October - December 2013 M A G A Z I N E
THE BEAUTY OF CALLIGRAPHY Hassan Massoudy
THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF PAINTING Jaber Alwan
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A MEDITATIVE JOURNEY Amer Sweidan
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE THROUGH MUSIC Emad Alaeddin
SCENT OF ART
October - December 2013 M A G A Z I N E
THE BEAUTY OF CALLIGRAPHY THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF PAINTING Jaber Alwan
PHOTOGRAPHY AS A MEDITATIVE JOURNEY Amer Sweidan
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE THROUGH MUSIC Emad Alaeddin
SCENT OF ART On the cover: "Fragance", Hassan Massoudy
Papers of Dialogue:
TABLE OF CONTENTS 03 Editorial Roberto Iadicicco
his time, the readers of Papers of Dialogue embark on a journey through art, by discovering some of the most fascinating Arab artists of our time.
Arts 04 The awareness of beauty Interview with Hassan Massoudy Kamilia Lahrichi
08 The universality of art Interview with Jaber Alwan Hassan al-Bakoush
no 4 October-December 2013
Editor in chief: Roberto Iadicicco
ROBERTO IADICICCO Editor in chief
12 Photography as a meditative journey Interview with Amer Sweidan Jalal Sabir
Editorial team coordinator: Daniel Atzori
Marketing & Communication: Laura Brunetti (Coordinator), Marina Ranieri
Photography: www.123rf.com (31, 33, 38) www.pictures.reuters.com (36) www.shutterstock.com (34)
Editing and production: AGI – Via Ostiense, 72 – 00154 Rome – Italy email@example.com
Consultancy: Global Services Incorporation Badaro Trade Center Building – Beirut – Lebanon firstname.lastname@example.org
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Translation services: Lotus Translation Services Roma Congressi
Publisher AGI SPA: Chairman: Massimo Mondazzi CEO: Gianni Di Giovanni General Director: Alessandro Pica AGI – Via Ostiense, 72 – 00154 Rome – Italy www.agi.it www.agi.it/english-home www.agiarab.com
18 Back to beauty Interview with Hossam Hassan Azzurra Meringolo
22 The walking forest Giulia Doninelli 26 On the shores of the sea of love Remembering Dalida Daniel Atzori
28 A celebration of life Interview with Emad Alaeddin Daniel Atzori
Dialogue 31 The Arab world in Italy Interview with Foad Aodi Daniel Atzori
34 The stability of the Middle East: a common interest of China and the United States Wang Jian 38 A museum for Jerusalem Andrea Avveduto
We start by interviewing Hassan Massoudy, called the “greatest living calligrapher” by French writer Michel Tournier. He is indeed a very interesting artist, who interprets this old and noble art with new and original inspirations. Then, we explore the art of Hassan Hossam, who has illustrated with his paintings a decisive moment in the recent history of his country, Egypt. We proceed with Amer Sweidan, for whom photography is like a meditative journey through human nature, and also across our planet; with him, we will travel and discover the beauty of Arab cities and landscapes. Furthermore, singer Emad Alaeddin, with his group The Final Wish, talks to us about his musical experience, which combines Western pop music with Arab inspirations. Then, we have an interview with Jaber Alwan, a man who has relentlessly pursued knowledge, inspiration and beauty through his paintings. Later on, we consider theatre, proposing an interesting reflection on the symbol of the walking forest, which we find in Shakespeare’s Macbeth as well as in the pre-Islamic oral legend of Zarqa al-Yamama; this seems to point to the existence of a collective imagination of mankind, which transcends space and time. Finally, in the 25th year since Dalida’s death, we remember a singer who is, at the same time, both European and Arab, and represents with her life and songs the dream of the Mediterranean of the future.
The theme of intercultural dialogue is further explored in the next section of our magazine. In this respect, we host an interview with Foad Aodi, president of the Arab World Communities in Italy (COMAI), who explains the importance of the citizens of Arab origin regularly residing in Italy in the socioeconomic and cultural life of the country, as well as in further strengthening bilateral relations with their countries of origin. Furthermore, we publish a short essay by distinguished scholar Professor Jian Wang, Director of the Centre for West Asia and North African Studies at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, who explores the common interests of China and the United States in the Middle East. Our section on dialogue is completed by an article on the Terra Sancta Museum, which is going to be built in Jerusalem, and which represents an interesting attempt at interreligious dialogue. We do hope you will enjoy this journey through art and culture, which is stimulating for both the mind and the eyes. Papers of Dialogue | 03
“Iraq is my passion and Baghdad is my core”, Ibn Al Hassan Mutrif, 14th century
Interview with Hassan Massoudy
The awareness of beauty Kamilia Lahrichi
In the Arab world, calligraphy has always been considered one of the noblest forms of art. Throughout the centuries, numerous new styles have emerged. All of them have kept on performing the true ‘function’ of any artistic endeavor: nurturing people’s awareness of beauty in life.
The images present in this article reproduce the works of the artist
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hat is calligraphy? And what has it got to offer us in the way of drawing, painting, street art and writing? Calligraphy is writing before being anything else; but the characters that are written are drawn in an artistic and expressive way and are different each
time. There are many styles in Arabic calligraphy, and the letters in each style are drawn in a specific way. Every calligrapher adds something of himself to the characters he draws. The Kufi style suggests gravity and stability, while the Diwani style suggests flight. When one phrase is written by more than one
calligrapher, using the same style, each version is different, since the spirit of the calligrapher comes through in the writing. Arabic script has numerous styles depending on whether it is used to produce books, to decorate walls, or to meet the needs of professionals, to say nothing of the innovations introduced to it by non-Arab peoples like the Iranians and the Turks. There are innovations related to geographic location, like the script used in al-Andalus and the western, Maghreb countries; there are the political scripts such as the one used for the Tughra, or Sultan’s signature, and there is the literary script like the one used for writing poetry. In the past, Turkish calligraphers produced large works that were several meters in size and were hung on walls. Calligraphy is often used in advertisements, in the cities. In the modern era, people use calligraphy to express themselves politically or artistically on street walls, often illegally. But some cities allow street art in deserted places where the walls need to be revived. It is impossible to list all the artistic benefits of calligraphy, but I can mention an important one and it concerns what
... Hassan Massoudy, an Iraqi calligrapher, was coined the “greatest living calligrapher” by French writer Michel Tournier. Inspired by ancient and modern proverbs, poets and philosophers, Hassan Massoudy bridges the gap between Western and Eastern cultures, tradition and modernity.
children are taught when they first learn to write. They are made aware of sound geometric rules: the proportions of the letters, which means that they have to remember the shape of each letter and can therefore develop their knowledge, on the basis of a rich artistic legacy. It is necessary to maintain a balance between one character and another and to be aware of the relationship between the usual shape of the letters and the abstract void surrounding them.
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There are many styles in Arabic calligraphy, and the letters in each style are drawn in a specific way. Every calligrapher adds something of himself to the characters he draws.
