Writing

Using Medium

Photo by  Erinc Salor .

Photo by Erinc Salor.

I've started using Medium and I am very curious of what it will bring me, especially in terms of exchange and reach. I really enjoy browsing and exploring the space myself and there are lots of good articles published, so I hope I can bring my contribution to that large community. 

In my first piece, Watching Birds in a Suffocating City, I wrote about people’s struggle to save Istanbul’s green spaces, featuring Murathan Varol's 3-min film "Portraits from Istanbul: The Birder" telling the poignant story of Akdoğan Uzkan, a birder from Istanbul.

Enjoy the read!

Winter Promenade, continued

I love walking. The winter sun makes my walks even more enjoyable, especially in my neighbourhood of Amsterdam. A few weeks ago, I captured some moments at de Hortus , today, I went to another favourite place of mine: the Artis Zoo. It was a sad visit though, as I learned the death of Mumba, the zoo's baby elephant that I deeply loved. Everybody loved her. She was born on 18 June 2011. I saw her on the 20th, when she was only two days old. Since that day, each time I visited the zoo, I went to see her. I have introduced all my beloved friends and family members to Mumba. She was part of my life. I couldn't help but cry her death. She was four years old. Now, I am not sure how I will tell my 6-year old niece that Mumba died. Every time she visits me from Brussels, we go say hello to Mumba.

All these pictures, I took before learning about Mumba's death. Afterwards, I couldn't take any more pictures. It will take me some time before I can go back to the zoo, but I will go back, eventually.

City in Translation

Vesterbro in Copenhagen. Photo by Erinç Salor. 

Vesterbro in Copenhagen. Photo by Erinç Salor. 

I am so happy to announce that following up on my residency in Copenhagen, I have now launched a new website: City in Translation

It is very exciting to be able to show one's work to the world. You put all your heart and energy into something, do your very best to make it look good and accessible to as many people as possible, and then, you feel vulnerable because after all, you've put some part of yourself out there. That's a bit what City in Translation does to me. It is an exploratory project, based on research, but the interpretation of the city through its languages is totally personal and subjective. Which is why I like doing it so much, and also why I feel a bit naked when sharing this city of my imagination with you. 

So, to help you navigate through the stories, I have also separated fictions and resources, these two sections go hand in hand to provide complimentary perspectives. Fictions features creative writing and other expressions by myself, Resources provides a collection of material from within and outside academia aiming to contextualise the work of this project and aid in future research.

City in Translation starts in Copenhagen, but I do wish to expand to further cities in the coming months and years. I would also like to develop other activities around the theme of exploring languages in urban spaces, in the forms of workshops and other events. This is a starting point of a journey, which I hope you will join. 

Isabelle 100 Visages

Avignon et ses centaines de spectacles. Comment choisir, surtout lorsqu'on a peu de temps ? Comme je vous le racontais déjà dans un billet précédent : Les Murs d'Avignon, c'est en photographiant un mur où s'affichait Isabelle 100 Visages que je reçus une belle invitation à découvrir ce spectacle par une jeune femme qui passait par là :

"C'est un très beau spectacle, je vous conseille d'y aller"... "Vraiment, il est magnifique". 

J'ai vu beaucoup de beauté dans la générosité de cette jeune femme inconnue. Mon expérience avec Isabelle 100 Visages a débuté là, grâce à elle. 

A 10 heures, un torrent de boue jaillit du djebel, s’abat sur la ville, charrie tout sur son passage : rochers, troncs d’arbres, hurlements, cadavres de chevaux, livres, restes de maçonnerie. Et elle. Isabelle, Isabelle Nadia, Isabelle Eberhardt, Madame Ehnni, Mahmoud. Isabelle aux 100 noms, aux 100 histoires, aux 100 visages. Qui est-elle ? 21 octobre 1904, noyée dans le désert à 27 ans, elle n’existe plus. Voici sa vie.

