Category: Uncategorized

CHNDY: The Middle East, As Shown By A Middle Eastern Artist

On April 3, La Pietra Dialogues invited Mohamed Al Kindi, known professionally as Chndy, to host a students-only discussion on the filmmaker, photographer, and visual artist’s past and current projects.  Students gathered in Villa Sassetti to listen to Chndy’s insights on art, creativity, and identity. In addition, videos and photography were viewed and reflected upon during the question and answer portion.

Read below for photographs taken from the artist’s website, along with more information about the dialogue.
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Performance by Bachar Mar-Khalifé at the Middle East Film Festival: Tuesday April 4 @ 8 PM at Cinema La Compagnia

 

At 8 years old, Bachar Mar-Khalifé and his family fled their civil war torn country in Lebanon to France. In France, Mar-Khalifé developed his musical skills as an instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris and has released three albums since. His debut album, “Oil Slick,” (2010) took ten years to complete, while his latest album, “Ya Balad,” (2015) took him 10 days to complete. In “Ya Balad” (“Oh, Country”), he responds to the Lebanese Civil War and his country’s remnants of destruction and political turmoil. He reflects on his family’s need to flee their country, and the current state of Lebanon.

In this album, the multi-instrumentalist experiments with different sounds and instrumentals that make it impossible to put his music into a specific genre. His music merges jazz, indie, folk, rock, electronic, and classical to create a unique sound. Through his music, he is able to draw forth feelings of peace, fear, confusion, and desperation. In this very personal album, Mar-Khalifé sings in Arabic but, is able to convey strong emotional and political messages regardless of this language barrier.

His album sparked controversy for containing underlying sexual messages and other messages that were believed to go against God, and was even censored in Lebanon. His song, “Kyrie Eleison” (meaning “God have mercy” in Greek) was highly controversial and Lebanese authorities stated that he would not be allowed to promote his album in Lebanon unless this song was deleted from the album.

Mar-Khalifé has spoken up about this issue on Facebook, releasing a statement in Arabic, French and English on April 13, 2016: “I sang KYRIE Eleison, and more powerfully as ever, exactly as I sang it in Beirut and as I will sing it wherever I want to scream at the political and religious institutions who want to govern our lives as if we are still living in the Middle Ages. I scream for my humanity against the processes that repress the spirit. I scream against the cultural and intellectual poverty imposed by a model of society where money is the sole reference. I scream for my being, refusing to be submitted to anyone or anything. I doubt, I seek, I question, I sing, I surrender, I do not surrender, I let it go, I continue, I sing, I like, I drink, I dance, I do wrong, I live.”

The inner conflict that Mar-Khalifé undergoes regarding his national, religious, and political identity can resonate with those who feel repressed in any aspect of their identity.

Mar-Khalifé will be performing this album on April 4th at Cinema La Compagnia (Via Cavour, 50r) at 9 PM for the Middle East Film Festival. His album is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. Take a listen and join us for this exciting event!

Middle East Now Festival 2017

The Middle East Now Film Festival (MEN) will be returning this week, April 4th to 9th, for its 7th annual celebration of Middle Eastern and North African cinema, art, and culture this April. Taking place at the new Compagnia Theater in downtown Florence, the festival will investigate the theme of the Urban Middle East.

This year’s festival looks at the city as a metaphor for life. Cities are inherently cultural hubs, where people from all backgrounds and experiences come to create and share with others. MEN uses the city as a vehicle to understand in a fuller sense what constitutes the contemporary Middle East.

MEN will be bringing in documentary, narrative, and animated films from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and Yemen.

Outside of film, artists of all types including, musicians, chefs, and other contributors of culture will look at the varying breadth of what constitutes the urban Middle East. This diverse collection of art will help facilitate a dialogue on the contemporary Urban Middle Eastern identity.

In addition to the festival screenings and prizes, MEN will also have an array of special events. This includes a screening of “The Last Man in Aleppo”, a Sundance award winning documentary about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, a special feature on Female Directors in the Middle East, photography by Tasneem Alsultan, and cooking classes in contemporary Iranian Food from Philip Juma of Juma Kitchen.

Saudi Tales Of Love by Tasneem Alsultan

We look forward to seeing you April 4th – 9th! NYU Florence students will be jurying the “NYU Best Short Film” prize and presenting the award at the closing ceremony on April 9th, come show your support!

If you would like more information about the festival contact Kira (kbg280@nyu.edu), who is interning at the festival this semester.

A Brief Introduction to the Syrian Civil War and the Kurdish Female Fighters Battling ISIS

During the Kurdish Liberation Movement of the 1970s and 1980s, female Peshmerga (a Kurdish word meaning “facing death”) guerrillas in Iraqi Kurdistan established a reputation as fierce fighters. The women of the YPJ (an acronym which translates to “Women’s Protection Units”) are continuing in the tradition of Kurdish female fighters as they challenge ISIS in Syria. The YPJ is the female brigade of the armed forces of the Syrian region of Kurdistan. Formed in 2012, the YPJ has amassed an army of over 10,000 volunteer troops and has become vital in the fight against ISIS. The women of the YPJ recognize that ISIS targets women and fight for their own freedom first, then for the freedom of their people and their land, according to one of the fighters who spoke with Patrick Cockburn at the Independent. They know that, if they are captured, they will be raped and murdered, so the soldiers fight with the awareness that losing is not an option. They say that ISIS fears them, because the men believe that if they are killed by a woman in battle then they are disgraced and will not go to heaven. Although they use this fear to their advantage, the Kurdish female fighters believe their womanhood is not the only thing that ISIS should be afraid of. In recent months, the battle between ISIS and the YPJ has gotten incredibly tense. The “Wrath of Eupherates Operation”, an initiative led by Rojda Felat of the YPJ to remove ISIS from its self declared capital Raqqa began at the end of 2016, and Felat vows that the mission will be over by the end of the year. In January, Felat told KurdishQuestion.com, an online platform for news, context and insight about Kurdish Matters, “We assure that 2017 is the year of ISIS’ annihilation…The people of Raqqa should be ready, as the sun of freedom will be shining soon in their skies.”