Images are forbidden on the walls of the city of Najaf, where you were born. How then did you begin to be interested in Arabic calligraphy? What did it inspire in you? And what sentiments did it arouse in you? Images were not encouraged, so they were replaced by Arabic calligraphy, which grew to match the architecture. Even though the houses in the city of Najaf were built of simple brick or mud and were surrounded by the dust-colored desert, the Grand Mosque and other landmarks such as the libraries, the cemeteries and the public baths, had walls that were always adorned with blue tiles and calligraphy. I used to walk the short distance from our home to the Grand Mosque, whose area is more than ten thousand square meters and which has minarets, a golden dome and blue walls like the waves of the sea. The walls were decorated with verdant branches and roses in a garden, representing paradise. But what used to catch my eye was the calligraphy that filled the space at the top
“If it is true that my origin is dust, then every country is mine and everyone is my kin”, Abu Al-Arab, the Sicilian, 11th century
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of the walls, even though I was a child and had not learnt to read. This abstract ambience spoke to my heart, and was the first joyful form to fill it. Over the years, I used to wonder why I was so moved by beautiful calligraphy. Can you describe your artwork and your calligraphy? In 1961, when I was seventeen, I travelled to Baghdad, capital of Iraq, and I started working as an assistant to a number of calligraphers. I learned how to write the different styles and all the relevant rules. Most of the calligraphy jobs involved writing advertisements, but inside of me, I felt the need to learn about the mystery of calligraphy, which roused a vibrant response in me and touched the core of my being. For eight years, I dreamed of studying art, but I could not do so at the Art Institute in Baghdad, at that time, for political reasons. In 1969, I had the chance to go to Paris to enroll in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and I was able to find a job that gave me just enough money to survive, as a student. I worked as a headline writer for an Algerian paper geared to expatriate workers. I spent five years studying art and art history, and practiced all the techniques that the school had to offer, finally obtaining a higher diploma. But once I had finished my art studies, I felt that calligraphy was insinuating itself into my art work. In 1980, calligraphy took the place of people in my paintings, and my work was filled with animated Arabic characters. At the beginning, it was not possible to use calligraphy in the way I had first learnt to use it. I spent years trying to shape the characters in a way that suited the new direction I was taking. One of the various trends I adopted was to produce a painting made up of letters that nevertheless suggested a desert scene. I used to write several lines of words, in horizontal fashion, suggesting land that extended to the horizon, and in the centre, I would write one word, standing tall in the open air, like a statue. The whole image reflected what I saw in my mind’s eye. Over the years, the idea became simpler, but each version was different from the previous one, from the point of view of the energy and movement involved. Each character was a reflection of the amount of strength I used at the very instant I was shaping each stroke. A word can be written so as to look solid and stable and it can be made to dance and to float and to undulate. Each color reflects a state or a season. I mix the colors
myself and I choose the appropriate paper or canvas. I always like to express beauty and optimism in my work. These days, we receive news from around the world at the speed of light. So I think we need art because it can perform a second function, that of nurturing people’s awareness of the beauty in life. When writing wise sayings and poetry, I used to choose positive phrases that encouraged meditation and reflection on exalted values and morals, in addition to providing aesthetic enjoyment through the calligraphy. But when I face difficult and harsh conditions, I find that I reflect the pain inside me in the way that I write. I have written phrases to go with stories and poetry and the calligraphy reflected the meaning of the words and enhanced the poetic and narrative atmosphere. More than twenty books have been published containing my calligraphic work in this field. What I want to explain is that calligraphy is an artistic medium which we can use as a cultural and educational tool, to develop people’s aesthetic awareness, for the good of humanity. How and why did you go beyond the traditional rules of Arabic calligraphy? Firstly, I felt that I could not use the old type of calligraphy that I had learnt in Paris. Secondly, I compared the various types of art in the world to calligraphy and I found that all art develops and changes. And Arabic calligraphy itself has changed in the past, in the course of each century. The exposure to the exchange of knowledge in Paris and my mixing with calligraphists from China and Japan, gave me the idea to speed up the writing without sacrificing its beauty. For thirty years, I worked with calligraphy on stage, with actors, musicians, singers and dancers. I used to write on a device that projected the calligraphy directly onto a big screen in front of the audience. That is how new calligraphy styles were born. But they stem from the old calligraphy. Can you describe one of your styles that has had a special effect on you, and why? In my forty years of working as an artist in Paris, I have produced many styles of writing. They all represent certain moments in my life and I cannot prefer one to the other. What do you want to express through calligraphy? I want to create a beautiful work of art that helps
“Happiness may at times forget you, but you must never forget it”, Jacques Prevert.
people who view it, on their journey through life. Art is a shortcut to people meeting each other. At a time when the Arab world is going through serious political changes, can calligraphy be affected by politics and what role can calligraphy play now? The Arab world’s problems stem from the way people forget the really beautiful things the ancients produced in this same region. That is why some people express themselves through racism, sectarianism and violence. As an art, calligraphy is linked to literature and it could contribute to building a humanistic, artistic culture in the future, on condition that it find its own artistic expression, without imitating political slogans, since every kind of social expression has its own language.
One of the various trends I adopted was to produce a painting made up of letters that nevertheless suggested a desert scene.
Kamilia Lahrichi was the news editor of the Middle East and North Africa desk at The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon. She lived in Casablanca, Jerusalem, Amman and Beirut. She graduated from New York University with a M.A. in International Relations and from l'Ecole Supérieure de Journalisme of Paris with a Master in Journalism. Her research interests include Middle Eastern and North African politics and international affairs.
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Interview with Jaber Alwan
The universality of art Hassan al-Bakoush Photos by Ghassan Fakroon
Art is universal: this is the story of an artistic journey from Baghdad to Rome, the story of a man who relentlessly pursued knowledge, inspiration and beauty through his paintings.
The images present in this article reproduce the works of the artist
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aber Alwan is an Iraqi artist born in Babylon in 1948. He graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1970, after which he travelled to Rome, Italy, to join the Academy of Fine Arts, graduating with a diploma in Sculpture in 1975. In 1978, he received a degree in Painting.
Tell us about your leaving Iraq and settling in Italy, in particular. Iraq was one stop on the road to acquiring knowledge. Art is universal and in order to develop oneâ€™s personal skills, one needs to interact directly with art and artists in Europe. This was the main
reason behind my coming to Rome. My artistic capabilities have grown in Rome, since the city has been the cradle of the plastic arts ever since the Renaissance. What have you done in order to develop your artistic talent here in Rome? In Rome, I found the space to change all my ideas about art and the plastic arts in particular and I made an effort to fit in with the new society. I noticed how people here paid attention to artistic production. In short, I used to draw in Iraq but in Rome, I learnt the true meaning of art and I developed my talent through study and through attending exhibitions and visiting various museums. When I came to Italy in the 1970s, the political situation was very conducive to growth and expansion at every level.
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Iraq was one stop on the road to acquiring knowledge. Art is universal and in order to develop one’s personal skills, one needs to interact directly with art and artists in Europe.
How did you start working and being creative in Rome? I did a lot of study at the beginning, but I did not stop at that. I kept up with the intellectual life in Rome and this allowed me to move in Italy’s artistic and cultural circles. And I held my first exhibition 1975. Some Italians had seen my work and they invited me to put it on show. Over the years, my experience and knowledge has deepened. But have you not been affected by living in an environment that is different from the one in which you were born and bred? Did living in Rome have an effect on your creativity? Plastic art is European rather than Arab... When we learnt to draw, we were taught by teachers who had studied in Europe... Perhaps the only things that have affected me are the social concepts... Did you have a role model in Art? In fact there is no single artist I can call my role model. Frankly, I interact within myself with numerous schools of plastic art... But let me say that German Expressionism, Russian Impressionism and Italian Realism are at the core of my artistic work.
