The Zahir 6.2

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IN ASSOCIATION WITH YUSU ENVIRONMENT AND ETHICS This has been my first term in charge of The Zahir, and it’s been an exhausting ride. When I took over this magazine, a lot fell on me not only to maintain its quality, but also to bring my own slant to proceedings. My aim is, as I told the designer of our front cover, to be “fredgy” - fresh and edgy - whilst retaining the sophistication that makes this magazine so distinct and well-respected. With such an ambitious team behind me, I have little doubt that in my year of editorship, The Zahir will become one of the staple magazines on campus. And it will be thanks to my team, who have been so unerringly enthusiastic from the off. Particular mention must go to ex-deputy Guy Wilson, who I am yet to buy even one of the many drinks I have promised him; to Sam Mason, a man who knows his fredge; and to my deputy, Mylo, who has not only constantly helped me in every area of the magazine, but also acted as a level-headed counsel when my judgement goes awry. “Mylo”, I said, “I want to change the name from The Zahir to The Walshington Post, and make it less about culture and more about things that annoy me. Magicians will be the first article.” He said no. You owe him as much as I do. So thank you, editors, contributors and readers alike. Without you I would be an empty husk of a man.

JOE WALSH The Zahir is lovingly edited by: Editor: Joe Walsh Deputy Editor: Mylo Scurr



volume 6 / issue 2 / Spring 2011

POLITICS................................................. 2 The Green Party 3 The Arab Uprising 4 Cuts and Crises 5 Nigerian Oil Spill 6 A Tribal Issue LITERATURE............................................. 7 The Importance of a Voice 8 A Changing Literature 9 The Lord of the Flies 11 Railways and Books FEATURE.................................................. 12 Tackling the Fundamental Issue 13 Environmental Control 15 The Strength of the Party MUSIC..................................................... 16 The Dubstep Generation 17 An Environmental Cost 19 The Case for the DJ 20 A Post-Dubstep Development FILM....................................................... 21 The Waste Land 22 Britain vs. Hollywood 24 The Imperfection of Perfection ART........................................................ 25 Underwater Art 26 The Timelessness of Environmental Art 27 Art, Environment and Politics 28 A New Eco-Wardrobe CREATIVE WRITING..................................... 29 Tim Lunn 30 Sania Sajid

Film Editors: Emma Walker / Ellie Wallis Literature Editor: Helena Kaznowska Deputy Literature Editor: Sophie Taylor Music Editor: Shaffi Batchelor Deputy Music Editor: Mobeen Hussain Politics Editor: Eleanor Howe Deputy Politics Editor: Josephine Harmon Creative Writing Editor: Sania Sajid Deputy Creative Editor: Tim Lunn Art Editor: Helena Davies Deputy Art Editor: Dan Cave Cover Design: Sam Mason


Have you done something new with your hair? I love it. It’s only the spring 2011 edition of The Zahir! We’re constantly on the look-out for new people to get involved in the magazine, our heady global team of fifty thousand scouting out talent from the lofty heights of our sky-scraper offices, so if you’d like to write for us, help with marketing, just say hello, or find out why exactly magicians are the bane of our society, please email us at I am literally sat by computer all day every day so that I can make a new friend of you. I do like your shoes. Many additional thanks to handsome rogue Guy Wilson, post-structuralist renegade Siobhan Hurley, crack marketing team Josh Allen, Alienor Littaye and Kate Mason, and the outlandish team at Inprint Colour (

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2



Josephine Harmon / Leena Sobahi / Jim Conway / Eleanor Howe / Maksymilian Fus Mickiewicz

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Are the Greens a one-policy party? Josephine Harmon responds to the Deputy Leader of the Green Party’s visit to York.


n his recent talk, Adrian Ramsay’s Great Matter was inevitably his struggle to free himeslf of the Greens’ reputation as single-minded. The talk largely comprised discussion of environmentalist issues, bizarrely interspersed with comments on wider contemporary issues like the economic crisis – as if both were intimately interconnected. The Greens’ name and image exposes them to stigmatisation but is it fair that they are pigeonholed as a one-policy party? All political ideologies favour areas over others. The Greens, however, adopt a jarringly un-anthropocentric argument, as much as they repudiate that notion. It is endemic in Britain to deride as irrelevant the Greens’ commentary on anything other than environmentalism. Is this a problem with society collectively or the Green Party itself? Well, politics is about people and, as worthy as it is, environmentalism digresses from people-issues. I am dubious whether the public would be pleased if wind farms and solar-panelling proliferated, when NHS cuts continued and libraries grew further obsolete. Inoffensive, ‘positive’ Green thinking – in which, due to taboos, all radicalism is absent – creates a discordant message when swathes of airplane flights continue unregulated. Although Ramsay alluded scathingly to Labour’s proposal for a fourth runway at Heathrow, the wishy-washy, inoffensive nature of Green environmentalism undermines their major policy. Some scientists even assert increases in carbon dioxide are natural, which profoundly inhibits voters’ confidence in the Greens’ headline policy being so disputed. The Greens’ ‘un-electability’ ostensibly lies with the two factors of the prevalent derision of environmentalism and the unfortunate degree of truth to the assertion that Green policy forsakes social issues in favour of solar panels. Indeed, I suspect Greens

would go spontaneously limp-wristed if they had to prise cars from the masses and cap the amount of waste and gas that can be dumped by corporations. Is mainstream Green enough? Well, that is the question. The Green Party’s terribly directionless social policies meant that the environmentalists’ reputation as prioritising the environment ahead of human society carried some gravitas for me. As much as I sympathised with Ramsay when someone asked why environmentalists should bother voting Green rather than for a party “that can actually get elected”, environmentalism ought to be a significant but subordinate issue for parties, and not the hallmark of a regime. The Tories’ sale of public woods exhibit ironic indifference towards public conservation and the Greens are unequivocally – unsurprisingly – more green than their political counterparts. But I am sceptical whether environmentalism should be a headlining policy. Inevitably, social issues get lost to environmentalist minutiae, as it did in the

talk. The inexorable discussion involving genetically-modified crops and Ramsay’s fiveyear-plan-like vision of mass solar-panelling confirmed the Greens’ digression from important contemporary issues. Andrew Neil reported recently that current social mobility is on a par with the 1920s. Yet Ramsay

only paid lip-service to the ramifications that tuition-fee rises may have on social mobility, offering no alternative model. The Greens’ compulsion to force environmentalism into every policy parodies forcing a square peg in a round hole. One aged female questioner raised an important issue: people don’t want to listen to the Green message. Though unfair to saddle the Greens with the blame (and not those suburban capitalist demons with their oil-guzzling four-by-fours), the indictment of Caroline Lucas’ campaign tactics as engendering a “doom and gloom” mentality towards climate change was plausible. (Lucas commented that British Second-World-War unity is necessary for green issues.) Ramsay’s answer detailing his ‘positive’ convictions – such investing in public transport and build ing“stronger local communities” – was fair but ignored the wider issue. People cannot realistically be motivated to vote Green when the issue of deforestation cannot compete with that of job losses. However, Ramsay’s unapologetic proposal to scrap Trident was refreshing. Crediblealbeit-taboo economic proposals like this and opting out of the EU tend to get shouted down. Ramsay’s tedious dealing out of practised party lines on wind farms (and what they do and don’t condone) counter-balanced that pleasingly non-conformist moment in the talk. The dogmatic Green Party line and its all-encompassing environmentalism seemed to stifle his wider views. It is unfortunate environmentalism is not a bigger priority for the major parties. Would it be for a capitalist system for which oil is its lifeblood? But I am not convinced that the Greens are the way to go. The party flounders in political limbo; alienating their support-base if they discuss non-environmentalist issues; excluding themselves from being serious contenders for government if they stick exclusively to environmentalism. Consequently, social issues come second. I sympathize with the Green predicament but I gained no expectation from the talk that the Green Party will be our salvation environmentally or our salvation socially.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


The Uprise of Arab Spirit Leena Sobahi takes a personal look at the cause of recent Arab uprisings


or decades, many Arab populations have been the victims of harsh political regimes, ones that have restricted change and basic universal rights like freedom of speech and democracy. They are lumbered with the same immovable leaders and taught to say only what is expected of them, otherwise, as is commonly understood, ‘You won’t live to see the light of day!’ These are the countries I call home. And these are the countries that have recently demanded change. This accumulated frustration was bound to erupt soon. Frustration with corruption, lack of infrastructure, unemployment and rising prices; frustration with governments that starve their citizens; and frustration with leaders who earn millions while half of the population is below the poverty line. The young generation are growing up to find the dreams they worked hard for will never become a reality. The disappointment of knowing that you cannot give back to your country and that you cannot make a difference drives the movement for change. The sheer anger that we see is only a mere reflection of years of emotional confinement, which like a coke bottle shaken for so long, is bound to erupt once opened. The only thing stopping thousands from demanding change was fear, not only fear for their lives but fear of the unknown. If this president leaves, how can we guarantee


that the next one will not be just as bad, if not worse? However, this fear has gone and consequently, the bottle top released, as President Obama said of Egypt on February 11th, ‘The wheel of history has turned at a blinding pace.’ What started in Tunisia in late December had a knock on effect on its neighbors, now countries like Algeria, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan are following Tunisia’s footsteps. ‘Freedom is never voluntarily

given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.’ So is this a wake up call for Arab leaders to stop feeding their nations lies, to stop the stealing, manipulation and inadequate politics? Many fear that the revolutions have come too late to rejuvenate failing democracy. However, what many are not aware of is the spirit of the Arab citizen: patriotic, proud, and one who will remain loyal to the soil he grew up on. A new found pride has been seen on the streets of Cairo as hundreds of citizens have come out to clean and protect their city. The broken spirits of those nations will quickly mend, for those spirits are united regardless of politics, race or religion.

There is no revolution without sacrifice. We learnt this from our ancestors who fought for independence from colonialism many years ago, blood must be shed, silenced voices must be heard, and ultimately, we must stand in the face of any danger that faces our homes. No words can describe the feelings of the scared children who are hiding under their beds to stay away from gunfire and the fear of the mother who waits for her sons to come back from defending their neighborhood that has been attacked by gangs that fled the prisons among the chaos. The Tunisians and Egyptians won their battle, at least for now, and the fate of the rest of their brothers and sisters in the Arab World remains unknown. But what is guaranteed is that in Egypt, no tear gas will stop the strength of the bruised man, and in Sudan, no weapons or warning speeches will hinder the determination of the oppressed females. Regardless of the result of the recent up-rises, I believe those populations have already won, they demonstrated just how determined they are and how far they are willing to go. This is not the beginning nor is it the end. It is a point that needed to proven, a power that needed to be exposed and a fact that needed to be reiterated. We will no longer stand still: we will live with dignity or die. trying.