Ellyn Toscano Presents Villa La Pietra’s ReSignifications Project in Palermo

Photo Palermo
On Stage from left Palermo Deputy Mayor for Culture Andrea Cusumano, University of Palermo Professor Alessandra Di Maio, Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, Ellyn Toscano and Awam Amkpa

Ellyn Toscano, NYU Florence Executive Director and Founder and Director of La Pietra Dialogues, participated in the colloquium Archipelago Nero with Nobel Prize winning writer Wole Soyinka and NYU Professor Awam Amkpa in Palermo over the weekend. As guests of the Mayor of Palermo and University of Palermo Professor Alessandra Di Maio, Toscano and Amkpa spoke about the ground breaking ‘ReSignifications: Imagining the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories‘ multi-media art exhibition and artistic dialogue, held in Florence at Villa La Pietra and The Bardini Museum in 2015.

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NYU Florence Poll Results

Last Thursday, November 10th 2016, Kennedy Hill and I polled some of the NYU Florence student body regarding the results of the 2016 Election. We received 54 responses, which is about a sixth of the entire student body. These results are not reflective of the entire student body sentiment at NYU Florence. Instead, they serve as a way to gauge the general themes of the NYU Florence student body’s political opinions.

Here are the questions we asked:

Did you vote?

Did you think Trump would win?

Are you satisfied with the election results (President, Senate, House)

Are there people in your political or personal sphere who accurately predicted the results?

Are you more pessimistic or optimistic about politics post election?

Are you more likely to be politically engaged post election?

Are you more likely to participate in protest post election?

Results are as follows:

55.6% voted in the General Election

37% didn’t vote in the General Election

7.4% not US citizens

87% of students did not think Trump would win.

88.9% of people are UNSATISFIED with the Presidential, House, and Senate results

59.3% did not have people in their personal or political sphere who predicted Trumps win .

61.1% are more pessimistic, 29.6% neither , 9.3% optimistic

74.1% likely to be more politically engaged

55.6% more likely to protest post election

What these results reflect is relatively unsurprising. We represent general trends of our generation, the millennial generation, as a whole. About half of eligible voters between the age of 18 and 32 (the approximate millennial age range) voted in the General Election. The overwhelming majority of students both myself and Kennedy have encountered over our three years at NYU are socially and politically left, including those studying here in Florence. We were overwhelmingly surprised by Trump’s victory, and feel generally unhappy with the results of the General Election. Again, this falls in line with overall millennial sentiment. If only millennials had voted in the election, Clinton would have won by a landslide. We are more pessimistic about politics than before the election, and yet are more likely to be politically active and engage in protest.

Millennials are the generation who will feel the effects of the policies of the Trump White House for decades to come. Prior to the election, we were a generation with record levels of political apathy.  It seems that this election may be the catalyst which inspires and Millennials.

Ai Weiwei. Libero: Introducing Art Activists Pato Hebert and Hentyle Yapp

Patrick “Pato” Hebert 

Pato Hebert
Pato Hebert discussing his work “Corpus” at the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry. Sarah MacDonell for the MCSI. Original Source.

Patrick “Pato” Hebert is a visual artist, advocate, and professor at the Art & Public Policy Department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Studio Art, going on to earn his M.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of California Irvine. His lifework is deeply focused on the significance of cultural plurality and advocacy projects. Heritage and roots are significant in his works, something Hebert explored during his time living in Panama. This influence can be understood through his art pieces, which have been presented in multiple galleries. He devotes time to youth education and empowerment. In the past, he participated as a teacher of creative writing and drawing at the Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall. As an advocate, he dedicates his efforts to HIV/AIDS prevention and care in both large and small scale organizations. He now works as the Senior Education Provider for the Global Forum on MSM & HIV to ensure better health care and human rights for those affected. Hebert currently resides between New York City and Los Angeles.

 Hentyle Yapp

Hentyle Yapp performing a dance choreographed at the Oberin Dance Collective. Roel Q Seeber for ODC.
Hentyle Yapp performing a dance at the Oberin Dance Collective. Roel Q Seeber for ODC. Original Source.

Hentyle Yapp is an artist, academic, and professor at the Art & Policy Department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He attended Brown University, earning his B.A. in French Literature. He continued his studies at UCLA Law School to obtain a J.D. with a concentration in Critical Race Theory and Public Interest Law. He received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in Performance Studies with a designated emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Prior to joining the NYU community, he was a Mellon Chau Postdoctoral Fellow at Pomona College in Gender and Women’s Studies. Through his research he tries to better understand the methodological and theoretical associations of race, sexual identity, and disabilities and how these are treated by governments. He is currently focused on a unique project concerning modern China through a humanities lense. Yapp also continues to practice his art as a professional dancer, working as a choreographer.