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

Achim Borchardt-Hume
1 June 2011

The political and cultural density of the Middle East is as diverse, rich and complex as that of Central Europe with which it shares a history of struggle about disputed borders, clashing ideologies and religious turmoil. The fact that the term by which the region is commonly identified is a British invention is just but one sign of how inseparably intertwined the histories of the Middle East and of the Western world are. More than ever, the region is becoming one of the turn tables within an increasingly global reality – with the free exchange of ideas often at risk of being caught up in conflicting political and economic interests.

To face the challenges and to maximize on the opportunities that result from this unique situation, an accelerated pace of learning, unimpeded by ideological impositions, is paramount. It is in the creation of a critical space otherwise non-existent, to explore, reflect upon and discuss the complex reality that art in the region plays a vital and necessary role. For this to grow, we need to know more about the life of ordinary people, and how their reality compares to that represented in the media, especially the aspirations of the young, both on an individual and wider social level. We need a forum for genuine exchange and for free information flow. We need two-way traffic. More than anything we need openness, not to fix a goal, not to have a pre-determined finishing line, if we want such an exchange to be meaningful and fertile over a sustained period of time.

Achim Borchardt-Hume

is Chief Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. He was previously Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at Tate Modern, London.

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What is a platform?

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.