Monday, 31 January 2011

Néjib Belkhodja is Immortal | The Father of Contemporary Tunisia

Néjib Belkhodja died in May 2007  but his art is alive and shapes the modern landscape of today's Tunisia.

Art defines a Nation - Ben Ali stopped Tunisia's definition but the man behind the creation of the Nation was Néjib Belkhodja who created the Tunis School of Art in the 1960's - it was his vision of the ideal world and the creation of the artistic village with the support of his friend, the architect Slah Smaoui, and together they created the village of "Ken", which translates to Once Upon A Time | -  this is the best kept secret in North Africa!

This is merely a whisper being sent out to the world about the genius of the late, great Néjib Belkhodja. He lived amongst us for seventy-four years and consumed life and lived like so few. He had integrity, something that is lacking in the world today. He set such high standards for himself and others around him. He was the man to teach the world about the power of art and the way in which we should conduct ourselves in our lives. It is difficult to put into words the importance of this man. He lived an outspoken existence with courage and conviction. The word Prophet is a word that best describes the giant that is, Néjib Belkhodja. During his lifetime he was a Nation builder and a world guide. He was often ignored and marginalised yet still he bore the troubles of his Independent Nation on his shoulders. His work is so important, to see it and understand it will change the way you see yourself and all that is around you. Throughout his life the Leaders were fully aware of the power of Belkhodja; a man who would not be broken by the State or who could not be used as a political toy. He suffered enormously throughout his life, humiliated and disregarded by the Nation. On the 16th June 2007 in the Medina in Tunis I heard such pitiful tributes to a man of such stature who, at the end was honored by hypocrites. He died virtually penniless and his work is jailed in the Ministry of Culture, banks and five star hotels around his native country of Tunisia. There is no Museum of Modern Art in Tunisia so you wont see the work of Belkhodja in any Museum around the world. No. His work is too powerful to be released by his jailers. He sheds light on all the World Leaders. He opens our minds to what is the function and meaning of Art. His work develops Nations and his contribution to the world is beyond compare. His departure from this world has come at just the right time; when the world needs him most. Here is a man, who belongs to us all and in his lifetime has shown us the meaning of generosity. His work introduces us to poets and architecture, to calligraphers and musicians. The subtly within the work is breathtaking and he puts into place the order in which art should be seen, heard and spoken.

Born in 1933 his mother was Dutch and his father Tunisian. He grew up in the Medina in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, North Africa. For those that don't know what the Medina is, it is the heartbeat of the city, where all the aristocracy resides and where cultural activities were in abundance. It is a walled city within a city, with narrow streets as arteries and huge colourful studded doors, which break up the continuity of the whitewashed wall. The Medina has it's own language, it own specific architecture. The Medina is the untouchable heart of North Africa. The reason Belkhodja chooses to focus his work on the importance of the Medina is that it is the heart of life. It is beyond the control of modern dictatorship. So his work is about the spiritual heartland of the World. The significance of the Medina in Belkhodja's work is constant as he saw the obvious change in the Medina. For nearly forty years he focused his whole artistic life around the idea of the Medina and his work reads like a biblical message to us all. His work is invincible and belongs to us all, to cage it would be a travesty of justice. He speaks about the change within society. The universal change of importance between commerce over culture and how the world places more respect on money rather than creativity.

Here is a tribute to his beautiful wife, Najet Belkhodja. Without her love and support we would never of had the Nejib that we see today. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Of Widowhood by Chinwe Azubuike

Blood shot eyes from endless stream of tears.
Unfathomable thoughts of denial.
Questionable words to celestial bodies and gods.
Irrational musings aimed at nothing.

The total stripping of aided beauty.
The sudden chastity commanded and demanded,
from the inside to the outside,
seeming endless days of incarceration.

The constant haunting dreams,
presumed doubts of ‘the’ occurrence.
The feared bullying from kins, unbecoming.

The new vacuum in our hearts and beds.
The registered absence-forever,
Of the other half.
The final acceptance of death’s handiwork.

Poem by Chinwe Azubuike

Demantelment 1992 by the Tunisian prophet, Néjib Belkhodja

Demantelment 1992

Demantelment | 1992

This is one of series of images that Néjib produced on the theme of Demantlement. The home he lived in with Najet, his wife, is full of books, especially revolutionary poetry. If I may be so bold I thought that this painting would go extremely well with a poet that Néjib Belkhodja had an interest in. The poet is from Tunisia and died at 23, his name is Abu-l-Qasim Al-Shabbi. His book of poetry, Songs of Life, has recently been translated into English and I would like to share with you a poem he wrote about Tunisia. I'm sure that this poem sounds much better in Arabic but this is the English version.

Beautiful Tunisia

I do not weep because night
is a tyrant
nor because destruction reigns
in the countryside.
I weep instead for the heavy calamity
now afflicting us
without relief.
Whenever a leader rises in the country,
vigorous with reform,
yearning to awaken his people,
they garb him in a shirt that curbs his intent.
They stifle his heavenly voice
and murder his music.
Never receptive, they prefer to follow
the ways of tyranny and coercion,
because those are the roads they know.
This is what happens to ones who are sincere!
Death shots are aimed at them easily.
Lo! Calamities have taken hold of us,
they have annihilated our land.

Beautiful Tunisia! I ride the crest of the waves
in my love for you,
My love for you is my covenant -
I have known its bittersweet taste
I'll never yield to the wayward winds
even if I should die,
even if I lose my youth.
I'll never yield, even if they spill
my blood.
The blood of lovers is always game for spilling.
The days, no matter how long,
will show you how true my love is,
will speel out my loyalty in a clear voice.
This is the age of darkness, but I've seen
morning rising behind it.
No matter what time has done to my people's
glory, life will spread your glorious
mantle once again.

