The picture above is from a painting by Abdalla al-Omari that is showing in Dubai's Ayyam Gallery. Al-Omari's series portrays world leaders as refugees. These are strong visuals of our times. What is not there in the series are images of the Gulf Arab leaders and their silences. It would be impossible to portray Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, emir of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, as a refugee. Al-Omari would go to prison for that.
During Ramadan, Dubai bustles. Even the art galleries have special hours. The mood of war and embargoes that has unraveled Syria and that threatens Qatar is no-where to be found in Dubai, city of malls. In today's Alternet, I have a report from Dubai of the ongoing Gulf crisis. You can read the report here.
There are two points of note in the report. First, that the Saudi target - as far as I could learn - is the Qatari royal family, particularly the emir's mother Sheikha Mouzah who has long been a point of contention as far as the Saudis are concerned. Second, that two devoted allies of Saudi Arabia - Morocco and Pakistan - are unwilling to toe the Saudi line. These are signifiant breaks in the Saudi alliance. I don't go into this in the article, but I do wonder if the Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) - led by Pakistan's Raheel Sharif and based in Riyadh - would outlast these tensions. Will be following up on this in a further report; thus far, my sources have been very dry on the IMA's future.
It is with great joy that many of us received the verdict of the British people in their current general election. Good to see Jeremy Corbyn's version of social democracy return to the Labour Party, and to see how young people gravitated to a policy slate that is not saturated in greed and hypocrisy. Good ideals remain meaningful and are alive in the world regardless of the disdain that they meet for their utopianism. There is nothing wrong with trying to produce utopia, a better place, a kinder world.
The victory of Corbyn brought back memories of his visit to India for the World Social Forum held in Mumbai in 2004. In the picture above, Corbyn sits between the Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti and the Indian writer (Arundhati Roy - congrats on your new novel Arundhati!). With her fist in the air is Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, who chaired the session and whose daughter - Subhashini Ali - was Corbyn's translator into Hindi. I spoke to Subhashini about that panel. What she told me was a great deal of fun. So I wrote a little blog post about it, which you can read here.
If you are going to Documenta 14 this year in Kassel (Germany), you could get to see Naeem Mohaiemen's Two Meetings and a Funeral - a three channel film about Bangladesh and the Third World Project. Naeem somehow dragooned me into working on this film with him. I had thought - initially - that I'd merely be the advisor, but then he dragged me before the cameras and made me a part of the film. In the picture above, from Kassel, I'm chatting with Samia Zennadi in the very room in Algiers where the 1973 NAM meeting was held.
In 1971-72, after Bangladesh won its independence, it sought out international allies. The first stop for Sheikh Mujib was to go to the Non-Aligned Movement summit at Algiers (1973). This brought Bangladesh into the radical orbit. Tensions within the country and compromises of a class character shifted the priorities for Sheikh Mujib who went, the next year (1974) to the Organisation of Islamic Conference meeting in Lahore. It was a major concession for Sheikh Mujib to go to Pakistan - after the brutality of the 1971 war. This is the backdrop for the film. But Naeem does more - he provides an elegy for the Third World Project, not steeped in nostalgia but one that offers a sense of its past and what remains to be resurrected from its ruins.
Naeem, Bangladesh's Zonayed Saki, Algeria's Samia Zennadi and I will be at Kassel from August 1-4 for a three day conference on 'Reviving the Idea of the Global Left'; we will go amongst the ruins to find our way to the future.
The Global Left saw a spark this week when the tea garden workers in West Bengal went on a strike and fought back against police brutality. What they want is for the employers to honour the minimum wage provisions and to provide land to the workers so that they can build their own homes. These are basic demands. They are precisely what management refuses to bargain over.
Meanwhile, in Morocco, mass demonstrations continue around the slogan, 'One nation, One people united for freedom, dignity and social justice.' These cries are so basic. Yet, they are exactly what is being denied.
Not for long.