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Emily Jacir, Man at Bethlehem Checkpoint During theSeige on April20,2002,2002, c-print, number 1 of 7 SHATAT SCATTERED HISTORIES J u d y Hussie-Taylor 6 0 • N k a J o u r n a l o f C o n t e m p o r a r y A f r i c a n A r t S hatat: Arab diaspora Women Artists reveals the petit recits of diaspora, the secret breath of history, offering some of the "minute particulars" that visionary artist William Blake, in an earlier era of colonial expansion, posited against the generalizations of "scoundrels." Emily Jacir, Susan Hefuna, Zineb Sedira and Fatma Charfi offer much needed alternatives to the corporate media's shrill portrayals of Arab Islam as the new Evil Empire. The work shown in Shatat is conceptually rigorous and restrained, understated and elegant, a refreshing antidote to generalized hysteria. As curator Salah Hassan notes, Shatat (which opened at the University of Colorado Art Galleries in January 2003) addresses "the complexity of the diaspora experience." This work resists grand historical narratives and didacticism in favor of a nuanced exploration of the complex interface among cultures, identities, and private and public realms, offering a contemplative view of personal and political particulars. Roughly twenty years ago, in her article "Women's Time," Julia Kristeva argued that the Second World War, "fought in the name of national values ... brought an end to the nation as a reality." This 1 9 * century dream, she says, persists solely for ideological and political purposes. Her article is proving prescient. We are living in a world where boundaries between nations, cultures , and identities are increasingly difficult to enforce. In the face of the greatest h u m a n migration in history, with more than 250 million immigrants globally, the nation, seat of old empire, prosecutor of world wars, resists its obsolescence in increasingly violent terms. It strives to squeeze us back into the tidy sections of superpower alignment because this de-centering challenges the privilege of the West to dominate the world. Unfortunately our politicians and the elite they serve, for all their talk of "globalization ," have not yet understood what the immigrant knows as reality—that we are living in a transnational age. Egyptian physician and activist Nawal El Sadaawi writes that immigrants, those w h o possess more than one culture, "understand the changes that are producing a new international body of mankind and womankind." They are situated to serve both their ethnic and host communities, providing "insights into the twin poles of North and South, Africa and the United States." The artists in Shatat exemplify this "new international body of womankind," point the way to the future of world art, and embody the possibility of a truly "post"-colonial world. Charfi, Sedira, Jacir, and Hefuna illuminate distinct experiences of diaspora and dispersal, the complications of identity in dislocation, and navigate among cultures, communicating experiences of women living in more than one world. The flow amidst Western Europe, the Middle East, India, Africa and the Caribbean is a mixed blessing. Immigrants have had to put up with xenophobia and increasing violence, as well as post 9/11 policies targeting Muslims. But Europe benefits from an immigrant labor force and its rich cultural infusion. Declining birthrates mean that the EU would collapse without its immigrant workers. At the same time, many Middle Eastern and Asian economies are in dire straits with no rebound in sight. The impact of cultural exchange has been explosive-both positively and negatively. London is in the midst of an artistic renaissance with a plethora of brilliant young multi-racial and second generation black novelists, playwrights, performers, visual artists, and choreographers. French choreographers have taken cues from Senegalese artists, musicians and dancers and Algerian immigrant hip-hop artists; and everywhere musicians collaborate across cultures more freely than ever before. As Hassan notes, "The Arab diaspora, resulting in part, from past and present colonialism, and political, social and economic contexts, is present in many 'Western' countries." According to The Washington Times (November 14, 2001), "An estimated 2.35 million people from the Maghreb nations—mainly from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco—live...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2152-7792
Print ISSN
1075-7163
Pages
pp. 60-65
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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