Just over two months old, Libyan Flavours (“نكهات ليبية”) has established itself as “an initiative to keep the identity of Libya alive,” already garnering a strong base of some fifty-five thousand followers who regularly post photos of paintings, landscapes, meals, and snapshots from quotidian life in Libya.
The producers themselves have released two well-advertised videos over the course of twenty-four hours, which they describe as the beginning of a series meant to highlight aspects of Libyan traditions as they are carried out today. The first one, shown above, creates a bond between tea ceremonies set in three different geographic and social settings. The second video, which provides glimpses of some wedding festivities, can be viewed here.
In August 2011, Libyan writer Ibrahim Al-Koni appeared on stage at the Louisiana Literature Festival in Denmark in discussion with Syrian poet Adonis. The writers spoke about the nature of revolution and their hopes for the futures of their native countries. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has released a portion of the recorded talk online. In this particular section of the interview, briefly volley back and forth about NATO intervention in Libya’s 2011 revolution.
“I hope the Arabs themselves rise up and request the assistance of the world,” said Adonis, “But to invite NATO forces to occupy Libya or Tunisia? No!”
Al-Koni appeared ruffled by Adonis’ implication that Libya’s revolution was somehow compromised by Western intervention. He replied:
“What happened in Libya was not begging NATO for help. There was a spontaneous uprising by civilians, as Adonis wanted to clarify. It was in fact a spontaneous revolution by unarmed people, marching in protest and seeking their rights. The murderous regime killed these people on the streets. Therefore they were forced to attack the barracks and die by the thousands in order to take weapons from combat forces to defend themselves. The Arab League passed a plan to the Security Council to protect the people. The Security Council could not stand idly faced with a war of extermination. The great power were assigned to prevent genocide of this nation. France initiated in the early days as attempt to prevent a major massacre in Benghazi. Until then the world hesitated. No one intervened. The United States bombed the arsenals in Tripoli and in the desert which were being used by Gaddafi against the citizens. NATO till then was divided. Turkey, Russia, China, South Africa, and Italy, even India — were against interference at this point. But the developments showed them the truth. They realized if they did not act, an entire nation would be eliminated.
…Mr. Adonis has a right to critisize the West because in fact they had rehabilitated Gaddafi for the last 20 years enabling him to return strongly to practice terrorism in the world.
The two authors also discussed literature, Sufism, and politics. You can watch the excerpts here.
Recently, it has become difficult to find images of Libya that don’t immediately evoke the memory of the brutal revolution. “Humans of Tripoli” — created in the same vein as the prolific “Humans of New York” brand — turns the lens on ordinary Libyans in the trenches of everyday life. Although state-building has been an often messy, and violent, project, life in the streets of Libya carries on and something resembling a civil society has emerged. The photos of Humans of Tripoli depict these realities.
Although the page is not yet a week ago, the admins have already encountered questions of representation. There are no women in any of the photos. The omission, however, is likely not an intentional one, as one commenter reasonably pointed out. Libyan women may be wary of a stranger’s camera, especially if that stranger is a man who intends to post their photo up on Facebook.
Who is Deborah K. Jones? The career diplomat has served as the U.S.c ambassador to Kuwait from 2008-2011. She’s also served in Syria, Turkey, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates. She’s currently a scholar at the Middle East Institute. She has two kids and speaks fluent Arabic.
She was chosen to represent the American people “during this important stage of Libya’s new democracy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said today adding that she is a career foreign service officer “who has served admirably in diplomatic posts around the world.”
If confirmed, she would head the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya, amid heightened tension and tighter security following the deaths of Stevens and four other Americans who were killed while visiting the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
The following is an excerpt from Libyan writer Omar al-Kikli’s Prison Sketches (2012), translated from the Arabic by Sebastian Anstis. Read more at Jadaliyya.
The Tea Theory of Relativity
For us, tea was a matter of utmost importance; it was the only pleasure we had. It was so important that one of us, arguing with a prison guard, stated that a prisoner would be willing to exchange a cup of tea for an equivalent amount of his own blood.
Of course, this was gross exaggeration.
Of course, this was a clear indication of how important tea was in our existence.
It may be more accurate to say, as has one of our poets, that the evening tea prevents depression. Yet in prison, tea was so mediocre that it may have had the opposite effect, even though it came in generous quantities (nor should it be understood from “evening tea” that there was a morning tea or a noon tea).
Whatever the case may be we would scheme to obtain the greatest quantity of it possible.
It was served with dinner.
At first, each one of us would extend his plastic cup, and the warden would pour a helping of hot tea according to his calculations and generosity. Later, they gave us larger containers for sharing.
It dawned on us that the collective portions were much less than all our individual portions put together. So we divided ourselves such that some cells would receive individual cups while others would receive collective shares. Then we would gather all the tea and distribute it amongst ourselves.
Eventually, an observant inmate noticed that the portion for two people was hardly more than that for one.
This observation triggered deep reflection, from which sprang a moderately complex, and very wise idea.
Our plan depended on psychological suggestibility. It assumed that if a person requested a single cup of tea, and the next person requested tea for two, the difference between the two amounts would be minute. Therefore, the warden must be made to sense the magnitude of the difference from one portion to the next. For example, one person might ask for an individual portion, and the next, enough for four. In theory, this should lead to a second portion large enough for five or six people.
We debated the theory exhaustively. After countering all objections, I received collective approval.
We agreed among the different cells to request portions of tea in the following magnitude and order: 1-4-1-1-5 (or something to that effect).
After consolidating portions that evening, our yield was less than the average of the previous days.
With that we buried the tea theory of relativity though I do not believe it was allowed a fair scientific evaluation given the number of trials.