Author: Abu-L-Qasim Al-Shabbi | Songs of Life | 1909-1934
Translated by Lena Jayyusi and Naomi Shihab Nye

Le Ciel Etait Rouge by Néjib Belkhodja

I arrived in Tunis at 23.30 on June 12th 2007 and was met by Najet, Néjib's wife and a beautiful young woman called Nadia. The energy around the house was surprisingly superb. So much love for this brilliant man. I was and still am shocked that the western world knows so little about the history and works of this great man. Allow me to introduce you to him via his Masterpiece about the first Iraqi War in 1991, Le ciel était rouge, 91. The red sky. Najet told me that whilst Néjib was painting this Masterpeice he had a nightmare. He spent months trying to work out the right colour for the central space. He tried out numerous ideas and the nightmare was that if the central space was any other colour than white then the walls would crumble and fall. So sensitive was Néjib about his art that he would wake in morning and tell Najet he was busy opening doors and later in the evening he told her he was busy closing windows. He really was the door opener and the window closer and in this time of trouble over Iraq no other man could have given the world such a clear and sensitive message. The Red Sky.

I read from his collection of books in his front room and was introduced to the Chilian poet, Pablo Neruda who was an inspiration to Nejib throughout his life. This painting will mean so much to you if you see it through the words of Neruda.

In Spite of Wrath

Corroded helmets, dead horseshoes!

But through the fire and the horseshoe
as from a wellspring illuminated
by murky blood,
along with the metal thrust home in the holocaust
a light fell over the earth:
number, name, line and structure

Pages of water, clear power
of murmuring tongues, sweet drops
worked like clusters,
platinum syllables in the tenderness
of dew-streaked breasts,
and a classic diamond mouth
gave its snowy brilliance to the land

In the distance the statue asserted
its dead marble,
and in the spring
of the world, machinery dawned.

Technique erected its dominion
and time became speed and a flash
on the banner of the merchants.
Moon of geography
that discovered plant and planet
extending geometric beauty
in its unfolding movement.
Asia handed up its virginal scent.
Intelligence, with a frozen thread,
followed behind blood, spinning out the day.
The paper called for the distribution of the naked honey
kept in the darkness.

A pigeon-house
flight was flushed from the painting
in sunset-cloud-red and ultramarine blue.
And the tongues of men were joined
in the first wrath, before song.

Thus; with the sanguinary
titan of stone,
infuriated falcon,
came not blood but wheat.

Light came despite the daggers.

Taken from "Selected Poems" by Pablo Neruda

Also I would like to include the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."


The Father of Contemporary Tunisian Art - Nejib Belhodja

Néjib Belkhodja was born in 1933 in the Capital, Tunis. He was the son of a Dutch Opera singer who had performed at the Paris Opera House and a Tunisian aristocrat. The family lived in the Medina in Tunis, which at the time was the heartbeat of all North African cities. The Medina, for those that don't know, is a walled city within a city. It was where the rich and influencial used to live.

The Most Famous Median is Deir El Medina and here are some images.

His father died when he was 3 years old, leaving his blonde-haired Dutch mother with 2 children Néjib and sister, in the centre of Tunisia. His mother had spoken extensively with her husband about bring their children up as Muslims in Tunisia. They had spoken about what school the children would attend and what careers they might have. Although Néjib mother was from a good family back in Holland she kept to her word and brought her children up in Tunisia. Later she converted to Islam.

Whilst growing up with his sister in the narrow streets of the Medina his life was never dull. He was unlike the other boys in Tunis, in regards to his looks and not having a father he was bullied terribly at school. Najet, his widow, recalls how he would go to school and be beaten, come home and then beaten up again. He was no coward and would, with a stiff upper lip return to school the following day only to be beaten again. He was so fearless the boys eventually learnt to respect him and his amazing resolve. This tough character building experience was to shape his tenacious personality in the future. He was not the only person in the family to be bullied. His mother was referred to by the Tunisian side of the family as simply, "The Stranger" and Nejib and his sister as, "the Son and Daughter of The Stranger"...his up-bringing was far for easy but his mother was strong and determined and these important characteristic rubbed off of him and aided him throughout his adult life. The genuine feeling of loss for his father was something that repeatedly effected him and returned again and again throughout his life even when he was in his seventies.

He studied at the School of Fine Arts, Les Beaux Arts in Tunis and had his first exhibition at the age of 23. In the 1960's he left for Rome and Paris where he became absorbed in the works of the french artist, Robert Delauney and the Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky. In Paris, he took part in the three consecutive biennial exhibitions in 1965, 1967 and 1969. Before leaving for Europe he had been awarded the Tunis Municipal Prize at the Salon International in 1956. This had given him great confidence in venturing out further afield. In 1964 he was again awarded the gold medal in Milan, Italy and again in Egypt in 1968.

Néjib Belkhodja took part in numerous collective exhibitions worldwide such as in Tunisia, the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Germany and the United States. Néjib has had various solo exhitibions since beginning his artistic career in 1956 especially in North Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and also France among others. In 1968, he was resident at the International City of the Arts in Paris where he received the National Award for painting.

In 1987 Néjib Belkhodja and his friend the architect, Slah Smaoui built the artistic village of Ken. Ken is Arabic and in English means Once Upon a Time. In 1991, he held an exhibition in Tunis with the Iraqi painter Dhia Azzawi.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

World Heroes

Marc Ona Essangui | Environmentalist 
from Gabon
Gabon – Media stigmatisation campaign against human rights defender Marc Ona Essangui

Posted on 2010/12/15
Please take action on behalf of Gabonese human rights defender Marc Ona Essangui. Copy the enclosed letter and send it to the address provided. Thank you for taking action on behalf of human rights defender Marc Ona Essangui.


