This post provides a short introduction to a history of photography (and photograph collections) in the Arabian Peninsula. It was written in March 2012 as a report of the extensive fieldwork research I did in 2011 in the framework of the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI), organised by the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut), the Getty Conservation Institute, and the funding of the Andrew Mellow Foundation. Since I wrote this piece, several initiatives took place, including the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Akkash: Center for Photography.

Photographs found in a building about to be destroyed that used to host Studio Jamal in Kuwait City, oct. 2011

Photographs found in a building about to be destroyed that used to host Studio Jamal in Kuwait City, oct. 2011

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This exhibition opens the conference “From A Sudan to Another: Social and Political Restructurings Underway”, 10-12 June 2013, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

Download the programme! 

Image

2013 wishes

January 11, 2013

2013 wishes

Best wishes for 2013.

The newest of the Louvre galleries has opened this week: Islamic Art is now displayed in a marvel of architecture. Does Display (re)invent Islamic Art? This article examines how Islamic Art as an academic field was invented at the turn of the 20th century as it was being exhibited  in Paris, Munich or London. It analyses the French connection in the invention of Islamic art and reflects on the political meaning of exhibiting Islamic Art in a post-9/11 context and the Orientalist tradition: unveiling the Louvre veil on Islamic art.

The first islamic Art display at the Louvre: Delort de Gléon room, Pavillon de l’horloge, 1921

That article was published (in French) in Qantara, the cultural magazine of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris), #82, winter 2012. The issue was dedicated to the Invention of Islamic Art.

Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Art, Mario Bellini & Rudy Ricciott architects, 2012

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A Photograph Exhibition: Sudan(s) Frontiers & Frontlines

by Jérôme Tubiana
@French Center for Ethiopian Studies Library and Garden.
From 11 to 22 June. Entrance free.

After its independence in 1956, Sudan has seen the upraisal of various rebellions in its peripheries. This has soon led to a fragmentation of the Sudanese territory into areas controlled by the government and others controlled by the rebels, separated by frontlines or fluid « no man’s lands », which were often true « nomads’ lands » – pastoralists having kept crossing the boundaries without necessarily feeling they should belong to one side. With the independence of South Sudan in mid-2011, those frontlines or buffer zones have now become (disputed) borderlands. Researcher and photographer, Jérôme Tubiana has been travelling around those old and new frontiers since 2004, starting with the border between Darfur and Chad, and most recently the new borderlands between North and South Sudan.

I’ve currated this exhibition.
Opening on Monday 11 June 2012. Come!

Happy 2012!

January 2, 2012

Best wishes for 2012Happy New Year and Best wishes for 2012!

2011 has been such a year: I wish 2012 to be… Grand!

I start it anew. Lot of changes occurred in 2011 – on a personal level, I mean, as I have been affected by the unrest in the Middle East. After a lot of movements and a long and epic fieldwork for the Arab Image Foundation, in Novembre 2011, I finally took a Project Officer position at the CFEE – Centre français des études éthiopiennes, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). I’ll be in charge of their heritage programs. In particular, I will lead the restoration works of a part of the National Museum of Ethiopia permanent exhibition. New challenges ahead!

Inventing Islamic Art suite: I’ll post some articles and excerpts published in 2011 and soon to be published here and there.
First, anticipating on the Louvre Department of Islamic Art opening, we’ll continue with a series of publications on the invention of Islamic Art. Stay tuned on this page!

Tripolitania, un via de Tripoli

Commemorative Postcard, Italy or Libya, ca. 1915, DR.

In the midst of the last developments of liberated Libya, we’ve ‘forgotten’ to remember October 5th 1911*: the day the Italian army invaded Libya and started its colonisation. What’s the (political) meaning of commemorating history in Libya? This short article examines the political role of rewriting history in the context of Qaddafi’s regime and questions its future in the reconstruction of Libya.

On October 5 1911, Italian troops invaded Tripoli of Libya. After months of rising tensions between Italian and Turkish (Ottoman) governments, the Italian Navy had started to bomb the port of Tripoli leading to the invasion of Tripoli and Tripolitania. It took few years to the Italian Republican and Fascist troops to conquer what was to become Libya in 1934 after Cyrenaica was conquered and united with Fezzan and Tripolitania. Ironically, the centennial coincides with the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. 1861, 1911, 2011: history seems to defy common sense in mixing dates. One wonders how the former regime would have orchestrated commemorations… No doubt it would have been a great post-colonial show as the resistance of Libyans to the Italian colonisation had been erected as a fundament of the ideology of Qaddafi’s ‘revolutionary’ regime. This short article – these are personal notes and reflections- examines the political role of rewriting history in the Libyan context and its future in the reconstruction of Libya.

