The writer Omar Berrada has curated a list of more than 150 books exploring how different cultures meet and interact across the MENA region, and the extensive bibliography forms part of a new project – Research Studio: Confluence – being held at Project Space Art Jameel in Dubai's Al Quoz district until July 31.
This diverse selection of books in English and Arabic will give readers some indication of what they can expect from the Jameel Library, which will open in Jaddaf, Dubai (a creek-side suburb near Festival City) on November 11. All the books in Berrada’s list will be available to those visiting the Jameel Library.
"The Jameel Library will be an open contemporary arts archive and research resource dedicated to accessing, analysing and building art histories of the Gulf and neighbouring regions through the lenses of confluence and multiplicity," Ciara Phillips, Art Jameel's Head of Communications, told The National.
As part of the ongoing Research Studio: Confluence project, Dubai-based artist Noush Anand and translator and critic Hafsa Hariga are also hosting a series of free reading groups in which some of the titles selected by Berrada will be discussed in more detail.
“The selection considers the notion of confluence from a variety of vantage points. With a focus on the Middle East/North Africa region, the books look at how people travel, how cultures meet, how languages transform around border zones,” says Berrada. “The Studio explores the many dimensions of textual and cultural translation, including the mutation of forms in the history of art. It dwells both on the function of port cities in a globalised economy and on the intimate meeting of souls that a published correspondence between artists allows us to witness.”
To help promote this project, Berrada has taken over Art Jameel's Instagram feed. For the duration of the project, Berrada will post extensive thoughts about some of the titles in his list of books.
One recent post focused on James Clifford's Routes, which Berrada says is "a hybrid work of anthropology that accounts theoretically – and poetically – for a connected yet unequal world, in which the task of translation is as important as it is ethically demanding".
Another highlighted the significance of British writer Marina Warner. “In her recent work, [Warner] has been keen to decentre the European narrative, and focus on its entanglement with other histories and cultures, in particular Arab culture,” Berrada writes.
"She shows how people like Charles Perrault and Madame d'Aulnoy, the quintessential French fairytale writers, were influenced by Antoine Galland's 1704 translation of the Arabian Nights, and how this medieval collection of tales has been central to the construction of European modernity.
"The long and layered story of the Thousand and One Nights' European afterlives is told in fascinating detail in Marina Warner's Stranger Magic."
The remaining English-language reading groups, led by Noush Anand, will take place on July 21, July 28, and August 4. The Arabic-language reading groups, led by Hafsah Hariga will take place on July 28, August 11, and September 1. All of them will be in Art Jameel's Project Space in Al Serkal Avenue.
For further information about Research Studio: Confluence, visit artjameel.org