Target adresses:  

Mr Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba
Office of the President,
BP 546 Libreville Gabon
Your Excellency,

During the last several weeks, human rights defender Mr Marc Ona Essangui has been the target of a smear campaign organised by pro government media in Gabon. The campaign targets him specifically,  because of his support of the trial taking place in France, in relation to properties allegedly unlawfully acquired there by the Gabonese President, the so called "Bien Mal Acquis"(BMA) trial.
Marc Ona Essangui is the national coordinator of the Publish What You Pay Coalition (PWYP) in Gabon and Executive Secretary of the environmental organisation Brainforest. In January 2009, Front Line published an urgent appeal on the arrest and detention, in December 2008, of Marc Ona Essangui and four other human rights defenders and journalists, who were linked to the same affaire. Since the French Court of Cassation's decision on the BMA trial was rendered, on 9 November 2010, several media in Gabon began a stigmatisation campaign aimed at discrediting Marc Ona Essangui. Mr Gregory Ngbwa Minsta, a civil servant and plaintiff in the BMA trial, who was amongst the individuals arrested in December 2008, has also been targeted. The media outlets behind the campaign include the first channel of the "Radio Télévision Gabonaise"(RTG1), the TV programme "Pluriel", the newspaper "L'ombre"and the daily "Gabon Matin". The latter devoted six pages to the BMA trial in its issue no. 468 of 8 December.
In the article, similarly to the other media, Marc Ona Essangui was portrayed as an agent mandated to destabilise the country and working for a group of foreign organisations that would include the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), Global Witness, PWYP, Revenue Watch Institute, Open Society, Transparency International, Survie, and Sherpa. During the same period, the weekly TV programme "Pluriel" reportedly portrayed Marc Ona Essangui as manipulated by Sherpa, Survie and Transparency International, accomplices of the massacres and secret wars of the big powers in Africa, and which award prizes to compatriots, possibly in reference to the Goldman Prize awarded to Marc Ona Essangui in 2008 and the Transparency International Integrity Prize 2009-2010 awarded to Gregory Ngbwa Minsta. Furthermore, RTG1 reportedly broadcasted this information over several days including most recently on 9 and 12 December, a press conference organised in December 2008 by the then Minister of the Interior was created merely to justify the arrest and detention of Marc Ona Essangui. In particular, the Minister stated that he had evidence that Marc Ona Essangui and the other individuals arrested were supported financially by French NGOs to destabilise the country. He further stated that they were leading a vast conspiracy that had planned to incite the Gabonese people to rise up and to recruit Gabonese from the nine provinces, South Africa, France and Canada. Since his arrest in December 2008, Marc Ona Essangui remains on bail. The investigation against him has neither progressed nor has it be closed.

FrontLine and I, express our concerns over these media smear campaigns. According to Marc Ona Essangui himself, the campaign resembles in all its elements the campaign that followed the BMA complaint and that supported public opinion to the [2008] arrests.
I urge the authorities in Gabon to:
1. Formally drop the charges against Marc Ona Essangui and the other human rights defenders and journalists arrested in December 2008;

2. Take measures to encourage public recognition of the legitimate role of human rights defenders;

3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Gabon, carrying out their legitimate work in the defence of human rights and are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals, including judicial scrutiny. 
Yours sincerely,

Art Market - The Economist | Look Don't Touch

Rather slowly, the buying and selling of art and antiques is going online

Source: The Economist - See Article

DOES the world need another international art fair? With ARCOmadrid in February, Tefaf in March, Art Basel in June, Frieze in October, Miami in December and a dozen fringe fairs in between, the travel schedule of art and antique dealers has become impossibly busy. The annual circuit is costly, too: dealers have to pay for their booths as well as the cost of travel, shipping and Chardonnay.
The VIP (for Viewing in Private) Art Fair, which will open on January 22nd and run for a week, promises to cut costs dramatically for buyers and sellers of contemporary art: it will take place exclusively in the virtual world. VIP was created by James and Jane Cohan, a couple of New York art dealers who teamed up with two internet entrepreneurs three years ago when the art world was about to be hit by recession.
At the last count 138 galleries from 30 countries had signed up. They range from established shops like London’s White Cube and New York’s David Zwirner to relative newcomers such as i8 in Reykjavik. Gallery owners can choose between three sizes of virtual booths for their wares, for about one-fifth as much as a traditional art fair charges. Mere browsing is free, although visitors must pay for access to an instant-messaging system, price lists and dealers’ private rooms.
After logging in visitors will arrive in an atrium displaying a map of the exhibition with the names of participating galleries. A click on a gallery name will lead them into the gallery’s booth where they can view pictures from different angles and distances and zoom in to inspect them closely—not often possible with the photographs art dealers and auction houses put on their own websites, and impossible in a printed catalogue. For those who prefer to wander, the fair will have three “exhibition halls”. Top artists such as Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami will be grouped in the Premier hall, whereas galleries showing eight works by a single artist will be assembled in the Focus hall and galleries with up-and-coming artists will be in the Emerging hall.
Dealers and auction houses have approached the internet warily. Christie’s, one of the two big international fine-art auctioneers, launched LIVE, an online bidding system, in 2006. Sotheby’s, its main rival, launched BidNow only last year after the failure of two early forays into online auctions in partnerships with the technology giants Amazon and eBay at the beginning of the last decade.
In 2010 Christie’s sold some $114m worth of art and antiques online, amounting to 16% of its lots. Yet this represented only 3% of total sales. Christie’s clients bid on the internet for commoditised items such as watches, wine, prints and jewellery. For the auctioneer’s most expensive offerings—paintings, sculptures and antiques—they telephoned or went to the saleroom and bid at auction by raising their arms, as they have done for centuries.
The real advantage of Christie’s digital offering is that it draws new customers: more than half of the firm’s online bidders last year had never registered for a Christie’s auction before. Attracting new customers is also the main reason why dealers signed up for the VIP art fair. They expect visitors mainly to gather information about their offerings and follow up with a phone call. For reasons of privacy, no sale will be conducted on the fair’s site. “Our expectations for actual sales during the art fair are modest,” says Ms Cohan.
Michael O’Neal, head of digital media at Christie’s, thinks the success of the new fair will depend on whether it can build a brand and whether the participating dealers will get enough new leads from the fair’s visitors that result in actual sales. VIP has one selling point that traditional art fairs cannot offer: it can show huge outdoor sculptures and other art that cannot be moved easily.

Monday, 24 January 2011

To Artists Around the World

Look around you. You are a champion!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Lucas Ndlovu | South African Masterchef

Lucas Ndlovu | The Man Who Rules The Kitchen With Magic In His Head
Source: Hotel Resort Insider
If you are a foodie and want to look up some 
great African dishes, then you will definitely 
come across the name of Lucas Ndlovu. He is 
one of the most renowned South African 
chefs and has been honored by the
International Chaine de Rotisseurs to be
one among the 24  South African chefs.

