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أسقنيها

Isqineeha إسقنيها is an Arts blog featuring art from the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia), by artists in both the Diaspora and in our Homelands. Politics, History, and Culture of the Middle East, particularly of Iraq, is also featured frequently and constitutes an integral aspect of this blog and its relation to the art being presented. In addition, this platform works as a personal space. Thus, reflections on Gender, Sexuality, and Diaspora will often be presented. Header background is by Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum.

The Legacy of Jean-Paul Sartre, European Intellectuals and Zionism

An old but very important article by Joseph Massad from 2003,

باختصار, ماگو أي أحد من المرشحين\ات للأنتخابات العراقية مؤهل\ة لأن ت\يقود العراق سياسيا. و أحد\ة اتعس من اللاخ من التحالف الديمقراطي الى الجرثومة الموجودة حاليا من دولة “القانون” .. و بالنسبة للتحالف الديمقراطي, الي هو عبارة عن چم حالم\ة و الكل متفائل بي, اسمعوا خطاباتهم و أفكارهم و الشخصيات الموجودة و لاحظوا شلون متفرق عن الموجودين حاليا, فقط مسميات و لغة أخرى … يعنى حتى اذا لا سمح الله اقتنعت اشارك “بالانتخابات” فصوتي أو صوتك\چ محغير شي لانهم كلهم نفس العقليات السطحية و التبعية سواء كأدييولوجي او كتطبيق سياسي 

isqineeha:

"Nostalgia" Video Stills (2004) - Indian Artist MONALI MEHER

One of Monali’s early work is this video performance completed in Amsterdam in 2004. The short video shows one of Monali’s feet being massaged by another woman, while a relaxing psychedelic music is playing in the background and blurring the sounds that are being generated by the massage process. The title of this video suggests that the process being depicted in the performance is forming a form of safe relationship between the masseur and the artist that is reigniting certain memories, places, times, or experiences that contributed to the formation of a nostalgic experience through an event that usually relaxes the memory and the body rather than occupying them, suggesting that relaxation here is achieved by being nostalgic to certain memories rather than absolute void as one would expect. 

Watch the Video Here

isqineeha:

Second Departure (2006) - Indian Artist MONALI MEHER

Using scattered objects in the vicinity of an abandoned prison in Sinop, Turkey, Monali Meher creates a transforming experience encompassed by three departures, each lasting for 3 hours. In this second departure performance, Monali carefully places plants on the top of a bunk bed, and adds salt and coal to the bottom bed. She then lays her head on the salt (pillow) and her feet on the coal, and rests with no movement for 3 hours. This deep process is a form of a “cleansing ritual”, where positive energy is being taken in by the body and all the negative (waste) that she has accumulated over her life is being unloaded. Monali wrote about this experience:
at the same time near to death experience which I experienced intensely even though I was lying down. The weather became all of a sudden rough, strong wind started blowing and my body felt stiff in that position for 3 hrs long. There were moments I felt that I was sleeping or dreaming even though I was not or maybe I was.

isqineeha:

With or Without Emotional Hang-Ups (2005)

Indian Artist MONALI MEHER

This 2 hour web-video performance beautifully and profoundly depicts a comparison between attachment versus non-attachment, and avoidance of certain romantic emotions and relationships that we often develop. How do we adapt to their existence? How do we readjust to the normal state (lonesome?) when they disappear? How do they contribute to our daily life routine? It doesn’t necessarily provide an answer for these questions, but it shares certain manners in which we might express them.

isqineeha:

Non-Repeating Loop (2000) - Indian Artist MONALI MEHER

"Non-Repeating Loop" was 3 hrs.long performance to give a feeling of loop or continuation of body movement in the space which obviously was not a repetition in the same way because of the human body involved in it. There were certain specific movements of my body, which were creating drawings in the space.

