Home > Art, Culure, Middle East, Politics > The Agency of Art and the Study of Arab Modernity

The Agency of Art and the Study of Arab Modernity

Kirsten Reid writes in the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies:

“Sir, do I take what you’re saying to mean that people have a right to demonstrate?”
“Yes, of course, this shows people are responsible and aware. An example is the massive demonstration downtown, where a record number of people are demanding the fall of the government…”

As the elderly masculine voice intones his list of demands in fusha, my listening dulls. This is a list oft-quoted in Lebanon since December 2006, and the rise in gas prices is infinitely more effective in grabbing my attention at the station where I am filling my car’s tank on Hamra. But then the voice of the young female student returns with an unusual remark, a challenge to her teacher: “But people are saying that it’s a bad demonstration, taking as an excuse its [unattractive] appearance and the garbage everywhere.” Granted I had heard this remark from numerous friends and colleagues, but it was the last thing I expected to hear on Itha’at al-Nur radio station, the official voice of Hizbu’llah, one of the main parties to the demonstration. At the suggestion that the demonstration lacked credibility and merit due to its untidiness, the conversation took an even more unexpected turn: “Let me explain to you via example. Do you know Leonardo da Vinci’s famous picture, La Giaconda?”
“Yes, but it’s so famous it’s beyond me to comment on it!”
“Exactly,” the professor pounces, his argument apparently clinched, “dust cannot detract from its meaning; it is so invaluable. If people were to focus on the dust and miss the painting, they do not deserve to comment on its beauty. And if people will focus on appearances of the demonstration, they are in no position to comment on its meaning in terms of its civilizational value (Itha’at al-Nuri, March 18, 2007)

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Categories: Art, Culure, Middle East, Politics
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