The Politics of Art in the Middle East

Creative provocations shaped the 2011 revolutions that rocked the Middle East and North Africa. Six years later, repression and the absence of political freedoms have stunted opportunities for change. Yet, time and again, Arab visual artists and novelists offer the boldest critiques of resurgent autocracy. ICWA Fellow and award-winning journalist Jonathan

Vulnerable, Together: the Ocean and the Sailor

On the ocean, the horizon can feel crushingly wide. From the cockpit, we can only react to what the expanse reveals—and what it doesn’t, with frustratingly vague clues. As we sail through the tropics in rainy season—filled with towering thunderclouds and sudden, violent storms at any hour—we find ourselves often peering nervously into the horizon. As black clouds mushroom, we can only guess at many factors: how hard is it raining? Will it continue? Which direction will this storm go? How much wind does this storm cell pack? Do we need to shorten our sails? Now? If there isn’t lightning now, will there be? Should we turn around or forge ahead?

A sailing adage calls the sport ‘hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.’ But that leaves out the gnawing uncertainty of reading a horizon and the edginess that can accompany complete vulnerability to the elements.

Off the Pacific coast of Panama, Josh and I sit in the cockpit and discuss the darkening horizon. We left Islas Secas in a good breeze and clear sunshine one hour earlier. Now, I watch with increasing dread as the indigo underbellies of storm clouds billow higher into a wash of white above the mainland. These storms grow rapidly, packing powerful winds and terrifying lightning that could easily destroy our boat’s electronics, punch a hole in the hull, and electrocute Josh and me.

Maybe we can beat this storm, I wonder aloud. I sit on the edge of the cockpit and we watch the clouds for a few tense minutes. The wind increases on our bow, and our silence is carried away by the headwind that flogs our jib, leaving it snapping angrily.

I want to make it to the mainland and the promise of calm anchorage. It’s been two weeks since I’ve slept well, and I can feel my nerves fraying under my salt-stained skin. We have been taking shelter behind offshore islands, where storms and swell wrap into our anchorages in the night, causing the boat to toss and turn, leaving us doing the same.

We could stop at Isla Brincanco, a small, steep island between us and the continent, but it’s a “roadstead” anchorage. We would be potentially exposed to wind and swell, and the guidebook warns that the only solid holding (for the anchor) is at least forty feet deep—fifty-five feet at high tide. Deep anchorages are not ideal because they require we pay out extensive chain, at least 200 feet, and this is tiring to pull up manually. Plus it leaves us vulnerable to an invisible bottom, along which rocks and trees could snag our anchor in this seldom-used location, and freediving to unsnag the anchor would be at Josh’s limits.

I watch the leading edge of the storm, a distinct line of black sweeping south, giving us an idea that it’s traveling north—towards where we want to go. No. No, I don’t like the look of the clouds. I make our decision.

I pick up the VHF radio and hail our friends Jon and Shannon on Prism, sailing half an hour behind us. We have been sailing with this young couple off and on for seven months, and we frequently chat on our VHF radio to check in and to help each other. “I think we’re going to tuck into this island and see what happens with these clouds.” The wind picks up, and we roll in all but a fraction of our jib.

“Well, we’re going to keep going.” Shannon’s cheery assertion causes me to cringe internally. Am I overreacting? Should we do the same?

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Neri Zilber on Banksy’s New Hotel

Banksy is one of today’s most important artists. In  “Inside Banksy’s West Bank Hotel,” Zilber takes you inside Banksy’s latest project – a hotel designed in Banksy’s conception as “a place for ‘peace between people, understanding, and respect.'”  Read the article here.

Julie Barlow and Jean Benoit Nadeau on French Election

One of the most important elections in French history and the world currently, French experts and former ICWA fellows Julie Barlow and Jean Benoit write their predictions in Globe and Mail. Read the story here. To read more by Barlow and Nadeau, also purchase their book available at Amazon or see their past explanations on the National Front.

Jonathan Guyer on Egyptian Surrealism

In the Los Angeles Review of Books, ICWA fellow Jonathan Guyer has published a review essay on the resurgent interest in Egypt’s little-known Surrealist movement, co-authored with  American University in Cairo Professor Surti Singh. In “The Double Game of Egyptian Surrealism: How to Curate a Revolutionary Movement,”  Guyer and Singh consider

Remembering Alexandria’s Visionary

In my first piece for the New York Times, I write an homage to the great Alexandrian scholar Mostafa el-Abbadi, who passed away in February. Several obituaries of el-Abbadi appeared in Egyptian newspapers, but most merely consisted of his curriculum vitae. No remembrance captured his colorful disposition and feisty erudition, let alone his ambivalent

Jessica Reilly Selected to Present at International Conference

As an ICWA Fellow, Jessica Reilly sailed around Latin America collecting stories and testimony about the effect on climate change. With the knowledge gained from her fellowship, ICWA is thrilled to announce that she has been selected as to present at the Resilience 2017 conference in Stockholm, Sweeden. The Resilience conference is one of the leading

Suzy Hansen’s Piece on Turkey in The New York Times’ Magazine

Former ICWA fellow Suzy Hansen’s piece on Turkey and the coup aftermath appears in The New  York Times’ Magazine on Sunday April 16th and is currently available to read online. Suzy Hansen is one of the few remaining Western journalists in Turkey, and certainly one of the best. ICWA is honored to share this fantastic piece by a former

Andrew Rice Interviewed on Boston Public Radio

Andrew Rice, former ICWA fellow based out of Uganda, spoke on Boston Public Radio about Jared Kushner and his power in the Trump White House. This interview continues Rice’s excellent reporting on the strange dynamic and relationship between Kushner and his father-in-law.

BLOG: International Women’s Day 2017: Taking Bold Steps for Change

Messages and Reactions From Nigeria On March 8, the world celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD), a day set aside to acknowledge the contributions women make in society and highlight the challenges women continue to face. This year, the United Nation’s theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” urged action to promote