His best known dishes include avocado with ginger, honey and celery,
paper-thin ostrich carpaccio, roast quail with bacon rolls, served with 
bread sauce, game chips and marula jelly and grilled baby kingklip 
rolled in macademia nuts, served with a mango and mampoer sauce. 
This man also earns the credit of sharing his dishes with the poor 

Ndlovu's claims that the secret of him becoming a great chef lies in 

the fact that he is a great foodie. This man illuminates Coach House 
in Agatha, near Tzaneen, with his presence. This elegant hostelry 
gets all the more popular as people here get to see the hands that
 cook these excellent dishes. Once you enter this hostelry, you will
 find the South African chef dressed in a white chef's jacket with 
the overseas logo of the South African Chefs Association on it. He 
also wears a chef's hat on a Zulu shield with crossed assegai and 
knobkierie. After being dressed up, the executive chef is all set to 
take the rounds of the dining room.

If you want to know how Lucas Ndlovu went on to become the 

man he is today, you will have to know what it took him to reach 
the stars. This man started out his career as a "chef's assistant" in Hartebeespoort in 1958! Mind you - this was a period when the 
blacks in professional kitchens were subjected to only cleaning 
and chopping. Things were so bad that Ndlovu recalls the black 
and white chefs eating separately in the old times.

Back then, he was just a young trainee chef whose skill was 

noticed by the executive chefs and employers. Ndlovu was soon 
out of the scullery and since then he did not look back - he was 
rapidly rising to the top in a chain of famous hotels, such as the 
Rustenburg Hotel, Cybele Lodge in Mpumalanga and the 
Silverton in Pretoria, where he first met his wife, Elizabeth Makae, 
who is also a chef at present.

Today, the South African chef can be found at the Coach House 

along with his family from where he trains young chefs, travels 
overseas for demonstrations and competitions and comes up 
with new recipes.

Formed in the early 1970s, the South African Chefs Association 

seated Lucas Ndlovu as its first and only black member. The 
association's Academy of Chefs also elected him as one among 
the top 25 chefs. He has also been honored as being one of the 
24 South African chefs, who had been inducted into the 
international Chaine de Rotisseurs.

This chef's claim to fame also includes the fact that he has tossed 

up dishes for celebrities like, the former Home Affairs Minister 
Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the former presidents Nelson Mandela 
and FW de Klerk and other famous politicians and celebrities.

World Cooks Tour for Hunger by World Association of Cooks 

Societies is an annual event, where food is cooked for the poor 
kids. This benevolent concept had been introduced by South African 
chef and Ndlovu's mentor, Bill Gallagher, food and beverage director 
of the Southern Sun hotel group. There are chefs from all over the 
world at the event who travel at their own expense only for hosting 
the fund-raising events that includes street parties for the 
underprivileged children. Ndlovu finds his heart here every year.

Malangatana | Forefather of Contemporary African Art

Malangatana Ngwenya obituary

Leading Mozambican painter and poet who depicted his country's struggle in his work

Women in Motion, 2003, by Malangatana Ngwenya
Malangatana Ngwenya's Women in Motion (2003), one of his rose-period works

The Mozambican painter and poet Malangatana Ngwenya, who has
died aged 74 following respiratory complications, was one of Africa's leading contemporary artists, and his work is known round the world.
A lifelong Marxist, he depicted the suffering and struggles of a
troubled nation, and campaigned for peace. While Ngwenya,
meaning crocodile, provided the title of a 2007 documentary film,
he was most widely known as Malangatana.
Once Mozambique had achieved independence and freed itself from conflict, he encouraged its continuing cultural life. A National Art Museum was established in the capital city of Maputo, and the art college Núcleo de Arte became primarily concerned with encouraging
young, black artists.
Núcleo de Arte was where Malangatana had started evening classes
in 1958, followed three years later by his first solo exhibition. He courageously presented his ambitious Juízo Final (Final Judgment),
a commentary on life under oppressive Portuguese rule. Mystical
figures of many colours, including a black priest dressed in white,
evoke a vision of hell. Some of the figures have sharp white fangs,
a recurring motif in Malangatana's work, symbolising the ugliness of human savagery.
Fame soon followed, as his works were toured and seen abroad.
A year after his first show, the German champion of African arts Ulli Beier pointed to Malangatana's originality. In 1963, he contributed to
the anthology Modern African Poetry published by the journal Black Orpheus, and soon after became an active member of Frelimo, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique. The following year, he was detained by the PIDE, the Portuguese secret police, and sentenced
to 18 months' imprisonment. Among the congenial company he
found behind bars was the country's leading poet, José Craveirinha.
Malangatana at his home in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2005.Malangatana at his home in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2005. Photograph: Martin Godwin
Malangatana travelled to Portugal in 1971 on a Gulbenkian
Foundation grant, and for three years studied printmaking and
ceramics. Portugal's Carnation Revolution of April 1974 saw an authoritarian dictatorship giving way to democracy: one of the
factors that had weakened the old order was the armed conflict
in its African colonies. Malangatana, once again an openly
declared member of Frelimo, returned to Mozambique to witness
the coming of independence on 25 June 1975.
Two years later, fighting broke out between Renamo, the
Mozambique Resistance Movement, backed by South Africa, and Frelimo. More than a million people died, either from fighting or
from starvation; five million civilians were displaced; and many
were made amputees by landmines, a continuing problem. The
civil war ended in 1992, and the first multiparty elections were
held in 1994. Throughout this time – artistically, his blue period,
which saw a number of powerful works – Malangatana was the
artistic embodiment of the continuing struggle, and took an active
role in the Frelimo government.
From 1981, he was able to work full-time as an artist, and the
following year Augusto Cabral, director of the Natural History
Museum in Maputo, commissioned him to create a mural in its
gardens. In a celebration of the unity of humankind and the often
brutal world of nature, the work depicts wide-eyed figures in
earth-coloured pastels, with extended limbs and claw-like hands.
Cabral, an ardent supporter, had played a crucial role in
Malangatana's early life. Born in Matalana, a small village north
of Maputo, Malangatana spent his childhood at various mission
schools and herding livestock with his mother; his father was
often away, working in gold mines in South Africa. At the age of
12 he ventured into the capital, then known as Lourenço Marques, where he earned some money as a ballboy at the tennis club.
He asked Cabral, one of its members, whether he had a pair
of old sandals he could spare. The young biologist – and amateur painter – took him home. Malangatana asked to be taught
painting, and Cabral gave him equipment and the advice to paint whatever was in his head. Putting aside his teenage training as a traditional healer, Malangatana did just that, encouraged by
Cabral and the prolific Portuguese-born architect Panchos Guedes, another tennis club member.
In his later years, Malangatana secured a progressive cultural development plan within Mozambique, and in 1997 was named a Unesco artist for peace. There was a dramatic shift in his artistic
output: his palette moved into a calmer rose period. He is survived
by his wife, Sinkwenta Gelita Mhangwana, two sons and two
Duncan Campbell writes: While on an assignment for the Guardian
in Mozambique in 2005, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Malangatana, who was then living in a large house near the airport which was part gallery and part archive. I had already been shown
some of his work, which was not only in public galleries in Maputo,
but also widely used for book covers and CDs. What was remarkable about him was that he brushed off questions about his own work and insisted instead on taking us on a magical conducted tour of local
artists from painter to sculptor to batik-maker. He was anxious that
they should receive publicity rather than him. For their part, they
clearly held him in high esteem. "He is my general," one of the young artists told me.
He was a generous and entertaining host, telling us with a smile that
his father had been a cook for the British in South Africa. A volume
of his paintings, entitled Cumplicidades, published in 2004 with a foreword by the Mozambican writer Mia Couto, illustrates the
 impressive range of his work. I treasure my copy, which is inscribed
"for Dunken Cambell from my heart".
• Valente Malangatana Ngwenya, artist, born 6 June 1936; died 5 January 2011