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


Crisis and Cuts: Public Sector Incentive or Public Nightmare?


here is a debate that has raged ever since the explosion of capitalism from industrialisation over 200 years ago. Since then millions of workers have lost their jobs and millions of companies have gone bust. The question of the last 200 hundred years is this: how do we deal with economic crises? Now as much as ever, the pertinence of this question puts it at the forefront of British politics. The current coalition government sees public sector job cuts as part of the answer. In December, the Confederation of British Industry reduced their projection of growth for the first quarter of 2011 down to 0.2% to account for the extra public sector jobs that were cut for the New Year. The austerity programme imposed by the coalition is looking further afield for employment to the private sector. The austerity approach, in its caricature form, warns the country’s supersized debt is hurting business confidence. It is simple, to the proponents of austerity, cut the debt and a vast swathe of confidence will sweep the country. Flourishing competitive markets will see the abundance of unemployed as an opportunity to recruit, solving the temporary problem of the public sector cuts. Here it is tempting to say, with a hint of indignation, ‘the markets got us in this mess and you want to leave it to them to get us out?!’. But a further look into the coalition’s policies can help give a better response. Increasing business confidence is the holy grail of political economics. And, as economists will tell you, austerity programmes must be accompanied by policies that actively encourage it. But business confidence relies on consumer spending. On the 4th January VAT rose to 20%. A move widely regarded as deterring consumer spending because it increases consumer’s outgoings. January is already a difficult month for the business world, but with more outgoings consumers have less expendable income. Many businesses too, like consumers, pay taxes. Add the rise in VAT to this,

Jim Conway exposes the cracks in the coalition government’s austerity cuts

and it is certainly a tough period for businesses. The VAT rise could not have come at a worse time. In the North East David Cameron talks of an “unsustainable” balance between public and private sectors. But cuts in public spending are hitting private businesses. Companies that are outsourced by Government, such as the IT provider Capita in Darlington, have seen their contracts discontinued. Similar problems have hit the share prices of Connaught, Cable and Wireless and Logica. The Financial Times on 21st of July 2010 reported the negative outlook of investment bankers Execution Noble: “We take the view that a period of fiscal austerity will result in a lower level of economic growth than is currently being forecast…significantly reducing consumption and increasing unemployment.” 140,000 public sector jobs have been cut since June. But worryingly private sector jobs have flat-lined. The hole in the labour market that should be filled by the flourishing competitive private sector is wide. This austerity package has hit rocky water. And, as the labour market looks grimmer with each day, nothing of tangible use has been put in place to help the goldfish bowl of the unemployed. In fact the opposite is happening. Benefits have been slashed. Claimants who have been on job seekers allow-

ance for over a year have been cut 10 per cent of their housing benefit. In times of austerity the unemployed must be protected. Instead they are being kicked while they are down. The lessons of the Thatcher Era have not been learned. The real debate is not cuts versus spending. All parties are agreed the debt must be reduced. The real challenge is to find policies that can reduce spending and increase business confidence without hurting the poorest. But the current state of business confidence seems worse with each new set of economic data. Two weeks ago the Office for National Statistics data revealed the economy had effectively flat lined in the final quarter of 2010. Down from growth of 0.7% in the third quarter. Last week statistics from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research show GDP has remained flat through January. Further indication the austerity package is not succeeding. But the alternatives are not clear. The Labour Party has failed to provide a coherent plan for recovery thus far (it is unlikely it will do so until nearer the next general election in 2015). Its approach to the economy under Ed Miliband has been marred by a perceived inability for him and his ex-shadow chancellor to agree on a timeframe to reduce the country’s debt. The Labour Party does stringently defend benefits and public-sector jobs. Both of which play crucial roles in crisis recovery. But it has not provided any convincing argument to stimulate business confidence or economic growth. The fact remains that the coalition government’s austerity programme is floundering in the capitalist ocean. The approach sees this initial lull as being followed by increasing business confidence and private sector investment. The problem is business confidence needs more than a job-slashing austerity programme. And from what we have seen so far, the government has little else.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


A Swamp Full of Dollars Eleanor Howe investigates a major Nigerian oil spill


igeria’s environment is gradually being destroyed by greed. On top of political instability, conflict, poverty, corruption, inadequate infrastructure and poor macroeconomic management, the country is also tormented by an environmental problem of catastrophic proportions, a problem that has continued relatively unnoticed for decades. It stems from the maze of pipelines riddling the landscape. These pipes pump out oil and gas daily amounting to over 40% of the United States crude oil imports and bestows them with the title ‘world capital of oil pollution.’ Despite being the 10th largest producer of oil in the world and its production comprising of over 30% of the country’s GDP, oil and gas production is deemed more a plague than a blessing, having exacerbated resource conflict and led to corrupt governance. This is on top of the vast damage it has caused to the environment and the limited benefits it gives back to ordinary Nigerians: only 10% work in this industry and only 0.001% of the oil produced is used locally. The Niger Delta, an area spanning 53000km2 and inhabits 30 million people, is ‘completely dysfunctional’ and probably the worst affected region. There have been 2000 oil spills recorded by the oil companies between 2006 – 2009 in this area alone, a figure that equates to roughly ’10 major oil spills a year.’ The massively publicized spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 estimated that 53,000 barrels of oil per day (8,400 m3/d) were draining into the ocean, however more oil is pouring into the Niger Delta every year, a routine that’s lasted for half a century! The Guardian reported that a


member of the Ogoni people said ‘If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention.’ It is impossible to calculate how much oil is leaking. Most spills gradually develop ‘drip by drip’ as the result of thieving, sabotage and bad upkeep. Pipes are rusty and people steal, either through institutionalised theft or small-scale robberies. The response to spills is very slow moving and related to compensation

issues. “This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months.” On May 2010 an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured, leaking a million barrels in seven days. Guards attacked local demonstrators and despite the $1bn compensation community leaders are demanding for the illness and loss of livelihood suffered, they do not expect to succeed. Life expectancy in the Delta has fallen to 40 in the twenty years. There is illness, little clean water, and the ability to hunt and fish is thwarted. The Delta used to be a haven for biodiversity. Now many areas are barren, many species made endangered or extinct, all for the pursuit of oil. Unfortunately solutions are never simple. Experts in the field are boggled by the sheer complexity of the scale and issues in the Delta – a place that seems to operate under a unique system incomparable to anywhere else in the world. Too much print would be consumed addressing the myriad of proposals to resolve

the problems from trust-building and transparency of the oil company’s environmental assessments to educating local people and the international community. However, there is a fundamental lesson to be learnt. The apathy and lack of accountability and consideration for the region, including both its human and non-human inhabitants, shown by oil companies, national government and the rich nations that benefit from the exploitation of its land and people is unacceptable: ‘Oil companies do not value our life; they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced 10 oil spills and fishermen can no longer sustain their families. It is not tolerable.’ As the expression goes, once out of sight, out of mind. More could be done to find and invest in alternative renewable energy to decrease dependence on oil. More could be done to decrease the environmental impact these oilrigs have. More could certainly be done. However one thing stands in the way: the lust for money, standing in the way of protection, empathy and avoidance in the Delta. Individualistic tendencies reduce caring and replace it with wants and tunnel vision. We must care about those people we cannot see, and we must re-assess our anthropocentric relationship with non- human nature to realize that our survival is inextricably linked to our environment. This is what I believe it means to be green. It is easy to flit from issue to issue and not see the effect our environment has on our survival, but people around the world, every day are experiencing these repercussions and are suffering for it – suffering from the dollar signs that have replaced their homes and families, the animals, birds and trees. The Niger Delta is no exception, and shows how ruthless the quest for profit is.

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


A Tribal Culture Maksymilian Fus Mickiewicz on downtrodden tribes


peaking to The Zahir, Miriam Ross, press officer of the London-based NGO Survival International, describes her own battle with the Botswana government to protect the alternative way of life the Kalahari Bushmen have chosen to lead. Their mission statement is simple: to protect marginalised people’s rights. Those in opposition range from corporations looking to grab land, to those simply misinformed about tribal culture. Survival works with a wide scope of groups worldwide, including students across universities, to generate media coverage and fight legal cases. For the first time ever last month Survival shot and released footage of never-before photographed tribes. What was the first field trip you worked on like? My first field trip was to Botswana to visit the Kalahari Bushmen. They’d just been evicted from their land so it was a very sad situation. Hundreds of them were living in re-settlement camps where they were just waiting for handouts. Thirty people had resisted eviction completely and were still living on their land in the Kalahari. Seeing the contrast between those two groups was really amazing. The latter were hunting, gathering and knew their place in the world. The evicted said they knew exactly what they had to do in the morning, where they could find

food, and now they had to sit around and wait. Happily now most of the people I met have been able to go back from the camps to their land through Survival’s campaign. What was the actual campaign? Survival helped fund two big courtcases for the Bushmen. In 2006 the high court affirmed the Bushmen’s rights to live on their land in the Kalahari. It was the biggest ever court case in Botswana’s history. They were victorious, but afterwards, the government still tried to make it as difficult as possible for them to live there. They prevented them from accessing water from an ex-government borewell on their land - the subject of the second court case. They actually lost last summer but they re-appealed and the court voted in their favour just last week. It’s fantastic news. Could the term conservative ever describe the tribes? You could call them conservative, but the real issue is one of survival. If you take away the tribes’ land they don’t have a way to live. Survival International isn’t trying to preserve any tribal peoples. What we’re really trying to say is that in order for these people to have self determination and chose their own way of life, the rights to their land must be respected. One common misconception is that tribal people are living

the same way as they did hundreds of years ago, but they’re changing and adapting to circumstances even though they’re protected. The direction of change is different to that of other societies but it still happens. Why were the pictures of uncontacted tribes released? The real purpose of releasing those pictures was to emphasise that those people do actually exist, because governments, particularly in Peru, deny their existence at all. That obviously makes it difficult to pressurize them to respect their rights. We wanted to create support for them. Is there ever a conflict between environmental activism and protecting tribes? What’s happening is that some things mitigated as a solution to climate change are in fact detrimental to the environment and human rights. For example, we’ve recently seen a resurgence in the building of hydro-electric dams. Ten years ago they were very much discredited as a bad development policy because how badly they displace people and destroy environments. Now worldwide we’re seeing new hydro-electric projects backed by corporations looking to make money. It’s dressed up as a way to combat climate change, but in fact the rainforests are being destroyed. It’s not what the local people need.

© Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/

Do you find yourself in co-operation with environmental groups a lot? Often environmental issues and issues of tribes’ rights are linked since it’s the destruction of their environment and their land and resources. But that’s not to say there are not sometimes conflicts. There are some in the conservation movement who would prefer that areas they’re focusing on didn’t have any people on them whatsoever, even if those people have been living there for thousands of years and are living sustainably. Astonishing new photos of one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes who are under increasing threat, according to tribal people’s charity, Survival International. brazilphotos


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2



Harriet Evans / Helena Kaznowska / Sophie Taylor / Jasmine Tarmey

Making Ourselves Heard


t’s been over 180 years since Shelley called poets the ‘unacknowledged legislators’ of the world and since then, the number of writers and poets has increased unfathomably. Yet, when was the last time a writer really held up a mirror to the world and critiqued it? It’s a long-standing tradition that the act of writing is essential for shaping society. Sir Philip Sidney’s essay In Defence of Poesy argued for this during the Renaissance, defending poetry and creative writing against claims of effeminacy and social uselessness. The classical greats strove to improve the world they lived in through their work – and often paid dearly for their efforts. After reading the likes of Thomas Nashe and Erasmus this term, I was actually a little in awe of the extent these writers were prepared to critique their society and the amount they were prepared to risk in doing so. In particular, Nashe attempted to cover his tracks with elaborate praises of Elizabeth I to avoid suspicion of treasonous writings – his career was practically destroyed by ‘annoying’ the clergy – but my point is that here, writers were prepared to endure poverty and risk banishment, or even death, for their work. Of course, in this day and age of our so-called civilised society, there’s no threat of decapitation or of being kicked out the country for criticising the government. They may not like what you write, they may even hate it, but there’s nothing they can actually do about it. Nonetheless, if a writer was fiercely attacking the government or our society, no doubt the press would have detected such criticism and labelled the writer as notorious and infamous? There’s nothing the media loves more than controversy, so surely they would jump at the chance? Therein lies the issue. These days


Harriet Evans explores the social critique behind literature

“Words are everywhere, but do they mean anything anymore?” there are more writers than ever, and, dud or not, there seems to be no way for the press to pick up on all of them. And with so many writers floating around, it is clearly impossible for a select few to become significant voices representing a nation or a generation. Even if one or two do become ‘known’, where is the guarantee that those writers are the best and not just the most controversial? Perhaps they’re just the lucky ones. After all, anyone with access to the Internet in some form or other can tell us all about their opinions, which is absolutely crippling for those poor souls who want to consider themselves special in their writing (and let’s admit it – we all suffer from the curse of ‘writer’s ego’ where we can’t stand

the idea of having other people’s opinion read before our own). But there is another problem. Has the sheer quantity of writing these days managed to devalue the very words that used to be so contentious? We are inundated with writing at every turn: magazines, papers, books, campus publications, Facebook, Twitter and, most of all, with blogs. Everyone has a blog. Some people have two or three. Yet it seems ridiculous, and while I’m as guilty as any, at least I realise that the whole thing’s getting out of hand. Words are everywhere, but do they mean anything anymore? When anyone can make a name for themselves as an amateur writer, is it still special when you finally manage to hit the big time? Well, of course it does. When Shelley called us the ‘unacknowledged legislators’ of the world he lived in a time where the majority of writers couldn’t afford to be acknowledged. But now we can. No longer suppressed by extreme poverty or an inability to access the world of self-publishing, these days writers cannot but be ‘acknowledged’. But still the question is asked: when was the last time a writer really held up a mirror to the world and critiqued it? Well, I believe we do it every day. While there are currently a greater numbers of ‘writers’ than ever before, this doesn’t make their contribution any less worthy. Now anyone can blog about their world and, while the majority of such blogs may be uninspired and seemingly pointless, it means that every one of us has a voice. We can all say what we think, and even if only one other person reads our words, we’ve made a difference to their life. We may not have those great critical voices to speak out for the nation anymore, but we don’t need them. We can speak out for ourselves.

