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How do we productively map the historical and contemporary relationships that exist between North Africa, the Middle East and the Global South?

Clare Davies and Nida Ghouse
6 November 2014

Jorge Camacho met Joyce Mansour later that morning to discuss the cover of Faire signe au machiniste over coffee. Retiring to al-Rawda al-Sayfi after the proceedings, Youssef Abdelke drew Hassan Soliman's likeness on a napkin. While Clea Badaro was taken aback by Lawrence Durrell's unannounced visit, it was he who left surprised. They had been there Saturday last, but Albert Cossery and Albert Camus found it closed when they returned that evening. Inji Efflatoun threw open the windows before David Alfaro Siqueiros arrived.


Infuriated by the news, André Malraux wrote his friend Raja Rao asking whether or not Bengal was a cause worth dying for. Lost in thought, Alex LaGuma paused before opening Edward El-Kharrat's correspondence on the upcoming issue of Lotus. After clearing his throat three times, Mulk Raj Anand read out John Berger's message to the Triennale of Contemporary World Art. Which is why Georges Henein insisted on the indisputable importance of the mental itch in his open letter to the editors of Rixes. But when Edward Said got to the hotel, he found a mysterious note from Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir informing him that, due to security reasons, the meeting had been moved.


Simply put, they were not there, he explained, when asked for a photo of Kwame Nkrumah and Josip Broz Tito shaking hands at the Asian-African Conference. Nor had Effat Nagui had the chance to formulate her impressions of the paintings of Fateh al-Moudarres and Leonor Fini before leaving the opening of the Biennale des Pays Riverains de la Méditerranée. Jean Cocteau chatted with Camille Nimr Chamoun after the inaugural performance of La Machine Infernale at Baalbek. No one was surprised then when Tahia Halim, Sayed Abdel Rassoul, Saleh Mohamed Reda, Salah Taher, and Ashod Zorian won the National Section of the Guggenheim International Award. Midway through the afternoon session of the Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries in Belgrade, Sukarno leaned over to light Jawaharlal Nehru's cigarette. Minwal Yunus dropped by Gallery One before the opening but Helen al-Khal had left five minutes earlier. So Aimé Césaire is seated at the far end of the table, Farid Belkahia noted at the Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres.


Eventually, their involvement with the FLN led to the expulsion of Didar Fawzy-Rossano and Henri Curiel. Lotfallah Soliman couldn't help but express his disdain to Daniel Guérin for that particular brand of Arabism. Noticing that his second suitcase had ripped along the seams, Ramses Younan stood there silently for a minute, contemplating the damage. This was already long after the authorities had forcibly suspended the activities of the League of Arab Writers, arresting their members and seizing the flat in Damascus. As they crossed the bridge, Edmond Jabès began to speak of Paul Celan, who had thrown himself into the Seine. Perhaps it was inevitable that Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, once the closest of friends, would fall out over the question of Palestine.


He told her that he didn't know what to do with the knowledge he possessed. It was blue like the desert she insisted. He felt the same way when the Americans were driven out from Saigon. Living under the skirts of wind, she wanted his rage. She told him he brought dreams up to the surface, like sea-creatures. He laughed at the images on television of the US generals, stolen art objects under their arms. They looked stupid jostling one another trying to board the last of the helicopters. But Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. It's true, is it not? Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. Every time she left he would be alone with this colossal awareness of the world. The sea is our history. Driven mad, unable to die in a single wave. And the void, as a rule, does not undergo the dialectical process. The rate of the franc went up 270 to the dollar. He was absolutely fucked; the taste of sand in his mouth. So they exploded the mosques and the streets with the scandal of sex. She had stolen the yellow bird. The scandal of sex returned to its body, bursting into flames with each encounter - secret until then. He understood nothing. He was convinced he was completely useless. There was never a third meeting because he got arrested. That's when they started to sow dragons, only managed to reap fleas. We sang L'Internationale in the shadow of the pyramid.

Clare Davies and Nida Ghouse

This research-based response marks the beginning of a collaborative project undertaken by Clare Davies and Nida Ghouse that considers histories of artistic production in relation to the concept of metanoia. We explore the ways in which the process of changing one's mind has informed the intersection of art and politics in colonial and postcolonial contexts of the mid-20th century. The text includes partial quotes and occasional flights of fancy.

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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.

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