Saturday, March 19, 2011

El Watan, my Friend


Four years of living alone in Iraq, three years and three months in Baghdad, and eight months in Mosul, had left its effect in me that’s for sure. Reached Algeria in last august I was, and still to a degree, highly cautious, and a little bit paranoid. I noticed that cats are not afraid in Algeria in big big contrast to the case in Iraq where cats run away terrified from any human being figure. Here, they march relaxed, and even be friendly to you. I was more fearful from cats God damn it. Feeling so alone and helpless walking in a street "Le Petit Prince" cartoon of Le Hic, in El-Watan journal caught my attention. I bought that issue of El-Watan and managed to read it with the help of the aid of a pocket French-Arabic dictionary. "Dessine-moi un couteau" would be translated to "draw me a knife". A sheep in the planet with the prince, and this cartoon appeared in the first day of Aid El Adha. I wondered if solving the symbol is this easy to the other readers cause I didn't understand the whole symbol. In book stores I usually find few books but "Le Petit Prince" is commonly there in many editions and publications. I read the novel and understood the cartoon.

The music is of the Algerian musician Mohamed Rouane, the piece is entitled "Sebrinel" from the Album "Reve". All the picture are for El-Watan papers (except the one about the paramedical intersyndicates which was from Algerie-News, anther good newspaper, Emir Abd El-Kader from Liberte, a good journal also, while Kateb Yacine's and Setif picture taken from various sites form the net, and of course the two pictures of the cover of my copybook, one in the beginning, the third picture in the film, and the last picture in the film at the end.

I kept buying El-Watan to find in one issue that Saint-Exupery had written part of his masterpiece in Alger. I took El-Watan more seriously and bought a big copybook and started my El-Watan encyclopedia.

Lessons of Algerian history, art, and literature were given to me most elegantly and cleverly. El-Watan is a journal that respect its reader.
Wikileaks started, Le Hic clever cartoons was an amusement. It shocked me how franc the cartoons were, how clever.


One day I knew about an Algerian psychiatrist named Said Sadi who lead a party that is not so popular, and that it called for a peaceful march every Saturday in Algeria calling for some changes. The psychiatrist mounted over the roof of a police car. Le Hic came again with that clever cartoon in which Said Sadi is saying: "No person can reach above my ankle".
Rachid Boudjedra, whose writing I adore, adviced against the demonstrations and explained why in a long clear article. A cartoonist named Saad came with a cartoon against the governmental inhibition of the march in Alger the capital in which the protester is jumping holding the tablet in which he wrote: "je ne marche pas, je saute" (="I do not march, I jump").
Le Hic is always a master in cartooning so, just see his cartoon. Students made some kind of association, paramedical workers united in one syndicate, still, El-Watan, the realistic and the respecting to its readers, made a file on Setif Hospital, but it was gloomy.


Lessons of history and art continued. Issiakhem, the painter, and his loss of one of his arms in childhood, and his ambiguous relation to his mother came in a wonderful rich deep dossier.
Pierre Rabhi, a specialist in botany, talks in a book about the disadvantages of "Propaganda" in its invention for the human kind new needs that we don't really need, and about our neglection to plants. He tour around the world and talk about his ideas. Such a nice subject to read.
Phoenicians, and their relation to Algeria, and their how they found that sand, under the fire, is crystallizing over time, and hence discovered glass.


Freres Lumiere and the first cinema show in Alger and Oran in 1896.
El-Watan articles, were getting more easy and wonderful to read as my French language was getting better and better, Alger history, Sahara, Skikda and the bowing tress, Tipaza and its roman heritage.

Beauty over beauty I discovered more and more with another cartoonist named Zino and the cartoon about Chibanis (old north African men) and their life between France and Algeria, one Chibani says to the other: "if I stay in France my retirement salary will not be enough to buy my cigarettes, if I stay in Algeria more than a month they cut my retirement here", what a dilemma.
Notre Dame D'Afrique history in Alger, then another day a dossier on authorized brothels in Algeria and their history, with the history of a famous prostitute.

Farhat Abbas and why he was against the timing of the Algerian revolution and its methods, but finally he aided in it.