Plastic art, in particular, needs inspiration, so where do you find inspirational ideas for your work? I get inspiration for my work mostly from my social life, from the daily life of the people round me. I interpret these ideas artistically and turn them into a painting. There are many kinds of art and the Arab nation is going through many crises. In your opinion, what kind of art is capable of expressing this situation? Every form of art can express this situation and of course the easiest form is television. The interlacing of the various elements in your painting intrigues me and I have a question: how long does it take you to finish a painting? There is no definite time for completing a painting. The subject matter grows and acquires new dimensions while the work is in progress. What does plastic art represent to you? Is it a creative activity or is it solely for earning a living? It is creative and artistic work, since money can never be the only aim of plastic art. How do you reconcile your social life and your daily life with your art? I live like any other human being. But I devote most of my time to painting and doing research for my work. The rest of the time I spend visiting museums, meeting friends and travelling. Do you keep in touch with artists in the Arab world? I often visit the Arab countries, especially the eastern, Mashreq ones. I have good relations with many artists in that region. But my strongest connections are with the Italian artists and I benefit a lot from them. Do you advise Arab artists to go to Europe? Yes, I think it is necessary since it
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allows the artist to incorporate European culture with his own. Europe is the cradle of the plastic arts and other kinds of art. The Arab world receives little information about the development of art in the rest of the world. There is also no news about the international exhibitions, neither is there any access to important books about the development of the plastic arts. Are you working on any new projects at the moment? Yes, I must finish some work for an exhibition to be held in Beirut next January. I am due to display fifty
large paintings, dealing with various subjects and I have called the show “Cases”. At the end of the interview, Jaber Alwan had some advice for young artists. He urged them to work hard and continuously to develop their talents and artistic tools. He called on them to keep up with what was happening in the world, by visiting museums and travelling to Europe to study its art, its artists and its schools of art. Hassan al-Bakoush is a Libyan journalist.
I kept up with the intellectual life in Rome and this allowed me to move in Italy’s artistic and cultural circles.
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depicting aspects of the human experience and emotion in all of its colors - colors that are often forgotten. Observing human nature has always been an interest of mine, and photography helps expand this interest by revealing insights into the human character. I also do quite a bit of architectural photography and minimal photography. Sharp lines and soft curves - and the juxtaposition of both elements - attract my attention. I especially like to capture the feeling of texture through my lens. You describe your art as a “meditative journey.” What do you mean by that? Photography and meditation might seem different in almost every respect. Yet, both photography and meditation involve dealing with light. In meditation, it is the light that metaphorically dispels the darkness of mind. In photography, a photographer uses light to highlight objects that had previously been unnoticed. The photographer, through the adjustment and arrangement of light and shade, brings objects of interest to the fore. Both photography and meditation teach you to pay closer attention to what you see around you, and they require an ability to focus steadily and pay no mind to distracting surroundings. Placing my eye on the viewfinder helps me separate myself from all distractions and surroundings. It allows me to be constantly aware of the present. It’s that beautiful moment when I drop everything before and after, and just enjoy the split second of my life. It’s that moment when I become aware of lines, shapes, and light - it’s a meditative moment.
Interview with Amer Sweidan
Photography as a meditative journey Jalal Sabir
The images present in this article reproduce the works of the artist
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Jordanian photographer Amer Sweidan invites us to undertake a meditative journey through the viewfinder with him. Keen on observing human nature in all of its aspects, he also invites us to discover and explore the incredible beauty of the Arab world.
professional freelance photographer based in Amman, Amer Sweidan exhibited his works in Jordan, Austria and the United States. In this interview with Papers of Dialogue, he sheds light on his artistic undertakings, and on his conception of photography. Can you introduce yourself? My name is Amer Sweidan, a street, documentary, and fine art photographer from Jordan. To me, practicing photography is more than selfexpression; it is a meditative journey that I undertake, all through the viewfinder. My projects revolve around people by creating photographs
Placing my eye on the viewfinder helps me separate myself from all distractions and surroundings.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your life? When did you get into photography? I grew up in Amman, Jordan. I majored in Software Engineering, then worked as a Web Developer for a few years. It was in 2008, right when I was about to finish my studies, that my photography journey has begun. I started reading photography books and checking online photography forums. A few months later, I was entirely caught up in photography. Slowly but surely, my photography skills started to pick up. I always sought feedback by posting my photos online, despite how difficult it was to get honest and constructive criticism. However, it was the best way to learn at the time. Once I started to
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I believe that having a good imagination is an essential element here, and blurring the lines between reality and non-reality is crucial.
participate in local photography workshops, horizons really started to expand. To set a high standard for my portfolio, I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to choosing which photographs I want to see published online. The “Without Barriers” photography exhibition (2010), which took place in Jordan, was where I first displayed my photography work. At the exhibition, I also won the Best Picture Award. My photography work was displayed at other exhibitions around the world, including Jordan, Austria and the United States. My work was published in several local and international magazines and online publications. In 2012, I joined 7iber.com (a citizen journalism website in Jordan) as a contributor, in addition to co-leading 7iber’s photography meet-ups group. The group is a community of passionate and energetic photographers who develop visually interesting stories together. The stories are then published on the 7iber website. From an artistic point of view, what fascinates you the most about Jordan? What makes Jordan special is the country’s astoundingly rich history. The culture and diversity here is also a source of inspiration for me. From the ancient Roman ruins in Jerash, to the Nabateans structures in Petra and the Mars-line dunes of Wadi Rum, you find a story to tell in every corner. Amman’s busy downtown is fascinating. The city is huge. From the rooftops you can see just how far the lights extend - looking at it from above, it’s mindboggling to think of how each neighborhood and each street has a living and breathing life of its own. Each neighborhood has a culture. Some are more modern than others, and some are more traditional. The city, however, comes to life most during the summertime - when many come in from abroad, and most students are on summer vacation. The city doesn’t sleep. I find my inspiration right in the heart of Amman - the downtown area. You find all sorts of people there: young and old from different backgrounds. The diversity can be seen both on the streets as well as in the myriad of small shops. It is a great environment to discover hidden stories and engage with the local people there. What are, according to your experience, the most ‘photogenic’ places in the Arab world? There is no such thing as photogenic. Wherever you go, there is always a story to tell. However, a few places have stolen my heart.
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The Old City of Nablus: The aroma of falafel, knafeh, and spices filling the air alone would put you in a good mood to start creating visually interesting stories. It’s a beautiful area filled with narrow streets and small shops selling all kinds of foods, clothing, and trinkets. Nablus has a history of being a center of resistance and culture. As you walk in the streets of Nablus, you’d be able to find different stories along the way. El Medina, Tunis: Prior to my first visit to Tunis, I’ve been repeatedly told that people might not be as friendly as they were before the 2010-11 uprisings. To the contrary,
I found folks to be very friendly, and very hospitable. Arriving in the ancient Medina gives you a sense of reaching a great destination for photography given its dynamic streets that are full of welcoming locals. Not to forget the old Arabic town featuring al-Zaitouna Mosque and many beautiful architectural sites. Along this maze of cobbled narrow streets, you truly notice the mix of the new with the old: the city has long been a center for North African trade, and French colonialism has left its mark through the architecture. The bluewrought iron doors and windows with the yellows, oranges, and reds found along the way, make for great contrast.
How do you get yourself inspired for a photo shoot? I often try to imagine the result ahead of the photo shoot. I believe that having a good imagination is an essential element here, and blurring the lines between reality and non-reality is crucial. I primarily use my imagination to bridge that which I see in my mind and that which I can actually produce. I sometimes detach myself from client-based work and shoot what inspires me. By exploring other photographers’ work, browsing photography blogs online, and watching movies, I try to explore ideas that will push the limits of my creativity.
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As for street photography and documentary genres, the entire purpose is to tell a story.
