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“Sunny

Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Are litmus tests on culture spreading from Israel to Berlin?

Pro-Israel journalists and politicians in Germany target a Palestinian arts and culture festival, its curators and the venue hosting it.

Philosophies of migration

Migration raises more fundamental questions than 'should these people be here': it probes into the very essence of what it means to be human, as well as how we define our communities.

14 reasons for celebrating 200 years of Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Here are fourteen reasons for the celebration of this work of genius, beginning with seven celebrating what Pride and Prejudice might be said to have gained from its own historical moment, before moving to the 'feel good factor' of our times. A Valentine's card, originally published on February 14, 2014.

We promise you an operetta

The development of Egypt's military-brand nationalism over the past year can be traced in a series of formulaic, epic 'operettas'.

Cultural heritage and violence in the Middle East

When people are dying in their thousands, why should we care about the destruction of artefacts? Cultural violence has long been a component in the obliteration of communities; it legitimates the denial of diversity and makes them much harder to rebuild.

Gleaming in the dust

An audio documentary uncovering the illicit trade in antiquities in post-revolution Egypt.

Film review: 'Omar' and the nature of colonialism

A review of Omar (2014), the most recent offering from the Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, which portrays the reality of life under occupation.

A very German myth: feral boys and the conflict between civilization and culture

In the internal exile in which Romanticism has languished in post-war Germany, encounters with feral boys (even those established as shams) have - while they have lasted - once more lit a fire under Romanticism. 

Saving NSCAD: Why art education could save us, but first we must save it

Art schools are vital eco-systems that both reflect and contribute to the health of the society in which they are found.  We need them more than ever.

Orenburg shawls: a classic of Russian folk art

Gossamer or spider web shawls have been knitted in Orenburg for generations. The tradition nearly disappeared, but folk crafts are in the ascendant again — there is money to be made from them, after all, says Elena Strelnikova

Marina Goldovskaya: documenting modern Russia

London’s Pushkin House is hosting a retrospective of Russian director Marina Goldovskaya’s documentaries under the heading ‘Russia since Perestroika'. Masha Karp reflects on Goldovskaya’s distinctive art and the issues raised in her films.

India is ready for change, but censorship, taxation and corruption plagued the Art Fair

Mixed news from the fine art scene in India. The fourth annual Indian Art Fair was hailed as a great success, but censorship issues can restrain artists and curators in subtle ways — logistically as well as creatively

Migrations:reconstructing 'Britishness' in art

The Tate Britain exhibition, ‘Migrations: Journeys into British Art’ highlights migrants’ central role in the development of British art, as well as exploring tensions that arise from such mobility. Our cultural heritage owes much to the circulation of ideas and people, argues Jenny Allsopp

Theo Angelopoulos: "I am standing by you"

The award winning Greek film director, Theo Angelopoulos, died yesterday in an accident whilst working on his new film The Other Sea. He spoke to Jane Gabriel in 2009 about his film 'The Dust of Time', and in 1993 about his films 'The Suspended Step of the Stork' and 'The Travelling Players'

The Magnitsky affair: let theatre judge

A British theatre company has brought a play about final hours of Sergei Magnitsky’s life to the London stage. Irina Shumovich reviews “One hour eighteen minutes”.

His Teeth

Only Connect is a London-based theatre company of actors made up of former prisoners and young people at risk of crime. His Teeth is their new production based on the story of fugitive Ralph Ojotu.

People's gala at the Bolshoi

The lengthy and vastly expensive restoration of Moscow’s famous Bolshoi Theatre comes to fruition on 28 October, when there will be an invitation-only gala performance in the presence of President Medvedev. Costs have soared, end dates have been extended and accusations of inefficiency (and corruption) have been rife. The theatre may be opening its doors again, but can it ever be a theatre for all, as it was in Soviet times? Clementine Cecil looks at some of the facts.

Coats and turncoats: translating Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter

Translating Alexander Pushkin’s novel The Captain’s Daughter launched Robert Chandler on a journey of revelations into this ‘most subtly constructed of all nineteenth-century Russian novels’. The story leads Chandler to reflect on the fate of translators: as mediators between two cultures, maybe they will always be suspected of being turncoats against their own

Liberating Pushkin

Russia’s greatest poet Alexander Pushkin is notoriously hard for non-Russian speakers to appreciate. So Susan Richards welcomes a concise new biography of the poet by his translator Robert Chandler which strips the varnish off

Poetry in pictures: a film about Joseph Brodsky

Andrei Khrzhanovskii’s recent Russian film about the poet Joseph Brodsky evokes elements of his childhood, internal exile and emigration with history and stunning footage of St Petersburg. But above all, it is an homage, a cinematic celebration of his poetry

Voznesensky: elegy for a fashionable poet

The poet Andrei Voznesensky died on 1 June. One of the former “big 4” Soviet poets, he managed to hang on to his cult status until the 1990s as that of the outspoken Joseph Brodsky rose ever higher. The poet Elena Fanailova reviews his position in the pantheon of Soviet writers and assesses his contribution to Soviet and Russian poetry.

