Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 19th, 2013

Who is Malu Halasa? Publication design? The Mosaic Rooms conducted an interview…

The Mosaic Rooms posted this Sept. 13, 2013

Q&A with author, writer, editor and curator Malu Halasa

Malu Halasa will be in conversation with Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder of Carwan Gallery and Lebanese designer, Najla El Zein on Saturday 14 September, 12pm at The Mosaic Rooms. FREE,

1/ What Middle Eastern design are you looking at?

Because I write and produce books that have a visual component to them, I’m very interested in publications design from the region. Dar Onboz produces a wide range of material from children’s books to flip books, films, music, and shadow puppet plays.

It is a cornucopia of compelling innovative design. Pascal Zoghbi is an Arabic typographer and graphic designer at the studio 29 Letters who has co-edited groundbreaking books such as Arabic Graffiti.

There is the multidisciplinary design team from Solidere, under the creative direction of Nathalie El Mir, the group behind the biannual urbanist and architectural journal I was working for, in Beirut, Portal 9: Stories and Critical Writing about the City, edited by Fadi Tofeili.

I also always keep up with the projects of my co-editor of The Secret Life of Syrian LingerieRana Salam. She was instrumental in teaching me how to ‘read’ the Arab street.


Cornucopia of compelling design by Lebanese publishers, artists and musicians Dar Onboz.

Their book Saba’a w 7, with illustrations by Fadi Adleh and story by Nadine Touma, was turned into a shadow puppet play in collaboration with Collectif Kahraba.

2/ You have a varied working life as an author, writer, editor and curator, what is the current project that you are working on?

With my two co-editors/co-curators Aram Tahhan and Nawara Mahfoud, I am presently finishing Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, an anthology of art and writing from the Syrian uprising.

The book features cartoons, comic strips, art and photography alongside critical essays, and literature. Our contributors include writers Khaled Khalifa, Samer Yazbek, Yassin El Haj Saleh, Hassan Abbas, Yara Badr, Rasha Omran, and Ali Safar and artists Ali Ferzat, Masasit Mati, Alshaab Alsori Aref Tarekh, Youseff Abdelki, Khalil Younes, and Sulafa Hijazi, among many others

Syria Speaks came out of the exhibitions of Syrian uprising art that the three of us did in 2012-13 in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London. The book, which will be published next year, is supported by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, in Amsterdam.


Syria Speaks will be published in English by Saqi Books in London and in Arabic by Dar Saqi in Beirut, next year.

Cover design by James Nunn showing an image from a political poster by the anonymous Syrian artists collective Alshaab Alsori Aref Tarekh.

3/ Beirut has been described as ‘the Berlin of the Middle East’ by the two founders of Carwan Gallery, what similarities do you see?

Despite the political upheavals in Lebanon and on its borders, creatives in Beirut keep producing.

Sivine Ariss from Dar Onboz just explained to me over skype now, “Our work is our resistance.

In many ways Beirut is not like Berlin. But like Berlin, Beirut supports its artists and designers by nourishing them culturally. Through these imaginative interactions with Arab culture – story telling and the oral tradition, and and with materials and the history of making in the region, Ariss and others provide new understanding not just about another place but life as it is lived now. Their work has meaning for us all.

Illustrious and immortal personalities: The Phoenician masters…

Masters in architecture, engineering, cosmology, astronomy, philosophy, literature, history writing, agriculture, viticulture, food preservation, textile, dying…

1. Mochos the Sidonian, the geographer who wrote “Sacred Annals”.

Poseidonius believed that the concept of Atoms originated with Mochus

The Greek geographer Strabo (1st century AD) wrote:

“The Sidonians are skilled in beautiful arts, philosophy, sciences, astronomy, arithmetic… These sciences have come to the Greek and Egytians from the Phoenicians…”

2. Sanchuniaton of Berytus (Beirut)  wrote “Phoenicia History” and is credited as the “Father of History“, centuries before Herodotus

3. Pythagoras mother was Phoenician and she sailed from the island of Samus to Lebanon Afka Temple in order for her son to receive the lustral consecration (baptized according to the rite that is still performed in Lebanon).

