Blend Magazine: The Arab Leap

 

Amsterdam based Blend magazine is a referential bible for the arty scene here in the Netherlands covering underground/alternative fashion, music, arts and culture. Run by the young people it prides itself on shining the spotlight on the talented unknowns.

I have always appreciated their fashion mis-en-scene and styling. Provocative. Unorthodox. With a very distinct aesthetic and obvious gay erotica undertones.

 

 

So it is with keen interest that I rushed to get my hands on the latest issue billed as the Arab Leap anticipating inspiring stories and images. Moreover in the forward the editor promises an “entire issue with beautiful Arabic things, either hailing from or inspired by the Middle East” and “a celebration of their revolution.”

 

From the cover stares at you a black, masked turbaned face. Beautiful? Inspiring ?

Hardly.

Not disturbing either.

Rather costumy.

Inside the stories on three Iranian artists Shirin Neshat, Ali Dowlatshani and Shoja Azari living in the United States interspersed by photo stories and fashion shoots.

 

The head covering/cloak/veil theme runs across. A fare amount of flesh, circumcised and not, is exposed. And there is a fashion column/rant calling the young to arms against the rule of the septuagenarians.

 

Surprisingly there is nothing on the Future of a Promise and a flourishing contemporary art scene in the Middle East as seen recently at Dubai Art and Sharja Biennial

And the music? Take Maryam & Shiftz. It would have been very pertinent

Or the Iranian underground Boom Box

and the Tunisian El General

 

It looks like the view from Amsterdam of the “beautiful Arabic things” is limited to clichés perceptions of head covering, incense and some tribal jewellery.

 

This celebratory issue fails to impress. I wonder what you think

 

Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.” Khalil Gibran

 

Bye Bye Hosni by Moroccan artist Z. Ramkhani