Novelists, NGO workers, rock musicians, conservationists, students, and travel writers track down my email, asking: Would you please comment on my homework assignment / pamphlet / short story / funding proposal / haiku / adopted child / photograph of genuine African mother-in-law? All of the people who do this are white. Nobody from China asks, nobody from Cuba, nobody black, blackish, brown, beige, coffee, cappuccino, mulatte. I wrote “How to Write about Africa” as a piss-job, a venting of steam; it was never supposed to see the light of day. Now people write to ask me for permission to write about Africa.
In March of 2010, Egyptian newspapers began to report on what has come to be known as “the hash crisis” (azmat el-hasheesh). According to these accounts, supplies of the extremely popular marijuana derivative had dried up. The reports speculated as to the possible causes of the hash crisis, with the state press claiming that a major drug bust had unraveled a criminal network and the opposition press linking the crisis to President Hosni Mubarak’s health, internecine rivalries within the Ministry of Interior, or a strategy to introduce a price hike. Naguib, a former police officer turned drug dealer, met with Bidoun at the height of the controversy. Naguib (not his real name) is a slim and affable man in his mid-thirties from a middle-class background. He lives in a Cairo suburb with his wife and children. He spends his leisure time exploring Egypt’s deserts and experimenting with hydroponics, a technique to grow cannabis indoors.
In Dubai, land of improbable architecture, many of the most remarkable buildings are shopping malls. There is the Ibn Battuta Mall, with its themed pavilions, all the glories of the Silk Road under one colossal roof. There is a gold souk, a spice souk, a fish souk. There is the Mall of the Emirates, with the gigantic silver refrigerator that shoots out of it like a surfboard, home of the Dubai ski lodge.
And then there is the Indian mall in Karama, a sprawling, semi-enclosed cavalcade of trinkets, gewgaws, and clothes, many of them made in China to approximate the latest styles in New York. Most of the merchants here are South Asian.
The choicest real estate at the Indian mall is held by a hip-hop clothing store called Las Vegas. Which, after you’ve spent any time in Dubai, seems to make perfect sense. Adham Alshorafa is the lord of Las Vegas.
I must have been ten or eleven when I started coming to Cinema Royal — that was when we moved here from the village. Our house was right next to the cinema, and by the age of twelve, I was working here. We screened mostly Indian films for the locals, who were mainly Armenians, along with some Arabs.
Readership has changed a lot over the last fifteen years. One, the Cold War is over. Nobody is particularly interested in Mozambique or Angola or Central America anymore. They’ve sunk back into the same position that they were in before the conflicts there, into obscurity. Many of the regions we covered back in those days hold no interest anymore. And as you know, print magazines have taken a heavy hit recently. We have downsized over the years because of that. We no longer have the budget to send reporters to various arcane locations throughout the world.
Stapled and printed on newsprint, Coagula looked exactly like what it was: a scurrilous gossip rag, a thorn in the side of the art world’s sacred cows and a salve to the sanctimony of institutional art. The ink from its garishly full-color covers often came off on your hands. Coagula’s print run was a healthy twelve thousand; its readership far exceeded that number. Since the only way of obtaining a copy was an excursion to one of LA’s dull cultural meccas — which, at that time, were almost all inconveniently located in corporate downtown or the far-off west side — the magazine passed hand-to-hand between artists’ apartments, like samizdat.
Founded in 1874 as a bucolic training ground for Sunday school teachers, the institution became the first American correspondence school, offering lessons on a vast range of topics and conferring degrees by mail. Families and religious groups made the trek to Chautauqua, way upstate in the Finger Lakes region of New York, overwhelming the institution’s limited lodgings for weekend seminars and workshops. Unaffiliated “Chautauquas” started popping up across the United States, and with them grew an informal circuit of poets, essayists, explorers, magicians, and gurus, as well as reams of flyers, posters, and pamphlets produced to promote them. The University of Iowa maintains a library of these advertisements, and, in addition to being an old-school look at the art of infotainment, they also serve as an index of stratagems for selling the self.
The Bead Thief
Fatima Al Qadiri
Work in Progress
Don’t Believe the Hypernova
This Brand is Your Brand
With Sophia Al-Maria, Shumon Basar, Nelson Harst, Parag Khanna,
Tiffany Malakooti, Andy Pressman, Babak Radboy, Michael C. Vazquez
Language instructor, Cairo
Manager, Pehlevan tightrope troupe, Makhachkala, Dagestan
Writer, New York City
Hypnotherapist, The Third Eye, Dubai
Owner, Satsuma Imports, Los Angeles
Green cemetery owner/operator, Huntsville, Texas
Police officer turned hash dealer, Cairo
Proprietor, Shabbir Pasha Steel Traders, Bangalore, India
Project manager, Dyncorp, Kandahar, Afghanistan
King of Koshary, Cairo
Owner, Las Vegas clothing store, Dubai, UAE
Tropical fish dealer, Bangalore, India
Manager, Cinema Royal, Beirut
Owner, El Asira, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Soldier of Fortune
How to Write About Africa II: the Revenge
Have Pamphlet, Will Travel
Ashlaa / In Pieces
The Whitney Biennial
Home Works 5
Yto Barrada and Etel Adnan
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
Show and Tell
Folding the Tents / Drumbeats
The Strong Horse
Issandr El Amrani
How to Wreck a Nice Beach
Sorry I missed your calls last week, I was at a haunted house convention. Haunted Attraction was started going on sixteen years ago by two gentlemen, Leonard Pickel and Oliver Holler. I took over the magazine a year ago last April. I was interested in starting up my own haunted house, so I subscribed to […]