Who the F*** Is Charlie

The mere idea of contributing to the Charlie Hebdo colloquy is a problem. It’s a problem because, whether as a public tragedy or a defense of creative freedom, the incident was blown out of all proportion. It’s a problem because it’s been a moralistic free-for-all: to express solidarity is to omit context, to forego the meaning of your relation to the “slain” object of consensus, to become a hashtag. It’s a problem above all because it turns a small-scale crime of little significance outside France into a cultural trope.

Charlie Hebdo is not about the senseless (or else the political) killing of one party by another. It’s about a Platonic evil called Islam encroaching on the  peaceful, beneficent world order created and maintained by the post-Christian west. Defending the latter against the former, commentators not only presume what will sooner or later reduce to the racial superiority of the victim. They also misrepresent the perpetrator as an alien force independent of that order.

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Everybody’s Little Everyday: Eight Pictures by Maria Colombo

“A man going quietly about his business all day long expends far more muscular energy than an athlete who lifts a huge weight once a day. This has been proved physiologically, and so the social sum total of everybody’s little everyday efforts, especially when added together, doubtless releases far more energy into the world than do rare heroic feats. This total even makes the single heroic feat look positively minuscule, like a grain of sand on a mountaintop with a megalomaniac sense of its own importance.”

R. Musil, The Man Without Qualities



Maria Colombo is on Instagram and Tumblr

Always a Place for the Still Frame: David Degner on Practice, Vision, and the Future of Photojournalism

David Degner is a Cairo-based freelance photographer represented by Getty Reportage and the
co-editor of the Egyptian photo story magazine, Panorama by Mada Masr



In an age when video journalism is increasinly paramount and printing is arguably no longer necessary, how do you feel the still image is still pertinent to documentary or news work?

Video journalism serves its purpose and is growing as it is easier to create and distribute, but photos haven’t lost their power in this new environment. A single strong image can be viewed and summarize a situation in seconds. In our fast paced world there will always be a place for the still frame.

Do you think documentary and art photography are important for the development of photo journalism? Is there enough of that going on in Egypt (with the Cairo Image Collective, for example) to create a photographic culture?

As a photojournalist I often steal style from art and commercial photography.  We must be aware of their modern visual language in our work to stay relevant and interesting.  But even though the internet has broken down barriers it can be impossible to find many documentary or art photo books in Cairo.  While in the west you can pick up a thick fashion magazine at almost any store and get inspired by the commercial portraiture it takes conscious effort for photographers to suss out inspiration in Egypt.

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بيت لحم بيت جالا بيت لحم . صور كارول صنصور . سيارات سيارات سيارات

إشارة مرور
جدار فصل
قصر جاسر
ملحمة امل
مخيم عزة
زبالة أمم متحدة لتشغيل لاجئين
شارع جديد
حجارة بناء
حصمة، رمل، جرافة
سيارات سيارات سيارات
مطاعم مطاعم مطاعم
رهبان دير
حراس مهد
بوليس سياحي
قصر رىاسة

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ما تزيدوش تْحَوْسُوا على قلبي، كْلاوَه الهْوَايشْ: صلاح باديس يودّع ٢٠١٤

صحيفة ديسمبر

قبل أيام ترجمت بيتًا من قصيدة لبودلير، ترجمته الى الدارجة الجزائرية، البيت يقول: “لا تبحثوا عن قلبي بعد اليوم فقد أكلته الوحوش”. فصار: “ما تزيدوش تْحَوْسُوا على قلبي، كْلاوَه الهْوَايشْ”. بيت الشاعر “الشيطاني” والمحرّض على الرذيلة واستثارة الحواس، حسب ما ورد في حكم ضدّه لما نشر “أزهار الشّر” عام 1857، هذا البيت صار بالدارجة أقرب الى كلمات الراي، في فجاجتها وصراحتها وتأكيدها على الانا المجروحة ضدّ الكل.

في التاسع من ديسمبر 2014، يكون قد مرّ عام. انتظرت حتى ينتهي العام، حتى أدخل من جديد في حالة من الملل الخانق، لأفكّر – بجدية – أن كل ما فات كان محاكاة للمحاكاة…

الشتاء تأخر كعادته منذ أعوام، لذلك يمكنني القول أننا نحن من ولدنا بين بداية التسعينات والى ساعة قراءة هذه الصحيفة، نحن أبناء الصيف، أبناء الحرّ، أبناء الشمس الباردة… مظاهر الشتاء من ريح ومطر وغيم، حملت للحزانى والوحيدين مللا وألمًا. الاجساد الحزينة داخل طبقات من الالبسة تيبست، كمدفأة سوداء قديمة متآكلة بلا حطب ولا نار، ولا بيت يحضنها، عارية للشتاء والليل. فخّار فارغ بارد يطوف.

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Remembrance: Neither Eric Clapton nor Omm Kulthoum but Yassin al Tohami

Fes, 2006. By Youssef Rakha.

Fes, 2006. By Youssef Rakha.

When I was in my late teens, I surprised the gathering at an older writer’s house here in Cairo by insisting that we should play neither Eric Clapton nor Omm Kulthoum but Yassin al Tohami, the star munshid (or performer of devotional chanting, called inshad).

Not that I was aware of it at the time, but as an irreligious whippersnapper studying in England, it must have seemed strange for me to be interested in what is, roughly speaking, Islam’s liturgical music, which in the case of Sheikh Yassin, what is more, relies on grass roots Upper Egyptian melodies.

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He Threw Himself into the Sea: Immigration as Song-Forgetting in Abu Bakr Khaal’s African Titanics

The Sultan’s Seal reviews one of Darf Publishers’ recent titles: the Eritrean writer Abu Bakr Khaal’s African Titanics, translated from the original Arabic by Charis Bredin

Photo by Alex Majoli, source: magnum photos.com

I immediately began to suss out the reputations of all the local smugglers, remaining in a state of anxious indecision as to which of them I should do business with. There was ‘Fatty’, known for his reliability and the care he took of those who travelled aboard his Titanics. His reputation extended all over Africa and travellers from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Ghana and Liberia would hunt him down as soon as they arrived in [Tripoli]. Other smugglers were known for how swiftly they could arrange crossings. Every week, one of their Titanics would leave for the far shore, completely devoid of safety precautions, and likely to sink a few miles out to sea.

Like Samuel Shimon (An Iraqi in Paris, 2005), and Hamdi Abu Golayyel (A Dog with No Tail, 2009), Abu Bakr Khaal writes reportage with fictional license. Though a Tigré-speaking Eritrean with no apparent connection to the Arab literary scene, he belongs in a recent Arabic tradition of confessional narrative that benefits as much from its authors’ down-and-out credentials as their distinct vernaculars. Whether Khaal’s language is interesting because of influence from his mother tongue, I don’t know.

In Charis Bredin’s decidedly British English, African Titanics is a breezy read, worthwhile for its first-hand take on an essential topic and its pseudo-mythology of pan-African wanderlust.

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