How do you choose the angle for your photos? It depends on the type of photography. Different angles offer different perspectives and change the way that the subject is presented. As for street photography and documentary genres, the entire purpose is to tell a story. Therefore, using a wide angle in street photography illustrates the interaction between the subject and his or her surroundings and covers far more of the subject’s character and the environment than a mere closeup angle of the character. It’s important to note that wide focal length angles provide a feeling of intimacy and involvement between the viewer and the subject. Street photographs taken with a long lens give off a voyeuristic feeling, which means that the photographer is unconnected with the subject. We have to keep in mind that we’re telling stories, which means our photographs extend beyond the frame. Thus, it’s really important for the photographer to give the viewer a sense of participation and not feel the sense of detachment. What is the picture you are proud of the most? I have a few photographs that I am particularly proud of. One of them is “The Storyteller”, a photograph of a stranger that was taken on one of Berjeik’s streets (a small town in Şanlıurfa, Turkey). The stranger, an old man, was a little bit uncomfortable at the beginning because we were both lost in translation, so to speak. When I started taking photographs of him and showing him other ones that I took, he started interacting with me. That moment of interaction was when I came up with a beautiful portrait of him. Another photograph I am proud of is “Two to Tango”, where I successfully captured the sense of Tango
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dancing and the intimacy presented in the photo between the two dancers. What are the new frontiers you would like to explore in the future? I’d love to explore time lapse photography and stop motion films and tell stories through this medium. In this day and age where everything is masked in CGI (computer-generated imagery), it’s a challenge to work through a medium which requires lots of energy and time to produce while maintaining an active imagination and integrating creativity.
Interview with Hossam Hassan
Back to beauty Azzurra Meringolo
Egyptian artist Hossam Hassan drew inspiration from the Tahrir Square demonstrations and protests to express a new pictorial identity, which reflects his persuasion that each individual has many beautiful things to offer to others.
The images present in this article reproduce the works of the artist
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oloured pictures on a giant-screen Mac, rolled up canvases and wooden sticks to be made into frames. These are the three elements that Hossam Hassan uses to create his works of art. He starts by choosing the picture that inspires him the most, prints it and glues it onto the canvas. Then he takes four wooden sticks and builds a frame that looks as if it could double as an
easel. This is where his creativity comes in. He steps away from his desk in the studio that he rents on the island of Zamalek - a Cairo uppermiddle class district that hosts many embassies and starts looking at spray-cans and cans of paint for the colours that reflect the emotions he felt when he captured those pictures in the middle of Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It is here, at the epicentre of
the revolutionary outburst, that Hossam Hossam Hassan decided to take up residence on 25 January 2011. All the appeals launched by those calling him from home begging him to take shelter from the stone-throwing were to no avail. “At the beginning I just wanted to photograph my people doing something extraordinary. I was there with them in the square to immortalise them but then, at a certain point, I realised that those photos were not sufficient,” says Hossam, a 35-year-old artist who graduated from the faculty of applied arts in Helwan. “I realised that the photographic images that I had taken were not enough for me, because they showed something that was already present in the facts. How was I to portray and convey my feelings, the feelings of a protester in Tahrir Square, to those looking at experienced while I was taking them. In the end I my photos?” he asks while his bright eyes start to decided that I had to glue my emotions on top of show a glimmer of emotion. “So I picked up these them. So I painted my photographs. I decided to images and looked at them for a second time lay some red paint on the pictures that reminded while trying to recollect the feelings that I me of a moment in which I was full of courage.
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At the beginning I just wanted to photograph my people doing something extraordinary. I was there with them in the square to immortalise them but then, at a certain point, I realised that those photos were not sufficient
And I laid on an increasingly bright red as I reminisced about the people around me who were urging me on in the protest.” This is how Hossam Hassan created Tahrir Square, the collection devoted to the revolution that he took on tour around the world. The Cairoborn artist exhibited his work in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague and Frankfurt. Some critics have described him as a post-impressionist, while others labelled him a realist who feels the obligation of expressing his emotions and still others called him a macchiaiolo artist. Yet he prefers to define himself simply as a painter who does not like to work locked up in an office and who draws his inspiration from those around him. “I didn’t only use reds,” he explains while looking at a can of paint covered with dried up dark paint. “At some moments, Tahrir Square was only an expression of greys. For too long during our history, Egypt was like a palette upon which to mix different hues of grey. A dormant country, extenuated by a dictatorship that imposed 30 years of suffering, often experienced in silence,” he says while showing a painting in which the sky over Cairo is smoke-grey. “It was at the moment when we understood that we were not alone, when individuals suddenly merged into people, that everything changed. From that moment on, the grey on my canvases was replaced by reds, blues, yellows,” he explains while looking at the highlight of his collection, in which he painted Tahrir Square dominated by revolutionary slogans. The Mogamma Building, the cement monster that hosts the eerie corridors of Egypt’s bureaucracy and looms over the square, has been turned into light blue, like the sky.
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Compounding his passion for art with his thirst for graphic innovation has made Hossam Hassan a painter who expresses a new pictorial identity, both complex and straightforward. When he sees images that capture his curiosity, he fixes them with his eyes, duplicates them on canvas and gets ready to transfer his emotions to them. This is what he did with Back to Beauty, a new collection dedicated to women who helped to start the revolution of the Arab Spring. Hossam presents the female universe in a range of pink hues by taking belly-dancers and other oriental subjects and re-interpreting them through a modern-day perspective. Blinded by the beauty of Egyptian women, he portrays women wrapped in veils and ladies placing red velvet material over their hair. There are also women smoking and posing. The collection is completed by a woman courageously pedalling her way through Cairo’s chaotic traffic. He intensifies the grey backdrop, letting bright colours rule over the rest of the picture which is set against texts in Latin or Arab characters, highlighting his love for the art of calligraphy. “The Egyptian civilisation is very rich indeed. It is sufficient to consider the heritage of the Pharaohs, of which we are the custodians. But this is not our only heritage. Our land is full of the traces of Latin and Mediterranean peoples. We must learn to discover them better. The revolution has changed my life as an artist but also the life of every single citizen. We should understand that each one of us has many beautiful things to offer to others. Different, yet beautiful,” he explains while expressing concern for his country’s political developments. “Egypt is a multi-faceted nation and many spectacular things co-exist along the Nile. This coexistence must be grounded on guaranteeing everybody their liberty,” he adds while pondering whether to remain in the streets of Cairo, crowded with cars and problems, or seek his fortune abroad. “It is difficult to make a living on art here although I would like to continue conveying my message, especially to the youth,” concludes the painter as he discusses the polarisation that pervades his country. “Every one of us must treat others with love and listen to other people’s
opinions with respect, deeming them equally as rightful as our own. We must focus on what is good for our country and avoid letting existing differences turn into obstacles. In Tahrir Square our strength was our unity. It is only thanks to this bonding that the pall of grey in which Cairo was swathed for over three decades has now turned into an explosion of colours.”
After years of research between Europe, South America and the Middle East, Azzurra Meringolo became an enthusiast of the Arab world. Working as a freelance reporter for Italian newspapers and magazines since 2008 and after having lived in Jerusalem and traveled through the Middle East, she obtained a Ph.D. with a doctoral thesis on contemporary anti-Americanism in Egypt from the University Roma 3. Straddling between research and reporting, in the summer of 2010 she arrived in Cairo where she witnessed the revolution of the 25th of January to which she devoted a book entitled I ragazzi di Piazza Tahrir, published by Clueb.
