Like many others, I was appalled to hear reports of military snipers picking off mourners at a funeral in Tripoli. It didn't stop there, as yesterday Libyan warplanes opened fire on protesters in that same city. Some of you may remember my post on modern art and fashion in Egypt during the recent revolution there ("A New Vision of Egypt"), and today I thought I'd take a similar look at the contemporary arts in Libya.
LIBYA'S FASHION DESIGNER
Rabia Ben Barka was born to a wealthy family in Tripoli and had the opportunity to study fashion in London, Milan, and Rome. During Gaddafi's 1969 coup d'etat, her family was stripped of everything and Ben Barka found herself living in Rome and managing to get by in fashion by working for other designers. Outside her home country she felt unable to realize her dream of fusing Libyan and western fashion.
In the 1980s, Gaddafi's daughter became interested in her designs, and over time with contacts such as these, Ben Barka was able to return to Tripoli and start her label, designing pieces which blended traditional Arabic elements with modern western characteristics. Just take a look at these frocks, paired with Converse-inspired shoes.
She has even designed for Gaddafi himself, a bitter task undoubtedly, but she refuses to mix art and politics. In fact, she won't say a single thing about the regime or Libya's current state. But considering her battle to return to her country and then open its fashion to the outside world, one can only imagine the inspiration she will derive from the drastic changes in coming days.
LIBYA'S MUSIC STAR
Hamid Al Shaery is credited with completely re-envisioning Libyan music. From the 1980s to the present day, he has sought to modernize Arabic music by incorporating western elements while staying true to traditional instruments and styles. Here's one of his hits:
LIBYA'S ONE-OF-A-KIND ARTIST
Mohammed Bin Lamin is an extraordinary, self-taught artist whose works seem to create another world, one that is deeply spiritual and full of a sort of wizened peace. Solara Sabah writes that "his works look as if they are a legacy from a great civilization that is vague" and writer Ethan Chorin claims, that though he can't quite put his finger on it, there is something quintessentially Libyan about the haunted paintings.
From that perspective, it is not about how art and politics influence each other, but about the whole they represent. In this case, that whole is a civilization that has not yet found itself (it only became independent in 1951, and Gaddafi has ruled since 1969), but which holds extraordinary promise.
GET THE LOOK: A LIBYAN-INSPIRED COLLECTION
Those of you who follow my blog know that this section is usually reserved for fashion items based on the day's post. I decided to open it to some other items this time around, to give you a better sampling of the region since purely Libyan fashion pieces are tough to come by. You'll find jewelry and fashion pieces inspired by northern Africa and the Sahara, an extraordinary board game, a photo of Tripoli with proceeds going to a charity of your choice, and of course some fabulous handmade pins to show your support. Enjoy!
Handmade Proud Libyan 1" Pins by A Crafty Arab $8
Libyan Stamp Necklace by Camp Spearnak $12
Ancient Board Game: Helga from the Libyan Desert by Kurna $125
Vintage Arabic Tunic Dress from Magpie's Shop $37
Vintage 1970s Caftan Maxi Dress from Love Street Vintage $65
Handmade Tribal Tuareg Cross Pendant by Zahira Bazaar $38
Sahara Desert Ring by Metals by Ash $48
Vintage African Embroidered Caftan Dashiki Dress from Time Lords Vintage $58
Tripoli Neutral Wrapped Stone Pendant Necklace by cooljewelrydesign $42
13 Apr 10: The Wonderful Mess of Tripoli fine art photograph by The Daily Foto Project $20