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Colors of Enchantment

Colors of Enchantment: Theater, Dance, Music, and the Visual Arts of the Middle East

Edited by Sherifa Zuhur
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Colors of Enchantment
    Book Description:

    In this companion volume to the successful Images of Enchantment: Visual and Performing Arts of the Middle East (AUC Press, 1998), historian and ethnomusicologist Sherifa Zuhur has once again commissioned and edited authoritative essays from noteworthy scholars from around the globe that explore the visual and performing arts in the Middle East. What differentiates this volume from its predecessor is its investigation of theater, from the early modern period to the contemporary. Topics include race and national identity in Egyptian theater, early writing in the Arab theater in North America, Persian-language theater from its origins through the twentieth century, Palestinian nationalist theater, and a survey of the work of noted Egyptian playwright Yusuf Idris. Other aspects of the arts are not neglected, of course, as further avenues of dance, music, and the visual arts are explored. Marked by interesting and fresh perspectives, Colors of Enchantment is another vital contribution to scholarship on the arts of the Middle East. Contributors: Najwa Adra, Wijdan Ali, Sami Asmar, Clarissa Burt, Michael Frishkopf, M. R. Ghanoonparvar, Tori Haring-Smith, Kathleen Hood, Deborah Kapchan, Neil van der Linden, Samia Mehrez, Mona Mikhail, Sami A. Ofeish, ‘Ali Jihad Racy, Rashad Rida, Tonia Rifaey, Edward Said, Lori Anne Salem, Philip D. Schuyler, Selim Sednaoui, Reuven Snir, James Stone, Eve Troutt Powell, and Sherifa Zuhur.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-231-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxxiv)
    Sherifa Zuhur

    Colors of Enchantmentexplores aspects of contemporary visual and performing arts of the modern Middle East. This volume continues the project initiated in an earlier volume,Images of Enchantment: Visual and Performing Arts of the Middle East(1998), to provide descriptive and analytical materials on the contemporary arts that have developed in the region. The overall project was generated as a response to what seemed to me an overabundant output concerning violence and terrorism, the development or suppression of democracy, and other, chiefly negative juxtapositions of the West and the Middle East. It was, secondly, a reaction to a romantic,...

  6. Part I Theaters of Enchantment

    • Chapter 1 Revisiting the Theater in Egypt: An Overview
      (pp. 3-12)
      Mona Mikhail

      It is necessary to look back into the past before making a proper assessment of the state of the art of the Egyptian theater and situating it within a broader cultural framework. From the outset, a strong relationship has existed between the Egyptian government and cultural life. This relationship continues to undergo significant changes. Along with a re-evaluation of government involvement in the management of the economic infrastructure, there have been heated debates that aim to develop a critical and creative response to the new realities of the new millennium. Today there is no possible discussion of cultural forms without...

    • Chapter 2 Burnt-Cork Nationalism: Race and Identity in the Theater of ‘Ali al-Kassar
      (pp. 13-26)
      Eve M. Troutt Powell

      With its stark and dramatic play on contrasts of skin color, blackface performance amused generations of audiences across the globe for years. But although the makeup was the same wherever blackfaced entertainers performed, audiences were clearly not laughing at the same spectacle. How, then, does blackface performance translate? This essay explores the comedy of the Egyptian vaudeville actor ‘Ali al-Kassar (see figure 3) and the political significance of the character for which he became famous, Osman Abd al-Basit, Barbari Misr al-Wahid (“the one and only Nubian of Egypt”). In 1916 ‘Ali al- Kassar began to perform in blackface makeup as...

    • Chapter 3 The Tears of a Clown: Yusuf Idris and Postrevolutionary Egyptian Theater
      (pp. 27-66)
      Clarissa Burt

      While best known today for his short stories and novels, Yusuf Idris also made very substantial contributions to Egyptian drama. Perhaps it is the ephemeral and timebound aspects of theater that have put Idris’s dramatic works at a disadvantage in the eye of critics in comparison to his short stories. Due to the more obvious role of theater in public discourse, however, his theater pieces and productions certainly document aspects of Idris’s interaction with and attitude toward the ruling political regime, as well as the ways in which Idris has been employed as a pawn by architects of power. His...