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


Addicted to Austen


oday’s society seems obsessed with every aspect of both the novelist and their novels. This seemingly recent craze has resulted in the production of countless books, films and documentaries on the lives of writers, such as the 2003 film The Hours (based on Virginia Woolf and her novel Mrs Dalloway) Shakespeare in Love, Kafka and Miss Potter (which depicted the life of the much loved children’s author and illustrator). Amateur enthusiasts and dedicated fans are are even putting pen to paper - or more likely fingers to keys - in an attempt to recreate their own favourite fiction. Hundreds of websites with dedicated writers are offering extra chapters to Harry Potter, alternate endings to Phantom of the Opera, while sub-plots dedicated to Pride and Prejudice are just a few clicks away. This idea of Fanficton has been taken one step further with published by-products and parodies such as Sherri Browning Erwin’s Jane Slayer, the macabre Pride, Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Ben H. Winters’ Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Our interest is no longer purely invested in the novel itself, but also the author, and the world they created for us to play in and re-write. These newly titled ‘Querk-classics’ have given extra tongue-incheek twists to our golden oldies, yet I think there is an essential component to our favourite fiction that is forgotten in this craze. It’s not characters or setting that makes a novel ‘classic’, but the writing style. We love classic novels because of the magic created through the words that cannot be recreated by a mere enthusiast. It’s as if classic novels quite simply have an essence of greatness. However, these modern carry-ons show that people are interested and want more; there is still so much love for the classics that every day, people are prepared to re-create, even when more often than not the author died centuries before. The reader wants an opportunity to explore, re-invent their favourite novel, lengthen or simply

Helena Kaznowska investigates our attachment to literature’s finest unleash their own imagination upon unspoken possibilities. It is so easy for the reader to access the classics. Most are free to read on the internet, in the free ‘library’ application on the iPod Touch, and many dusty copies dominate the shelves of real libraries. There are also adaptations that are regularly shown on television, and most are just a click away at the public’s disposal on YouTube. We are only ever a moment from a classic novel, which could explain why we still reach for them. This easy accessibility begs the question of whether we simply revert back to the classics because we can’t be bothered to sift through all this new material. With the human race publishing a book every thirty seconds, how can we possibly keep up to date with literature? A book may earn itself a ‘Richard & Judy Summer Read’ sticker, but it’s always these books - the trash novels - that are off our shelves and in the charity donation pile by the end of the holiday. But why do the classics that we’ve read a thousand times keep out of the second-hand pile? Dickens, Hardy, the Brontë sisters and Conan Doyle are some of the other untouchables. James and Shakespeare are, too, immortal. All those solid favourites that sit on our shelves and are granted the annual re-read. We know Austen will never be thrown out. Perhaps it’s her realism

and bitingly true social commentary. Intelligent yet flawed, her leading ladies are likeable, her men desirable. Austen creates heroines girls want to be and heroes they want to have. Combined with a witty and interesting narrative, Austen’s England has become most girls’ dream world, equipped, of course, with Mr. Darcy. But are classic novels considered to be stuffy and out of date? We are an age of high energy video games, extreme sports, fast living, cuttingedge fashion, technology, drugs and alcohol. Can the inexplicit and reserved romances of Austen, for example, really live up to the standards of sex scenes that are splashed about in today’s media? So, why do readers return time and time again to well-thumbed pages of favourites? Whether we have fond memories of being read classics as a child, spending our pocket money on second hand copies or even studying the book in school, we are drawn to the classics because they are a part of who we are.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


Shrinking Golding Down to Size


nglish Literature is not exactly considered synonymous to the theme of environmentalism and with around 30 million trees being destroyed every year for the production of books in the US alone, this is hardly surprising. However, one common theme in literature is man’s relationship in the world with nature, an element explored by art movements such as the Romantics and the Naturalists for generations. Detached from this greatly comprehensive subject stands a very different nature: the psychology of human nature at its most primal and extreme. Scholars around the world are still seeking to determine processes that take place when individuals are left alone in an environment stripped of any remaining fragments of society and devoid of communication with the outside world. After reading William Golding’s first published novel Lord of the Flies at the age of fourteen, I was disappointed by its seemingly two dimensional characters and all too comfortable final deliverance when the boys are carried back to their middle-class English existence for crumpets and tea. I conceived the distinctions between good and evil as far too simplistic and clear-cut,

Lord of The Flies: the psychology of human nature at its most primal and extreme.


Sophie Taylor delves into Freudian concepts in William Golding’s adventure story

though I did find various interpretations of characters depicting Biblical and historical figures very interesting. On reading the novel for a second time, with a revised understanding of Golding’s studies into the Natural Sciences, I received a somewhat delayed appreciation that there was a lot more to L up of three components: the id, the ord of the Flies than first meets the perturbed adolescent’s eye. The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud developed his theory for the three-part model of the personality in the 1920s. He proposed that the conscious mind was made ego, and the superego. The id is the element of the psyche that consists of instinctual and pleasure-seeking drives in humans; being synonymous with the libido, where abides the more aggressive and primitive impulses. The superego is therefore the id’s polar opposite, being viewed as a ‘moral conscience’ which con-

stantly attempts to overrule the instinctive drives of the id. In continuous battle to balance out the primal impulses of the id and the superego is the ego; which acts as a regulator striving for equilibrium between the other two mechanisms. The ego is often referred to as the ‘inner voice’ of our consciousness: a rational and calculating counterpart. In terms of psychoanalysing Lord of the Flies, Piggy represents the ego as he relentlessly tries to reason between the bestial forces of the id and the agitated ‘moral conscience’ of the superego. The characteristics of the id are fulfilled by Jack Merridew, an unlikely antagonist as he was originally head boy and fronted his school choir. Jack is constantly conflicting with Ralph, who symbolises the superego, which emphasises Golding’s mysterious allusion to the “indefinable connexion” between the two boys. Piggy is the most intelligent boy on the island; powered by “intellectual daring” he often advises Ralph with the decisions he imposes as leader and builds new innovations such as the sundial. Frequently described as a “parent” to the other boys, Piggy is logical, sensible and often stands between Ralph and Jack as the voice of reason. His attempts at breaking up their conflicts are often successful, such as the scene in Chapter Eleven when the Piggy’s voice compels Ralph to stop striking Jack. Piggy asks: “Which is better- to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”, which perfectly depicts his difficulty in balancing out the primal desires of Jack and the emotional turmoil of Ralph. Piggy also acts as the ‘inner

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2 voice’ of Ralph, who is criticised for being leader yet sounding in his declarations too much “like Piggy”; he is constantly reminded and brought back to reality by mentioning the importance of the fire as a means of rescue. Jack is Golding’s representation of the id; from the beginning he is drawn into the “brilliant world of hunting, tactics” and “fierce exhilaration”, so seems to be directed by sheer impulse and desire. The primal instincts present in Jack are not imposed with any boundaries, and from the moment he kills his first pig he feels the thrill of taking away its life “like a long satisfying drink”. The id often directs aggressive tendencies towards the ego, so Piggy is a frequent victim of Jack’s violent impulses, resulting in the loss of his life. In Freudian theory, over-activity of the id can have subsequent clinically psychopathic behaviour and the ultimate suppression of the ego and superego. Indeed, Jack succeeds in destroying the ego by killing Piggy and almost achieves the second murder of Ralph, being prevented only by the naval officer, who acts as a reminder of the adult world and civilisation. References connecting Jack to the libido also interlace the plot of Lord of the Flies. The hunters are compelled to violence by the sound of pigs’ trotters running: “seductive, maddening- the promise of meat” and Jack’s aggressive verbal

outbursts are viewed as being a “release…like an orgasm”. The hunters are fuelled by their hunger for food and bloodlust, while appearing increasingly less desirous for rescue as their violence becomes more extreme. Standing as a role of the superego is the protagonist, Ralph. He holds on to civilisation with a firmer grasp than the other boys, feeling an “unease of wrong-doing”, refusing to paint his face and insisting on wearing the clothes that are a remaining association with society back in England. Similar to the superego, he is susceptible to great feelings of guilt and continuously strives for the favour of the other boys, wishing to fulfil his post as a just and amiable leader. Freud proposed that an overactive superego often leads to feelings of immense guilt and shame. In this event, the ego theoretically represses these memories of abject events into the subconscious to avoid depression. When Simon is killed as part of a ritual ‘dance’, Ralph proclaims to Piggy his overwhelming penitence, to which Piggy replies, “We got to forget this.” One final theory, though not as readily accepted as the concept of psychoanalysis in Lord of the Flies, is the analogy of the “conch”: the large shell the boys have to hold in order to voice their opinions at the island meetings. The conch stands

literature as a symbol of democracy and civilisation yet has a very obvious phonetic similarity to psychological terms such as consciousness or indeed conscience. In fact, Golding’s notes on Natural Science often drafted the abbreviation “consc.” when referring to the human consciousness. The conch appears throughout Lord of the Flies, with particular prominence at moments in the text where emotions are overwrought. An example of this is when Ralph clutches the conch in his guilt over Simon’s death and when the conch shatters at the death of Piggy, standing intact as the presence and broken as the lack of moral conscience. In Chapter Ten, Ralph is depicted clutching the conch to his chest in his guilt over Simon’s death, portraying the fact he still retains his conscience. Later on, the conch shatters at the scene of Piggy’s death, signifying the absence of Jack’s moral conscience and his ultimate dehumanisation. Golding was greatly preoccupied with primacy of the psyche, instilled in his studies of the Natural Sciences at Brasenose College, Oxford. Lord of the Flies succeeds in bringing the individual back to nature, obscuring distinctions between what is bestial and what is human; the “darkness of man’s heart”, it seems, is as deeply in nature as the creepers and swarming insects of the island.


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Dickens’ Train of Thought


urder on the Orient Express, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Railway Children: literature, especially children’s fiction, is rife with images of the steam train. Many would love to board the Hogwarts Express for a magical world of spells, potions and broomsticks without thinking about their journey’s side effects. After all, a child’s first impression of this transport is the steam engine, fondly remembered as the ‘choo choo’ train. Snaking its way across the country, the steam train is a fantastical symbol of a past era; yet to Dickens, this product of the industrial age symbolised something much more sinister. Forget happy children waiting to be taken to school or standing on bridges trainspotting; this mode of transport has instead become an embodiment of death. The railway as a destructive force was also discussed by other major authors of the time, featuring in poems by Wordsworth and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Dickens is an author famed for his depiction of the dreary London streets, loveable villains and innocent children with an astute attention to detail. His novels are a prevailing aspect of modern society and they are still widely taught, read and adapted for the cinema or small screen. Classical literature, such as Dickens’ works, are used to look back to the past in order to see the way in which society worked and how people lived. But it could also be used as a forewarning of future problems, such as Dickens’ Dombey and Son, which can be seen as a vision of the future through its depiction of the beginnings of industrialisation. Dombey and Son may be a novel primarily concerned with domestic relationships, yet the image of the train, constantly looms in the background. It offers Mr Dombey both efficient and accessible transport while also embodying the harrowing vision of hell and death. In


Jasmine Tarmey examines what trains represent to the esteemed novelist, Charles Dickens. Dickens’ novel, railways appear to be destructive forces which ruin not only the places they run through but the people who use and work them. Whereas the lower class families, such as the Toodles, see it as a positive development providing steady work and a reliable income, other characters such as Mr Dombey perceive the railway as quite the opposite. On what should be an idyllic trip through the countryside, Dombey visualises the railway as a ‘power that forced itself upon its iron way… defiant of all paths and roads, piercing through the heart of every obstacle, and dragging living creatures of all classes, ages, and degrees behind it’. On four occasions in this chapter alone, Dombey

“...railways appear to be destructive forces which ruin not only the places they run through but the people who use and work them...”

perceives the train and its iron path as a ‘triumphant monster, Death… remorseless monster, Death… indomitable monster, Death’. This monster is not waiting in the closet or under the bed, but is a destructive animal making its presence known in the bright light of day, moving with ‘a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, with no trace to leave behind but dust and vapour’. Dickens’ view that the railway left ‘no trace […] behind but dust and vapour’ is, in hindsight, too optimistic. The ‘dark breath’ of this machine set in motion not only the industrial revolution, but the beginning of the greenhouse effect. Yes, factories and their machinery contributed too, but the burning of fossil fuels to pave the way for faster and more efficient transport came at a cost. The dust and vapour these railways left behind resulted in a country ‘strewn with ashes’ so that ‘[e]verything around it blackened’, creating the smoggy environment of mystery that is essential to Dickens’ prose. The misty streets of Victorian London are often recreated in costume drama adaptations, adding authenticity and mystery that captivates and intrigues audiences. Dickens perceived the railways as ‘the end of everything’, and in a way he was right. While it set in motion effective cross-country transport, trains also sparked a chain of events which left the environment in a dreary state not dissimilar to descriptions of Dickens’ world. Ghosts may not visit us at Christmas time and orphans may not find their way to a misfit family of loveable rogues, but the railway did prove to be a monster, dragging the world along the dusty path with its ‘dark breath’ polluting the air. But our idealised opinions of this mode of transport are blinded by superficial memories of childhood fantasies. The ‘choo choo’ train: the remorseless, triumphant, indomitable monster of death.