And of course, Emir Abd El-Kader.

Seven months already in Algeria, jobless and friendless but, El-Watan has found its place in my heart, and the copybook will be always open to receive these Algerian treasures.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lautrec, as a Hunter

"I knew that you would not miss the pleasure of hunting"
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec parents were divorced in his childhood. He lived with his mother. He got an inborn disease that made his bones fragile causing him bilateral femoral fracture when he was around the age of ten, a thing that hindered his growth. His father loved hunting. While Lautrec was 37, his already devastated body by alcoholism was reaching an advanced degree of syphilis, and in his bed, a night before he died, he wrote this simple line to his father:
"I knew that you would not miss the pleasure of hunting".

I am not in position to talk about Lautrec's Oedipal wounds, but, at least, about hunting. A hunter needs a trained horse and a trained dog. Tamed horse and dog. Systematically trained to follow the orders to aid in the hunting of free birds and gazelles, among other "beasts". The hunters stop for sometimes motionless to focus on the target and then shot their bullets into the birds' and gazelles' bodies declaring their death with the proud of human superiority over animals. A human that knows how to draw strait lines to tam animals, and knows how to shot accurately to kill "beasts".
There is another kind of animal hunter, the photographer who also search for animals, and in their presence, like a hunter, he keeps quite, sometimes breathless, he slowly draw his camera and took his shot. He let the animals to behave freely and learn the lessons of instinct. He can show us those lessons on National Geographic.
There are other types of hunters. The poet who hunts for words, and the painter who hunts colors and shadows.

Lautrec wasn't lucky enough to have a colored camera, and his bones didn't help him to go to the jungle, although he did paint few paintings about horses and hunters, instead, he headed for another jungle, the city night life in cabarets, bars, and brothels. He took his colors and draws for history and time what lies behind the scene, in the coulisses, where the dancer is changing clothes, the clown is without makeup, and the whore is tiredly lying speechlessly.
Lautrec, you who's body was hunted by bone fragility, syphilis, and alcohol addiction, had hunted for us those moments at the end of the 19th century, so thanks a lot for letting us share you those moments.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

My Father's Colors

Life is a path. It has a beginning and an ending. Actually they are a moment of beginning and a moment of ending. A starting point and an ending point. A womb, then a tomb. Two black wells. Between any two points there can be a straight line or a tortuous one. A narrow passage or a wide one, a wide one that is open to the sky, to the different skies.

Some, sees this path as a racetrack; others, sees it as an exam. Some sees it as a pleasure; others see it as a suffering and question why they were put in this path, why they were born? And for what reason life had been given to them, and then, someday, will be taken?

{O thou man! Verily thou art ever toiling on towards thy Lord – painfully toiling – but thou shalt meet Him}
The Holy Quran, The Chapter of: "The Rending Asunder" (Al-Inshiqaq), the 6th verse.

A path with a starting point and an ending one. A white dot, then a black one. Sufis think that the right path goes in circles. They wear white inner dress symbolizing a shroud, a black jacket symbolizing the tomb, they put their hand on their heart where God they believe is residing, and they goes dancing in circles on the tone of their spiritual music.

{I saw my Lord with the eye of the heart and said: "Who are you?" He answered: "Yourself."}
Mansur Al-Hallaj

Between my white dot, and my black one, my path was going in gray most of the time lately. Late on that day I chose to go upstairs when suddenly I saw some colors up there. It was one of my father's paintings. It was a trial to copy the original painting by Serwan Baran Aarif. When I asked my father someday why he paints he said: "just for the pleasure of doing so, and to discover new kinds of beauty".

My father's painting

The original painting by Serwan Baran Aarif

The shoemaker in the painting gave me an advice: "I made shoes for your naked feet but, do not ever forget to walk barefoot from time to time." He didn't add an explanation, for his words will find their explanation with every new path feet may step on.

{Straight ahead of him, nobody can go very far}
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Two wells. Two holes in time. A womb then a tomb. A laugh then a tear. A reunion then a farewell. A white and a black and we got to add the colors. Thank you my dad for adding those colors to our life, in our long and uneasy journey.