassan II a islamisé la société | "Why and how Hassan II Islamized society" - secular Moroccan mag looks at state policies of Islamization.
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Ad: Townhouse Gallery Benefit Auction

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The Townhouse Gallery, one of Cairo's best art spots, is holding a benefit auction on 6 June 2009. Works by some of the prominent contemporary Egyptian and Middle Eastern artists will be available for sale, with profits funding the gallery's various programs to develop and promote local artists.
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More info: Townhouse_International_Contemporary_Art_Sale_.pdf
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The No. 1 Sun Engine

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The 11th Cairo International Biennale kicks off in a few days, and while I'll unfortunately miss the opening I will be back in a few weeks to check out this intriguing project I was emailed about. The No. 1 Sun Engine was operational in Maadi, a posh southern suburb of Cairo, in 1913 and was among the first serious experiments in solar power. Its American inventor, Frank Shuman, raised funds to deploy the bizarre contraption (which works by powering a low-pressure steam turbine) in London before visiting sun-drenched Cairo to build it. Its first use in to power a water-pump for irrigation with water from the Nile.
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You can read more about the history of the sun engine at project page, where there's a timeline that tracks Shuman's movements alongside with prominent historical events, such as Lord Kitchener's arrival in Cairo and the start of World War I. The juxtaposition of this early venture into solar power and major geopolitical developments is fascinating, if only because WWI ushered in the era of oil (and the systematic sabotage of alternative energy projects), while Shuman developed his machine because he (as a Pennsylvanian) was worried about reaching the exhaustion of then-recoveroble coal, the Victorian age's equivalent of peak oil. Of course, coal (control of which was a key objective of WWI and which is now undergoing a revival in China and the US among others) powered the war effort and shaped European societies, notably by making industrialization possible, much as after WWI control of oil (and specifically Middle Eastern oil) would help make possible massive social change and an unprecedented age of plenty in America.

I've always found this interconnection of social organization, imperialism and technology fascinating - such as in some of the recent work of Tim Mitchell, who has looked at the differences in social organization of coal and oil-based societies (because of the distribution model for each resource) and their role in making Western democracy possible (and therefore also perhaps impossible in other conditions). In this respect I highly recommend his short article n the subject (to my knowledge the only one available), which is in Word format here: Tim Mitchell's article on carbon democracy

But I'll go see this exhibition for the sheer cool steampunk aspect of it.

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