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What do we need to know about the MENA region today?

Shahira Issa
1 June 2011

It is in protest.

'Strangely, a response immediately came to mind. Something shared is clearly coming into being in the region and we all need to look at it: It is changing. And maybe changing language around it too.'

When what has been called the Middle East and North Africa region answered its call, it said no.

'No. Generally, I couldn't enter such discussions about the region before. I couldn't speak of it as if it's an object with quantifiable characteristics that can be observed, understood, and described to an audience who would then recognize those things upon encounter …'

Its first utterance was an instance of negation.

'… as if relations could ever be so unchanging.'

It negated a history of despotism that defined it, and made sense of its name.

'I didn't want to speak from an inside to an outside. That always felt very alienating - disconnected.'

When it finally rose to its name,

'I don't know; but for the first time I feel, "now I can speak"…'

it was already standing outside itself.

'… and I am not worried about meanings being taken away from me to service something completely alien to where I am, or what it is all about.'

When a word is spoken, it literally draws an imagined line around the set of ideas it delineates. It immediately casts an outside to those relations. It creates, and therefore includes, the possibility of its own negation.

'It's almost as if it's the first time that there is a region altogether. And it's mainly because people are moving.'

Latent within it, is its own outside

'I don't want to be oppositional, but I found that collective stance of protest very inspiring and full of difference.'

In an instance of self-recognition, it reckoned with the potential of speech,

'It is very powerful to come face to face with the possibility of speaking your voice …


in hope, for the unknown.

… let alone being able to hear it.'

Shahira Issa

is an artist living and working in Cairo.

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A platform is a space for speaking in public. It is an opportunity to express ideas and thoughts. It also suggests the formal declaration of a stance or position on any given subject.

Unique to Ibraaz is a 'platform', a question put to writers, thinkers and artists about an issue relevant to the MENA region. This platform is sent to respondents both within and beyond the MENA region and contributions will be archived every 12 months.