Category Archives: art

Interview with Iranian Poet Farideh Hassanzadeh

Farideh Hassanzadeh (Mostafavi) is an Iranian poet, translator, and freelance journalist. Her first book of poetry was published when she was 22 years old. Her poems appear in the anthologies Contemporary Women Poets of Iran and Anthology of Best Women Poets. She writes regularly for Golestaneh, Iran News, and many other literary magazines and newspapers. Her poems translated into English appear in Kritya, Jehat, interpoetry, museindia, earthfamilyalpha, and Thanalonline. Her anthology of contemporary American poetry will appear in 2007. Read the entire interview.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott Heron

The revolution will no be televised
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

(watch the video).

art must indict

“My deep feeling is that today art must indict, or at the very least, play the role of the jester who unmasks the unspeakable lies of the powerful. Americans have been deceived and victimized by our government’s propaganda, and if art cannot rebuff and contest this grave situation by fueling the political will and imagination of resistance, I wonder why we need it at all.”
Joseph Nechvatal

“awaiting for men” and much more

katy lena ndiaye’s “awaiting for men” is set in the beautiful red-walled city of oualata, in southeastern mauritania. the film is based on a series of intimate interviews with three women who speak with candor about their relationships with men. the cinematography is rich with the bold colors, patterns and textures of northwest africa. the pace of the film is unhurried, almost languorous. there is a stillness to the film. it has an uncluttered, poetic quality.

oualata was one of the four ksours (arabic for village) erected between the 11th and 12th centuries in what is now mauritania. these settlements were built around a mosque, mostly a simple unadorned prayer hall comprising a madrassa or islamic school, with the houses radiating outwards from this center and getting progressively bigger. the entire ksour was contained within a single continuous wall and many of the village’s amenities were shared – there were common storehouses, ovens, baths, shops, etc. the four kasours were immensely prosperous until the 16th-17th centuries. not only were they trade posts for caravans traveling across the sahara but they also became renowned centers of islamic thought and culture, attracting a multitude of foreign students. it is said that some mauritanian libraries and schools have managed to preserve over 40,000 extremely rare, priceless islamic manuscripts. however, with the gradual desiccation of the sahara much of the farmland that was fertile enough to feed local inhabitants has now become buried in sand.

a faltering economy is apparent in the film, as most oualata men seem to be employed elsewhere. it’s the women who inhabit the kasour for the most part. they take care of the cattle, run their shops, deliver babies, gossip while sipping mint tea, and wait (sometimes for months) for their men to return.

the women who are interviewed speak directly to the camera. they are frank, self-assured, articulate. they are also quite different from one another, a fact that belies western perceptions of other societies (especially muslim ones) as being homogenized, where the individual is largely overshadowed by the collective. many of them have had multiple marriages.

one woman, who exudes sheer power on screen, explains how she can only live with a man as long as she loves him. once she falls out of love, she divorces him. if he annoys her, she has no qualms about beating him. this woman is all business. she frequently challenges the director, the woman behind the camera, with a certain brazenness that’s rarely seen in interview subjects, irrespective of race, religion, ethinicity or gender. this woman is single right now, after going through 5 marriages. she supports herself by painting tarkhas (beautiful murals involving endlessly repeating designs that are painted exclusively by women on the exterior and interior walls of houses in order to highlight doors, windows and alcoves). she also makes money by using henna to draw the same arabesques on the hands and feet of women, and by playing conga drums.

another woman introduces herself by confessing that she is not the prettiest woman around but she likes to talk and men enjoy that. she is lively, down to earth and happy to share her innermost thoughts and feelings. she works as a midwife and runs her own clinic. she is madly in love with her fourth husband and isn’t shy about expressing her physical attraction to him. “a handsome man around here” she explains, “is a man who is generous and tall and can please his woman.”

the third woman is the most reserved. she owns a shop and dreams of one day owning an entire market. she is demure and when prodded too much about her sex life, she turns away, saying “that’s enough, you tire me.” she struck me as being better off than the other two. for her, painting tarkhas is a hobby, not a source of income.

i moderated a discussion after the film. it was most interesting. some in the audience were frustrated by the lack of information, the focus on three women only, the conversations about men and women to the detriment of the women’s interactions with their children, families, communities. some thought the film was a bit too slow, every shot even though beautiful was held for a bit too long. someone thought the women were “sad” because one of them posits that girls don’t need to be educated and another confides how she staged a fall in order to abort an unwanted pregnancy.