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David Fraser Clarke / Lizzie Dearden / Christian Drury

Sea Change or Climate Change eco-activist David Fraser Clarke calls for growth in political ambition


like to think of our battle against climate change as like that of a recovering alcoholic. Often well intentioned, we know the dangers of doing nothing. When the circumstances are right, we make huge strides forward and success seems possible, but we can’t help but fall off the wagon the moment things get tough. We lose our job – (the banks), our marriage (economic prosperity) is in trouble, and the struggle to kick the bottle (carbon emissions) just doesn’t seem worth it. OK, so perhaps the metaphor isn’t entirely fitting, since the economic downturn has actually seen emissions take a dive in most developed countries. But for a climate change campaigner like myself, the sheer volatility of public opinion and political momentum behind action on the environment is hard to bear. Not so long ago, we seemed to have turned a corner. The heady summer of 2006 saw David Cameron’s transformation into environmental champion, with his urge for us to ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’. A year later in Australia, Kevin Rudd was elected by a landslide promising to introduce a comprehensive carbon trading in the world’s first ‘climate change election’, where action on emissions was a defining issue for voters. It seemed like the fight to protect the planet had emphatically arrived on to the mainstream political agenda. And there was an increasing, if cautious optimism that the world might finally agree on a comprehensive, binding treaty to cut emissions. Three years later, the picture couldn’t be more different. Environmental issues barely get a mention from the Tory leader, the Australian Labor Par-

ty has ditched its ambitious plans in the face of increasing opposition from sceptics, and international negotiations are in trouble, with many doubting that the international community has the will or the means to come to any meaningful agreement over action on emissions any time soon. So what happened? Conventional wisdom points to the ‘Climategate’ scandal of 2009, where leaked emails from climatologists at the UEA seemed to show that scientists were ‘sexing up’ their findings to make the argument for action more compelling. But with subsequent enquiries dismissing most of the charges made by sceptics - and a clear majority of the public and almost all major world leaders backing the scientific consensus behind anthropogenic global warming, it’s hard to see this as the primary factor. The inconvenient truth for environmentalists is that while people and politicians understand the problem and ostensibly support action, climate change is ultimately seen as a secondary issue. When the economy was in good shape and the public could afford to care, things got done. But as soon as the financial crisis struck and the cuts started, environmental legislation became an unaffordable luxury. One by one, leaders around the globe concluded that green taxes and carbon trading just weren’t worth the political capital. If we are ever to overcome this challenge, the argument for action on climate change must shape, rather than be subjected to, the ever-changing political agenda. We cannot simply wait for economic

prosperity to return before acting on climate change; the science doesn’t allow us that privilege. But nor can environmentalists deny that when people are losing their jobs and facing a rising cost of living, the climate is a distant, intangible concern. The future must lie in seeing economic recovery and action on the environment as compatible rather than conflicting agendas. It’s time for green campaigners to speak the language of jobs, rising costs and public services. Far from being the middle class indulgence it’s often perceived to be, the environmental lobby must be the champion of a sustainable recovery which will benefit ordinary working people. This isn’t just politically expedient – it also makes a lot of sense. Lowcarbon industry is a significant emerging global market and has the capacity to provide millions of jobs. Expanding subsidies for insulation and micro generation of energy will help stop rocketing fuel bills. Investment in green infrastructure like high speed rail will have clear economic benefits. It will be a rocky road to recovery for carbon-addicted planet earth, and the stagnation of the last two years is evidence of that. There is no shortage of doom and gloom competing for our attention, and the changing climate is for the moment all too easy to ignore. But as all successful teetotallers will tell you, the first step lies in accepting the problem and coming to terms with the challenge. It’ll be worth it: fighting climate change can make us safer, wealthier and stronger. There’s a lot more at stake than just saving the world.


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Climate of Suspicion Lizzie Dearden peers into the murky world of police surveillance


n the wake of The Guardian’s exposé of PC Mark Kennedy, who lived as ‘Mark Stone’ for six years while spying on environmental activists, the policing of environmentalist groups has come under scrutiny. After infiltrating the movement at Earth First in 2003, Kennedy embedded himself in a group of activists and joined protests across Europe. Later, he became involved in organising direct action, culminating in the failed attempt to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2009. Twenty protesters were convicted for conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass based on Kennedy’s intelligence, but the case was reviewed after the existence of Kennedy and at least fifteen other undercover officers was revealed. The case captured national and international attention and has prompted a series of questions from the press and public over how such intensive surveillance was justified and why it was considered necessary. Until the Kennedy case was made public in January this year, little was known about the existence of the groups monitoring environmentalists or the depth of their operations. Kennedy’s employer, The National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was set up in 1999 to track the activities of animal rights and environmental ac-


tivists, who are classed by the security services as ‘domestic extremists’. In November 2009, David Hanson (the Minister of State for crime and policing), said that the purpose of the unit was to: • Provide the police with an ability to develop a national threat assessment and profile for domestic extremism. • Support forces to reduce crime and disorder from domestic extremism. • Support a proportionate police response to protest activity. • Help forces manage concerns of communities and businesses in order to minimise conflict and disorder. On its website, MI5 states that domestic extremists “have included violent Scottish and Welsh nationalists, right- and left-wing extremists, animal rights extremists and other militant single-issue protesters.” This page is listed under the heading “TERRORISM” and displays a photo of the 1999 Brick Lane bombsite. Seemingly, MI5 perceives the green movement as a threat equal to neo-Nazism. The website of the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, (a sister unit of the NPIOU), also seeks to define domestic extremism. Unlike MI5, the page acknowledges the peaceful elements of protest groups. It highlights the lack of ‘extremism’ in environmentalist groups and the

limited damage of their campaigns: “the majority of people involved in animal rights, environmentalism and other campaigns are peaceful protesters and never considered ‘extremist’… domestic extremist campaigns rarely cause a danger to life.” These admissions seem to conflict with the actions of the police force and NPOIU, who combine to monitor environmentalist groups closely during protests, rallies and, apparently, everyday life. Since its formation, the NPOIU has been sending undercover operatives into environmental campaign groups to gain an insight into the green movement and prevent incidents that will disrupt public order. It employs around seventy intelligence officers and staff members and its budget for 2009-2010 was £5 million. However, although it received government funding, it was not accountable to the public because it was run by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a private company. The intelligence the NPOIU gathers from environmentalist groups rarely leads to arrest, but is frequently used to compile lists of ‘domestic extremists’. These lists are given to surveillance officers so they can monitor those named. An example of a listed person is Dr Peter Harbour. A 70year-old retired physicist and university lecturer, who had never been tried or convicted of an offence, he was listed because he demonstrated

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and petitioned against a proposal by RWE npower to drain a lake beside his village and fill it with ash. When Dr Harbour asked for his name to be removed from its blacklist, he was denied. NPOIU’s insistence on keeping his name on the list problematises the title of ‘domestic extremist.’ Does it apply to criminals or potential criminals as well? Does it apply to all environmentalists? Is the act of protesting extremist? The intentions of the NPOIU have been heavily criticised. The business concerns that David Hanson mentioned have been seen as more prevalent than those of ‘communities.’ The defence of the interests of multinational power companies over public concerns has been attacked. One commentator asserted that ACPO “looks… like a state-sanctioned private militia, fighting public protest on behalf of corporations.” And he may well be right. Environmentalist protesters are rarely a concern for a local community or the general public. Most of the disruption that green groups have caused is directed at corporations. Even the famed 2008 protest at Drax power station, where activists ambushed a coal train and emptied its contents onto the tracks, did not affect power output or fuel stocks. Yet 22 campaigners were arrested. What is more worrying, however, is the extent of the involvement of un-

dercover operatives. Mark Kennedy did not watch from the sidelines. In his undercover role, he had sexual relationships with two fellow campaigners, chained himself to power stations, scaled cranes and protested from Scotland to Germany. In the lead-up to the Drax protest, he offered to drive activists to the location. Incidents like this, where he planned and facilitated action, have led to accusations that he and other operatives act as agent provocateurs, inciting green campaigners to commit crime. Evidence for this has also been seen in the timing of police action against environmental protesters. The Drax protest is a case in point. Kennedy was involved in the organisation and informed the NPOIU of the group’s activities daily. But the police let the action go ahead, moving in only after the train had been hijacked. In this case, the prevention of disorder seems to have been ignored in favour of spectacular arrests and a photo opportunity. The existence of other undercover police officers posing as environmental activists is now known, but the extent of their influence is not. If, as he has himself asserted, Mark Kennedy is not an exception, police officers could be still be monitoring environmental groups from the inside. On the 15th February, The Guardian also revealed that energy companies


are hiring private firms to investigate green activists. According to leaked documents, energy giants E.ON, Scottish Resources Group and Scottish Power have been sending in private undercover agents for years, as well as posing as activists on mailing lists in order to keep track of planned action against their companies. Climate Camp and Rising Tide are among the groups targeted. The company running the investigations, Vericola, calls itself ‘a business risk management company’. Unlike the NPOIU, it is not regulated and as yet there has been no move towards changing their practices. An E.ON spokesperson claimed that Vericola gathered private information “under their own steam” and that the energy company had only asked them to access publicly available information. The police service’s response to criticism has been more promising. Following the public reaction to the Kennedy case, the management of the NPOIU was transferred from ACPO to the Metropolitan Police on 31st January in a show of accountability that may signal a change in the treatment of environmentalists. Perhaps the label ‘domestic extremist’ will no longer be applied to members of the public who choose to peacefully act on their concern for the environment.


the zahir | volume 5 | issue 2


Growing Green? Christian Drury sings the praises of the Green Party


ne of the highlights of the 2010 General Election, often missed by commentators obsessed by a hung parliaments and new potential coalitions, was the election of Caroline Lucas. In the constituency of Brighton Pavilion, they voted for the first Green MP in British history. For any small party an MP is a huge step, allowing a position of influence and publicity unavailable to the unelected. However, despite this seeming success, the fact that there is only one Green MP in the commons, only elected last year, shames Britain. We are the last country in Europe to elect a Green member of our national parliament – quite abysmal considering the threat of global climate change. Britain still has a lot of catching up to do. The German Greens had power in a red-green coalition from 1998 to 2005, and are recognised as a serious political party. Similar coalitions have governed in France, Belgium and Italy. Latvia elected a Green Prime Minister in 2004! Britain seems to lag absurdly behind. One obvious reason is the electoral system, first-past-the-post (FPTP). Under this system, a majority in a constituency is needed for a seat, meaning that smaller parties, such as the Greens, have to focus their limited resources in certain areas they think they can win. However, all their votes from constituencies where they do not win are essentially worthless. Under a more representative system, the Green Party would be consistently represented in relation to their nation-wide support. However, it is easy to simply blame the system for failure. The party is often perceived as only focussing on the environment, a pressure group trying its luck in politics. They can be ridiculed by the right as nothing but a bunch of hippies, trying to take us back to a pre-industrial age. They seem to embody the worst excesses of the “loony left” – the 2010 manifesto suggested increasing al-


cohol and tobacco taxes by 50%, a maximum speed limit of 55 mph on motorways and the decriminalisation of cannabis. The Greens are seen as environmental fundamentalists, destroying social order to reduce emissions. However, much of this is simply smear tactics. In reality, the Greens are a modern social democratic party – something the UK lacks – and stand a real chance of succeeding in the current political climate. The policies of the Greens are undeniably left-wing, but they are also, in many places, the solutions people want and need. Their economic policy focuses on equality and redistribution, for social and environmental reasons, and stimulating the economy through massive investment in green technology, reintroducing a manufacturing sector of the economy and improving the environmental state of the nation. Their social policies mainly focus on

improving public services, creating a stronger welfare state and improving public participation in the political system. These views are also supported by elements of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. But it is possible for the Greens to look at becoming the party of the people and those disillusioned with their traditional representatives? In 2005, Charles Kennedy’s Lib Dems provided a left-wing alternative to Labour for voters who had supported Blair, but were disillusioned following the Iraq War and the introduction of tuition fees. Whilst they were denied seats by FPTP, they were hugely successful in weakening Labour’s authority. The Green Party of 2011 have a similar opportunity to chip away at the support for Labour and the Lib Dems. Many supporters of the Liberals have been seriously dissatisfied by the coalition, feeling that the party has betrayed its morals and compromised its values. The leadership, especially Nick Clegg, are further right than of many grassroots members, leaving many feeling that they are supporting a party that does not represent them or their interests. The Green Party has an opportunity to gain the support of these individuals, the liberal-left middle class who feel that the Lib Dems have betrayed their commitment to social opportunity and equality. They could also gain majorly in the student vote, amongst those who feel Clegg and the party leadership has deceived them over tuition fees. The Green Party undeniably has an opportunity to enter the political mainstream, as many of its European equivalents have. If the party can present itself as interested in more than just the environment and present itself as a credible social-democratic alternative to the Liberal Democrats or Labour, then they stand a good chance of developing into a force in British politics.