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T The walking forest
John Singer Sargent, Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth
Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the pre-Islamic oral legend of Zarqa alYamama: what do they have in common? Shared symbols between these two different traditions seem to point to the existence of a collective imagination of mankind, without limits of space and time.
his is a story of an encounter. She is a young Arab woman and her name is Zarqa al-Yamama. She is a warrior and her army’s most valuable resource. He is a young Scotsman whose name is Macbeth, a noble and brave warrior in battle and king-to-be. She has an incredible gift: an eyesight so acute that she can see up to three days ahead. Her tribe is always victorious, defeating the enemy in every battle, precisely thanks to her and her farsightedness. Enemy armies do not know what to do because what is a gift for Zarqa al-Yamama is their own doom. So they organise themselves and attempt the impossible feat: eluding the warrior’s guard. Their plan is to blend in with nature, camouflaged as plants and forests, and slowly march to where the young woman is camped with her army, catching them by surprise. She, however, sees it all and races to her commanding officers to brief them on the situation: there is a walking forest heading towards their camp. Unfortunately, truth is not always easy to accept and Zarqa al-Yamama (exactly like Cassandra) is believed to be crazy and cast aside, although her great gift does not abandon her. Her army is wiped out and her tribe destroyed. He is a brave and loyal warrior who will lose everything he has because of his insatiable lust for power, which will drive him to carry out terrible acts and behave as if nothing could ever stop him. His behaviour is triggered by a morally ruthless wife and the certainty that the three prophecies he has received were totally absurd and it is impossible that they will come true. The prophecy that interests us here is the third, whereby he is told that he must not fear losing his kingdom as long as the forest does not reach him. However, in this case, the forest does not have its normal resemblance but that of an army that will take him by surprise, hidden behind the foliage which enables it to advance undisturbed. Macbeth is deposed. It is true that these two stories, briefly summarised above, have almost nothing in common and come from different traditions, from different historic eras and cultures and they were also created for different purposes!
What is interesting is that an image like the walking forest is so deeply present and essential to these two stories that it gives rise to a spontaneous comparison.
She comes directly from pre-Islamic oral tradition, from the area that now makes up Saudi Arabia, and is the main character in a story that is almost a long proverb, a teaching that seems to tell us that a weapon is always double-edged and, if it can wound another, it can also wound yourself (in Arabic, Zarqa’s eyesight is defined as “twobladed”). He, who needs an even shorter introduction, came from Shakespeare’s pen at the beginning of the seventeenth century and is the protagonist of one of the most famous tragedies on fate and power in the history of the theatre. Zarqa al-Yamama and Macbeth will never meet in the world of fiction but have helped us to understand how an encounter comes about. It is practically impossible to know if Shakespeare knew the story of the young woman and maybe it isn’t even of great interest. What is interesting is that an image like the walking forest is so deeply present and essential to these two stories that it gives rise to a spontaneous comparison. How can this same element be present in the two stories? Where does this idea come from? When and how did the two traditions come to cross? And then again: could there be a collective
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Arts Orson Welles as Macbeth
And, as the two stories show, a forest that walks is difficult for anybody to believe, whether they are Scottish kings or Arab she-warriors.
imagination shared by everybody, without limits of space and time? At the end of the day, going beyond conventional symbolisms, isn’t a forest the same for everybody? And, as the two stories show, a forest that walks is difficult for anybody to believe, whether they are Scottish kings or Arab she-warriors. If we step out of these two stories and walk back through the history of mankind to the dawn of creation, we see how every civilisation has tried to find an explanation for every natural phenomenon, obtaining roughly the same results, for the moment
Giulia Doninelli holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation from the Università degli Studi of Milan, where she focused her studies on Arabic and English languages and cultures. Her graduation thesis dealt with the Tunisian revolution and its cultural background, concentrating on the work of the theatrical director Fadhel Jaibi, with whom she had the pleasure of working with during that period. She has worked as a journalist for the non profit Italian magazine Vita and as a teacher for Arab migrants. After having spent a semester in Tunisia, she currently lives and studies in Cairo, Egypt.
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in which man meets reality and man meets man. This theory on the communion and dissemination of ideas is masterfully analysed in Hamlet’s Mill, an essay born of the collaborative effort of Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, which revolves around the observation that the story of Hamlet, whose origins lie in the literary tradition of Iceland, has a structure common to numerous diverse traditions, from the Nordic Countries to Ancient Rome, from Greece to Persia. Also the choice of the title, Hamlet’s Mill, is interesting and helps us to understand what lies behind an encounter. Mill because, in Hamlet’s story of stories, there seems to be no beginning and no end and, just like in the workings of a mill it is impossible to establish which literary tradition influenced the other: they go around in circles, making it difficult to establish a primacy but, at the same time, they open an even more interesting window on the greatness of human nature, which has always been capable of universally drawing a lesson from reality and transforming it into poetry.
On the shores of the sea of love Remembering Dalida Daniel Atzori
wenty-five years ago, the singer and actress Dalida died in Paris. Before committing suicide, she left a piece of paper next to her body, saying: “Forgive me, life is unbearable for me.” Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti, later to be known as Dalida, was born in Shubrah, a neighbourhood of Cairo, on the 17th of January 1933. Her parents were coming from Calabria, in the South of Italy, and she spent most of her life between Egypt, Italy and France. Egyptians consider Dalida an Egyptian singer. For the French, she is French, while in Italy everyone
The italian singer Luigi Tenco
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thinks she is Italian. But does her nationality really matter? What we know for certain is that she sung in Arabic, in French and in Italian, but also in English, in German and in Japanese; and in all these languages she made people cry and dream. For the Italians, the name of Dalida is inextricably linked with that of the singer Luigi Tenco. Dalida and Luigi Tenco took part together in the Festival of Sanremo, the most important Italian song contest, in 1967. It seems that Dalida and Luigi Tenco had just decided to get married. After their song has been eliminated, Luigi Tenco shot himself in the head. It was Dalida who found his dead body. Their song was entitled Ciao amore ciao. A bitter title, which today sounds like a farewell. There is a famous Arabic song of Dalida, which is especially dear to me. It is called Helwa ia Baladi, my beautiful country, and it is dedicated to Egypt. It is a song which fills your heart with beauty, melancholy and nostalgia. Dalida sings: “My hope was always, my country, to come back to you, my country, to always be close to you.” Sometimes I ask myself how many travellers and migrants have cried, listening to this song, thinking of their far away country or remembering a lost love. Dalida sings of her beloved birthplace, which faces “the sea of love”: our Mediterranean, a sea which has known countless love stories, since the ancient tragedy of Aeneas and Dido. Dalida was born in a cultured, refined, colorful and cosmopolitan country, the Egypt of Mahfouzís novels, where Zaki Bey el Dessouki,
one of the main characters of Al Aswanyís Yacoubian Building, spent his youth. However, in those days Egypt was under the colonial yoke, which imposed violence, foreign domination and alien values on Arab societies. For decades, Arab activists and intellectuals rose up against the European powers which wanted to shape the course of their history. But also another interesting phenomenon happened: quite a few Westerners ended up falling in love with Arab culture, to the point of embracing it. Those were indeed the days of the great French intellectual RenÈ GuÈnon, who moved to Cairo in 1930, became known as the Sufi Shaykh`Abd al-Wahid Yahya and later obtained Egyptian citizenship. Arab culture was not only reacting against foreign domination: it was able to attract Westerners, winning their hearts and minds. Egypt, in particular, was a cultural magnet shining on the Mediterranean and beyond. Also the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti was a son of that cosmopolitan Egypt. Reading Ungaretti, I imagine I can understand the drama which burned Dalida, that malaise which made her life so “unbearable”. One of his most beautiful poems is called The Rivers. The poet wrote it in 1916, during the First World War, while he was on the front line. The poem explores one of those moments in which life seems “a garland of darkness”. Ungaretti was looking at the river Isonzo, which flows among the mountains at the border between Italy and Austria, where in those days the blind fury of the war was raging. In the river Isonzo, Ungaretti was seeing also other rivers: the Serchio, the river of his Tuscanian ancestors; the Nile, the river which “saw me be born and grow”; the Seine, which reminds him of those years in Paris where he “knew” himself. These rivers all flow, if not geographically, at least spiritually, in the Mediterranean. Both Ungaretti and Dalida experienced the same sense of loss and of exile. Like Ungaretti, Dalida has known and loved the Nile and the Seine. But, maybe, she only knew in her dreams the raging torrents of her ancestorsí Calabria. And the river which flows in her parentsí village, in the Calabrese mountains, is called Amato, which means “beloved”. But which one was your river, Dalida? Which river was flowing through your country? And what made you feel so far, so lonely, almost in exile? Maybe, for Dalida, it was not just her life to be unbearable, but also that Mediterranean closed, divided, separated by borders, limits and
barriers, which had lacerated the free and open sea, the sea of love, which Dalida tasted, maybe just in her dreams, as a child. Her beautiful country was part of a Mediterranean which has been for centuries cosmopolitan, open and welcoming, a sea whose smell we can discover in the novels, poems and songs of the past and maybe, today, also in our papers. I wish Dalida and Luigi Tenco had not made that terrible choice. I wish they never said each other that “ciao amore ciao”. I wish their life had not been so unbearable, that even when their life looked to them as a “garland of darkness,” as Ungaretti whispers, both of them had the strength to go on and love each other. Dear Dalida, I wish I could interview you together with Luigi Tenco, for our magazine. I would like to meet you, maybe in a cafÈ of Cairo, and discover in you two old people who, after many years, still love each other, like Jacques Brelís vieux amants. I would like you to tell me about that Mediterranean of the past, and dream with you of the Mediterranean of the future: a sea where all the people who live on its shores could know and meet each other in mutual respect, peace and freedom. Who knows if our dream of peace and dialogue cannot become tomorrowís reality. Until then, we will keep on being inspired by your beautiful and sad verses, where you sing: “Each tear which falls on my cheek, is filled of us being together, on the shores of your sea of love.”