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Thinking of Mozambique...

The life and world should be simple.

Funny but classic.

The Alternative Spice


The Spice of Life...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Interview with Saad Eddin Ibrahim | Egyptian Political Activist

Human Rights Defenders

Egyptian Human Rights Activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Defies Threats, Arrests to Challenge U.S.-Backed

Mubarak Government

Source: The Carter Center in the USA

The following is a transcript of the Democracy Now! interview with Saad Ibrahim.

In Egypt, the regime of President Hosni Mubarak is in the midst of one of the largest crackdowns against public dissent in a decade. Seven journalists have been given prison sentences in recent weeks for criticizing Mubarak's government. More than a thousand activists of the popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, languish in prison. Labor organizers involved in a wave of strikes at government-owned factories have been detained. Amid the crackdown, Egyptian police and internal security forces are increasingly being accused of widespread brutality and torture of prisoners. On Sunday, twenty-three independent and opposition daily newspapers refused to publish in protest of the clampdown on journalists. Despite heavy criticism of its human rights record, the Egyptian government continues to receive strong support from Washington and is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Saad Eddin Ibrahim is one of Egypt's leading human rights activists and the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. He was convicted in 2001 for preparing slanderous reports about Egypt and receiving unauthorized funds from overseas. The ruling sparked a storm of international condemnation. He was acquitted on all charges in 2003. I recently met with Saad Eddin Ibrahim at the Carter Center in Atlanta, where he had been invited as one of a dozen human rights defenders from around the world. We spoke about the current situation in Egypt and his own story.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim. One of Egypt's leading human rights activists and the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies.

AMY GOODMAN: In Egypt, the regime of President Hosni Mubarak is in the midst of one of the largest crackdowns against public dissent in a decade. Seven journalists have been given prison sentences in recent weeks for criticizing Mubarak's government. More than a thousand activists of the popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, languish in prison. Labor organizers involved in a wave of strikes at government-owned factories have been detained. Amidst the crackdown, Egyptian police and internal security forces are increasingly being accused of widespread brutality and torture of prisoners. On Sunday, twenty-three independent and opposition daily newspapers refused to publish in protest of the clampdown on journalists. Despite heavy criticism of its human rights record, the Egyptian government continues to receive strong support from Washington, D.C. and is the second-largest recipient of US foreign aid.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim is one of Egypt's leading human rights activists and the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. He was convicted in 2001 for preparing slanderous reports about Egypt and receiving unauthorized funds from overseas. The ruling sparked a storm of international condemnation. He was acquitted on all charges in 2003. I recently met with Saad Eddin Ibrahim at the Carter Center in Atlanta, where he had been one of a dozen human rights defenders from around the world gathered there. We spoke about the current situation in Egypt and his own story. I began asking him about why he feared that if he returned to Egypt he would be arrested.

SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM: Well, I have been critical of President Mubarak and his regime, and it was a peaceful criticism, presenting a different point of view on public policy and on some of his actions to install his -- or to groom his son to succeed him after twenty-six years of being a ruler of Egypt, the third-longest ruler in our history, in 6,000-year history. And yet, he wants to groom his son to succeed him. And I blew the whistle simply on that.

I also blew the whistle on his attempt to eliminate any potential contenders or competitors with his son, including, you know, some journalists who are disappeared, including the nephews of the late President Anwar al-Sadat, who are about the same age as his son and who also are politically active, and they are potential contenders. And he stripped them of their parliamentary immunity. They were members of Parliament, elected for the second time. So he is trying to eliminate everybody. And in the process, he tried to eliminate me, as well. And we have heard rumors, rampant rumors in the country, that there is a death squad attached to the presidency.

A death squad?

A death squad. That explains cases of disappearances, unresolved case of disappearances, despite time lapses. And it is said that it is a death squad that resorted to these extralegal methods to eliminate opposition. And when I mentioned that in a newspaper article just to ask the government to speak on the subject, to tell us whether there is one or not, and if there isn't, to deny it, and if there isn't, why these cases of disappearance caused? The disappearances have not been resolved, despite the years that have passed by. So, because they could not answer these questions, they decided just to eliminate me, as well. And it showed all kind of things.

