Talk by Rasha Salti

The Kenawy-Samman Correspondence: Reading Excerpts
(from Fictional Histories of Feminism in the Arab World)

in the framework of the research project Feminisms
NEW DATE: Wednesday January 298pm

Piecing together texts and statements by and from artist Amal Kenawy, with excerpts from Ghada al-Samman’s published letters and short stories, Rasha Salti imagines an epistolary correspondence that can only be imagined. The project,Fictional Histories of Feminism in the Arab World is intended to lens critically on the conditions of production of knowledge, and the paucity of its transmission.

Amal Kenawy was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1974, she studied film and fashion design, at Egypt’s Cinema Institute and painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1999. While still a student, and for the next decade, she collaborated with her older brother, Abdel Ghany Kenawy, producing art works (sculptures, installations and videos). In 2002, she won the UNESCO Grand Prize at the International Cairo Biennale and started doing solo exhibitions. Her first notable video and performance piece The Room was included in her first solo show. Themes like marriage, death, memory, conformity, emancipation, prohibition, and identity permeate Kenawy’s work throughout her practice. Her practice was invariably centered on the body, conveyed a high degree of emotion, in the language of symbolism. Amal Kenawy sadly passed away in August of 2012 after a hard battle with leukemia at the age of 38.

Ghada Al-Samman is a Syrian writer, journalist and novelist born in Damascus in 1942. Her first book, Your Eyes are my Destiny, a collection of stort stories, was published in 1962. After earning a degree in English Literature from Damascus University, she moved to Beirut the following year to earn a graduate degree in Theater from the American University of Beirut. She worked as a journalist, and published her second collection of short stories, No Sea in Beirut in 1965. In 1966, while working as a foreign correspondent in Europe, she published Foreigners’ Nights, and in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, an article that would mark a turn in her writing titled “I Carry My Shame to London”. In 1973, her third collection, The Departure of Old Ports, is regarded widely as her most important work. A year later, her first novel, Beirut 75, was a penetrating lens into the city’s complex social conflicts, ominous of the civil war to come. Beirut Nightmares, published in 1977, chronicled life in the civil war. More books followed, The Eve of Billion, a novel, in 1986, The Impossible Novel: Damascene Mosaic, an autobiography, in 1997, The Square Moon: Supernatural Tales, a collection of short stories, in 1994 and A Costume Party for the Dead, in 2003. Al-Samman has earned wide critical recognition as one of the most prominent Arab women writers.

Rasha Salti is a curator, film programmer, researcher and writer who lives in Beirut.