Her beautiful country was part of a Mediterranean which has been for centuries cosmopolitan, open and welcoming, a sea whose smell we can discover in the novels, poems and songs of the past and maybe, today, also in our papers.
Daniel Atzori, PhD, is the Editorial Team Coordinator of Papers of Dialogue. Twitter: @DanielAtzori
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orn in Amman in 1979, at the age of two Emad Alaeddin moved to Saudi Arabia. Later on, he came back to Jordan, where he attended middle and high school. Then, he went to the United States to study in college. Emad arrived in Los Angeles in 2001, where he started his music career with a rock band. In 2009, he decided to go back to his home country, Jordan, to pursue a solo career. He released two solo albums in 2010 and 2012. His single Sunshine played regularly on MTV Arabia. He has since formed a new rock band named The Final Wish featuring drummer and vocalist Natasha Dahdaleh and bassist Ibrahim Khries. They just returned from their first Euro tour as a band and have released their debut self-titled album. Their first single World for Two has racked up 400K views on YouTube and was featured on MTV Arabia. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you decide to pursue a musical career? Music has always been my outlet to release my stress and frustrations, and has always been the source of my joy. And now with my new band, I feel like I’m part of a family and I can share all these successes with them.
Interview with Emad Alaeddin
A celebration of life Daniel Atzori Photos: MyKaliMag.com
Emad Alaeddin & The Final Wish
Touching the lives of others through music and celebrating life and the wonderful memories it provides throughout our time on Earth: these are the values which inspire the art of the band The Final Wish, which puts together Western pop music with original Arab inspirations.
You studied in Saudi Arabia and the United States. What did you learn from these experiences, as a man and as an artist? There are huge differences between the two, the most important thing I have learned was how to adapt and how to accept different Emad Alaeddin & The Final Wish cultures and traditions. This has helped me , Copyright 2012 - MyKalimag.c om in being able to compromise and work as a team in my new band The Final Wish. We sometimes have different opinions on arrangements of songs, but we always seem to positivity and the celebration of life and the find common ground. wonderful memories it provides throughout our time on Earth. Once, you defined yourself as “a Western pop singer with the values of Islam inside”. Could In the lyrics of songs such as Centered, you you elaborate more on this? talk about the importance of values such as Islam, like all religions, has a core that revolves family; you have also been very active in around tolerance, peace, and understanding. The charity work. Do you think it’s important for an Final Wish’s music is a reflection of those artist to have clear moral stances? values; the messages in our songs are about I have been raised to be kind to others, to be
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compassionate, and to give to the unfortunate; I can’t speak for other artists because each is responsible for his or her own paths. But I feel blessed to have found Natasha and Ibrahim because they share these same values of selflessness and giving to others. It should never be about money; our profession should focus on touching the lives of others through our music and through our charity concerts.
Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Alice in Chains. All very melody-centric songwriters, and that is what I tend to focus on the most when songwriting.
What singers influenced you the most while growing up? Michael Jackson has always been a huge part of my life; his music reminds me of my wonderful childhood. He spoke the truth and I truly believe he was falsely accused because he started to speak out against the evils of the music industry. He was proclaimed innocent in a court of law, and that is all the proof I need to know that Michael was an angel sent from the heavens to give love and fight injustice in the world. What are the main inspirations of your music? Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Alice in Chains. All very melody-centric songwriters, and that is what I tend to focus on the most when songwriting. What’s the story behind the formation of your band, The Final Wish? Natasha Dahdaleh had been drumming since she was 6 years old and she watched me perform at a festival once while I was a solo artist in Jordan. She approached me about jamming together and we quickly found Ibrahim, and the rest is history!
Do you think music could play an important role in promoting mutual understanding and dialogue among different cultures? Music has always played an integral role in defining cultures and time-stamping important events in history. From Bob Dylan to Michael Jackson, musicians were always looked upon for enlightenment and elaboration during dark times. I think history owes a lot to these types of musicians who helped keep the morale of citizens high and getting them through the toughest of times, when corrupt governments and occupying nations did the complete opposite. Do you have any plans to perform in Italy? We actually met a set of twins, Simona and Francesca, while we were performing in Birmingham and they were so lovely and gracious. Meeting them has sparked a huge interest amongst Natasha, Ibrahim, and me to perform in Italy. It’s also one of the closest countries geographically to Jordan so it would be much easier to get to! What’s next for Emad Alaeddin? The release of The Final Wish album has already generated so much positive feedback that I foresee big things for us. We are currently planning the filming of our second music video and will be planning a second Euro tour during Q2 of 2014 and will definitely be considering Italy as a destination!
Interview with Foad Aodi
The Arab world in Italy Daniel Atzori
The Arab community in Italy is composed by people coming from different nationalities and backgrounds. Their contribution to Italy’s socioeconomic and cultural life is very important, and their role could be huge in further strengthening bilateral relations with their countries of origin.
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Most of them were from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Libya. The fall of the Berlin Wall gave way to the second wave of immigration, which mainly involved workers primarily from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Overall, the number of Arab citizens living in Italy is estimated to be over one and a half million. Most of those who originally came to Italy to study have now acquired Italian citizenship, they have attended university and have settled here. They are often married to Italians and have acquired Italian citizenship themselves.
octor Fouad Aodi is the president of the Arab World Communities in Italy (COMAI), the president of the Foreign Doctors in Italy Association (AMSI) and the founder of the Uniti per Unire movement. Of Palestinian origins, Fouad Aodi moved to Italy in the early eighties, where he graduated from Medical School. At present, he is the medical director of a group of orthopaedic rehabilitation centres in Rome.