Ainsi commence cette pièce librement inspirée de la vie d'Isabelle Eberhardt...

L'auteure Aurélie Namur dresse un portrait très touchant d'Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), personnage extraordinaire au parcours géographiquement, spirituellement, sentimentalement et culturellement très riche : aventurière, journaliste de guerre, convertie à l’Islam, parcourant le désert algérien habillée en homme, dénonçant le système colonial du 19ème siècle... 

Aurélie Namur a choisi de présenter sa version de la vie d'Eberhardt à travers le regard du 20ème siècle de quatre narrateurs qu'elle a inventé, accompagnés de mélange de langues, de musique et de chants, dans une très belle mise-en-scène de Félicie Artaud.

Aurélie Namur est Isabelle et une des narratrices, Romain Lagarde est tour à tour narrateur, Alexandre, Heinrich, Ali Abdul Wahab, Lieutenant, Abdallah et Docteur, Mohamed Bari passe de Narrateur à Augustin puis Vavert, Sidi El Hachmi, Slimène et au Maire de Doumci, quant à Céline Rallet elle est une des narratrices, Natalia, Nedjma, Lieutenant et Juge.

Tout comme Isabelle, les acteurs aussi se jouent des genres. 

Le caractère musical de la pièce -indissociable du texte, passe à travers le mariage des langues, où se mêlent russe, arabe, allemand, ainsi qu'au mariage musical du piano, qui accompagne tout le récit, des chants arabo-musulman et des chants soufis. 

Dans ses notes d'écriture Aurélie Namur raconte la genèse du projet : 

Interpellée par l’image négative de l’Islam en occident, je cherchais à écrire depuis deux ans le portrait d’une jeune européenne qui embrasse la foi islamique. J’ai débuté l’écriture investiguant les mosquées et Internet afin de me documenter sur la multiplicité des pratiques musulmanes. Mon propos n’était ni de dénoncer l’islamisme radical ou l’athéisme fondamentaliste ni de faire l’apologie des religions mais de dresser le portrait d’une jeune femme en quête identitaire pour rendre compte d’un autre visage de l’Islam. Au cours de l’écriture, j’ai buté contre une série de pièges qui me menèrent à cette conclusion: la thématique étant « brûlante », mon fil narratif a un spectre trop large et suscite un débat peu éloigné de la dichotomie des débats médiatiques que je souhaitais dénoncer : il me fallait opérer à distance.

Et je trouve qu'elle a bien réussi. Il est assez difficile de s'exprimer avec une telle sensibilité et sincérité au milieu de cette cacophonie d'opinions - bien souvent non sollicitées et pauvrement fondées, autour de l'Islam, de la radicalisation, de l'islamophobie, et j'en passe... Un texte comme celui-ci, qui m'a semblé très personnel et allant bien au-delà de ces débats, est nécessaire.

Comme elle l'explique, Aurélie Namur a choisi de dresser le portrait d'Isabelle en se posant toujours la question en filigrane : "qu’est ce qui fabrique un destin exceptionnel ? Comment en vient-on à vivre une destinée hors norme ?" C'est en allant au plus profond de la personne, de l'humain, des sentiments, qu'elle a réussi à me toucher autant.

J’essaie de rendre compte de la radicalité de sa démarche, de son goût de la liberté et de la justice, de sa manière de vivre en faisant fi des clichés, des usages, de la ségrégation coloniale.

J'ai souvent soif d'histoires humaines loin des clichés, surtout lorsque l'on parle d'Islam de nos jours. L'histoire d'Isabelle Eberhardt montre bien à quel point ces questions sont complexes et diverses. En parlant de "l'Islam" ou des "Musulmans", on a bien trop facilement tendance à oublier les niveaux d'existences d'une panoplie d'identités à travers les géographies, les cultures, les êtres. Aurélie Namur nous éloigne des clichés pour nous ouvrir une porte, une parmi les mille (et une, oserai-je ajouter), sur la vie de cet être aux 100 visages. Parce que nous sommes tous bien plus que nos croyances, nos peurs, nos envies, nos connaissances, nos lieux de naissance. Merci Aurélie de nous l'avoir fait vivre à travers votre sensibilité d'artiste de ce monde fou d'aujourd'hui. 

