SIDEBAR: Malu Halasa
Join us for an evening of food, drinks and conversation featuring a presentation by London-based writer and editor Malu Halasa, followed by a Q&A with curator Omar Kholeif. Halasa describes her subject for the evening, Women of al-Raqqa and Beyond: new art, film and writing from Syria, as follows:
In the Syria of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad, only the thinnest veneer of gender equality applied in the military drilling and indoctrination of schoolgirls as well as schoolboys. Aside from one official Baath Socialist Party supported general union of women, feminism was virtually absent. In a country filled with prisons, fear ruled. With the 2011 uprising, women began openly participating in art and culture and a feminist critique of masculinity and militarism emerged. As war enveloped the country machismo silenced a renascent female narrative; but women regained a sense of agency after incessant fighting decimated family structures and eradicated the male population. Six years on, the picture of women in Syria is as fractured as the war-torn country itself. In Kurdish Rojava, women are soldiers; in “liberated” enclaves, many are political and social leaders; while in once cultured al-Raqqa, the ISIS capital since 2014, they are barely seen at all. Meanwhile the boldest and most challenging female artistic voices are heard outside Syria, following the flight of at least 4.8 million refugees abroad and the estimated 8 million internally displaced.
Malu Halasa is a Jordanian Filipina American writer and editor based in London. Born in Oklahoma, she was raised in Ohio and is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University. Her books include: Syria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014); Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations (2009); The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design (2008); Kaveh Golestan: Recording the Truth in Iran (2007); Transit Beirut: New Writing and Images (2004) and Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance (2002). Her first novel, Mother of All Pigs, is published this month by Unnamed Press of Los Angeles.
Dr. Omar Kholeif is a curator, writer, editor, and sometime filmmaker whose work focuses on the intersection of politics, urbanism, and emergent technologies. Formerly Kholeif was the Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, prior to that he was curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, senior curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester, and curator at FACT, Liverpool, among various other roles. The author and/or editor of over two dozen books, he also writes widely for the likes of The Guardian, Art Monthly, Wired, Mousse, Frieze, and Artforum International.
Malu Halasa will also discuss her new novel, Mother of All Pigs, at 57th Street Books on Friday, November 3rd. More info.