    • Chapter 4 E1-Warsha: Theatrical Experimentation and Cultural Preservation
      (pp. 67-78)
      Tori Haring-Smith

      Before I came to Egypt, I associated this country with icons of preservation, the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Rosetta Stone. Having lived in Egypt from 1996 to 1999, I now have a very different sense of Egypt’s relationship to its past. Simply put, Egypt’s culture is in danger of disappearing, thickly covered over as it is by layer upon layer of colonizing influences. The physical monuments remain (at least some of them), but the culture is disappearing. The Bedouin are being settled, the Nile bridged and dammed, and the ancient songs and stories are being forgotten. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken,...

    • Chapter 5 Persian Plays and the Iranian Theater
      (pp. 79-100)
      M. R. Ghanoonparvar

      As in other parts of the world, the forces of modernity brought about changes in all aspects of Iranian life, including the arts and literature. These changes that began in the early part of the nineteenth century gained momentum in the latter part of that century and particularly the early decades of the twentieth century. At the same time, the traditionalist forces not only resisted any changes, but also usually opposed and tried to impede their progress.

      In regard to new literary forms, such as poetry, novels, and short stories, for example, given the rich tradition of Persian poetry over...

    • Chapter 6 The Palestinian Hakawati Theater: A Brief History
      (pp. 101-118)
      Reuven Snir

      Following the war of 1948 and the proclamation of the state of Israel, the greater part of the Palestinian urban intelligentsia, the traditional and social leadership, and most of the property owners were either forced to flee or abandon the area within the Green Line. Those who remained were generally from the poorer or uneducated village populations; most cultural activities, including the newly developing theater, were uprooted (see Snir, 1990, pp. 247–248). A unified Palestinian culture was split and for almost 20 years there were almost no direct connections between Palestinian authors in Israel and those in the West...

    • Chapter 7 Performing Depth: Translating Moroccan Culture in Modern Verse
      (pp. 119-136)
      Deborah Kapchan

      In the fall of 1994 I went to Rabat for twelve months under the auspices of the Fulbright-Hays program in order to study Moroccan postcolonial theater. That year, however, the national theater in Rabat was closed for repairs and there was little in the way of theatrical performance in the capital for me to observe. Determined to study contemporary performance art and practices (and not just theater history in archives),¹ I began to attend a series of cultural events organized by the Ministry of Culture in Rabat. The first performance I attended was of a poet reading the genre of...

    • Chapter 8 Gender Challenges to Patriarchy: Wannus’ Tuqus al-Isharat wa-l-Tahawalat
      (pp. 137-146)
      Sami A. Ofeish

      In one of Sa ‘dallah Wannus ’ greatest playsHaflat Samar min Ajil Khamsa Haziran, (“An Evening of Entertainment for the Fifth of June”), one of the actors shouts intermittently from the theater hall,Wa haqu allahi inna al-atti li-adha wa ‘azam!(“By God, that which is awaiting us will be quite grave”). The Syrian director Ala al-Din Kawkash tells us that it took him many years after 1968, when the play was first performed, to realize the accuracy of these prophetic words; he considered Wannus’s prophecy superfluous when he first directed Haflat Samar in 1970 and was about to...

    • Chapter 9 From Cultural Authenticity to Social Relevance: The Plays of Amin al-Rihani, Kahlil Gibran, and Karim Alrawi
      (pp. 147-172)
      Rashad Rida

      At a reception to honor playwright Karim Alrawi whose playA Gift of Glory, subtitledEdsel Ford and the Diego Rivera Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, at Meadow Brook Theatre in Michigan, Salvador Monroy, the Mexican Consul General in Detroit, spoke admiringly of Alrawi’s ability to transcend cultural differences and to present a portrayal of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera that was every bit as real to a Hispanic audience as his portrayal of Edsel Ford was real to an American one.¹ It is this ability to effectively situate and reconstruct the individual in a social and cultural...

  7. Part II Dance and Spectacle

    • Chapter 10 Dance: A Visual Marker of Qabili Identity in Highland Yemen
      (pp. 175-212)
      Najwa Adra

      I have a key chain with eight laminated photographs showing Yemen’s President ‘Ali‘ Abdallah Salih in various costumes (see figure 12). He appears in a military uniform, a light-gray businessman’s suit and tie, and in a leisure suit with sunglasses. This collection of photographs is sandwiched between a picture of the Yemeni eagle and flag, insignia of the modern Republic of Yemen (established in 1962 and united with the southern former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1990) and a photograph of a group of men in tribal dress² at abara’ dance event. In the latter, several drummers are...