Rewriting History

Historical studies were leaded and controlled by the Markaz al-Jihad (Research and Documentation Centre on the Historical Jihad [in this case resistance]). Created in 1978, that research center have been for more than 30 years a pillar of  Qaddafism. As explained by Clémence Weulersse (click here to read the article), its first role was to “liberate” the history of Libya that had been written by imperialist hands; in this pseudo-Marxist doxa, liberating history aimed at liberating minds. Second, the Markaz al-Jihad aimed at proving the possibility of the (Gadhafist) revolution in rewriting the history of Libya: Read the rest of this entry »

  Camille el Kareh, Self-portrait , Lebanon 1920

Camille el Kareh, Self-portrait, Zhorta, Lebanon, 1920, Collection: AIF/Mohsen Yammine Copyright © Arab Image Foundation

I work now as a Research Associate for the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut on a strategic program called the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI). MEPPI is led jointly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the University of Delaware, the Getty Conservation Institute and the Qatar Museums Authority.
MEPPI main goal is to raise regional awareness and expertise in photograph preservation
. This initiative has three interconnected components:

– The MEPPI Survey, a survey aimed at identifying and assessing significant photograph holdings in the Arab world. Our scope also extends to collections in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.
– The MEPPI Courses, a series of courses, where collection keepers will be invited to learn and share best practices about photograph preservation.
– The MEPPI Symposium, where regional cultural policy decision-makers will be invited to reflect upon the importance of photographic heritage.
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Amingo, ex. Nuer war child in Gambella, jan. 2008

New Sudan: Peace and Unity

Southern Sudan is the 193rd State recognised by the UN on the 14th of July 2011. Happy Birthday Southern Sudan: I wish you peace and unity. With a special thought to my friend Amingo I met in Gambella, the Ethiopian border town back in 2008. Here’s an excerpt of my 2008 Gambella Stories, a history of violence, multiculturalism, failed dreams of modernisation in a remote place:*

Amingo is a Sudanese Nuer. He was a war child and one of the refugees who arrived in the 1980’s when the Sudanese civil war opposing the Northern Sudanese government to the Southern Sudanese guerilla resumed. The leadership of the Guerrilla was based in a refugee camp near Gambella city, and almost ruled on the region. It is a long story. Read the rest of this entry »

Here is a short book review of Silvia Naef’s Y-a-t-il une « question de l’image » en Islam ? [litt. Is there ‘a question of image’ in Islam? / trans. Pictures and Aniconism in Islam] (Paris, Téraèdre, 2004 / published in German in 2007). It was written in 2006 but published in 2004 [sic!] in Studia Islamica. It’s available online on Jstor. If I were to write it again I would write something very different. Reviewing that book offers a chance to discuss the issues of Orientalism and how the contemporary understanding of pictures and images is embedded in the 19th c. conception of an essentialist prohibition of pictures in Islam.

A propos de Silvia Naef, Y-a-t-il une « question de l’image » en Islam ? Paris, Téraèdre (collection « l’Islam en débats »), 2004, 132 pages.

1. La question de l’image en Islam est-elle caricaturale ? « L’affaire des caricatures » aux premiers mois de 2006 a réveillé de vieux démons d’une opposition Occident-Orient. Des caricatures du Prophète de l’Islam publiées dans le magazine danois Jyllands-Posten mettaient le feu aux poudres. Pour les commentateurs, peu importaient les dessins, leur pertinence ou impertinence, le bon ou le mauvais goût, qu’ils aient été vus ou non, c’était le principe de l’interdiction de la représentation figurée (en particulier celle du Prophète) qui avait été enfreint. Ce qui était alors apparu comme une haine de l’Occident pour les uns répondait à ce qui était vécu comme une haine de l’Islam[1] pour les autres. Le débat s’est donc résumé à une opposition de partis autour d’une idée reçue sur l’Islam, des mieux enracinées dans les consciences, celle d’une société sans images. Read the rest of this entry »