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Daniel Mathews / Ali Paul / Alex Conway / Rory Foster

Dubstep: The Internet’s First Child Daniel Mathews outlines the birth and continual evolution of Dubstep


ubstep, let’s face it, sounds like a monster with tourettes having an epileptic fit. Upon its creation it was completely alien to anything anyone had heard before, and still mostly only attracts the male half of the population. So, how has it achieved such a wide fan base and (after being a little diluted) pretty impressive mainstream chart success? The answer is: the internet.

Diluted Grime, admittedly, broke into mainstream just before Dubstep, but with Grime’s similarities to Hip Hop, it was really more of an internet guinea pig rather than a fully-fledged first child. After all, once Dizzee Rascal dropped the aggressive atmosphere, violent lyrics and occasional bass line, he became about as grimey as B.O.B in “Magic”. But with freestyles and “beef” being uploaded by unknowns in the Grime scene every day, it really hammered home the influential power of the internet for new artists, and new genres. Quickly, websites dedicated to Dubstep emerged (such as Dubstep forum and which greatly increased Dubstep’s exposure, and the amount of traffic these sites received. For instance, on YouTube, UKFDubstep is the 46th most subscribed to channel in the whole world of all time, 9th

most subscribed to channel of all time in the UK, and 2nd most subscribed music channel in the UK. Part of the secret of success with these websites, and with Dubstep as a whole (before 2009), was that any fans that did either stumble across them, or actively sought them out, were charmed by the idea of being one of a few who were musically superior enough to appreciate it.

We all know the warm feeling you get when you realise you’re part of an elite group. The instant friendships that formed from having Dubstep in common spread new tracks and artists around even faster, and much of

Dubstep owes a huge portion of its success to the internet that was before Facebook; with the advent of the social networking site, things moved even quicker. However, the most influential way in which Dubstep was adapted and influenced by the internet was the

surge of amateur electronic musicians creating their own takes on the genre. With music software such as Fruity Loops and Reason becoming easily available, and easier to use, anyone interested in music could have a crack at it themselves. Given that Dubstep was the new genre bouncing around the internet at the time, forums for these software sites were swamped by in-depth threads on how to make, for instance, the perfect “Dubstep wobble” or the perfect build up to a bass drop. Dubstep remixes of popular songs popped up, and still do, in the hundreds per week on YouTube, which of course led to a more open attitude to music as a whole, but also widened the genre so much it almost became indefinable. The line between Dubstep and Drum and Bass was already boiling down to a difference in tempo. Foreign Beggars successfully demolished the boundary with Grime, and the popularity of these pop remixes is now starting to encourage pop artists to have a Dubstep dabble themselves as part of the dance revolution (check out Britney Spears’ Hold It Against Me - no really, check it out). So here we are today, with the first child of the internet already breeding with every other genre it lays eyes on. Some of the most obscure musical styles are emerging as a result of this wholly modern phenomenon, and it is testament to the artisitc limitlessness of music. My prediction is that with so many amateur musicians around on music sharing sites like YouTube and Soundcloud (the next MySpace) new genres are going to come thick and fast, and even more alien. Personally, I can’t wait.


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The Price of a Ticket


den wakes up to his manager rapping on the hotel door. “Half an hour till bus call – you better have rested your voice last night.” His manager is greeted by unerring silence. More frantic knocking commences. “I’ll get a taxi,” he grumpily responds. “There’s no way I’ll be ready in half an hour”. Eden lets his eyes creep across the room: TV left on with ‘Loose Women’ currently providing entertainment; plastic tumblers scattered across the floor; towels strewn everywhere – one totally soaked in what seems to be a combination of red wine and coffee granules; bed sheets on the floor; minibar relieved of its stock, other than a lonely bottle of Britvic orange juice. “What the hell happened in here last night?” he muses. His thoughts backtrack to last night’s gig. After the management had taxied it back to their respective hotels, record label staff had been driven back to London and the crew had disappeared onto their tour bus, the party swung into action. The staging, lighting, catering equipment and musical gear was flight-cased and en route to the next venue, and the only remaining evidence of the show was the five band members, five newly acquired ‘friends’


Ali Paul considers the financial and environmental costs of touring of the band, two of the promoter’s employees (who were supposedly meant to ‘look after’ them) and a smattering of security guards at the venue’s various fire exits. All of the uneaten food from the rider was thrown to the side of the dressing room to make space for the abundance of vodka, beer and wine laid on for the night and, after an intensive two hours’ drinking, they left the remnants of the party for the venue’s cleaners to tidy up. A club called Roxy was the destination for the band and their mini entourage. The taxis were waiting. From an outside perspective, the typical rock star lifestyle evinces a culture of indulgence and instant gratification. The cumulative financial costs of satisfying such a lifestyle and putting on a full-scale production every night are inevitably high. Moreover, the eventual ticket price charged to the customer

is always artificially inflated, due to the layers of commission charged by each separate ticketing outlet, and the various promoters’ and agents’ fees. Financial costs aside, it is important to consider the environmental burden of putting on a fullscale tour and how this is amplified by the disposable lifestyle adopted by the touring party. On a tour of any size, travel is the first cost to be budgeted, and this clearly has a direct impact on the environment. On a 20 day tour visiting the major UK cities and towns, for example, a band and their crew will cover an average total of 3500 miles per vehicle. Consider, therefore, how many miles are covered by the multitude of bands and artists embarking on US and worldwide tours. These larger scale tours have to incorporate air, road and sea into their travel schedules and the overall carbon footprint is considerable. Another inevitability of touring is the perpetual use of hotels. Doing a significant amount of environmental damage on their own, the system of a quick guest turnover and mass washing of bed linen, towels and crockery certainly isn’t frugal in its use of energy. Other environmental concerns include the mobile catering trucks which follow large-scale

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tours, the convoys of tour buses and the vast quantities of energy and disposable resources which consequently get wasted. Powering the sound and lighting rigs, and the venues themselves is not a cheap process and although all these costs are covered financially, is the true environmental cost being taken into consideration?

“We are at a stage now where action needs to be taken” A 2006 interview with Thom Yorke (Radiohead) suggested that there is awareness amongst the elite of the rock band community as to the huge environmental impact that touring is having on our planet. “The way that tours are structured now and the way it works is a ridiculous consumption of energy ... I would consider refusing to tour on environmental grounds, if nothing started happening to change the way the touring operates.” Jared Leto and his band, 30 Seconds to Mars have also been proactive in terms of raising awareness. Their 2005 video, ‘A Beautiful Lie’, shot on location 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle made direct reference to the destruction of the Inuit’s way of life and the melting of the polar ice caps. Leto has on numerous occasions raised environmental issues at live shows and once

called himself a ‘closet hippie’, yet, ironically, can often be seen boarding his private jet after shows. By no means am I criticising the lavish way of life that the elite of the music world gets to live, in fact I can entirely appreciate why so many would aspire to the way of life that Eden happily lives. However, the ‘musical carbon footprint’ is sufficiently large and awareness alone may not necessarily be the only answer. Would, for example, imposing environmental taxes on a tour be a good way of generating more governmental income to funnel back into environmentally friendly programmes? Or would adding a blanket tax system squeeze out those touring musicians who are trying to break through to the mainstream? I am concerned that, ultimately, it would. The tight financial

music restraints facing the music industry as a whole right now is of massive concern to me, especially for those talents that don’t get the ‘X Factor’ treatment on the way up; to target the live music scene would pose a huge threat to those up-and-coming artists who need the live music scene the most. As with all environmental issues, it is a lot about awareness but we are at a stage now where action needs to be taken. If environmental taxes were imposed, the music industry would have to pass that cost onto the consumer. We live in an age where free music is the norm and paying what often seems extortionate amounts for tickets to live shows is, for many, beginning to lack appeal. However, with record labels making less profit on CD and download sales, and many bands and artists operating independently of the major corporations, the live music scene is their one major revenue stream. If environmental taxes were imposed on the music industry, those of us who value our live music would be directly affected and will have to decide whether we want to pay the inevitably increased prices. Is it financially and environmentally worth it to us? It is my firm belief that, yes, it is worth it. In ‘saving the planet’ we are all becoming fully aware that sacrifices are going to have to be made with regard to our way of life. By supporting live music, we’re paying for the likes of Eden to travel the world, destroy lavish hotel rooms and generally live a life of debauchery, but more importantly, we’re preserving the most intimate and exciting part of what artists and bands have to offer to their fans. That certainly is not worth sacrificing.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


The Importance of a DJ


ne of the questions I get asked the most is ‘what is the point of a DJ? Can’t iTunes do the same job?’ There is a huge community of music aficionados who despise modern disk jockeys; I’ll try to explain why the world needs DJs and what we actually do. I have been DJ-ing since I was about 16 years old, just in my bedroom with two CD players and Dad’s old CD collection; never before had ‘Status Quo’ been mixed so successfully with ‘Blue’. When I grew up, I’d ask for various bits and pieces of equipment for birthdays and Christmas. By the time I was 18, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself some vinyl turntables and 50 vinyl records from ebay. Crucially however, at this time I was more interested in creating my own beats and tracks. I nabbed some studio software from school and went about becoming the next Tiesto. I therefore know just how hard it is to become a respected DJ and how we work. Back in the day, DJs would use 2 vinyl turntables and a mixer, allowing fade between songs. Even fading two songs together from vinyl records is an incredible challenge - anyone who thinks otherwise is more than welcome to visit F block at Barbara Scott Court and have a try! DJ-ing is in many respects, an art form. The trouble is, today there are easier solutions. Visit any club in York (with the exception of the ‘Breaks Society’ shift in Tokyo) and you will find CD players with a mixer that will automatically match the speeds of the two songs so you can easily mix them together. Additionally, it’s easy to obtain software


Alex Conway gets to the bottom of why DJs are still important in the iTunes Age from the Internet that will automatically mix MP3s into each other with nothing but a laptop. This, as far as I’m concerned, is hard to justify as being a step above the iTunes ‘auto mix’ function. For years DJ-ing has been controversial; Deadmau5 shot to fame back in 2008 when in an interview he wrote “you need them [DJs] but they’re fucking cunts.” Ironically it was these very DJs who were directly responsible for his rise to fame in the following years. Even so, he said: “It puts me to fucking sleep to be quite honest, I don’t really see the technical merit in playing two songs at the same speed together and it bores me to fucking tears and hopefully with all due respect to the DJ type that will fucking go the way of the dinosaur I’d like them to dis-afucking-pear.” Joel himself ‘creates’ his tracks live using synthesizers, keyboards and all sorts of software. He therefore can’t understand why people would act as a glorified iTunes. In many respects I agree with him, what is the point of standing there pressing play and pause and occasionally mixing two songs together? The most important function of any DJ (and the easiest way to tell wheth-

er a DJ is any good) is song selection. There is an agreed code amongst DJs that our job is to get women on the dance floor and then keep them there. When girls are dancing the lads will follow which means people are buying drinks and having a good time. Everybody’s happy. If you’ve ever requested a song when the dance floor is packed don’t be surprised if the DJ either doesn’t play it or plays it at the end of the night in order to keep people dancing. Don’t be offended: we spend hours planning our sets to be full of tracks and acapellas that work well with each other. This leads to a classic question DJs face from revelers, “When are you going to play something good?” I was playing a block party the other night with 3 distinct groups of dancers on the floor: the mainstream top 40 crowd; the indie crowd; and the d’n’b/dubstep crew. How does a DJ choose one song to appease everybody? Impossible. You can’t be popular with all crowds unless it’s a themed night. In this case, I played to whatever the biggest crowd happened to be and tried (with varying degrees of success) a Bob Marley dubstep live remix. Ultimately, it’s hard to judge DJs as there is such variety amongst us. Some will mix/mash up tunes live; others will simply let one song finish and the other one start. To me, the latter is not much of an art (especially if the DJ has poor song selection skills). Others will strive to create a live show atmosphere (Chase and Status etc.). Either way, the world needs DJs to judge the crowd and choose the music. Chart artists rely on DJs playing their songs to packed dance floors. Whilst all DJs have their pros and cons, if you ever fancy listening to a truly horrendous one, take a visit to the Willow from about 12.00 am onwards. Vudu has some who are surprisingly talented, as does Tokyo. Always look out for Break Society events as they often feature some unique individualss. And when you’re next out having a night of drunken debauchery, spare a thought for the DJ who has been standing there for hours, sacrificed a night out and spent ages perfecting a set list, all to give you guys a good time!

