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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Ya Hussain! Ya Quds! (Part 2). Sorry for the trouble.

Ya Hussain! Ya Quds! (Part 2)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I thought I'd talk a bit about the background of the photo I posted on Monday. I took the photo at the site of a lecture that was given near Budaiya Highway, in the Al Qadam area way back in April. The lecture was given by a prominent Shia cleric who talked about solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and its relationship to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (since the day of the lecture coincided with the Shia holy ceremony of Arbaeen). I didn't actually attend the lecture, but I stopped by to take pictures in the morning, while the stage decorations were still being prepared.

When I got there I spoke to a chap who seemed to be in charge of the art decorations. He was a very nice man and seemed quite pleased that a non-Shia expat was taking interest in the event, and he encouraged me to take lots of pictures. What I was really interested in was the iconography portrayed in all of the images that were painted. So let's have a look at the first picture shown above (for enlarged version click here) and study all the different things going on.

The poster hung from the top of the shown building uses the Palestinian flag as its background, upon which are superimposed: (i) a portrait of the late Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, founder of the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, who was assassinated by the Israeli military just a couple of weeks prior; (ii) a Bahraini flag in the shape of the country's bourders; and (iii) an image of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Below this is a banner in Arabic which says something like: "Verily, Israel is weaker than the house of the spider". I assume this is a reference to Verse 29:41 of the Quran which reads (Yusuf Ali translation):

The parable of those who take protectors other than God is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house;- if they but knew.

Below the banner are three more pictures. On the left is a portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (I think) who is the current Supreme Leader (vali-e-faqih) of Iran. In the middle is an image of a mounted warrior, who I believe is the famous Saladin, with the Dome of the Rock used as the background. The picture on the right is a portrait of the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Supreme Leader of Iran, and spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution. Finally, on the stage in front of the building are a number of mannequins representing Imam Hussain and his companions during the Tragedy of Kerbala.

What a mad mix of symbolism. Palestinian, Iranian and Bahraini nationalism, mixed with both Shia and Sunni Islamism... a confusing cocktail of identities.

Alright, when I started writing this post two days ago I was planning on studying in detail all of the the posters from this event, and then I was going to come up with some profound post-modern conclusion about the significance of the specific mix of icons used. But the post has been lying around unfinished in my drafts box for two days and I'm tired and I can't be bothered to finish it properly. So I'm just going to show you a few more pictures below, and then you guys can come up with your own profound conclusions (and feel free to share them with me in the comments section).

So here is the second picture:

The turbaned guy on the right is (I think) Shaikh Abdul Ameer Al Jamri who is Bahrain's most prominent Shia cleric, who for years was targetted by the government. I'm not sure who the young man in the picture is, but most likely he's a "Bahraini martyr". Also, note the way that the Bahraini flag and the Palestinian flag are almost blending in to each other.


Third picture:

Again we see Shaikh Al-Jamri and the young man from the previous picture. I'm not too sure who the two (seemingly) Shia clerics flanking him are. At the bottom right is the Dome of the Rock, again, and unfortunately I don't know the identity of the green building shown on the left. If anyone knows then please help me out.


Finally, here's one I took that I find slightly amusing:

That big billboard on the left side is an advertisement for a local beauty salon. I found it quite funny that the stage of the lecture was flanked on one side by a big portrait of the late Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, and on the other side by an even larger portrait of a bride. When the lecture was taking place they covered up the beauty by hanging a huge black cloth over the billboard. I can understand why.

Anyways, have fun with the pictures and come up with your own conclusions.

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10 Responses to 'Ya Hussain! Ya Quds! (Part 2)'


Blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif says:

you "muggled" some of the faces Chan'ad.

The "martyr" is Juma Al-Shakhoury who was killed at the US Embassy demonstration a year (or two?) ago.

The clerics are Al-Wida'i, Qassim and Al-Jamri

There is no way that the figurines at the foreground are Al-Hussain, Shias don't allow caricaturing (?) his figure.

Isn't the cleric in the big banner on the left Al-Sistani?    

Blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif says:

oh, you want the connection: As Al-Shakhouri was killed during a demonstration against US support for Isreal, they decided that Al-Shakhouri actually was martyred in the name of Palestine, hence they call him "Bahrain's gift to Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause"

That's what brings all of these figures together.    

Blogger Chanad says:

Thanks for fixing my "muggles" Mahmood :)

I'm quite sure the person on the left isn't Sistani, since he doesn't usually wear glasses, and he has much longer beard (you probably can't see this in the reduced size image I've shared with you).

With regards to the figurines, again I'm reasonably confident that they represent Imam Hussain and his companions. I've seen this exact same depiction at azza ceremonies in both Bahrain and Pakistan, where the Imam is usually shown dressed in green garments. The important thing is usually that his face is shown to be blank. And I'm sure you've seen the many paintings that depict the Imam also (with a blank face of course). But maybe I'm wrong.
Second opinion anyone?

Thanks for identifying Al Shakhoury, which seems to fit in well.

Can anyone identify the building on the left side in the third picture? Cheers    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
9/27/2004 05:01:00 am

Chan'ad. thanks for the images. They work without any pomo commentary, really :)
The only green-domed mosque that comes to my head is Masjid-e Nabawi. Which could or couldn't fit. hmmm. As for the figurines being a Kerbala-tableau, I agree with you. I have seen many such scenes in Pakistan as well.

sepoy    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
9/27/2004 05:01:00 am

Chan'ad. thanks for the images. They work without any pomo commentary, really :)
The only green-domed mosque that comes to my head is Masjid-e Nabawi. Which could or couldn't fit. hmmm. As for the figurines being a Kerbala-tableau, I agree with you. I have seen many such scenes in Pakistan as well.

sepoy    

Blogger Chanad says:
9/28/2004 02:45:00 am

Sepoy,
Yes, I normally would associate green domes with Masjid an Nabawi. However the shapes of the two domes just don't match. The shape of the pictured dome is very similar to that of Al-Aqsa. So after a bit of Google hunting, I am now quite confident that it is supposed to be al Aqsa. Just have a look at this photo of Al Aqsa and compare it to the pictured one, and you will see that the only difference is the colour of the dome. Now why would the painter want to change the colour?? Well maybe he thought that green looks better than grey... or maybe he just ran out of green paint.    

Blogger peacefulmuslimah says:
9/28/2004 10:33:00 pm

These are quite interesting for me Chan'ad, especially from an art history perspective. In Southern and central Africa in the 1970s-80s there was an artistic movement that started with painting simple signs/billboards for small local businesses. The most memorable ones were of barber shops and beauty salons and were wonderfully stylized. Some of the artists went on to develop quite a following and were picked up by galleries, winding up in museum collections. They began to spill over into poltical material as well. Cheri Samba is one of the most notable of these.

There is also another connection in the large billboard style political art of African Americans in the 1960s and 70s. I am reminded of The Wall of Respect In Chicago -- this was part of my major field in my doctoral studies. It is most interesting to me to see the way art and politics intersect in almost every culture and this is certainly what you have shown us here.

I would be interested in finding out more about these. Who is/are the artist/s? I would be interested in knowing if the artist/s was/were self-taught or studied formally. What material are they painted on -- directly on the surface of a structure or something covering the surface? Will they be left in place?

Very interesting post and excellent photos!

Salaam Alaikum,
PM    

Blogger peacefulmuslimah says:
9/28/2004 11:22:00 pm

Oops! Took a better look and see that they are all hung on the structures :P

Salaam,
PM    

Blogger yellow brick road says:
9/29/2004 12:52:00 am

It's very similar to the way Christians draw what they presume jesus & mary look like and how they iconise them.    

Blogger jasra jedi says:
10/04/2004 12:25:00 pm

I have a real issue with the fact that the Bahraini kid was considered a martyr .. I dont see how his death helped advance the Palestinian cause one bit .. there is very little honor in the way that he died .. it was a sensless meaningless death that needn't have happened ..    

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