others enjoyed the film’s lyricism. they compared it to a piece of music. i agree. as with poetry, everything does not need to be explained away. sometimes a film, even a documentary, can simply create a mood, a feeling, a thought without having to formulate a formal beginning or end. that’s certainly true of french cinema – much of it is open-ended, something that american audiences find frustrating. i like to fill in the blanks and make the film my own. viewing becomes more participative, more active.

i certainly didn’t find the women “sad”. it’s unfortunate that we apply a rigid western or maybe even “christian missionary” filter to how we view other cultures. we have such confidence in our achievements as a society that our instinctive, gut level reaction is one of condescension towards what is different. it’s like this discussion i took part in on facebook, where someone asked if “third world” was an offensive term. many agreed that it was a judgmental term. to me it almost sounds like “third rate”. someone exclaimed: why not just call them poor countries? my answer was: poor in terms of what, really? over-consumption? obesity? materialism? capitalistic greed? production of waste? many third world countries r much richer in how families and communities function. their relationship to the environment is far less toxic. if first world countries stopped exploiting and interfering in third world countries, the gap between them would lessen over time. we seem to transpose our template for what we see as “civilization” onto other cultures without trying to develop an understanding of their circumstances – climate, geography, history, economy, ethnography.

to me the women seemed quite independent, both financially and emotionally. they were used to living on their own. they were well-adjusted, content, confident in who they were. education does not mean the same thing to them as it does to us. i don’t think that the men were much more educated. education refers mostly to studying the quran and hadith. mauritanians are a mixtures of original african agriculturalists, nomadic north african berber tribes and yemeni arabs who conquered the region in the 11th century. in berber society women have a preeminent role, as mothers of the clan. they r the ones who are educated in the histories of their ancestral tribes and they pass on that oral tradition from one generation to another. some of that matriarchal culture is reflected in the attitudes of the three women. the ease with which they divorce men is probably made easier by islam, which gave women the right to divorce in the 7th century.

as far as abortion, with all our western civilization and its legal protections for women, isn’t it sad that a doctor who performed late term abortions was recently shot in the united states? harassment, death threats, murder and terrorism are used to stop women from having abortions. we have a long way to go before we can criticize mauritanian culture.

the slow rhythm of the film with its abundance of still shots, seemed to be informed by photography. i was happy to learn from an interview with katy nadiaye that the film was in fact inspired by a book of photographs called “africa paintings”.

henna design
tarkhas

more on “beautiful occupation”

12 Memories from Travis proved to be one of the favourite album releases this year amongst reviewers.

The Sunday Times hailed it as “bloody brilliant…A Triumph.” Time Out boasted it as being “sonically eloquent and emotionally resonant…there’s much here to admire.”

And now, the second track is due for release.

“Don’t just stand there watching it happening / I can’t stand it / Don’t feel it….” The Beautiful Occupation.

Every period of social upheaval gives birth to songs of discontent. Some songs are crafted specifically as rallying cries to garner support for a cause or to broadcast a grievance. Travis’s new single, The Beautiful Occupation, is just such a song.

Written by Fran Healy as war with Iraq was becoming a real possibility and the crisis in the Middle East was escalating, The Beautiful Occupation addresses Fran’s frustrations and concerns with the turbulent times in which we’re living. As he recalls. “September 11 was the start of something. I can see how fragile the world is”.

Effectively a peace anthem for modern times, an acoustic version of the song originally appeared on Warchild’s Hope album earlier this year prior to being included on the band’s new album, 12 Memories, released in October.

The last year has been a period of reflection for Travis, as evident from the songs on 12 Memories their most poignant and effecting work to date. The enforced break following Neil Primrose’s accident gave Travis both an opportunity to re-group and to reflect on the times in which we live. The resulting songs explore lyrically darker themes, a reaction to today’s unstable social and political climate.
(from contactmusic.com)

LYRICS

Don’t just stand there watching it happening
I can’t stand it
Don’t feel it
Something’s telling me
Don’t wanna go out this way
But have a nice day

Then read it in the headlines
Watch it on the TV
Put it in the background
Stick it in the back
Stick it in the back

For the beautiful occupation
The beautiful occupation
You don’t need an invitation
To drop in upon a nation