What is the COMAI, the Arab World Communities in Italy? COMAI, the Arab World Communities in Italy, was founded five years ago after a two-year round of consultations with numerous representatives of Arab communities, with the aim of forming a community, grouping together all the citizens of Arab origin regularly residing in Italy and their families, regardless of their nationality. COMAI is a secular organisation aimed at promoting knowledge of the Arab world from a cultural, medical and foreign policy perspective, as well as the problems that characterise it.
The primary challenge on our agenda, besides being my personal commitment, is information: providing more correct and unbiased many Arabs are currently living in Italy? information in How And what countries do they mainly come order to build from? bridges with The history of Arab immigration to Italy can be divided into two phases. During the first phase, in our countries the sixties, seventies and eighties and up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Arabs came to Italy to study. of origin.
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What are the main challenges faced by the Arab community in Italy now? The primary challenge on our agenda, besides being my personal commitment, is information: providing more correct and unbiased information in order to build bridges with our countries of origin. When we founded the COMAI, the Arab world was under-represented, especially in the world of information. This became particularly evident during the so-called Arab Spring, so we are committed to providing information to support our youth and our people, starting with the Arab Springs in Tunisia and Egypt. Unfortunately, we often come across prejudices arising from the lack of knowledge about the real situation. We therefore wanted COMAI to have a representative role in clarifying the situation. Our second challenge is to strengthen relations between Italy and our Arab countries of origin, also facilitating investments in our countries by Italian companies. How do you intend to strengthen relations with Arab countries? For example, in August we went to Jerusalem with a joint delegation comprising the COMAI (Arab World Communities in Italy), the AMSI (Foreign Doctors in Italy Association) and the Rome F Local Health District, with the aim of promoting socio-medical exchanges between Italian and Arab physicians working in Italy and colleagues practising in our Arab countries of origin. The meeting gave way to the twinning of the Italian city of Civitavecchia and Baqa Al Gharbiyya, a Palestinian city located in Israel. The twinning and friendship agreement was signed two weeks ago by the mayors of the two
cities, the Palestinian Ambassador and a representative of the Arab League. The event marked the beginning of an international twinning programme aimed at promoting twinning and friendship initiatives and more socio-medical exchanges between Italian companies and enterprises in our countries of origin. The Arab community in Italy is a real spawning ground for artists and writers. What, in your opinion, are the most interesting cases? There are many and we need to highlight their contribution. Unfortunately, because of the crisis, our professionals, artists and poets are paying a high price in terms of visibility. In order to overcome this shortfall, the COMAI (Arab World Communities in Italy) joined Uniti per Unire, an international inter-professional movement grouping together Italian and foreignborn professionals. The movement has a department dedicated to artists and poets and, just as we succeeded in highlighting the work of physicians and paramedical workers, we also want to shed light on the important role played by poets and writers. As a trained physician, could you tell us about Arab medicine and the interest it raises in Italy and in Europe? Arab medicine is part of traditional Oriental medicine. It shares common ground with Chinese and Indian medicine: it is based on the relationship between the body, the mind and the environment, and on diseases and their causes. It relies on a wide range of pharmacological medications; early Arab physicians highlighted the effects of several medicaments and herbs, whose effectiveness has now been confirmed through research. During the vigil for peace in Syria called by the Pope in September 2013, you said: «Pope Francis is our idol, we would need a similar leader in the world of Islam». Which of his initiatives did you appreciate the most? My comment was quoted by a very large number of press agencies in Italy and abroad, also because it was uttered by a representative of the Islamic Arab world. I am now even more
convinced of what I said than I was at the time that I said it. Ever since he was elected, Pope Francis immediately began to use a language that was simple, human, open and typical of the civil society, because the Pope represents the civil society. This does not mean that we criticise those who preceded him but nobody ever used this language before, except maybe Pope John XXIII. And his way of being so open, in such a simple human way, has touched the hearts of everybody. I made the comment fully convinced of what I was saying. During the vigil for peace in Syria, we prayed together for the first time in the Vatican: the Muslim Arab community united in prayer with the Christian community. This gave me the strength and conviction that we must continue along this road. We need to continue on this path and talk about all the positives, and not only about the negatives. Unfortunately, front page headlines often report negative news about people of Arab origin or episodes concerning people belonging to the Islamic religion. Instead, our task is to highlight all that is positive.
Arab medicine relies on a wide range of pharmacological medications; early Arab physicians highlighted the effects of several medicaments and herbs, whose effectiveness has now been confirmed through research.
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The stability of the Middle East: a common interest of China and the US Wang Jian
The Middle East is an area where China and the United States could explore ways of co-operation in the future, since they both have a vital common interest: maintaining the stability and development of the region. The garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem
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he turmoil in Egypt is intensifying. As the traditional game player in Egypt and the Middle East, its foreign policy for this region before and after the Egyptian upheaval is under heated discussion at home and abroad. The Middle East has always been an area of strategic focus of the United States. Although America has returned to Asia for balance, the Middle East still has considerable strategic status. China is a rising power and views the area as part of its pan-peripheral diplomacy for its interest in economic development, energy supply and western security. This panperipheral concept has geographical considerations, but more from the spillover. To establish a new type
of relationship between China and the United States, the way to deal with the interests and divergences in some regions is a problem of key importance. The Middle East is a new area where the two powers could share some interests and explore possible cooperation in the future, especially in the context of their heightening competition in the Asian-Pacific region. Facing the new challenges in the East Asian environment surrounding the new circumstances, and how to make a strategic breakthrough towards the west, Central Asia and the Middle East, and to create a new convergence of interests between the US and China is a practical consideration in the mind of policy-makers in Beijing. In the Middle East, China in fact has increasingly more interests and influence and the United States has also welcomed China to play a constructive role in this region. Therefore, from the beginning of 2012, in the framework of US-China strategic and economic dialogue, both set up the Middle East affairs consultation mechanism. In addition, issues such as anti-terrorism and energy security also are closely related to Middle Eastern affairs. Generally, the common interests of China and the US in the Middle East cover the following aspects: First, safeguarding regional security, especially the fight against terrorism. In the near future, terrorism is still a dangerous time bomb in this region, given that more and more Islamists would turn to Jihadist and the regional branches of al-Qaeda after the military deprived them of power in the Second Revolution, as happened a few months ago in Cairo. Second, securing a stable supply of oil, especially the energy channel. The US now imports less than 20% of oil from the Middle East, but the regional turmoil would still lead to fluctuations in the international oil price and hurt its allies’ economies. In contrast, China has begun to import more and more oil from the Persian Gulf and it recently surpassed 60% of its total supply. Regarding how to maintain stability in the Middle East, especially the oil channel security, is a common interest for the two sides. China can consider actively participating in the protection of the oil channel, undertaking corresponding international obligations. It can also slow down America’s criticism about China’ s free-riding. Third, promoting Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The Palestinian-Israeli problem is still the source of many Middle-East conflicts. Acting positively with its fourpoint proposal, China has got the attention of Palestine and Israel. In the past, China’s international influence was limited, which made Israel in particular
In the Middle East, China in fact has increasingly more interests and influence and the United States has also welcomed China to play a constructive role in this region.
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In short, on the issues concerning the Middle East, China and the US have no major conflicts and disputes, and they share more common interests, especially as China is gaining more interests from exercising greater influence in this region.
think China incapable of solving regional conflicts. Now Palestine and Israel both expect China to play a constructive role in this regard. On the other hand, recently the US has been vigorously persuading Abbas and Netanyahu to meet again to get the century-long conflict on the road to a peaceful solution. So China and the US should strengthen their cooperation in this area. Forth, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In fact China and America share more common interests than disputes in this regard. On the Iranian nuclear issue China has taken part in the Six-Party Talks and been consistent with America’s overall objectives. However, China is against unilateral sanctions by waiving its right to vote in the United Nations. For now, China would like to see a thawing of US-Iranian relations, encouraging Washington to seize the window of opportunity after the domestic political change in Tehran. As for the Syrian crisis, China welcomes the
Wang Jian is a professor of history and international political economy at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). His research has focused on global public goods, Middle East studies and the Jewish communities in China. He now serves as director of Center for West Asia and North Africa Studies (CWANAS) of SASS, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Center for International Studies and deputy director of Institute of History in SASS.