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


From the Nonsensical to the Commercial Rory Foster discusses the rising stars of the ‘PostDubstep’ movement


he BBC’s “sound of” feature occurs every year around the same time. It is the BBC’s attempt at guessing what new bands will ‘make it’ in the coming year, and it’s normally able to push a few of its 5 shortlisted artists into the limelight. However, two artists in particular are giving the public a greater glimpse of what the so-called ‘post-dubstep’ genre is and where it’s going. The two of particular interest in this top 5 are James Blake and Jamie Woon. Both young London-based producers come singer-songwriters, and both taking sounds grounded in dubstep and twisting them further than other musicians have ever tried. But many critics have had difficulty in covering these artists, due in part to the categorisation of their music. A lot of people consider the phrase ‘post-dubstep’ ill-fitting or just incorrect. So why have some latched onto this term, while others detest it? You might have guessed from the name, the genre owes a fair bit to dubstep. Not the sort that has boomed in popularity over the last year or so in clubs; real dubstep goes back to artists such as Skream, Scuba and Kode9. Their attempts to fuse two-step garage with techno and drum and bass, resulting in around 135 to 140 beatsper minute, have gone on to not only influence the people who are pushing their ideas forward, but to also help fund them; all of the above artists now run labels showcasing some of the best upcoming London beatmakers, such as Mount Kimbie and Darkstar. The first producer that can be seen as the bedrock of the ‘post dubstep’ sound is Will Bevan, a.k.a Burial. His mercury-nominated album, ‘Untrue’, released on the Kode9-run Hyperdub label in 2007, was born from a deepcity melancholy that that shapes a lot of what post-dubstep is about. The chopped-up vocal samples are choked

with emotion, yet you can barely make out the words, the beat shuffling them on before you can grasp them. This sound is the Yin to J Dilla’s yang, the sunny west-coast strips replaced with the potholed alleys of midnight London. Flying Lotus, a popular hiphop beatmaker based in LA, said of Burial’s music in an interview with Giles Peterson, that “it’s not a club record, it’s the record you listen to when you’re still awake at 4am with your headphones on.” But how does this relate to Woon and Blake? Both known best for their singing rather than their sampling, Woon is more connected to postdubstep through fortune than his influences. The popularity of bands such as The xx has helped to set the scene for the kind of minimalist pop Woon’s music is turning towards. The xx are nevertheless a great example of this minimalist sound appealing to a much wider crowd than one might expect. Following Mumford and Sons’ technique of release album/ wait a year/ album peaks at no.3 in the UK, The xx’s eponymous debut peaked at the same position 11 months after it was released, the week following its mercury music prize win. Blake on the other hand is currently riding two different waves of success. The first of these is the avalanche of critical acclaim from the blogosphere for his consistent progression and quality over the space of 4EPs he released in little over a year. He gained

quite a following before he even started singing properly – the second bout of success. His most famous release to date is his cover of Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist’s ‘Limit to your Love’, stripped down to little more than a trembling baseline that will make your house quake. To further his crossing into more popular tastes, his just-released album is influenced more by Joni Mitchell and Bon Iver than Burial. Blake’s classical piano training rather than knowledge of producing software allowing for a fantastic rethink of the 70s original. But all this is criticism of pigeonholing music rather than listening to it is ironic since that’s what I am trying to do with Blake and his contemporaries. After conversing with a more musically-informed friend at 4am over the exact intricacies of “post-dubstep”, we came to the conclusion that it is hilariously ambitious to attempt a full account in a page. What I’ve offered then is a sort of pot-holed discography of the torrent of music coming out of London and what impact it continues to have on the commercial surface in the form of Woon, Blake, and a few others. What for the rest of 2011? Probably a Mercury Music Prize nomination for both, maybe a win for Blake, then as long as he can force his way past the dangerous levels of anticipation that will no-doubt arise, maybe another album that critics can spend hours categorising rather than appreciating.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


Film W

Gareth Davies / Ellie Wallis & Emma Walker / Thomas Meerstadt

hat are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish. We’re all familiar with T.S. Eliot’s magnum opus The Wasteland. But does its message of a planet in decline still resonate with the world we live in now? Yes, says Lucy Walker, and more than ever before. Her new creation, Waste Land, influenced in part by the poem, is a documentary about the world’s largest rubbish dump, Jardim Gramacho of Rio de Janeiro, and the self-appointed catadores (scavengers) who work there. Sifting through the 7,000 tons of Rio’s rubbish deposited there every day, they hope to earn their living by searching out recyclable materials such as cans, bottles, plastic, and paper. Today almost 20,000 catadores live at the site, scavenging 200 tons of waste a day. Entirely dependent on an economy based on the trade of recyclable materials, they have extended the life of the landfill site by removing materials that would otherwise have been buried. The catadores might have given Jardim Gramacho the highest rate of recycling in the world, but the fact remains that it is not a sustainable future. Amidst the fear and squalor of Rio, the catadores, half of whom actually live and sleep in the rubbish, choose this career as a last resort. Faced with drug trafficking, prostitution, or garbage as a way of life, they choose garbage. But don’t be fooled. Waste Land isn’t just a ‘day in the life’ snapshot into the work of the catadores, but an artistic collaboration. It documents the relationship between these rubbish collectors and Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz, who seeks to create portraits of them using the waste materials of the dump – bringing a new meaning to the idea of recycling. Muniz’s use of rubbish as a medium for artistic expression is unconventional


Waste Land Gareth Davies interviews Lucy Walker and Vik Muniz on the upcoming film “Waste Land”

to say the least. He explains why it interests him: “The beautiful thing about garbage is that it’s negative; it’s something that you don’t use anymore; it’s what you don’t want to see.” In fact rubbish seems a perfect medium for this type of artistic venture – representing a group of ignored and forgotten people through something we “don’t want to see” is both fitting and provocative. Director Lucy Walker remarks that across the way from Jardim Gramacho you can see Christ the Redeemer reaching his arms out to the wealthy south, explaining that “They say even Christ turns his back on the north of Rio, where we are.” Waste Land is not just a project focussed on exposing human and environmental concerns, but as a criticism of the economic disparity in Rio, and the government’s reticence to address the problem of the catadores. Director of the project Lucy Walker speaks about what influenced her to make this movie, saying: “I have always been interested in garbage. What it says about us. Where it goes

and how much of it there is. How it endures. What it might be like to work with it every day.” Speaking on location I hear that answering these questions proved more difficult than anticipated: “just when you get used to the smell they find a human body, or mention a leprosy epidemic, and the sound man passes out... there are so many things to be afraid of, from dengue fever to kidnapping”. Vik Muniz states that what he really wanted to do with Waste Land was “to change the lives of a group of people with the same materials they use every day”. The portraits Muniz creates from the waste of Jardim Grammacho are sold at auction and all of the profits accumulated are given back to the catadores, to help them build better, safer, sustainable futures for themselves. “I hope the movie serves as a means for us to see our journey to becoming involved with people so far from ourselves,” Walker says, encouraging us to get involved, and take responsibility. By granting the viewer an emotional connection with the catadores, Muniz and Walker are able to demonstrate the transformative power of art, and the alchemy of the human spirit. Waste Land inspires the viewer to take the time to think about how much waste we generate as individuals, and the effect it has not just upon the environment, but our fellow human beings. “Garbage is the negative of consumer culture”, Walker says, “it’s everything that nobody wants, and when it disappears from everyone’s lives, rich or poor, it doesn’t disappear at all, it appears here.” Muniz and Walker’s project is not just based on recycling waste materials for artistic ends, but encouraging us to recycle our own perceptions of waste, the environment, and the people it affects. Waste Land is released on 25th February.

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


The Pursuit of Perfection “I’m not perfect, I’m nothing.” These bleak and fatalistic words encapsulate the struggle for perfection which plagues many of the female characters in Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar nominated psychological thriller. The film follows an aspiring ballet dancer, in her preparation for the most important performance of her career. The childlike, naïve Nina must realise the darker, sensual side of herself in order to embody the roles of both White Swan and Black Swan. The film delves deep into Nina’s psyche, portraying her own troubled quest for identity and sexual awakening. For the characters, the pursuit of perfection is allconsuming and we are drawn into the claustrophobic visceral nightmare. In striving for perfection, Nina becomes lost in a fantasy world and the audience is left uncertain as to the boundaries between illusion and reality. The pressures of society contribute to this struggle, with Nina battling against both male dominance and the time constraints on her ability to achieve perfection in her career. This explosive mixture inevitably leads her to self-destruct. Whilst the example of Nina is extreme, the film does highlight a number of issues relevant to today’s society. Problems of gender and age, while diminished, still hold some relevance for the modern working woman and the dismissal of 58 year old Moira Stuart over ageist prejudice illustrates the pressures which still exist. It is a theme, which has been explored continually through the vehicle of film.

“The pursuit of perfection is allconsuming” The similarities between Tennessee Williams’ 1950s film “A Streetcar

Ellie Wallis and Emma Walker explore societal discrimination

Named Desire” and the recent “Black Swan” highlight how issues of gender and age, a great concern in the 50s, still have relevance to modern society. The faded Southern belle, Blanche DuBois is strikingly similar to the character of Nina. While she strives to uphold a façade of perfection, it is slowly revealed to the audience that in fact she is a deeply troubled character running to escape from her past. Like Nina she is driven by the pursuit of perfection and consistently attempts to create a perfect, if illusory, image of herself to gain male approval. Her self-worth is entirely dependent upon being accepted by others and her youth and feminine beauty are the only tools which she can utilise to achieve perfection. However, her beauty has faded and so her attempts are fruitless. The dominance of masculinity, as shown through the character of Stanley

reflected the inequalities of 50s society, and Blanche’s continual fear of being old illustrated society’s fixation on youth. Her desperation and vulnerability as a single woman of a certain age is clearly portrayed through her relationship with Mitch, who she clings to as her only security. Whilst these themes would have been relevant to a contemporary audience who would have recognised the plight of an unmarried woman and the lack of options available to her, the similarities to ‘Black Swan’ are surprising. The fragility of Nina at the hands of her over-bearing male director, who exploits her vulnerable sexuality to gain control over her, draws parallels with Stanley’s treatment of Blanche. Furthermore, Nina’s constant awareness of her approaching age and realisation that she may not achieve her goals as a result reflect Blanche’s own concerns. However, in comparing Nina and Blanche it is obvious that decades of struggles to gain equality has made headway. Whereas Blanche, without the security of Mitch is lost, without a role or purpose in life, Nina is able to pursue her dreams. She has forged a successful career for herself as a woman, and is not defined by her spouse, as are the female characters in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Through success in the ballet world, she has gained her own individuality. However, the constraints of gender and age are still prevalent within her career, suggesting that women may still have a way to go before we are considered equals. Perhaps these issues will never be fully resolved until social perceptions on female success are separated from the female image. For Blanche, beauty was inextricably linked to perfection, and Nina battles with bulimia in an attempt to fit the expected ideals of a ballet dancer. Perhaps we may even question whether images of perfection that women enforce upon themselves are a construct of society, or come from within.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


