Jasad: An “Arab Spring” for the Nude?

(Republished for your enjoyment)

With the Middle East in turmoil again – this time with Social Media fueled explosion called the Arab Spring – we hold our breaths and hope for a new openness in governance and hopefully social attitudes within the Arab world. Enter the art/literary magazine JASAD, which launched in 2008. The launch of this publication was a courageous act of literary expression, and we here at TheGreatNude applaud the publisher’s efforts.

The brainchild of Lebanese poet Joumana Haddad, this high quality quarterly of the figurative arts has garnered as much controversy as it has accolades. Sold in a plastic wrapper with a warning label in Lebanon, and banned outright as pornography in other surrounding countries in the region, this is a beautifully produced celebration of the body as an artistic expression, and the rights of people to express themselves sexually.

The word jasad itself means body in Arabic and the logo, which includes a pair of unlocked handcuffs, is a visual double entendre which could refer to sex play bondage or the cultural bondage prohibiting any discussion of nudity. As a note of interest on the website, there is a keyhole suggesting either voyeurism or liberation. The editorial is in Arabic and english and most of the contributors are Middle Eastern. Curiously, a good number of the images on the site are from Western European artists and photographers. But we’ve assembled a number of artworks and photos from the site from Arabic and Persian artists and photographers.
There are at any rate regional artists featured inside the magazine. Covering subject matter as diverse as the arts, philosophy and science, to other taboos such as cannibalism and incest, this is hardly an Arabic version of Hustler. What would simply be a high-end literary/erotic art publication in any western nation is groundbreaking in the Middle East. This has outraged many religious figures in Lebanon and beyond, and forced the publisher to keep a low profile in public. It’s worth noting that the website and its BLOG have not been updated since September, 2009.

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