Hybridity, not District 10

What should we do with the aliens around us? Do they threaten and contaminate us? The intruders unite us, but only by terrifying us. Can globalisation assert itself positively without re-inventing and segregating its enemies? Tom Nairn finds these questions and more in the soon to be classic SciFi film, District 9

‘Unveiled’ Exhibit: Illuminating Inequality and Violence in the Middle East

Kader Attia's installation ‘Ghosts' has dominated the media's coverage of the Saatchi Gallery's latest exhibit Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East. It is indeed a striking piece, showing 224 Muslim women crafted entirely from tinfoil crouching in prayer. The figures are hollow and vulnerable, yet their metallic shimmer lights up the room. The haunting quality of ‘Ghosts' permeates the rest of the exhibit, whose artists have used their work to express the trauma of war and the indignity of discrimination.

 

The theme of gender inequality pre-dominated the work of male and female artists alike. For instance, Ahmad Morshedloo's depiction of a woman at rest is an almost voyeuristic study of a moment of intimacy and solitude.  At first glance, the piece is cold, rigid, and almost morgue like; yet the subject's stiffly rendered figure contrasts with the movement in her mass of hair that dominates the canvas. The painting subtly illustrates the long-standing constraints on Middle Eastern women in the private sphere, but also comments on the way in which tradition and custom bequeath power to women. Hair, for example, has historically in the Middle East been considered a potent source of female sexuality and sway over men.

 

A similar ambiguity is evident in Shadi Ghadirian's compelling photographs of fully concealed women in the traditional Iranian chador, whose faces have been replaced by generic kitchen utensils. The 183 x 183 prints engulf the room with the anonymity of the shrouded, faceless figures. A current of violence and resentment underwrites some of the photographs, as steely cleavers, irons and cheese graters glint ominously in front of the muted, flowery chadors. Yet there is also a comedic and tender element to the pieces; Ghadirian manages to instill a sense of individuality into each of her anonymous subjects, with each utensil portrays a different facet of womanhood in all its complexity.

Equally powerful were the works Iraqi artist Halim al-Karim. Al-Karim's photography is informed by his personal experience with war; he evaded compulsory military service under Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War by hiding for three years in a hole covered by rocks. His distorted, monochromatic print entitled ‘Hidden Prisoner' depicts harrowed, grotesque faces and evinces the monstrous nature of authoritarianism. The subjects' almost indistinguishable mouths contrast starkly with their eyes -  wide with terror - forcefully conveying the political oppression of Saddam's regime.  

In a recent review, the Financial Times panned the ‘Unveiled' exhibit as providing young artists who "have barely progressed beyond sixth-form competence" with  "too much exposure, too soon". On top of their youth, their artists are accused of portraying their cultural identity in a "transposed and diluted" fashion and of re-ifying the West's misguided perceptions of ‘the other'.

But the selection of young artists based both in the Middle East and abroad is an opportunity to highlight the way that a new generation is experiencing and interpreting national identity, exile, and immigration in a transnational era. It is also a valuable expose of the creativity and imagination produced under, and by, the conditions of censorship in many Middle Eastern countries.

‘Unveiled' is a sincere, critical, and unpretentious examination of the political, social, and cultural struggles that are unfolding in the region. It is also refreshing in the nuance and complexity that it brings to issues like gender inequality, the subject of much clumsy stereotyping in the West. The women depicted by Morshedloo and Ghadirian are not merely victims of their environment. They are active re-arrangers of their culture, defying clichés and demanding attention. Like Kader Attia's ‘Ghosts' these pieces portray an honest vulnerability; but it is outshined by a sense of strength and resolve.

The "poetic documentary" of meat

A new exhibition of contemporary photography reveals the depths of the seemingly mundane in modern India

Carl Orff, beyond Nazi music

From lust to schoolwork, puppet-shows and Monteverdi, Tony Palmer's new film tells of a complicated, compromised legacy.

From Russia: the art of engagement

Writer and critic Lesley Chamberlain reflects on the politics and patriotism that lie behind a new exhibition at the Royal Academy in London celebrating the art of Russian art collecting past and present.

Calle Santa Fé: between Chile and freedom

The homecoming of a Chilean militant exiled in the Pinochet years is the beginning of a new journey. Carmen Castillo's journey holds wider lessons, says Patrice de Beer.

William Blake: a visionary for our time

A great English artist born 250 years ago fused social empathy and moral imagination to produce work that lives in and moves people today, says Christopher Rowland.

Doris Lessing: the Sufi connection

The Nobel literature laureate is a seeker and educator in mysticism who uses Sufi ideas to enlarge her and her characters' humanity, says Müge Galin.

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