Your recent piece, "Egypt's Unchecked Repression" –


-- begins, "This month marks the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of the Egyptian journalist Reda Hilal." Who was Reda Hilal?

He was, again, a journalist. He was actually the deputy chief editor of our daily newspaper called Al-Ahram. And he, again, spoke critically of the presidential family and especially of Gamal Mubarak, who is being groomed. So, this was in a cocktail party, but I think the criticism was a little bit off-color about his sexual preferences, and the following day he disappeared.

Can you describe Egypt to us? I mean, you also live here. You know Americans and Americans' views of Egypt. I think very few people understand what is happening there. Describe your country.

My country is a great country, old civilization, the cradle of one of the greatest set of attainments in mankind. But despite its greatness as a country, as a society, as a culture, it has a terrible political regime, and we are trying to change the regime or to make it more democratic. And the regime is resisting and, as I said, eliminating anyone who is too loud-voiced or who is credible enough to be listened to.
And it is a struggle, like struggle in other third world countries between the forces of democracy and the forces of autocracy and the forces of theocracy. We have a three-way struggle in our country. We, as democrats, are fighting both the autocrats and the theocrats. And in that fight, it is -- we sometimes feel lonely, as if we are crying in the wilderness, because, unfortunately, countries like the United States and some other Western powers have been supporting the autocrats for the sake of stability. So here we are, tied in this three-way fight, but the autocrats are getting the help from Western allies like the United States and western Europe, and we, as democrats, had hoped that established democracies around the world will come to our help, to our aid, not by guns or planes, but just simply by withholding their support of the autocrats, so the democrats at least can have a fair fight with their two other adversaries.

Talk about Ayman Nour, the presidential candidate.

Oh, again, one of the very serious contenders is exactly the same age as Gamal Mubarak and more popular and has been tested in the street and has been -- again, had been elected twice to Parliament as an independent without the ruling party support. Actually, he was opposing the ruling party, and therefore everybody felt that in a two-way contest between him and Gamal Mubarak, Gamal Mubarak will not have a chance. And therefore, the regime seemed to have decided to eliminate him, as well. They couldn't exactly do to him what they did toward Hilal, because of his notoriety and because he has a political party behind him, so they drummed up some charges against him and put him behind bars, something that they did with me seven years ago.

The prosecution witness, one of them, Ayman Hassan, recanted his testimony, said he was forced by security forces.


And we just got word that he was found dead, apparently in a suicide in his prison cell, according to the police.

Which one?

This is Ayman Hassan.

Uh-huh, the other. Well, that is also another standard thing that they do. And that's why my lawyers and my family were concerned, because with frequent mentions of detainees or prisoners who committed suicide in their cells, which seemed to be too -- what is the word? -- too suspicious that so many dissidents commit suicide in prison. The common -- popular, at least -- narrative is that these are people who are killed in prison, and then the official statement will say they committed suicide.

What happened to you seven years ago?

Well, I was arrested, again, on the day I published this article blowing the whistle on the scheme of grooming sons to follow their fathers, not just in Egypt, but I was mentioning the Arab world at large, our neighbors, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen. All of these countries have had dictators who have ruled for a minimum of twenty years and were grooming their children to succeed them. And I, you know, coined a new term, a hybrid form of governance, which is in name a republican but in essence a monarchy. And this new term was the title of my article. So the day the article appeared was this title, "al-Gumlukia: The Contribution of Arabs to Politics in the 21st Century," was the day that appeared in the morning, I was arrested at midnight. And I was detained for two months, and then I was indicted, tried, condemned -- or convicted and sentenced to seven years, out of which I spent three years before my appeals were accepted and I was tried before the high court. And it was the high court that acquitted me and acquitted twenty-seven of my colleagues in the Ibn Khaldun Center of all the charges leveled against us by the state. That's what happened seven years ago.

Can you talk about the state of the pro-democracy movement in Egypt?

Determined, but small, in terms of numbers, because we don't have access to the state media, nor do we have access to the mosques. So, compared to our two adversaries, the autocrats who control the media and the theocrats who control the mosques, and the mosques means you have access to your constituency every Friday and sometimes five times a day, because in Islam there are five collective prayers at the mosque, so the theocrats, they have access to their constituency all the time. The autocrats, by virtue of controlling the state television, state radio, all the major newspapers, they have access also.
But we, as democrats, have to really engage in an uphill fight to reach our audience, potential audience. We believe, however, that the majority is with us, and we construe that on the basis of the absentees when there are elections or referendums. 77% in the last parliamentary elections stayed home, did not vote, because they did not want any of the alternatives, the autocrats or the theocrats. So they stayed home, absentee.

Can you talk about the largest parliamentary bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood?

They have 20% of the seats in Parliament; out of 455, they have eighty-eight seats, and that constitutes roughly about 20%. They are organized. They are also determined. And in fact, even as democrats, even though we oppose them ideologically and intellectually, but yet we welcome their participation in politics as usual, would rather have them compete and would rather compete with them with the ballot box than force them underground and make them resort to violence. So that is our line. That is our position on them, a position, again, that is not shared necessarily by the Mubarak regime, and they think that we are flirting with them, not that this position is predicated on principle. Principle is if you're in a democratic system, it tends to be inclusive, so long as players abide by the rules of the game. And that is our position.

You met with President Bush in June?



In Prague.

In Prague.

In a conference on democracy and security.

What did he tell you?

Well, he addressed the audience, the people who are participant in the conference. And, if I may, the conference was organized by all dissidents from Central and Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel, a great writer and who became --

Former president.

Former president of the Czech Republic. And people like Jose Aznar of Spain, people like Natan Sharansky, who was a Soviet dissident, and now he's an Israeli politician. And so, they wanted a reunion of their own, but also they invited dissidents from the third world, from China, from the Middle East, from Latin America, from everywhere. So this was a meeting of dissidents.

