Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Beyond the 'Arab Spring'

Remember when Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power? The TV reports of Cairo's Tahrir Square? The time when lots of people in Northern Africa were full of hope that their lives would get better?

Petra Stienen, „an independent advisor in the fields of democracy, diversity and diplomacy“ with nine years experience in Egypt and Syria, states in her introduction to Stories of Change: „For many viewers in the West, these uprisings came as a surprise. Somehow the image had sunk in that there was an inherent complacency in North Africa with the status quo of poverty, inequality and oppression. Nothing was further from the truth.“

The 'Arab Spring' refers to the first months of the spring of 2011. The pictures in this tome, on the one hand, give testimony to the uprising that then took place, on the other hand, they document aspects of life in Northern Africa that, as the subtitle suggests, go „beyond the 'Arab Spring'“.

What we get to see in this book are eleven photo-stories as well as five texts that offer, as Petra Stienen states, „an impression of how the revolutions have affected people's lives, their dreams and their future.“ That might be true in regards to the texts yet I'm not so sure whether photos can really do that. When looking at the pics of the uprisings one can – that was at least my experience – sense that something that cannot really be controlled is in the air.

The stories, and photographs, are however not limited to the uprisings. I thought it particularly interesting to be shown pictures of, and told about, people with disabilities who live in difficult and challenging social conditions – for this is not what is usually reported from these parts of the world.

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