4. At least 11 tragic plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides have subject matter and characters featuring Phoenician connection and references. These plays appeal to the loftiest and noblest virtues of the soul.

5. Clitomachus-Asdrubal (called Hasdrubal of Carthage) chaired Plato Academy in Athens

6. Philodemus of Gadara wrote “On Music”

7. Porphyrius of Tyre  wrote “Treatise on the soul” and the commentaries on “The Dialogue of Plato“.  He was for Plotinus, Aristotle and Homer what Plato Plato was to Socrates.

8. The French Combes-Dounou (1802) translated the 43 essays of Maximus of Tyre (70-130 AD)

9. Herrenius Philo of Byblos wrote “On cities and their famous men”,  “On Books”, and “History of Adrian”

10. Appolonius of Tyre (60 BC) is the stoic philosopher who provided a “Tabulated account of the philosophers of the school of Zeno and their books”

11. Mago of Carthage wrote the masterful 28 volumes on agriculture “Treatise on Agriculture” and considered by the Romans as the “Father of Agriculture”

12. Longinus wrote “On the Sublime”

13. Nonnus wrote “Dionysiaca”

14. Melodious Romanos is considered the “Pindar of rhythmic poetry”

15. Nemesianus of Carthage wrote “Nautica”

16. Lucius Apuleinus of Madaura (125-180 AD) wrote fables in “Psyche” and “The Golden Ass”

17. Thales of Miletus was born and raised in one of Phoenicia city-State on the coast of current Turkey.

18. The Phoenicians built the city-State of Thebes in Greece, 3 centuries before Athens existed. This famous city generated the illustrious Amphion, Hesiod, Corinna, Pindar, Epaminondas, Plutarch

19. Three out of the 7 Greek Wise-men were Phoenicians, and among them was Thales of Miletus.

The Pre-Homeric poetry was discovered in Ras Shamra (ancient city of Ugarit). Cyrus Gordon wrote in 1929:

“The greatest literature discovered since deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform…”

Actually, the mythical stories in Homers’s work were Phoenician stories in how they discovered the seas and oceans

Note: Read “6,000 years of peaceful contribution to mankind” by late Charles Corm

Emotional Intelligence? And Performance criteria in Meditation research

Mindfulness is the ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention, over and over again…

This ability is the very root of judgment, character and will.

And this ability to improve mindfulness requires education and training par excellence … (William James, father of modern psychology)

Before I mention the performance criteria in meditation research, it is good to describe what the book objectives in “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan are:

Emotional Intelligence: Like what?

1. Self-awareness for knowing your internal emotional states, preferences, resources, and kinds of intuitions…

2. Self-regulating your internal emotional states, impulses and resources…

3. Motivating your emotional tendencies that guide and facilitate reaching a few of your goals

4. Empathy and awareness of other’s feelings, needs and concerns. For example, your first intuition on meeting anybody is to say to yourself “I wish for this person to be happy”

5. Building social skills and getting adept at including desirable responses in others…

Performance criteria in meditation research:

1. High-amplitude gamma brain waves: Associated with high effectiveness in memory, learning and perception

2. Healing of psoriasis: a skin condition characterized by red spots that grow larger as the disease worsens

3. Thicker cortex in brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing.

4. Lowering anxiety level:  Increased electrical activity in the brain regions associated with positive emotion…

5. Increased immunity to illnesses: Subjects in meditation group injected with flu shots develop more antibodies to the influenza vaccine

6. Attention- blink span: The normal attention-blink time for processing two successive stimuli is about 50 milliseconds. Meditation exercises reduce the span and permit to attend to two stimuli. Consequently, improvement in the ability to pay attention to information for a prolonged period of time…

Mindfulness permit the self-discovery in a scientific inquiry process.

Training the attention has for objective to improve and develop insight into the mind.

Thus, attention is a powerful torchlight that can spot what we are searching for in a dark room…




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