    • Chapter 11 Race, Sexuality, and Arabs in American Entertainment, 1850–1900
      (pp. 213-230)
      Lori Anne Salem

      In the latter half of the nineteenth century, American popular entertainment was peppered with Arabs. In addition to the high-profile and popular staged versions of Cleopatra, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and other stories from theArabian Nights, there were a host of low-budget, low-prestige Arab acts, including acrobatic troupes, Arabian giants,danse du ventreartists, dervishes, and more. Most of the performers were Americans, not Arabs, though it hardly matters: the performances were so thoroughly encased in a theatrical idea of “Arabness” that no performance could have been real or authentic in any meaningful way.

      In the discussion...

    • Chapter 12 Farewell to Tahia
      (pp. 231-236)
      Edward W. Said

      The first and only time I saw her dance on the stage was in 1950 at the summertime Badia’s Casino, in Giza just below where the Sheraton stands today. A few days later I saw her at a vegetable stand in Zamalek, as provocative and beautiful as she had been a few nights earlier, except this time she was dressed in a smart lavender-colored suit with high heels. She looked at me straight in the eye but my 14-year-old flustered stare wilted under what seemed to me her brazen scrutiny, and I turned shyly away. I told my older cousin’s...

  8. Part III Music and Maqam

    • Chapter 13 Tarab (“Enchantment”) in the Mystic Sufi Chant of Egypt
      (pp. 239-276)
      Michael Frishkopf

      The aesthetic concept oftarabfinds no ready translation from the Arabic. Narrowly defined, it refers to musical emotion and the traditional musical-poetic resources for producing it, especially expressive solo singing of evocative poetry, in an improvisatory style, employing the traditional system ofmaqam(“melodic mode”). Traditionally, the singer is accompanied by thetakht, a small, flexible, heterogeneous instrumental ensemble. Affective texts, precise intonation and enunciation, proper elaboration of themaqam, idiomatic improvisation, tasteful modulation, and correct execution of the qafla (“melodic cadence”) are all factors critical to the development oftarabin performance²

      Tarab also depends on consonant performer-listener...

    • Chapter 14 Musical Stardom and Male Romance: Farid al-Atrash
      (pp. 277-306)
      Sherifa Zuhur

      Farid al-Atrash, a Syrian emigré to Egypt was one of the twentieth century’s most important Arab male solo performers and composers. He acquired greater fame and longevity in the field of music than his sister, Asmahan, whose increasingly forgotten musical legacy and life story first attracted my interest.¹ Much of Farid’s musical work lives on in the contemporary popular repertoire and his cinematic image is still familiar to many in the Arab world. Yet he did not possess the dazzling beauty of his sister, nor was he considered by music critics to match her vocal talents during the late 1930s...

    • Chapter 15 Modern Arab Music: Portraits of Enchantment from the Middle Generation
      (pp. 307-332)
      Sami W. Asmar and Kathleen Hood

      The modern classical music of the Arab world was shaped by a generation whose work reached its apex in several waves from 1915–70. The pioneers credited for constructing this era include, but are not limited to, the Egyptian musicians Sayyid Darwish, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab, Zakariyya Ahmad, Muhammad al-Qasabji, Riyad al-Sunbati, and Umm Kulthum as well as the Syrian musicians Farid al-Atrash (see ch. 14) and his sister Asmahan, whose careers were established in Egypt. “Musicians” is used here to refer to composers, vocalists, and instrumentalists. These musicians, many of whom combined two or more of these musical skills, made...

    • Chapter 16 The Classical Iraqi Maqam and Its Survival
      (pp. 333-348)
      Neil van der Linden

      The Arabic word maqam may be generally defined as “place” or “situation.” In the context of music the wordmaqamrefers to two different aspects of musical form. One definition is common everywhere in the Arab world, the other is specific to Iraq. Throughout the Arab world, the wordmaqamrefers to the specific Oriental tone scales, of which there exists an enormous variety in Arabic music due to the vast range of different “microtones,” intervals that differ from the “Western” socalled well-tempered intervals. In this respect the Iraqi maqam is the equivalent of themugamof Turkey and Azerbaijan,...