I worked in this space for 15 days. There were 1000 roses, which were drying for all these while and left the space with the organic smell of it. I arranged them as a bunch in one of the corners of the room and some of them were hanging on the sofa and also the sofa was suspending in the middle of the room and below the sofa was a plaster of paris mould of my body which I could not open.The negative and the positive moulds were stuck together.There was a natural light in the space which was changing and also a tubelight in a diagnolly opposite corner of the bunch.The leaves from the roses were scattered with white plaster of paris powder on all over the floor.

As I was moving in the space and making drawings with my body, I became a part of the space as I had a layer of leaves on my body. Also the action of hammering the mould was like opening myself up. So I was having a kind of dialogue with all these objects in the space. I was also using my voice in a specific way, without any words but a kind of sign language (Voice) the space had an acoustic. - Monali Meher

Watch an excerpt of the performance here

isqineeha:

But I Was Never a Bride (2004) - Indian Artist MONALI MEHER

Constituting part of a ritualistic performance piece, Monali Meher covered her body with Henna (Mehndi) in styles that are often applied to a bride’s hand and feet. In this performance, Monali seeks to experience and share the elaborate rituals that accompany marriage and its relation to the woman’s body. Monali writes:

While struggling to get adjusted to the new surrounding which has been created and at the same time coming to a realization of the changing identity, specially in these short visits to my origins, encourages me to open myself up and use my body and spirit to communicate the personal memories of longing and belonging, while simultaneously commenting on female stereotyping within Indian society.

I use Mehendi (Henna) in an unconventional and individual ritualistic way to celebrate the body and its surrounding space as a reference to the marriage and its ceremonial aspect to bridge the past and present. 

Featured Artist: Indian MONALI MEHER

isqineeha:

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Monali Meher is an Indian multidisciplinary artist who was born in Pune, India in 1969, and currently works and lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She holds a BFA in painting from Bombay’s Sir J.J. School of Arts, which she completed in 1990. Monali participated in several solo and group exhibitions across the world, particularly in India and the Netherlands, with her first solo exhibition occurring in 1993 in Ahmedabad. In 1998, the UNESCO-ASCHBERG awarded Meher with an International Residency in Vienna, where she focused on issues relating to the evolvement of an individual through space and time. 

Like many artists of the diaspora, Monali’s work tackles issues that shape the individual personalities of migrants in their new environments but also within their homes, this is where the influence of time and space becomes evident. She tackles the relationship between an individual and the cultures surrounding them, and seeks to understand how within a specific environment such factors influence the transformation of the individuals identity. Throughout each performance or installation, different materials are used and different circumstances are depicted depending on the location and time of the theme being introduced, and Monali seeks to understand the relationship between those materials and the individual:

I am interested in transforming the identity of the materials. How two different materials react to each other, what sort of shape they create, what kind of smell they produce and what impression they make on the viewer. This aspect is strongly use as a metamorphosis to my own identity as Diaspora.

Monali Meher’s performances focuses extensively on her physical presence as the main instrument in which she can explore several themes and deliver them to the viewer in a very expressive manner. She tries to engage the viewers with the ritualistic processes of her performances, which is something she emphasizes heavily, allowing them to fully immerse in the ideas and emotions being shared. 

A survey of ancient and modern amulets throughout the world surprisingly concludes that the image of the open right hand was a universally recognized and employed sign of protection from the early Mesopotamia amulets to the Qat Istar and the Qat Inana, the Mano Pantea, and the right hand of the Buddha in the mudra (gesture) of teaching or proaction, and the Hand of Fatima. The common and universal human experience of the emotions of jealousy and envy, of the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, to the dependency upon the fertility of crops and herds undergird the reality behind the amulet of the open right hand. Throughout al of those cultures and religious traditions in which we find the open right, particularly as identified with a female personality of great energy and status, was the commonality for its use as protection in the “female” experiences of conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation as well as within the boundaries of the domestic sphere, such as the nurture and care of children, the preparation of food, and so on. Beyond the varied species of stone or metal used to fabricate the amulet, there are functional differences in the use of the proactive open right hand.

