Potentially infinite in scope, but eloquently curated, Nazar is a collection of photographs from the Arab world, published in tandem with the Noorderlicht festival.
Robed in purple and gold, Nazar is an enticing prospect and its genre-busting approach is as welcome as a hammam after a hard day. Reportage, landscape, studio and conceptual photography – each holds its own alongside vintage images from the Arab Image Foundation archive.
From this era of pre-1948 Palestine, the sight of three confident, alluring women decorating the bonnet of a car utterly confounds the stereotypical image of a subservient, veiled Arab woman; a surrealist tableau of a disembodied head shakes off the sheikh fixation with an elegant flourish.
Noorderlicht has been challenging cultural assumptions and issues of misrepresentation since the inaugural 1990 festival, yet this latest pertinent collection demands urgent study. We witness the work of the new generation of Palestinian photographers who worked as assistants to the Western press pack during the first Intifada in 1988; people like Awad Awad, Ahmed Jadallah and Rula Halawami, who have provided the world with images from the occupied territories from a unique position of understanding.
Soap-operatic images from Egyptian cinema, patriarchal portraits from Morocco, or graphic news images of blood and bullets seen through the prism of orientalism, the rich, visual tapestry presented here has much to teach us if only we have the eyes to see.
In the West, the ubiquity of images of death and destruction from the Arab world – so often, tragically, from Palestine – serves to anaesthetise us while at the same time accepting a violence at the heart of Arab culture, which in truth does not exist.