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

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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Sujith Nambiar: Mumbai-Doha-Mumbai

A user experience/product designer by trade, I am a self-taught contemporary Indian artist and photographer, actively seeking multi-dimensional conditions and emotions through my photographs. Initially photography was a newfound medium into which to channel my creative energy alongside painting. I have been engaged in street photography since 2013, capturing moments from the streets without any predefined purpose or set agenda.

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Summer Dawn: Nourhan Tewfik’s Pictures of Southern Spain

The distant hills appear with their smooth reptilian undulations.

The infinitely crystalline transparencies reveal themselves in dim splendor. The shadows hold night in their tangles, and the city begins to shed its idle veils, rendering visible its cupolas and its ancient towers illuminated by a soft golden light.

The houses reveal faces with empty eyes among the verdure, and the grasses, poppies and vines dance entertainingly to the sound of the breeze from the sun.

The shadows are lifting and vanishing languidly, while in the air there is a piping of ocarinas and reed-flutes produced by the birds.

In the distance there are confusions of mist and heliotrope among the poplar groves, and now and then, in the dawn freshness, is heard a distant bleating in the key of F.


أهداب: ناهد نصر

From the series "House Secrets" by Youssef Rakha

From the series “House Secrets” by Youssef Rakha

ليديك أسلوب

يشبه عازف بيانو

يلوح ذراعيه مستعرضاً

قبل أن تضرب أنامله العاج بقسوة خبيرة

تشد أهدابي

حتى احمرار العينين

وحتى الدموع

بينما شفتاك ترسمان ابتسامة حانية

وكأن لا شئ يدعو للألم

استمر في القراءة

وئام مختار: اللحظات التي نعرف بعدها أن شيئاً ما سيتغير

By Ornella Mignella. From the series “Damned Springtime”

شق الأنفس، أن تسمع صدى أفكارك واضحاً، يخرج صوت من رأسك يُشبه صوتك، ليتكرر على حوائط الغُرفة. حين ترتد نظرة عينيك إلى عينيك، وكلماتك إلى كلماتك، وحركات أصابعك المتوترة إلى أصابعك الباردة. حين تميل برأسك إلى الحائط، أو تعود برأسك إلى الوراء، وتمر بأصابعك على مكان تحبه، على صورة تُميتك أكثر مما تحييك، حلم سعادة اخترته لنفسك ثم خذلك أو خذلته…

أي جحيم صنعتِه بنفسِك يا عزيزتي وتقتاتين على جلود ضحاياه؟ وأي بلاد تنشدين راحتها وسريرك لا يبرح المكان؟ 

هذه اللحظات المثقلة هي بطاقة الخروج من السجن، هي اللحظات التي نعرف بعدها أن شيئاً ما سيتغيّر. وإن الطاقة التي حصرت الحلم في كسر المرايا ستفتح للأصابع المضرجة بالدماء باباً في السحاب.