November 23, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 817

Arab Progressive Columnist: Arab Artists Deal with the Past and Not with the Present, Due to Fear of the Regimes

November 23, 2004
The Gulf, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 817

The progressive Kuwaiti columnist Ahmad Al-Baghdadi published an article titled 'Drama and Tyranny' in the UAE daily Al-Itihad. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"The [month of] Ramadan has showered us with historical [TV] series' and dramas [dealing with] the Ottoman period … with the Imperialist period … or with the period of recession and poverty…

"[These series'] do not deal with the present, not to mention the future. There is nothing pertaining to our – the Arabs' – difficult and deteriorating situation. [On the other hand, there are] series' based on boring drivel aimed at filling the spare time of the [people] fasting for a whole month… And it seems that these series' were designed to divert the people's attention and to waste the fasters' time.

"Political tyranny is the reason the producers of these drama series do their best to avoid dealing with sensitive contemporary issues, and escape into 'art' which projects to the historical past, and take pains to avoid dealing with the harsh reality of the Arabs for fear of the political regime. No writer knows how the regime will interpret his writings and how it will understand them. Not to mention the religious and political prohibitions, the customs and traditions.

"How many series have not been aired for one reason or another? [This is] because fear dominates our lives as Arabs. We are not [living] in countries that believe in liberty, and therefore it is better for a person to be in a safe place, not to cause himself harm, and it is better for a producer not to register losses…

"What is the value of art if it is not revolutionary and does not strive to change the [existing] conceptions and to disseminate positive values? Art rebels against the nature of things in order to change their essence and in order to make people [recognize] the terrible situation in which they are living. This is the reason why art has no influence on people's lives [in our countries], except for filling their free time in societies that ignore their problems. It is not because [these societies] do not have a solution, but because they are afraid to propose a solution.

"The artist … knows reality and its problems better than others and it is incumbent upon him to analyze this reality and not ignore it or glamorize it. He does not have to suggest solutions, because the artist has the opinions, not the means … and by means of his art he opens a window through which the people [can] look at their lives in the present and the future.

"The function of a real, committed artist is to oppose the harsh reality and not succumb to it. Such submission, as a result of fear of political and religious tyranny, is what has led to the pervasiveness of the buffoonery in our lives…

"[The Ramadan TV] series' live the past, the artist is devoid of any influence on life in general, and blandness has become the most prominent characteristic of the lives of the Arabs, and all this stems from the lack of freedom of speech.

"Everyone is afraid, and therefore the Arabs lie about everything, glamorize every failure, and never try to deal with the facts…"

[1] Al-Itihad (UAE), October 19, 2004.

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