    • Chapter 17 Musical Attitudes and Spoken Language in Pre-Civil War Beirut
      (pp. 349-366)
      ‘Ali Jihad Racy

      The intimate connection between language and other manifestations of culture has long been recognized.¹ Sociolinguists have spoken of an “integrated approach” to the study of “language in society” (Hymes, 1972, pp. 1–14) and explained that “language and society reveal various kinds and degrees of patterned co-variation,” and offer insights into one another (Fishman, 1968, pp. 5, 6). In the area of ethnomusicology, Alan Lomax, with a team of researchers, devised a system of measurement, called “parlametrics” for establishing correspondences between styles of speaking and cultural profiles, defined in terms of techno-environmental structures, systems of governance, modes of emotional adaptation,...

    • Chapter 18 The Sheba River Valley Dam: The Reconstruction of Architecture, History, and Music in a Yemeni Operetta
      (pp. 367-372)
      Philip D. Schuyler

      On December 24, 1986, in Sanaa, capital of the Yemen Arab Republic (now the Republic of Yemen), the Yemeni Ministry of Information and Culture presented the premiere performance of an operetta,Maghnatu Sadd Wadi Saba’ (“Song of the Sheba River Valley Dam”). The operetta depicts 2,500 years of Yemeni history in three acts, lasting one hour and twenty minutes altogether. This work is, so far, unique in Yemeni musical life. This paper offers at least a partial answer to the question: How do we relate music to seemingly unrelated processes, such as the building of water works on a monumental...

    • Chapter 19 Middle East Peace Through Music: A Diwan in Weimar
      (pp. 373-378)

      The little town of Weimar, with 63,000 residents in the former East Germany, greatly surpasses its geographic dimensions through its cultural effervescence. In this town none other than Goethe and Schiller lived and worked, as well as Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, and the painter Lucas Cranach to cite only the best-known names. The artistic movement known as the Bauhaus, which revolutionized architecture and the applied arts of the twentieth century was likewise founded in Weimar. In 1999, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Goethe’s birth, the town of Weimar was elected the “European cultural capital”...

  9. Part IV Visual Images

    • Chapter 20 Modern Painting in the Mashriq
      (pp. 381-406)
      Wijdan Ali

      Easel painting is a fairly recent phenomenon in Arab-Islamic art. As the aesthetic and creative fiber of traditional Islamic culture weakened in the nineteenth century, Arab culture yielded increasingly to Western art forms and styles that had already pervaded the Arab world due to the West’s political, economic, scientific, and military superiority. Above all, increased means of communications between Europe and the Arab countries exposed the Arab world to the West at an evergrowing rate. This simultaneous weakness and exposure led to the expansion of Western art and culture in the Middle East. During the second half of the nineteenth...

    • Chapter 21 Visualizing Identity: Gender and Nation in Egyptian Cartoons
      (pp. 407-428)
      Tonia Rifaey and Sherifa Zuhur

      Egypt was frequently portrayed as a female character struggling with her identity and political circumstances earlier in the twentieth century. Egypt appeared as a woman in various visual fora including cartoons, drawings, paintings, posters, prints, and sculpture. Within cartoons, the portrayals of Egypt were utilized to express messages concerning the international inequity of power, the innocence, vulnerability, and gullibility of the youthful nation, and also inserted visual comments concerning the role of various sorts of women in society. By the end of the twentieth century, it appeared that the image of Egypt as a woman was reduced and crystallized to...

    • Chapter 22 Meditations on Painting and History: An Interview with Huda Lutfi
      (pp. 429-442)
      Samia Mehrez and James Stone

      Huda Lutfi: Fairly recently, yes, as a painter. But I was always interested in aesthetics; in the harmony between space and form. In my twenties, I developed a taste for old and beautiful objects. Then, at McGill University in Canada, where I was a doctoral student, I started to appreciate books on art. McGill had a fantastic library, where I could browse through the large collection of books on Arab and Islamic art and calligraphy. I was fascinated by these art forms, and I then began calligraphy as a form of relaxation. I observed that when I relaxed through calligraphy,...

  10. Color Plates
    (pp. 443-452)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 453-460)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 461-496)
  13. Index
    (pp. 497-502)