Culture

‘MINA’ to take on the big questions

BEIRUT: A new multidisciplinary art platform opens Thursday at the Goethe-Institut. “MINA: Artistic Ports and Passages” will commence with the launch of “Now Then: Testimonials on Independent Syrian Cultural Work.”

A collection of first-person accounts by independent Syrian artists practicing in and out of Syria, the book is introduced by playwright and actor Hanane Hajj Ali, a member of Ettijahat, the Beirut-based cultural organization behind MINA. Founded in 2011, the organization’s mission is to empower and activate a culture of independent artists and intellectuals.

MINA will host more than 30 artists from 10 countries in multiple locations in Beirut, throughout the first week of December.

Inspired by the current state of affairs in the MENA, the platform’s name reflects the fleeting temporality of artistic production in the region.

“We are truly in a time where voluntary and involuntary migration is not only defining but also defying the way artists work,” Hajj Ali says.

“It is not by accident that we called the platform ‘MINA,’ with all its underlying references to movement and voyage.”

The event’s program comprises a series of talks, panel discussions, performances, film screenings and an album launch, with the line of discussion contemplating the status of artistic production in the past few years while posing important questions about the uncertainty cloaking Syria and the region as a whole.

“We don’t want to wait until the war is over in Syria to expose Syrian art and practices,” Hajj Ali explains. “Our priority is to allow a continuity of intellectual practices and artistic works.” Beirut is the perfect place to host such an event, she adds, with its rich history, its proximity to all the unrest and yet its ability to be resilient.

“The Arab region is currently witnessing many challenges and pressures that are exacerbated by the rise of dictatorships and/or the closing of public spaces, the return of violence, the great migrations, and the tragic situation of Syrian refugees,” reads the brochure on the panel discussion, titled “An Arab world without artist,” which will be hosted by the Goethe-Institut on Dec. 2.

Ettijahat is not only concerned with providing funding and securing exposure for artists, Hajj Ali explains. It also inspires conversations and discussions that could pave the way for a deeper understanding of the sociocultural context.

While talking with The Daily Star, Hajj Ali mused, “If 80 percent of Syrian artists are working outside of Syria today, what does that mean?” Providing the space for such questions to be posed and discussed is at the crux of MINA’s mission.

Hajj Ali was first introduced to theater during the Lebanese Civil War. She recalls meeting Hassan Daoud, an influential journalist and writer, in an underground shelter.

In spite of that war, intellectual and artistic movement didn’t cease, but always circulated underground.

Through MINA, Ettijahat seeks to provide a space for networking and integrating Syrian artists and intellectuals, so as to unearth important and pressing questions, regardless of the contextual constraints.

“MINA: Artistic Ports and Passages” will run Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 at various venues around Beirut. For more, visit Ettijahat’s Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/681327642068610/.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 29, 2017, on page 16.

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