A Separation from Hollywood


merican hegemony amongst the film industry is a well known fact. Almost everyone across the globe has seen a Hollywood production and, for the majority of the 20th century, the term Hollywood had more or less become synonymous with the film industry. In fact 85-90% of box-office takings over the last twenty years have been from Hollywood productions. One could be excused, therefore, in thinking that it was in America that the concept of cinema originated. However, the first moving picture developed on celluloid film was in fact made by British inventor William Friese Greene and publicly shown in 1890 in Hyde Park, London. Yet despite cinema being essentially a British invention, the British film industry has proved to be miniscule in comparison to our American cousins. However, it is not the case that the British film industry has had no success whatsoever. British films have, over the last fifty years, even in the face of overwhelming competition from abroad, gained huge critical acclaim and have been some of the most commercially successful films in history. From the 1960’s production of Laurence of Arabia - winner of seven academy awards including best picture and said by the American Film Institute, BFI, Total Film and many more to be one of the greatest films of all time - to the Harry Potter franchise, Britain has proven itself to have some of the greatest talent in the world. With such cinematic legends as Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Caine, Danny Boyle and Anthony Hopkins - to name but a few - it is undeniable that Britain is an indispensible contributor to cinema screens across the globe. So why, I hear you ask, do we consider the British film industry, as Matt Pearson from The British Film Resource puts it, as “little more than a cottage industry”? If British talent is so great and its films so successful, why is its industry claimed to be so small? The answer lies in Britain’s heavy dependence on inward investment which comes almost exclusively from America. According


to a report published by the House of Lords in 2010, inward investment accounts for about two thirds of the expenditure of an average British film production. In 2007 it was recorded that almost 70% of total British production expenditure was from foreign investments. So despite the fact the Harry Potter series, filmed in Britain with British cast, crew and producers, is the highest grossing film series of all time, the majority of the profits are returned to the bulging pockets of the Hollywood investors. The financial muscle Hollywood offers the British film industry comes at a further price than mere money however. In order to get the required inward investment a film must be seen to be potentially successful; that is to say it must be expected to sell and make the rich investors richer. After all, the film industry is still a business. Creative control is thus constrained and for years British films have had to be tailored towards Hollywood’s blockbuster style in order to secure the required financial support. And it is not just in the Harry Potter films that one can observe the bruises left by Hollywood’s restrictive grip. From supposed British successes

Thomas Meerstadt explores Hollywood’s grip the U.K Film Industry award winner for best picture - and “The English Patient”- winner of nine academy awards including best picture - Hollywood’s influence is patently clear. Such hybrid films lack the sense of gritty British realism and black humour that characterises our British culture; an approach Hollywood insists on glossing over in an attempt to make films more accessible to American audiences. The House of Lords report does as much to confirm this, describing the British Film industry as being “profoundly influenced by the American film industry” which is “built around the major Hollywood studios”. However the problem is a catch-22 situation; the American dollar is the fuel on which the British film industry is run. It is in the area of distribution where the greatest earnings are madethe distributor generally receiving more than half of the box office profits -


and unfortunately it is also this sector that America completely monopolises. Due to Britain’s inability to finance the production and distribution of its own films, American investments are essential. Since the 1950s the British government, realising the great economic benefits of the British film industry, has made an effort to support it by offering tax relief on film production expenditure in order to attract foreign investors. Whilst this has been successful in encouraging American investment, which in turn has by and large helped the growth of the British film industry, it has had little or no impact on independent films that have not, to some extent, sold their creative freedom to Hollywood. Yet even for the films that are willing to co-operate with the major Hollywood companies, there is a danger. Becoming overly dependent on inward investments from America risks turning Britain into an overseas arm of the main body of Hollywood, creating a situation where Hollywood films are produced in Britain to utilise the tax levies - in effect using Britain for cheap labour. America’s dominance in the global film industry has its foundation in Hollywood’s model of vertically-integrated companies that enable the business of producing and distributing films within a single company to be self-sufficient. Attempts have been made by British

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2

companies such as Rank, Cannon and PolyGram to emulate this mode of business, producing and distributing the late 90s successes like “Trainspotting” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. But unfortunately none has been able to sustain itself due to the lack of sufficient finances. John Woodward, former CEO of the UK Film Council, said that the problem with the British film distribution sector is that “by and large … we are talking about a relatively small number of pretty small companies. What we do not have in the UK is anything approaching the scale of the Hollywood studio, which has the ability … to select the film, finance it, get it made and then distribute it in all markets”. Former head of distribution for Optimum Releasing- one of the most prominent distributors in UK independent films and world cinema - Danny Perkins, stated that, although “there are some very strong independent companies” in the British distribution area, “they have alliances with American companies. That is the key to it really”. And this is the sad truth. While the Harry Potter films make billions, films like Mike Leigh’s critically acclaimed “Happy Go Lucky”, winner of a golden globe and Oscar nominee, can only make a measly $3 million at the American box office simply down to the fact they did

not manage to get a major American distributer onside. The reality is, until Britain produces its own Warner Bros or Universal, it will always be dependant to some extent on the American green dollar. At least this has certainly been the case in the past. Until only very recently, events have proved right the words of Eric Fellner, a producer of “Frost/ Nixon”, who stated that “even when we’ve made... quintessentially British films, we’ve still been dealing with agents and studios and stars in Hollywood “; “this business is run from Hollywood”. Nevertheless, the immense success of the current “The Kings Speech”, which only had a budget of $10 million and has managed to gross $170 million in the box office so far, has seemed to skew this almost universally accepted centralisation of the film industry. Despite the high profiles of independent film festivals such as The Raindance and Sundance film festivals, financial success is still seen to be reliant on Hollywood’s participation, especially in the area of distribution. And with finance being the life blood of the film industry, British cinema cannot run merely on critical acclaim. Even past British triumphs and as “Slumdog Millionaire”- winner of eight Oscars and Best British Independent film at the British Independent Film awards - which grossed in nearly $378 million worldwide, had to go through Hollywood’s Warner Bros pictures for distribution. So, although “The Kings Speech” is certainly not the first independent British film to attain critical praise, it is one of very few British films completely independent from Hollywood, which has managed to gain financial success worldwide. In other words, it is one of the only films that have brought significant amounts of money into the British film industry without it being immediately sent back to Hollywood. Thus “The Kings Speech” does not only broadcast a raw, untainted version of British cinema across the world, but represents a destabilisation of the Hollywood hegemony. The question that now remains is: is this a sign of the-beginning-of-the-end for the long reigning imperial Hollywood and subsequent birth of high-grossing, completely independent, British films that can finance themselves? Or is “The Kings Speech” a mere anomaly in an otherwise American financed industry? Only time will tell.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


Art T

Alienor Littaye / Helena Davies / Dan Cave / Miranda Larbi

Deep Diving with Jason DeCaires-Taylor

he word ‘vicissitudes’ can at times means hardship in life or a sudden ill-fated turn of events. However, when Jason DeCaires Taylor uses it to name his underwater sculptures, ‘vicissitudes’ becomes the quality of mutability. It seems strange that the artist would want to ‘set in stone’ his tribute to transience. Sculpture has traditionally been a medium thought to preserve eternal beauty: as Baudelaire wrote, “I am beautiful, o mortals, as a dream of stone.” Taylor’s piece, El Coleccionista de Suenos (The Collector of Dreams) stands pensive, scribbling in an open book next to his mug, leaning against a book-shelf. The surface of the ocean floor is a haze of small craters and stones. In the background, a diver slowly ambulates away, followed by a stream of bubbles. Soon this dreamer will be entirely swallowed by the ocean off the coast of the Isla Mujeres in Mexico, along with his dreams. Taylor is a diving artist and has peopled the ocean floor in Mexico, Grenada and even a river in Canterbury with life size sculptures. A village of four hundred life-size figures stands motionless, like an aquatic Pompeii, in the Mexican sea. Twenty-six of them stand facing outward in a circle, waiting for the Grenada Sea to engulf them. Some of them have already begun to change, their dull gray exterior covered with the adornments of coral reef. Seashells and odd plants sprout out of eye sockets while entire bodies are covered in murky fuzz. The artworks boost ecological tourism. Spectators can either dive down to meet these strange figures or watch them from glass bottom


Alienor Littaye discovers ecologically adapted art

boats. The damages to coral reef are a widely-known phenomenon, which has urged concerned ecologists, divers, scientists and naturelovers to lobby for conservatory measures. This art-piece showcases the ecological process of the creation of a reef, as the artworks transform to offer a new home for marine life. Sculptures no longer capture a fleeting moment solely, but are beautiful in their ability to transform and interact with their environment as living objects. Instead of figures becoming real humans, they have become entire ecosystems. The use of natural environment for art projects is not a new idea. In the 60 and 70s, artists like Robert Smithon created “land art”. He designed giant swirls made of salt, basalt and earth off the shore of a lake in Utah, a site which viewers may still see today. The concern for Man’s transformative interaction with the environment has grown with our distrust of industrialisation. Art no longer portrayed a landscape but became a landscape, using natural materials for massive

works of land architecture. The wave of land artists that arose in the 70s has not completely passed, with artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude continuing to wrap mountain passes and rivers with a cosmic amount of fabric. Their next project is due in 2014, and will cover Arkansas River with a billowing silver veil. Many land art projects are built with an expiration date. One of the most striking and closely related to Taylor’s work is the sculptural masterpiece of the Abbé Fouré. If you walk along the shore of Rothéneuf, you can still see the eroding saints, dragons and faces emerging from a steep cliff facing the ocean. The Abbé made them between 1894 and 1910 when he turned deaf and mute. His works have been categorised as “art brut” because they were produced by a person exempt of artistic culture. However the shore has been kept intact as a cultural landmark, investing the sculptures with an added ecological significance. The sculptures have grown out of “art brut” to become land art, over a century before the underwater feats of the Mexican artist. The particularity of Taylor’s project is that the work of art does not resist its environment. Most land art is inserted into a landscape until it either erodes or people remove it. The intention for most land art is to use this disruption to bring the viewer’s awareness to the environment. In Taylor’s work, the sculpture becomes a sustainable ecological system. Once all the statues have become coral reefs, the art piece will live on. The environment is not only subject and medium. It has become the artist.

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


The Timelessness of Environmental Art


hen Monet sat down to paint ‘La Promenade d’Argenteuil’ in the 1870s, I wonder if he knew that over a hundred years later the debate surrounding those smoking chimneys, that he sought to adopt into his new depiction of the landscape, would still exist. It was Thomas Hardy who stood firmly on the other side of the channel fighting for his beloved countryside, lamenting the ‘growing gloom’ of the expanding, smoke-chugging industrial areas. Was this the beginning of environmentalism? The reason why it probably sounds absurd is because ‘environmentalism’ is so modern. It is one of the many contemporary terms that we have coined in order to identify a problem. We seem more content if we can associate a name with an issue. However what is environmentalism? More importantly, in the case of this article, what does environmentalism mean in terms of art? In contemporary artwork many artists are choosing to focus on reusing materials around them. Des Hughes recently embraced an inexpensive recyclable element seen more frequently in artwork, and created one of his sculptures simply from stickers. For others it’s preserving the environment through the acknowledgement of its influence in their work. Sculptor Barbara Hepworth is notorious for creating beautiful curved pieces based on organic forms. David Smith’s sculptures are almost in opposition to Hepworth’s, as his welded steel sculptures portray a link with industry and technology. Yet it is when they are displayed outdoors that they truly become an impressive installation. Having run out of room for his work in his Bolton Landing studio he began poignantly placing it in the surrounding fields. The contrast between the metallic sculptures and the beautiful landscape is, I personally think,

Helena Davies investigates how art has made its footprint remarkable. Whether or not it is deliberate, artists create awareness for nature through their work. We appreciate Smith’s sculptures in a gallery, but they have more of an effect outside, which immediately makes us become more aware of surrounding nature. However, this new term ‘environmentalist’ brings this new “type” of art, one whose message is more deliberate. Artist, Andy Goldsworthy, is an environmentalist and demonstrates this through his art by combining natural materials such as twigs, stones, leaves, reeds and snow to create his work. His work is recorded through photography when it is at the peak of its life span, because it then becomes part of a cycle of death and decay. This is an integral part of Goldsworthy’s work and is a reminder of nature’s vulnerability along with its constant presence and power. ‘Environmentalism’ in terms of preserving and celebrating nature has always been present. Monet could be found painting al fresco in the French countryside during

the Nineteenth Century in all seasons. Similarly in the present day, if you are to walk the Yorkshire Moors you may be equally as likely to stumble across David Hockney. It is through this intimacy between the artist and the landscape that the importance of nature becomes apparent. The artist’s intent to paint landscapes outside, rather than from a collection of photographs or sketches made previously, encompasses the natural beauty and true form of escape for the viewer. Recently the Royal Academy of Arts held an exhibition on the Glasgow Boys, a group of young artists, who in the late Nineteenth Century produced revolutionary artwork by moving away from the dark, depressing, staged paintings that were coming out of the Victorian studios at the time. Instead they formed a more realistic portrayal of country life and the landscape by working outdoors and recreating the vivid colours and light of nature around them. The queues for the exhibition proved that their work was as popular in the present day as it had been in the past. The question has to be posed as to why interest in artwork on our natural environment is timeless. Surely it is more than an imaginary escape for people from urban areas like Monet’s paintings of frolicking tourists suggest? Famous sculptor Antony Gormley wrote in his essay entitled ‘Art in the Time of Global Warming’ that ‘it is through art that we communicate what it feels like to be alive.’ Without nature the human race would not survive, therefore not only are we celebrating it through art but it is also our natural instinct to protect it. “Environmentalism” may be a new term, but it also signifies a change in belief in our society, one in which, as always, art and artists are implicated.