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decision made by Assad to destroy its chemical weapon stockpile under the supervision of OPCW. Fifth, striking Islamic radicalism. Islamic radicalism might become more obvious in the process of social transition in the Middle East. Generally, Islamic forces in most transition countries are moderate, and friendly to China. But various domestic and international factors may lead to Islamic radicalisation in some countries. If handled improperly, it could affect the security of China’s western region. This position is consistent with that of the United States. In short, on the issues concerning the Middle East, China and the US have no major conflicts and disputes, and they share more common interests, especially as China is gaining more interests from exercising greater influence in this region. The vital common interest for the two countries is to maintain the stability and development of the Middle East. It should be spurned that unrest in the Middle East will prevent the US from backing the Asia-Pacific region and holding back its rebalancing policy there. An unstable Middle East will be primarily a disaster for China, and a stable Middle East will benefit China greatly and become a new area of Sino-American cooperation. Until now on the issues concerning the Asia-Pacific, Central Asia and South Asia, China still acts more like a regional power, but the Middle East could be its pilot area to fulfill its future role as a global power.
A museum for Jerusalem Andrea Avveduto
The Terra Sancta Museum, which focuses on the history of Christianity in the Holy Land, will be inaugurated in 2015. This project also aims at soothing the wounds of history and rereading it with a serene mind, in order to favor an authentic inter-religious dialogue on the field.
The garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem
Here lie eight centuries of history and thousands of documents that trace the centuries-old presence of Franciscans in the Holy Land, starting from St. Francis of Assisi’s voyage that brought him here in 1219.
A mother-of-pearl inlay model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Antiphonary on parchment leaf, 16th Century
he project is impressive and its goal is ambitious: to be the only museum in the world about the roots of Christianity and the conservation of the Holy Places. The construction work has already begun and, if sufficient funds are raised - according to the Custodian of the Holy Land - the museum will be inaugurated in 2015. The Terra Sancta Museum will be established to tell the whole world the story of the presence of Christians in the Holy Land and to raise greater awareness of our roots. “We need to know more about our past in order to gain a greater sense of belonging and a betterdefined identity,” says Father Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, when explaining the meaning of this colossal project. “The project has a number of origins,” explains the Bergamo-born friar in charge of the Franciscan monks in the Holy Land, “and, as with most things, it arose out of the need to put our house in order and take stock of what we’ve got; but then there is also an awareness, the awareness that our presence and
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The project is coordinated by the Pro Terra Sancta Association, the Custody’s nongovernmental organisation founded with the aim of raising funds and seeking philanthropists to finance the initiative.
An angel, fresco on stone
the important excavations of the Dominus Flevit church, some ancient necropolises of the old Holy City, both of the Canaanite, Jewish and Byzantine periods, were found facing Jerusalem.” These objects narrate the history of “centuries if not millennia”; an almost overwhelming amount of material. In two years’ time, the exhibition space will cover an area of more than 2,500 m2, laying out several informative itineraries distributed in two existing facilities located close to Jerusalem’s principal tourist and pilgrimage destinations (the Via Dolorosa, the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount). The museum also represents an opportunity to educate young Christians and Muslims living in the Holy Land and favours an authentic inter-religious dialogue. Pilgrims and visitors from all over the world will be offered a flexible cultural tour, distributed among three separate museums (archaeological, multimedia and historical). The museum - which was initially planned to be located in the Old City - will be spread out to other venues in the future, under the direction of Gabriele Allevi. The project is coordinated by the Pro Terra Sancta Association, the Custody’s non-governmental organisation founded with the aim of raising funds and seeking philanthropists to finance the initiative. Anybody wishing to support the initiative will have his or her name linked to the individual sections or halls of the museum. Donations
our Christians need not only a job and food on the their material value,” says Father Eugenio Alliata, table, but also meaning.” Meaning is often hidden in who is due to direct the museum, “but rather to bear the wounds inflicted through a pluricentennial history, a witness to and remember the support that the whole meaning which is to be found among all the world gave to the Holy Places.” contradictions that this land poses to Christians on a daily Father Alliata tracks the phases that led to this basis. “Our present-day relations bear the signs of history, outcome over the years: “The new museum our relationships are often represented by wounds conserves the legacy of museums that existed in because our history is wounded,” affirms Father the past. The Custodia Museum was founded in Pizzaballa. The museum is entrusted with the task of 1902 to bring together precious ancient objects that healing these wounds. “We need to reread our history were scattered in monasteries throughout the Holy with a serene and restored mind - I’m using Christian Land and that needed to be preserved, studied and language here - but in order to do so, we need to know it.” disseminated, thus avoiding the risk of being lost The Custodian is certain that, in this way, we will through negligence.” These items are to be experience the present with greater classified and distributed on the basis serenity. “First of all, we need to of stringently rigorous criteria. consider that a large part of “The museum is designed to present-day phenomena roughly follow the social, political and topography of the life of religious - has already Christ,” Father Alliata been experienced by tells us, “starting in our grandparents, Bethlehem and and is nothing ending in the Holy new. This helps Sepulchre. We us to downsize will display the Star of Bethlehem, problems, keep treasure of Messina, 1739 them in proper Bethlehem, proportion and to which ranges take a step back from a number of from them in order priceless objects to acquire a more from the time of the serene and less Crusades, to a dramatic awareness of bishop’s jewelthe present reality.” studded pastoral, Here lie eight centuries of candlesticks made of history and thousands of precious metals and burindocuments that trace the centuriesengraved plates made by the most old presence of Franciscans in the Holy renowned artists of the time. And then Land, starting from St. Francis of Assisi’s voyage the display will move on to Nazareth, from where that brought him here in 1219. His famous encounter with we have fragments of famous sculptures which were the Sultan, a very important experience of dialogue once conserved and displayed in the Basilica between Islam and Catholicism, gave way to eight museum.” There is also an undisclosed treasure from centuries of vicissitudes narrated by documents Capernaum, the city that Jesus chose for his bearing witness to the presence of Franciscan monks. preachings. “From Capernaum, we have numerous Documents like the Papal Bull of 1342, in which Pope objects from extensive excavations carried out by Clement VI declared the Franciscan Order the official several professors of the Studium Biblicum Custodian of the Holy Land in the name of the Church, Franciscanum Faculty, but especially some small or a number of particularly precious objects which were items found in the house of Peter, which was also gifts from European kings. “All these things will finally the house of Jesus during his public life.” Then on to be displayed to the public, not so much to highlight East Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. “Thanks to
Miniature of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata, 15th Century
should be driven by the enthusiastic wish to contribute to the education of local Christians, thus leaving its mark in the land “where we were all born,” and by the desire to give yet undisclosed material its rightful visibility, thereby bequeathing it to History.
Andrea Avveduto was born in Novara, Italy, in 1984 and is a journalist. He obtained a degree in Political Science from the University of Milan in 2009. After spending two years working as a television analyst for RAI, the Italian public service broadcaster, he moved to Jerusalem, where he now lives and works for the Franciscan Media Center. He regularly contributes articles to the newspapers Avvenire and Libero and the Sussidiario.net website.
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