Je suis arrivé à cette dernière limite de la misère d’où sont la faim et le dénuement, les angoisses continuelles de la vie matérielle. Je suis comme une bête traquée impitoyablement, avec le but évident de la tuer, de l’anéantir [...]. Mais, au sein de tout cela, après tous les déchirements et en face de tous les dangers, je sens que je ne faiblirai pas, que deux choses me restent intactes : ma religion et mon orgueil. Je suis fier de souffrir de ces point vulgaires souffrances, d’avoir versé mon sang et d’être persécuté pour une foi.
En ce début de siècle dominé par la matière, j’ai choisi résolument l’esprit. Le soufisme est la mystique privilégiée du petit peuple, des pauvres, des démunis. Vous dites que ce sont des gens foutus mais permettez-moi de vous dire que pour moi, ces gens foutus sont infiniment supérieurs aux autres, à ceux qui s’imaginent être dans le droit chemin et qui errent tout aussi bien que nous mais à l’aveuglette et bêtement. Ce qui me sauve c’est cette résignation islamique dont j’ai eu le temps de me pénétrer. Autrement ce serait le suicide et la folie et très vite.
Je ne regrette ni ne désire plus rien...J’attends. Ainsi, nomade et sans autre patrie que l’islam, sans famille et sans confidents, seul, seul pour jamais dans la solitude altière et sombrement douce de mon âme, je continuerai mon chemin à travers la vie, jusqu’à ce que sonne l’heure du grand sommeil éternel du tombeau...
— Isabelle Eberhardt, Mes journaliers. (Dans ce texte, Isabelle Eberhardt écrit au masculin ce qui est courant dans ses correspondances mais aussi la rédaction de ses journaux).

Aurélie Namur
Isabelle 100 visages

Publié en 2015 chez Lansman Editeur.
64 pages - 10.00 €
isbn: 978-2-8071-0026-8
 

Story of a residency: WAAW Senegal

The entrance of WAAW.

It can take more time to reflect on what you have seen, learned, heard, experienced and felt coming back from one particular place than from any other.

That is what happened to me after my short visit to Saint-Louis, Northwest of Senegal, 320km from Dakar, as part of a residency with WAAW. I met wonderful and very inspiring people, I have seen unique places and I learned so much through the conversations I had with everyone. 

The WAAW residency viewed from the terrace.

I want to start this much belated series of posts about my residency in Senegal by presenting you the WAAW residency space and the people behind this wonderful endeavour.

From the terrace.

I have to thank two very special people for making this residency possible: Jarmo Pikkujämsä and Staffan Martikainen, the founders of WAAW. Two very passionate and knowledgeable professionals about Senegal and West Africa, they both traveled a lot in the region and have organised many tours throughout Africa and the Middle East with Harmattan Tours.

Jarmo holds a Ph.D. in African Literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies (UK). He has a strong interest and knowledge of coffee (he is the owner of Aksum Coffee House in Brussels) and in promoting cultural production. 

Staffan is a translator at the European Commission in Brussels. He is fascinated by West African music, languages and crafts. After importing African craft and design to Finland and Belgium he founded the Yelema association for the promotion of artisans.

And they are among the friendliest people I have ever met. 

The view from the WAAW terrace.

WAAW is situated in the heart of Saint-Louis, called Ndar in Wolof. 

Saint-Louis is a former colonial town, it was the capital of the French colony of Senegal from 1673 until 1902 and French West Africa from 1895 until 1902, when the capital was moved to Dakar. The city, which I will tell you more about in a later post in this series, is truly fascinating and filled with architectural gems.

The view on the street from WAAW entrance door.

