Caledoniyya

Alternative tales from the Arab Spring

Each city has a spot that strikes, inspiring adoration and awe.

It could be a cafe, bookshop or gallery; in the case of Den Haag, it’s Humanity House (and in the former categories: BLOEM and The ABC Bookshop).

Researching refugee studies usually means going to the field and hearing the stories of those fleeing conflict first hand, experiences that have lead to a hardening when visiting museums or galleries that ‘provide the experience of being a refugee’.

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In reality, the tragedy is devastating to the point that any attempt to replicate would – and often is – futile.

But in the the small space afforded, HH provided an experience that came as close to the awfulness as would be possible from afar.

In addition to the museum, HH holds regular exhibitions – this month focusing on the Arab Spring.

But in true HH fashion, the approach is unique: Stories of Change: Beyond the ‘Arab Spring’ features exhibits by photographers from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Egypt that transcend the revolutions to look at the daily challenges faced by a range of individuals.

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The photographs and shorts address sexual harassment in Egypt (‘Just Stop’ by Eman Helal), drug use in Tunisia (‘Zatla Blues’ by Selim Harbi) and Syrian refugees in Cairo (‘Unwanted, Syrian Refugees in Cairo’ by Virginie Nguyen Hoang).

Zied Ben Romdhane (Tunisia) re-focused on the individual, through the accounts of young people with the condition Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), which affects the skin-cells ability to repair damage done by UV light.

While cases of XP in babies worldwide is one in 300,000, in Tunisia the incidence is one in 10,000, while children with XP are 4,000 times more likely to develop skin cancer.

Children of the Moon, by Zied Ben Romdhane

Khyari (10) looks down the hall to check that the front door of the house is closed, so as not to be exposed to sunlight. © 2014 Zied Ben Romdhane — Children of the Moon

Children of the Moon‘ captures the nocturnal activities of the kids, who run under its soft light, while by day attending school and meeting friends after a rigorous process of sunlight avoidance, including gloves and masks.

From Tunisia to Algeria, Arslane Bestaoui‘s beautiful exhibit, ‘The Man of the House,’ followed the female residents of Sidi El Houari, in Oran’s former colonial quarter.

Fouzia, Houaria and Nassira are seen balancing work, family life and the struggles of being the sole source of income.

The backdrop is luscious, the composition exquisite, but the stories behind the images stay with you even longer.

A neighbor drops in to visit Fouzia. Sidi El Houari has a close-knit and caring community. © 2014 Arslane Bestaoui — 'The Man of the House'

A neighbor drops in to visit Fouzia. Sidi El Houari has a close-knit and caring community. © 2014 Arslane Bestaoui — ‘The Man of the House’

Hard though it is to not cover every artist, a few words must be reserved for Ahmed Hayman‘s ‘Seeing Without Looking‘, which visits Heba and Somaia, of the Banat Al Noor association, in Alexandria.

Somaia’s mother, who raised her daughter to be independent, says: “I can see, but I can’t read or write. My daughter is considered blind, but she reads and writes in three languages; she uses the computer and the mobile phone. I’m the blind person, she can see with knowledge.” © 2014 Ahmed Hayman — Seeing Without Looking

Somaia’s mother, who raised her daughter to be independent, says: “I can see, but I can’t read or write. My daughter is considered blind, but she reads and writes in three languages; she uses the computer and the mobile phone. I’m the blind person, she can see with knowledge.” © 2014 Ahmed Hayman — Seeing Without Looking

The challenges facing the those with disabilities persists at all levels of society, despite hopes that the revolution would bring about social change:

Still they found themselves discriminated against by society, frequently denied entrance into universities, or turned away from jobs. On a wider front, women in Egypt, especially in rural areas, continued to face problems ranging from violence and harassment, to inequality in the workplace. [source]

Despite the restrictions, Somaia is studying Spanish in the School of Languages at Ain Shams University, while Heba works in the Alexandria library, while raising her six-year-old daughter.

The theme of single motherhood continues with ‘My Taboo Child‘ by Zara Samiry, which visits a community of single mothers in Casablanca adjusting to life alone with their children.

Balancing motherhood, education and work, the women are seen at rest and the children at play, while the taboos and stigma continue to weigh on the mother’s lives.

The son of Barbie, hiding from my camera, in the room they occupy with his mother and another single mother in Casablanca. © Zara Samiry

The son of Barbie, hiding from my camera, in the room they occupy with his mother and another single mother in Casablanca. © Zara Samiry

The exhibition runs from 20 February 2015 to 31 May 2015; to see more of the exhibition from afar, visit here.

For more on Humanity House and their future activities, visit their site, here.

One comment on “Alternative tales from the Arab Spring

  1. Haitham Al-Sheeshany
    February 28, 2015

    “The son of Barbie, hiding from my camera, in the room they occupy with his mother and another single mother” 😦 😦

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2015 by in North Africa, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

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