On 9 December 2021, Sharjah Art Foundation announced Bakhita Al Ameri, Tomà Berlanda and Meghan Ho-Tong, The Forrest Curriculum and Reliable Copy as the winners of the 2021 FOCAL POINT Publishing Grant. Their projects will be published by the Foundation and released during FOCAL POINT 2022. The announcement took place at the FP 2021: Talks programme organised in conjunction with the fourth edition of FOCAL POINT, alongside presentations by Ma3azef and SHFRA/Barzakh (2019 Grantees) and Ali Essafi, hākārā journal, Ridha Moumni and Gabriella Nuget (2020 Grantees) who spoke about the outcome and progress of their projects.
The 2021 FOCAL POINT Publishing Grant open call attracted nearly 200 applications—double the submissions of the previous year—with the majority coming from India, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan and the United States. More than 30 per cent of the total submitted applications were in Arabic and 70 per cent of the proposals were submitted under the Experimental Publications category. Proposals were submitted by/or on behalf of artists, writers, editors, researchers, magazines, zines, collectives, collaborative research projects, museums, publishing houses, journals and non-profit cultural organisations, with less than 10 per cent receiving support from another organisation for their publication proposals. The winners were selected by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation.
Bakhita Al Ameri is a writer, poet and translator whose first collection of poetry was selected as the runner up for The Gulf Capital–ADMAF Creativity Award (2019). She is also the founder of the Al Ain Cinema Community. Al Ameri’s proposal included an Arabic translation of Olivie Assayas’ long essay-cum-manifesto, Le temps present du cinema (Cinema In the Present Tense, 2020). Originally published in Sabzian, an online journal of reflections on cinema and for cinephiles, the manifesto was picked up for print by the French publisher Gallimard in 2020. Sharjah Art Foundation will work with Al Ameri to publish her Arabic translation of Assayas’ essay for circulation in the Arabic speaking world.
Tomà Berlanda, Professor of Architecture, University of Cape Town, and Meghan Ho-Tong, architect and researcher, are the leading collaborators of Atlas of Land Rights in Palestine and South Africa: Between Ideological Imaginaries and Creative Reclamation, a research project between the School of Architecture, University of Cape Town, and the Palestinian Museum’s Research Programme. Their project will consider the historical similarities and peculiarities of the systemic violations of human rights and land confiscation to the segregationist policies in South Africa and the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory. Through a series of research exchanges between the partners, the publication will propose an expanded understanding of the relationship between ideological authority, political power and land as a human right.
The Forest Curriculum (Abhijan Toto and Pujita Guha with Rosalia Namsai Engchuan) is an itinerant and nomadic platform for interdisciplinary research and mutual co-learning, based in Southeast Asia and operating internationally. Their winning proposal will publish 10 experimental zines with artists, collectives, researchers, indigenous organisations and thinkers, musicians and activists in English, Hindi, Filipino, Manobo, Malay, Chinese, Khasi, Bahasa, Thai, Lao and Arabic. The zines will expand and explore on The Forest Curriculum’s project How To Not Build a Nation, a cultural critique on the Anthropocene and nature cultures of Zomia, the forested belt that connects South and Southeast Asia. The zines will be designed by RAREditions and printed by KUNCI Copystation in Yogyakarta, and will be modular in concept and design, existing as stand-alone publications and also as a set.
Reliable Copy (Nihaal Faizal and Sarasija Subramanian) is a Bengaluru-based publishing house and curatorial practice for the realisation and circulation of works, projects and writing by and around artists. Their application included information about their research into the experimental artist book projects submitted as postgraduate dissertations within the Faculty of Fine Arts in Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda since 1956. Seeking to produce facsimiles of these dissertations to highlight artistic experiments with print, the first of these reproduced dissertations to be published is Sculptor's Notebook by renowned artist Pushpamala N, submitted in 1985 within the Sculpture Department. A second selected dissertation will be announced at a later stage.
During the FOCAL POINT 2021: Talks Programme, the 2020 Grantees presented the progress of their respective projects which are focused on gathering and representing primary archival materials on modern arts and postcolonial thinking from Tunis, Morocco, Mexico, Egypt and India. Ali Essafi presented his compilations of halakat culture as captured by Maghrabi filmmakers such as Ahmed Bouanani and Azzedine Maeddour. Ridha Moumni put together a selection of photographs, sculptures, magazines and architectural renders from the School of Tunis, all of which had a major role in cultivating the political legacy of Habib Bourguib, while hākārā journal’s Noopur Desai and Ashutosh Podar recalled their journey in sourcing Marathi travelogues, critiques and symposia from the 1940s–1960s on the condition of modern arts in India. Gabriella Nuget presented the outcome of her field research of the Colección Proyecto Siqueiros/Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros La Tallerra, and Inji Efflaton was involved and inspired by the work of Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.
Ma3azef, recipients of the FOCAL POINT Publishing Grant 2019, launched The Moment of Tarab and Omissions in the Official Narrative, two new ‘mooks’—hybrid magazine-book forms—at the FOCAL POINT 2021: Talks Programme. Ma3azef editors Nour Ezz El Dine and Bara’a Faruq Moh’d Al-Hara presented on the work of Ma3azef and discussed how they have sustained their platform which publishes in Arabic about music subcultures from the region, both past and present. They also discussed their recently released publications, which reflect on the golden age of Arabic music and take an intimate look into the lives of legendary singers Fayrouz and Abu Bakr Salem. They were joined by Mansour Aziz (SHFRA/Barzakh), the art director and collaborator of the publications, who elaborated on SHFRA studio’s interest in the space between print and digital design, and how this translated into the mooks’ graphic design.
About FOCAL POINT
FOCAL POINT is an initiative organised by Sharjah Art Foundation to support, promote and catalyse interdisciplinary publishing practices. It is comprised of an annual Art Book Fair held in Sharjah and an Open Call Publishing Grant. The Art Book Fair is held in the Foundation’s Bait Obaid Al Shamsi bringing together the publishing work of artists, authors, publishers, cultural organisations, and book fairs from the UAE and MEASA region. The open call invites artists, writers, collectives and independent publishing houses to submit proposals to be considered for publishing by the Foundation.