A very important component of a residency at WAAW is exchange. You don't come here to be alone and do your thing, WAAW is a place for encounters between all kinds of people working in different areas. The place itself is surrounded with local cultural traditions including music, dance and various crafts, and you will see many local artists and makers coming to say hello to the residents. Jarmo and Staffan also organise events at WAAW itself as well as with local partners. 

Musician and instrument builder Abdoukhader Diop is getting ready inside WAAW to share his passion and knowledge.

The programme that was prepared for the one week residency was very intense - one of the reasons why it also took me so long to dive back into it all and have a serious reflection about this experience. So I met local writers, musicians, artists, weavers, a festival organiser, a village chief, a calligrapher, university students, filmmakers, business owners... and a lot lot more, many of these encounters I will also write about in later posts. 

The terrace at WAAW.

I can without any doubt say that Saint-Louis has stolen my heart and that WAAW is most certainly one of the main reasons why.

The entrance of the terrace of WAAW

I am now experiencing this journey again, through all the material I have collected during my residency, starting with these images of the residency space, which I hope will be an invitation for you to apply for this residency

Studio space at WAAW

Some practical information about WAAW:

  • Waaw is open to representatives of all artistic and academic disciplines, but especially professionals in visual arts, crafts and design are encouraged to apply.
  • The residence comprises 6 bedrooms; shared kitchens and bathrooms around a common courtyard.
  • 2 larger rooms are available for work, exhibitions or other work. Work space for special purposes, such as dance/performances can be rented cheaply outside the centre.
  • Tools, musical instruments, space for dance/performances can be rented cheaply outside the centre.

For further information, visit the WAAW website  

and most importantly:

Stairs going up to the terrace (and the beautiful Bougainvillea peaking from above)

In my next post of this Senegalese series, I will dive into the city of Saint-Louis. But without rush, I told you some visits need - and deserve - more time. 

La chaise

Je me suis amusée sur le catalogue 2015 du KunstenFestivaldesArts (le papier est vraiment agréable au toucher), avec mes marqueurs Sakura Koi et mes Pigma Micron (que j'adore !) Ça donne ceci :  

Resurgence from Underwater

The Merman with Seven Sons, sculptures by Suste Bonnén. Photo by Canan Marasligil. 

It's been eight weeks since I've been back from Copenhagen.

I haven't worked on the materials I have collected during my one month residency at the University of Copenhagen, I haven't written or even put any order into all the media I brought back.

Photos, videos, sound recordings, digital notes, analog notes, flyers and brochures, books... and thoughts.

Many many thoughts.

When I got back, I felt a bit drowned under all these materials and everything I learned. It was an extremely rich residency. The people I met through the University and all that knowledge I collected has been very inspiring and motivating. 

Then I was back in Amsterdam, a place I for now call home. And I decided to leave those thoughts, ideas and all the collected material on the side for a while. And so it took me eight weeks to be able to start - yes, only start - to look back at what I experienced in Copenhagen. 

I kept thinking what I could start with, and I remembered that underwater sculpture, The Merman with Seven Sons in the heart of Copenhagen I took a picture of on a sunny day.

The sculptures were made in 1992 by Danish sculptor, photographer, and author, Suste Bonnen, based on the famous story found in Danish folklore: Agnete and the Merman (Agnete og Havmanden in Danish). The group of bronze sculptures is located underwater in the Slotsholm Canal next to Højbro (High Bridge). They portray a merman and his seven sons with outstretched arms, begging Agnete to return home. 

Mermaids and other mer-people are recurring figures in traditional Danish lore. Hans Christian Andersen's popular story The Little Mermaid inspired the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, a most popular tourist attraction. 

Doing some light research on the subject, I found out different versions of the story, which has the same basis: a merman and a human, Agnete, fall in love, live together underwater, have children. One day, Agnete hears church bells coming from land and desires to go back, promising her husband she will come back. There she finds the family she had abandoned, her mother and sisters, and learns the bells are actually for her father's funeral who killed himself after having searched for Agnete for so long. 