I’m too cynical
I’m just sitting here
I’m just wasting my time
Half a million civillians gonna die today
But look the wrong way

Then read it in the headlines
Watch it on the TV
Put it in the background
Stick it in the back
Stick it in the back

For the beautiful occupation
The beautiful occupation
You don’t need an invitation
To drop in upon a nation

Don’t just stand there watching it happening
I can’t stand it
Don’t feel it
Something telling me
Don’t wanna go out this way
But have a nice day

Then read it in the headlines
Watch it on the TV
Put it in the background
Stick in the back
Stick in the back

For the beautiful occupation
The beautiful occupation
Don’t need an invitation
To drop in upon a nation

The beautiful occupation
The beautiful occupation
So much for an intervention
Don’t call the united nations

travis

“Beautiful occupation” by Travis

“I’m too cynical
I’m just sitting here
I’m just wasting my time
Half a million civillians gonna die today
But look the wrong way

Then read it in the headlines
Watch it on the TV
Put it in the background
Stick it in the back
Stick it in the back

For the beautiful occupation
The beautiful occupation
You don’t need an invitation
To drop in upon a nation…”

“The Man-Moth” by Elizabeth Bishop

Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

Elizabeth Bishop

“Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.

Translated by Robert Bly

Wangechi Mutu’s Backlash Blues

Backlash Blues: Painted on mylar, Wangechi Mutu’s Backlash Blues conveys an otherworldly quality: the paint and ink suspends on the plasticy vellum-like surface with an unnatural luminosity. Using a variety of techniques from airbrush to stencilling, controlled spills, and detailed brushwork, Mutu’s image poses as a composite of gesture; collaged photographic elements merge seamlessly into the painterly aesthetic.

Wangechi Mutu’s Backlash Blues

“Don’t Ask Me for That Love Again” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

About Faiz Ahmed Faiz (by Simon Korner)

Just as the poetry of Pablo Neruda is massively popular with ordinary Chileans – who regard him as their national poet – so Faiz Ahmed Faiz is loved by millions of Pakistanis, who know his poems by heart. His funeral in 1984 was a day of mourning for the whole country. Many Faiz poems have been set to music and are still widely sung.

Faiz, a Communist like Neruda, was born in British India in 1911, the son of a lawyer. He joined the newly formed Progressive Writers’ Movement in the 1930s, served in the Indian Army during the Second World War and became a Lieutenant Colonel. After Partition he moved to Pakistan, where he became editor of the Pakistan Times, an English-language daily. He also worked as managing editor of the Urdu daily Imroz, and was actively involved in organising trade unions.

In 1951 Faiz was accused of plotting a coup with a group of Pakistani army officers and, after four years on death row, was released in 1955 after worldwide pressure from such stars as Paul Robeson. In 1962 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. He went into exile in Moscow, London and Beirut, eventually returning to Pakistan.

Much of his poetry follows the conventions of ghazal, the classical form of traditional Urdu poetry, which has been influenced by Persian literature. But Faiz’s work revolutionises the conventions, extending the meanings of many traditional terms. For instance, Faiz often addresses poems to his “beloved”, a central word in the ghazal vocabulary. In his hands, it refers to both a person and also to the people as a whole, even to revolution. He sees the individual as existing within a wider context: “The self of a human being, despite all its loves, troubles, joys and pains, is a tiny, limited and humble thing.”

His most famous poem Don’t Ask Me for That Love Again, which is not in the strict ghazal form, explains why he can no longer cocoon himself inside romantic love.

DON’T ASK ME FOR THAT LOVE AGAIN

That which then was ours, my love,

don’t ask me for that love again.

The world then was gold, burnished with light –

and only because of you. That’s what I had believed.

How could one weep for sorrows other than yours?

How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave?

So what were these protests, these rumours of injustice?

A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime.

The sky, whenever I looked, was nothing but your eyes.

If you’d fall into my arms, Fate would be helpless.

All this I’d thought, all this I’d believed.

But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love.

The rich had cast their spell on history:

dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks.

Bitter threads began to unravel before me

as I went into alleys and in open markets

saw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood.

I saw them sold and bought, again and again.

This too deserves attention. I can’t help but look back

when I return from those alleys – what should one do?

And you are still so ravishing – what should I do?

There are other sorrows in this world,

comforts other than love.

Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again.

(Translated from Urdu by Agha Shahid Ali)

Faiz Ahmed Faiz