The Qat Istar, also known as the Qat Inana, or Hand of Isthar/Inana, had no textual or scriptural basis among the Akkadians, Sumerians, and Mesopotamians who used it; nevertheless, it had specific meaning as the controller or seizer of diseases(s). Ironically, modern scholarship not only suggests the lack of textual basis for this amulet but also recognizes that the disease(s) from which the wearer of the Qat Istar (or Inana) was protected was classified as psychological of psychosomatic in nature.

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona on the Mesopotamian origins of the Hand of Fatima amulet. Published in Beyond The Exotic: Women’s Histories in Islamic Societies by Amira El Azhary Sonbol 
isqineeha:

Women of the Iraqi Peoples Resistance in Baghdad - 1959

A bit of background information regarding this photo I posted earlier since it seems to have been lightly circulating around tumblr these past few days: As far as I know, the People’s Resistance Force was an armed movement constituted mainly of Iraqi communists who were given a pardon/support after Abdul Karem Qassem took power in 1958. In that same year, Qassem attached the organization to the Ministry of Defence in order to have better control over their movements, and volunteers who wanted to enrol in it were accepted even if they weren’t part of the Iraqi Communist Party. With that being said, the movement’s relationships (and communists in general) with Qassem deteriorated in 1959 for several reasons, and many members were arrested from 1959 and onwards, which is why I doubt the photo here is from 1959 (could be from 1958 after the official governmental acknowledgment). 

isqineeha:

Women of the Iraqi Peoples Resistance in Baghdad - 1959

A bit of background information regarding this photo I posted earlier since it seems to have been lightly circulating around tumblr these past few days: As far as I know, the People’s Resistance Force was an armed movement constituted mainly of Iraqi communists who were given a pardon/support after Abdul Karem Qassem took power in 1958. In that same year, Qassem attached the organization to the Ministry of Defence in order to have better control over their movements, and volunteers who wanted to enrol in it were accepted even if they weren’t part of the Iraqi Communist Party. With that being said, the movement’s relationships (and communists in general) with Qassem deteriorated in 1959 for several reasons, and many members were arrested from 1959 and onwards, which is why I doubt the photo here is from 1959 (could be from 1958 after the official governmental acknowledgment). 

Eagle Gamal
Eagle Gamal
Falcon Anwar
Eagle Hosny

isqineeha:

Eagle Gamal, Falcon Anwar, and Eagle Hosny (2012)

Egyptian Artist MOATAZ NASR

A series of neon sculptures depicting the different Coat of Arms used during the presidencies of Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Al Sadat, and Hosny Mubarak.

Father and Son (2004) - Egyptian Artist MOATAZ NASR

Since I was unable to find the short video online and thus cannot comment appropriately on it, I will leave you with the description provided from Darat al Funun. Before that however, it can be noted from stills provided here that the video performance also engages in a conversation about masculinity, not as understood within the larger society but as adopted by and exhibited within Nasr’s nuclear family. Upon reading the father’s response however, the viewers will/might eventually relate this to themselves or to their larger social context due to the familiarities that stem from his comments, not only in relation to masculinity within the family but to the relationship between a father and his son. 

Darat al Funun:

Father and Son began as a simple documentation of a dialogue between the artist and his father. With the need to resolve familial conflicts in a patriarchal society, Nasr was more attached to his mother than his father. He addresses her primarily as the loving care-giver, housewife, and finally as the woman deprived from marital affection. 

After his mother’s death Nasr felt an obligation to put her soul and his mind at rest by confronting his father on the faults of their relationship, be that between a man and his wife or a father and his son. During one of Nasr’s visits to his father’s home in Cairo he set-up a video-camera to record their conversation as they delved into sensitive subjects regarding his father’s relationship with his mother and his relationships with other women.

During the making of this video Nasr used two camera’s that would finally accommodate the presentation of this piece to an audience.

In this work Nasr searched for reconciliation with a father who he had grown apart and disconnected from. The work surprisingly shows his father’s honesty and steadfastness in answering these sensitive questions creating a bridge of understanding and a potential degree of closure for the artist, which we as an audience can perhaps learn and reflect on in our own experiences.