g a n z e e r . t o d a y

A little while ago, Anna Iltnere of the Sea Library blog asked a number of cultural operators, including myself, what the word “cosmopolitan” meant to us. This was for The Sultan’s Seal, an online literary journal started by writer Youssef Rakha (author of THE CROCODILES and THE BOOK OF THE SULTAN'S SEAL).

Below is my answer:

A person can be described as cosmopolitan, and so can a place. A cosmopolitan person is likely a polyglot with an excellent command of multiple languages. This allows him or her to become equally immersed in an array of cultures by way of literature, music, art, food, cinema, fashion and all manner of a people’s being.

A cosmopolitan place on the other hand is a location that allows for the convergence of cultures on an equal footing, without a single culture imposing itself as the hegemonic umbrella for it all.

You should absolutely check out The Sultan’s Seal link though to see what the other authors said, all of who are far smarter and far more eloquent than myself.


Got back from New York last night and still decompressing. The TAHRIR IS NOW night at Joe's Pub was powerful, special, and immensely emotional. One of the highlights for me was when the crew, slyly scattered between the audience, shouted “down with the president” at the top of their lungs, getting everyone in the otherwise gentile space that is Joe's Pub totally riled up and very much on board.

May the spirit of revolution continue to live and prosper, and propel beautifully where it is most needed and least expected.

Tahrir Is Now (Photo by Kelsey P. Norman)

(Another major highlight was the presence of literary giant Alaa Al Aswany in the audience!)

#Appearances #NYC

I was supposed to me in Miami this week for all the art things, but a change of plan was in order to make time to finish up 3 large canvases I have lined up for a buyer. There's no real “hurry” to wrap these pieces up, except that I have a bunch of other travel plans scheduled for later in the month as well as next month, on top of having to deal with moving (again). Which basically means if I don't finish these guys this very week, it might be two whole months before I can get around to them again.

Alas, Miami Art Week had to give, and it was time to buckle down and burn through these canvases. They're big, 122 x 269 cms each (that's 48 x 106 inches to the isolationists). There isn't a whole lotta work left on them, but just enough to garner a week's worth of undivided attention.

Sneak peek:

The process of creating these particular pieces was a bit unique in that it involved a degree of “audience participation”. The impetus for the paintings was to adorn the lobby of the Loeb Drama Theater in Cambridge (MA) during their run of A.R.T's WE LIVE IN CAIRO musical, 3 canvases that evoked the sense of turbulence, upheaval, and rebellion during the tumultuous first years of the Egyptian “revolution” (roughly 2011-2014). To do this I actively drew inspiration from the look and feel of some Cairo's most exciting walls during that time. I also incorporated a few nods to some of the fictional stuff in the musical, essentially merging the fiction with the non-fiction. Also, in the spirit of those very Cairo walls there were the source of inspiration, we had paint markers set up next to the paintings alongside a note that encouraged theater-goers to tag and write whatever they wanted on them. This lasted throughout the play's run, and as such accumulated quite a lot of tags from the audience.

This was back in May, after which the canvases were exhibited at the Harvard Art Lab (where the initial painting phase took place) for their official opening in October, and then finally sent back to me in Houston for final additions and touch ups, before heading out to the aforementioned buyer. Like I said, a bit of a unique process, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I love discovering all the little additions added by the audience; things like the little stick figure scrawled on the side with the text “don't stand on the side”. Or “It's Capitalism that's the problem”, or “be careful what you wish for”, or “we need an uprising in the U.S”.

The audience's participation really adds so much richness to the pieces that I can honestly just sit there and stare at them for hours on end.

I have to admit, it's going to be quite sad parting with these guys. If I could I'd just hold onto them for good, but my ceiling isn't even high enough to properly display them, and that would not be fair to the paintings, not one bit.


New York – December 9, 2019: I'll be in town to do a little hosting and reading for Daniel & Patrick Lazour’s TAHRIR IS NOW gig at Joe’s Pub. I am likely to end up being the unintentional comic relief, but otherwise it is sure to be a powerful night.

If you're in the city that night, you won't wanna miss it!


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