And President Bush dropped in and addressed the meeting. And among other things, he said, you know, I think half-playfully, "I am dissident, like you. I am a dissident in Washington, because the bureaucracy seems to be against my agenda for democracy promotion, and that's why it hasn't moved as speedily as I wished, but I am determined to carry on. I still have eighteen months," at the time he said, "and I'm going to keep pushing. So don't lose hope. We are supporting you, and we are with you, and we will do everything we can." So that was in the public meetings.

In the one on one after he gave the speech, he met a few of us. He repeated the same thing, that he's a dissident in Washington. And he asked me about the situation in Egypt and what the United States can do. And I give him my, again, few proposals.

What did you say?

Basically, to follow the Helsinki Accord formula. The Helsinki Accord was in 1975, when the NATO countries, or the Western countries, knowing that the Soviet bloc were in dire need for aid and for trade and for technology from the West, said, "Yes, we will give you all the above in return for relaxing your restrictions on civil society and respecting human rights and allowing more freedom of speech and freedom of movement and migration." And the Soviets, because of their, again, dire need for aid, said, "Yes, we will do that," and they signed. That's the Helsinki Accord.
I think that's now, among observers and historians, they think that was really the first nail on the coffin of totalitarianism, because within ten years from signing the Helsinki Accord, we began to see the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, peacefully. And I was calling for the same thing: condition your aid to Egypt and to other autocratic countries or autocratic regimes on opening up their systems and allowing more freedom.

Can you talk about -- well, Egypt and Israel are the top recipients of US foreign aid of the world --


And why? Why is Egypt important to the United States?

It is important to the United States, partly because it is the first Arab country to initiate and to engage in a peace process with Israel. So the aid to Egypt was in part a reward for the late President Sadat's regime for having taken that step and in the hope that it will entice other Arab countries to follow suit. And, in fact, Jordan followed suit, and other countries are, in a way, beginning to see that and to emulate it.

So that is why --
As for Israel, Israel is strong and a favorite ally of the United States, from the time it was created back in 1948, and has been the primary recipient of sustained foreign aid. Egypt came into this in 1977 after President Sadat's trip to Jerusalem. So Egypt was a newcomer to this American largesse. So the two countries together, in order to stay on the peace track, have maintained a high level of receiving American aid, Israel a bit more than Egypt, but these are the two biggest recipients of American foreign aid.

You also write about Islamophobia and Mubarak; explain.

Right, right. He is taking advantage of the fear in the West after 9/11 of Islamists by claiming that he is the bulwark or the defender of secularism in Egypt and in the Arab world against the Islamists. And, unfortunately, the West seemed to have swallowed this claim, this false claim, because the Islamists keep increasing their constituency anyhow as a result of the corruption and the inefficiency of this autocratic regime.

Finally, Saad Eddin Ibrahim --


You have said that if you go back to Egypt, you could well be arrested. So why return?

Well, because that's where my fight is. That's my country. I don't want to give up the right of going back to my home country. And I'm fighting my battle there, because that's a battlefield. I just want a fair fight, not a fight under the specter of being imprisoned without completing my mission, my role, my advocacy. There's a lot of people in Egypt who are looking to me and to people like myself to lead their good generation into a better life for Egypt and a better future for the region.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, one of Egypt's leading human rights activists, founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Egypt. I spoke to him in Atlanta at the Carter Center.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Tunisia is Free | Happy Days

Bye, Bye Ben Ali! Bye, Bye Ben Ali! Byebye.

Happy Days | The country is free to Create so let us Celebrate!

Tunisia was the jewel of the Roman Empire; it is rich in so many resources combined with a high level of literacy. It has a strong income from tourism, oil and olives, wine etc.. Here is a country, if managed correctly, could easily have a far higher standard of living than France. I watched this morning's BBC News with disappointment, not with Tunisia but more with the BBC. They broadcasted such negative information coming out about Tunis and personally, I think this is an irresponsible use of media. The initial damage caused in the Capital, Tunis is no worse than that caused after the Student riots in London, a few week ago and the reporting on those events were all censored and twisted towards the benefit of the Police. The violence has escalated and hopefully there will be a minimum of casualties and deaths. It seems more and more the BBC is taking a far right political position on recording the news. Far from being impartial, the great British press are media fascists - devoid of any integrity at all. The bosses at Shepherd Bush are wielding their established position so irresponsibly that it makes a mockery of modern day journalism. The situation in the country is extremely delicate and the process towards true democracy must be allowed to take it's natural course and most importantly, on Tunisian terms.

Those at the BBC are doing exactly the same with international affairs. What is becoming apparent is that whilst reporting the worldwide news there is an increasingly obvious agenda and those behind the reporting should be held accountable. It is unacceptable that the BBC should be so biased against the Arabic world and constantly focus global attention on the pockets of burnt out cars and shops. This imagery is emotive and sadly, blinkered news, which is dangerously being broadcasted throughout the world. This makes for poor reporting and terribly unprofessional journalism. All is very sensational for the viewers but hardly tells the whole story. The BBC should focus on the country's delight in forging free and fare elections for the first time since Independence. The Tunisians can now choose their leaders rather than have them selected by outside influences. These are exciting times and should be reported as such.

What is not being explained on the BBC is that the country is so incredibly angry. Angry with businessmen and women who have clearly used their connections with the Dictator to profiteer, whilst the majority have suffered under his tyrannical rule. It is understandable that things will be out of hand in the short term as there are bound to be backlashes to a Dictator leaving power. This important news should be reported by an English speaking Tunisian; anything else is useless. I have great faith that the country will quickly find it's feet and I am ashamed of Western Media and their infantile news reporting. This kind of news is dangerous for everybody and is twisted to suit a political agenda in Europe and America. We need to keep our eyes wide open in order to see the full picture as these are monumental events occurring in Arabic Africa and should be covered with a sense of responsibility. The BBC's distorted view of Tunisia could easily create International intervention. This should be seen by unacceptable for Tunisia and avoid a peacekeeping task-force invading the country. Tunisia is a country so strategically placed in the world, it has yet to reap the benefits of it's location and it numerous resources. The future of the country looks brighter than ever and if managed well could be a wonderful example for the rest of North Africa and beyond.