No matter what exactly the story tells, how many children they have, if Agnete speaks to her real mother or a ghost because time passes differently underwater than on land,... the sculpture makes you feel the tragedy. These underwater statues reaching for their mother, the merman reaching for his loved one, in vain. Then there's me, looking from up the bridge, trying to decipher these figures. And now, looking at the photograph, feeling quite overwhelmed but also extremely excited about a new challenge that I will take with me in the coming months, going through all the materials and thoughts I've gathered in Copenhagen. It will be a long journey, and I want to take my time, even if I may now and again feel underwater. I will end up catching my Agnete's hand. 

 

Residency in Copenhagen

I am extremely happy to announce that I will spend a month in Copenhagen from mid-April to mid-May as part of a residency organised by Culture@Work.

The Culture@Work Project aims to develop an international platform for the circulation of artistic work and for the collaborative training of professionals in the cultural sector. It is coordinated by the Lisbon Consortium - Catholic University of Portugal, and includes the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen and MACBA - Barcelona Museum for Contemporary Art in its networks. 

Needless to say I feel very proud to have been selected. 

During my residency in Copenhagen, I will explore the “City in Translation”, taking languages and the city's public space as a starting point to explore how the process of translation happens and how people interact with the languages in their city. Throughout my residency, I will go on a hunt for stories behind these words and languages. 

I will also go to Barcelona on 24-25 April to talk about the work I'll do during my residency at the Circulating Critical Practices workshop .  

I am looking forward to this new challenge and will share my experience as usual here and on social media. 

A Review of the Graphic Details Exhibition: Stories Beyond Identities

I wrote a review of the exhibition Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women
Curated by: Sarah Lightman and Michael Kaminer, on show until  13 December  2014 at Space Station Sixty-Five in London. 

The piece starts as follows: 

Years ago when I first moved to Amsterdam, I visited an exhibition at the Jewish Historical Museum titled Superheroes and Schlemiels, Jewish Memory in Comic Strip Art.  Presenting a fascinating exploration of the many ways the rich history of comics in the 20th Century is intertwined with the hopes and struggles of the Jewish community, the exhibition highlighted Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s Superman, Will Eisner’s A Contract with God, Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Joann Sfarr’s Rabbi’s Cat.

You can read the full article on the Comics Grid Blog

uppercase issue 23

I am very happy to be a contributor for the beautiful Uppercase Magazine. This issue is focused on Calligraphy, and I have written a reportage about a calligraphy guild in Paris. 

Discover Turkish Wines

Food also comes into my passion for the arts and culture, and that is one of the reasons why I am so happy to help edit and write for the Discover Turkish Wines online magazine published by House of Red and White, an independent marketing group based in Austin, TX, and dedicated to expanding the knowledge of wines from Moldova, Montenegro, Turkey and Georgia. My dear friend, journalist and entrepreneur Senay Özdemir is at the head of this endeavour, and it is a pleasure to collaborate with her. 

I am especially happy about the cultural picks I have introduced into the magazine: books, music, and even comics... to enjoy your wine with. 

Discover Turkish Wines is accessible for free, so have a look and enjoy reading!

Films, Hearts and Languages - Free Word Centre

In August, I attended the Sarajevo Film Festival. I have written a piece focused on language for the Free Word Centre blog. Here is the beginning:

Last week was the 20th edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most important international film festivals of Europe. It has an immense impact, especially in the region, every year awarding its Hearts to films coming from around the world. I was again very lucky to be there and experience the immense energy of the city, the high quality of the movies and encounters with the filmmakers that were on offer. Now, because I mostly (if not always) look at the world through my translator’s eye, I will be exploring my experience of the festival the same way. So do not expect film reviews (I am not a film critic), but rather a look at the role language and translation play in film making and viewing. 

You can read the full piece on the Free Word Centre's website.