the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2

An Untimely End


he abstract wildernesses that “environment” and “art” encompass, even as freestanding individual terms, should be enough to distract from ever attempting to combine the two into some coherent semblance. However UNEP (United Nations Enviroment Programme) has attempted just this, forcing the two into a tensile relationship to “generate environmental awareness using the universal language of art as a catalyst for individuals to focus on environmental values.” This liberal-minded abstract for the UNEP “Art for the Environment” programme acts as its own condemning epitaph, by claiming it will never strive to attempt anything more concrete than extol “awareness”. It is left isolated, having no indicators of which definitely measures any ensuing success, or failure, it may incur. This is not to say that this programme is only a bourgeois distraction for the varying problems faced by the United Nations. The seemingly vacuous veneer can be perforated to show that an enthusiastic attempt at letting grass roots creativity and true artistic merit combine can reinvigorate the light shed on the very real environmental issues we face. UNEP’s programme is an active presence on the separate global art and environmental awareness schemes, attempting to fight apathy when faced with ongoing issues of the environment. By lending itself as a sponsor to music and art festivals in both Norway and Australia, there is evidence that it has left disparate global footprints about the carbon footprint. There was also a set of engaging seminars in 2008, paralleled by art exhibitions, run as a collective force to combat


intolerance shown towards the environment with a particular focus on climate change. Weekend-long festivals, particularly the Earth festival in Laikipia Nature Conservancy, premiere the resolute response of dance, art, music and theatre to environmental issues. It seems that the UN believes the cohesive force of such a festival will combine to heal the environmental problems of the world and the fragmented politics of the area. Coupled with global art and photography competitions (one sponsored by the camera giant, Canon) there is an active ele-

Dan Cave confronts the UN’s attempt to combine the Environment and Art

ment of audience participation with personal recognition as the reward and the environmental cause reaping the benefits. Therefore UNEP appear to have seamlessly merged every area of art and the environment: attacking worldwide problems directly whilst promoting art with apparent merit. If presence of the UNEP “art and the environment” project is one that has incorporated a multitude of issues and peoples, it is not here that we judge its effectiveness; it is too apparent to base conclusive

success on the initial aims and the events that stemmed from these. The longevity, resonance of the art and its “triteness” are what assess the project’s impact. In terms of longevity: the project has passed quietly, filed away in some departmental office whilst the website ( remains, an un-updated shadow of a former self. Though I cannot speak for the effect the project had on the individuals involved, it is an arduous task to find remnants of the exhibitions or of artists that were directly involved. The lack of concrete results highlighted it as disposable when the recession came. Responsibility of the artistic merit is given, on the website, to just three artists; odd, when there are proclamations of expansive grandeur that it should rest on an installation artist and two photographers. Compilations of work are found through festivals and competitions but finding the links to this work is impossible; looking at the work of the three (Philippe Pastor, Luo Hong and Sebastian Copeland) shows the incomplete, impermanent nature of the project. Although these men are accomplished, especially Sebastian Copeland, his comparative polar seascapes explore environmental loss, a sense of failure in amassing more work overrides even the greatest photograph. However, the main goal was to create “awareness” and to offer an alternative perspective, without compromising the seriousness of the matter. It has achieved a humanisation of the cold, clinical methods often appropriated to dealing with planetary problems. In its death, it highlights something much graver: recession-induced fiscal conservatism demands that environmental issues and the art world recede, with quiet grace and out of the public eye.


the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2

Time for a New Eco-Wardrobe


e live in a fast world. And by fast, I mean concord speed. No need for handwritten letters when we have access to emails at the click of a button. No need to wait weeks for photos to be developed, when war correspondents and fashion journalists alike can snap away on the front line and have the images sent to the office on the spot. Time has suddenly become a precious commodity and we demand speed in everything - fast food, fast cars and fast fashion. Apart from the twiceyearly seasons, design houses have found themselves increasingly under pressure to create more and more collections, meaning that the designing process runs on relentlessly throughout the year. This process filters down from the high-end houses, to the high street, where brands are constantly changing, developing and adding to the choices on offer. The problem, however, is that fast fashion has forced the high street in to using low quality, quickly made materials, coloured with harmful, synthetic dyes. And as materials can be more economically made in the Third World using cheap labour, there is no incentive to stop companies heading abroad to make a quick buck - damaging not only the British textile industry, but also the environment as well as fair trade. Some UK fashion companies however, are dedicated to standing their ground for ethical fashion. Izzy Lane is a small fashion brand which has won acclaims such as the New Designer of the Year at the RE Fashion Awards, and is a company which prides itself on being totally homegrown. Everything is British - the clothes are made from the wool of their 600 Shetland and Wensleydale lambs and sheep which have been rescued from the chop. Generally, sheep are slaughtered for being male, being too old or too young, and in the

Miranda Larbi decides that fast fashion is no longer necessary

case of the Wensleydales, they are put to death for any black spots on their fleece or imperfections on their skin. This company has striven to “find a place and an economic model where they could exist and live out their natural lives” These sheep reside in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, just outside York, and Izzy Lane’s collections are produced within a 120 mile radius, using only local British industry - from the nurture of the sheep, to the fabrication of the cloth which is woven in the Scottish Borders. Nearly 80% of the wool used here in the UK is imported from Australia and New Zealand - nonsensical considering the air mileage clocked up during the transportation and the fact that we can produce wool here. The British Textile industry needs our support - one only has to go to the West Riding, once the epicentre of textile production, to see the decline. The last Worsted spinner in Britain, the

majority of the dye-houses and weaving mills have all shut down. Design schools are becoming increasingly aware of environmental problems in the fashion industry, and have begun to urge fledgling designers to think about green issues from the start of their design education. Chelsea College of Art and Design’s BA Textile Design course, for example, is taught in conjunction with the college’s Textile Environment Design team, which forces students to create with green textile issues firmly at the forefront of their designing process. Students are taught by veteran environmental fashion designers such as Becky Earley and local artisans. Projects, such as showing at London Alternative Fashion Week, designing using handmade fabrics, natural dyes and recycled materials, are set. Maybe with the influx of these green-minded, young designers, fashion will be forced to change its bad habits. Star of the environmental fashion world, Stella McCartney, who has been dedicated to making a stand against the use of animals in fashion production. Within her vegetarian label, McCartney has developed a number of ‘Eco Collections’, made from fully sustainable sources. Factors such as the use of chemicals needed in tanning and dyeing for hand bags etc are avoided. Her refusal to buy more organic material once it has run out means that each collection is limited in terms numbers, and is something of comment against our culture of mass consumption. Her latest ‘Adidas by Stella McCartney’ collection is made from 100% organically grown cotton and sustainable materials. Fast fashion and fast food are doing nothing for us. We need to be thinking more ecologically about the fashion that we produce and buy, before it’s too late.




the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2 Tim Lunn / Sania Sajid

Tim Lunn’s The Philosopher and the Girl

Soil. Grass and flowers. Sighing trees, yellow autumn, and the weeping, wordless wind. These were the philosopher’s woods. Running through the centre, moving at a playful pace, drifted the river. A girl skipped up its shallows, bare feet cold in the flowing current. Mother told her not to play in the philosopher’s woods, but why shouldn’t she? They were hers as much as his. And the river! The water felt so good against her skin, and she laughed as she waded upstream. The waterfall was only a little distance ahead. Only a few more turns. Yes already she could hear it: ‘The waterfall’s laughing!’ she cried. Oh - how it always seemed to be laughing! What was so funny? While she was kicking the water, spraying her hair and clothes, a fish moved out from the bank, woken from its slumber. Cutting into the back of the cliff, behind the waterfall, tunnelled a cave. The scene was beautifully carved, like mother’s pots, but the cave was so terribly dark. And inside that cave lived an old man: mother called him a...a...philosopher? He was in love with something. He loved ‘Knowledge’: but who was Knowledge? She had never seen her. She preferred to play by herself. It was all very confusing. As she skimmed the stones, dancing their toes upon the surface of the water, she thought that every now and then, she could hear someone weeping. Weeping. Why, it must have been the philosopher! She tried to ignore it, but it really wouldn’t do, on such a sunny day,


to have anyone upset. Not even the old philosopher. And besides, it was spoiling her play. She waded under the waterfall, shivering as the cold water writhed like sliding forest snakes slithering down the small of her back. The echo of the water bounded off the walls, boom, boom, and the light was darker here, and there were many shadows, and the cave really was very deep, and she was cold, and shivering... Oh! But that sobbing! This philosopher really must have been very upset. She crept through the cave, candles lit the way: deep, dark underground. No wonder he was crying: how dark and lonely this cave must be! No flowers, no light, no warmth: all the things she loved. But really! She decided she must drag him up to the river, and cheer him up, like father would do when she was upset, and alone, and lonely. Then he would feel better! If she could make him laugh… She came to a large, open space, with bookshelves pushed against the cool earthen wall. There were many books lining the shelves, nestling close in the cold dark of the cave, papers rustling like leaves in the cool cavern’s draft. A fire burnt in the middle, hugging its embers, and on a stool sat the philosopher. She sat watching him, head in hands, back turned to the fire. He faced the cold earthen wall, watching the shadows dance and flicker, dance and flicker. And she watched him. And she watched. And watched. He? He sat, and wept, and sat. What a strange man. Was he always like this? But

what a life to lead! She was nervous, and her breath caught in her throat, tight. But she would have to ask him, would have to… ‘Who are you in love with?’ she asked the philosopher. ‘Why are you crying?’ As a pebble drops from a great height, slicing clean through the silent air, making hardly a swish or a sigh, before thumping into the water with a great ‘plop’, so the silence broke, and her voice echoed off those ancient tunnelled walls, breaking the delicate surface tension he had so long kept company with. A tunnel opens, and we move from light to darkness. Now enter darkness. Who was this child? So small and trembling. To make demands of him. He, who had looked upon the sun’s zenith, at her highest point in the sky, married to the heavens, finding only darkness and death wedded to the nadir, to the trails of her dresses. He who had lovingly traced the cosmos with the ink of his eye, drawing, exploring, as one possessed by the heat of the stars, burning with lovers’ heat, bound and wrapped within their spiralling, burning passion: yet when ink ran warmest, burnt brightest, clearest, so it had spilled and spilled over into a change, a play, a flux and fluid pattern. This ‘love’ dried now, dried long ago. Set, yet set in spillage. Long ago: philo-sopher. He would stretch out his hand; to grasp her, to hold her down; she so cold, changing, slipping as streams passing between rocks: truth slipped between his fingers… and ink ran free across damp parchment…

the zahir | volume 6 | issue 2


Colours of Festivity Sania Sajid

Dulhan’s kohl ringed eyes shyly peek to her side where the groom adorned with garlands of sweet smelling rose petals, endures the scene of his mouth being stuffed with oil dripping mithai by heavily bejewelled aunties, their life-long mission being to stir romantic promises between the blushing couple. Dancing bells on henna tattooed feet, move to the blasting drums and piping music. Clapping hands and swaying hips flow on the plush wooden floor injecting gaiety and laughter to the celebrations. Sugary songs advantageous for the eager single men to find their damsels in the gathering. Adorned in a flowing crimson gown speckled with rich gold embroidery the bride is painted and dressed like a warrior princess, travelling to a land with unknown trials and tribulations faced exclusively by her and that suited man who waits for her with unsteady hands andracing heart. Little does she know, bride and groom will lie hidden for three days. Rukhsati function concluded with the gain of a gem for him, yet the loss to her family magnified when the weeping mother bides her farewell amongst shimmering gold and soft lights of the candles.


“Our problems are manmade, therefore they can be solved by man.” John F. Kennedy June 10, 1963

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