Congratulations and celebrations to all those in Tunisia.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Malangatana Valente Ngwenya | Mozambique

The message shared by Malangatana in 2007 was - "The world is so selfish, remind yourselves at all times, what is your intent? - The world belongs to us."

Source: YouTube |

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art Announces Details of Its Three Opening Exhibitions

Fateh al-Moudarres, Title Unknown, 1962. Mixed media on canvas, 
69.8 x 99.7 cm © Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

Source: Art Daily

DOHA.- Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art revealed the
details of the three exhibitions it will present when it opens
to the public on December 30, 2010. Historic works of Arab
modernism and a multitude of new works commissioned by
Mathaf will be on view at two sites in Doha, Qatar.

The new Museum will open its 5,500-square-meter
(59,000-square-foot) building with Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art.
This will be the first in an ongoing series of exhibitions that will
survey Mathaf’s unparalleled collection of more than 6,000 works
representing major trends and sites of production of modern
Arab art, spanning the 1840s to the present. Sajjil, an Arabic word
meaning the act of recording, will feature paintings and sculptures
by more than 100 artists, representing pivotal moments in the
development of Arab modernism throughout the 20th century.
Sajjil is organized by guest curator and consultant Dr. Nada Shabout,
Associate Professor of Art History and Director of the Contemporary
Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at the University of
North Texas; Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Mathaf’s Chief Curator and
Acting Director; and Deena Chalabi, Mathaf’s Head of Strategy.

The historical exhibition Sajjil makes its own contribution to rethinking
the position of Arab artists toward modernism and within the
modernist movement. While making a space for modern art from the
Arab world within the wider history of art, Sajjil explores the multiplicity
of experiences that form modern art from the Arab world. Organised
around themes that overlap and intersect, the exhibition emphasizes
the severalcommon moments that justify the discussion of a collective
Arab identity, but at the same time acknowledges discontinuity and
rupture as part of the story.

“The creation of Mathaf has been the result of many years of
interactions with living Arab artists,” stated His Excellency Sheikh
Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al-Thani, founder of Mathaf and
Vice-Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA).
“We have supported these artists in their work and learned about
the inspiration they take from their predecessors. Our three
inaugural exhibitions reflect Mathaf’s commitment to modern and
contemporary art from the Arab world as a living history and a
continuing exploration.”

At a new QMA exhibition space located on the grounds of the
Museum of Islamic Art, Mathaf will also present the exhibitions
Interventions and Told / Untold / Retold, which will be on view
from December 30, 2010 to May 28, 2011.

Interventions: a dialogue between the modern and the contemporary,
curated by Nada Shabout, will profile five major artists whose careers
have spanned the years from modern to contemporary art. They
are Dia Azzawi, Farid Belkahia, Ahmed Nawar, Ibrahim el-Salahi
and Hassan Sharif. A new work commissioned by Mathaf from
each of these artists will be shown in the context of existing works
by the artists from the Mathaf collection.

The exhibition honors the lives and careers of these artists, who
have forged and promoted modern art in their respective countries
and remain influential today. Because Arabism was a major factor
in the maturation of modern art from the Arab world when they
came of age, their work has sometimes manifested a search for
cultural identity and a desire to preserve cultural distinctiveness.
At the same time, these artists have never sacrificed aesthetic
growth, or abandoned the existential quest for understanding the
modern self.

In speaking of the artists, Shabout said, “All five have challenged
many social conventions and on various occasions pushed the
envelope of what was permitted publicly. We hope that Interventions
will be the first of a number of exhibitions that will recognise key
achievements in constructing the history of modern art from the
Arab world, and that will provide spaces for writing this history.”

Told / Untold / Retold: 23 stories of journeys through time and
place will present new works commissioned by Mathaf from
23 contemporary artists with roots in the Arab world. The most
ambitious museum exhibition of contemporary art ever
presented in the Arab world, Told / Untold / Retold will include
painting, sculpture, photography, video, multimedia installations
and interactive digital art. The participating artists are Adel Abidin,
Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Buthayna Ali, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ghada Amer,
Kader Attia, Lara Baladi, Wafaa Bilal, Abdelkader Benchamma,
Mounir Fatmi, Lamia Joreige, Amal Kenawy, Jeffar Khaldi,
Hassan Khan, Youssef Nabil, Walid Raad, Khalil Rabah,
Younès Rahmoun, Steve Sabella, Marwan Sahmarani,
Zineb Sedira, Khaled Takreti, and Akram Zaatari.
Told / Untold / Retold is curated by Sam Bardouil and Till Fellrath,
\the co-founders of Art Reoriented, a curatorial platform focusing
on contemporary art from the Middle East.

Told / Untold / Retold is a collection of 23 stories each vividly
expressed in a new art work. Some stories are “Told,” evoking
autobiographical accounts and nostalgia for the things that were.
Other stories are “Untold,” anticipating an imagined future that
speaks of things that could be. And there are those that are “Retold,”
proposing an alternative narrative to the things that are. Central to
each story is the use of time as a concrete compositional element
and the reflection on the act of journeying, a condition that has come
to describe the rampant fluidity of today’s society.

In discussing the curatorial theme of the exhibition, Bardaouil and
Fellrath said, “Today’s artists are in constant transmigration across
a diversity of cities and locations, yet never escaping redundant
geographical labels through which their work is misconstrued. They
are in perpetual metamorphosis, in a state of ‘in-betweenness’.
These journeys occur not only in place, but also in time. When you
move and leave things behind, you remember, recollect and
reconstruct, but you also reorient and redirect yourself. These are
all acts into which time is intricately weaved. This explains why time
is often a significant formalistic component within contemporary
artistic practice. In that sense, Told / Untold / Retold is a subversive
confrontation, celebrating a willful act of uprooting that is reflective
of the transient condition of our world.”

Mathaf is the outgrowth of more than two decades of activity by His
Excellency Sheikh Hassan. The collection was adopted originally by
Qatar Foundation, which safeguarded it for four years before QMA
took on the Museum as a project in partnership with Qatar
Foundation. Overseeing the establishment and opening of Mathaf
is QMA Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint
Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.