19 February 2006

Issa Touma (2)

This post is an update on Issa Touma the Syrian photographer who runs the Le Pont Gallery in Aleppo. Among the first posts I made to this blog called attention to his troubles with Syrian authorities. His work prompted additional posts here and here. I e-mailed Issa recently and have received an update from him which I summarize here.

The gallery re-opened January 8th after having been shut down for nearly nine months. Within two weeks local authorities had come to close it down again, but they were stopped, in turn, by the Syrian Secret Pollice who assured Issa that he is free to pursue gallery operations. Issa seems skeptical - as he says "time will show every thing." Plans for the gallery include an exhibition (running from April to August) of six photographers including one of work by Niek Biegman (some of whose work can be found here and here).

Currently, however, Issa's "big project" is organizing what seems like an ambitious culture and arts series - including dance, art and photography exhibitions, lectures, music - with contributions from Muslims, Christians and Jews. Issa calls this project "Meeting with the Middle East" and indicates that it will begin April 206 and run through the end of 2007.

One of the primary reasons why the Syrian authorities find Issa Touma so "troublesome" is that he has run a series of photography festivals in Aleppo. He explaned to me that given the events of the past year he is pushing back the next iteration from Spring to September 2006. He seems to have many strong contributors. This installment of the festival will be incorporated into the "Meeting with the Middle East" series.

I think Issa Touma is a remarkable figure. He is stalwart in his activities and, while acknowledging how difficult his experience with the authorities has been, he insists that his tribulations have initiated a "positive movement inside Syria, its for the first time open conversation about the cultural problem in Syria." It turns out that his activities have brought this struggle to international attention. He tells me that in one week recently he had 23 visitors from abroad - including diplomats, journalists and artists from Austria, the Netherlands, the US and the UK - and admits that this entourage has kept him so busy that he sometimes is up all night working on the projects I mentioned above. Issa promises future updates. I will keep you posted as he sends them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Post! Wish I would have found it sooner! 8^)

26 February, 2007 08:18  
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06 April, 2007 00:49  

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