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Last Things First: A Manifesto

January 1st, 2021

We are designers, artists, and thinkers, from the Arabic speaking lands with an intertwined underpinning thread that connects us.


Our supposed identity is in a dormant state. Even the pursuit of what it might be has been obscured and obfuscated. Even the scarce traces left of our history have been distant away from us, fragmented, scraped, and dumped. The challenge for us is far greater than it has ever been, and thus will be far more glorious when it is overcome.

Once again we are coerced to witness our identity being shaped by a western gaze at our societies and cultures. Forces are dictating what and how we should learn, what has aesthetic value, what framework to use to extract meaning from our own experiences, what is interesting, what is accepted, what is civil, what sounds nice in our language, how to think, and thus, shaping both our identity and culture. That is contested in no way that is effective.

“Can we intervene and affect the variables that contribute to the formation of our being?”

This manifesto is a promise that we will, at the very least, TRY. To our future selves and the future generations, that we will resist, counter, subvert, the current order of how things are that is far more ingrained and rooted than seems to be, and hope to hand you over something a little more tolerable. We promise we will try to regain our ability to represent and define ourselves. We will be gregarious, relentless, passionate, skeptical, critical, and vigilant, and we invite everyone to be too.

Melissa Chalhoub

The reality that is being mass produced daily is hideous, the language doesn’t belong to us, we don’t even like it, in that, it doesn’t feel like it’s ours, it’s alien and crude. It assaults us, imposed upon us by the current, mindless flow of visual, textual, and conceptual hyper production.

We have become mindless consumers of our own identity that is a by-product of a new hybrid form of colonialism. A form that is far more intrusive and pervasive, that shape-shifts on the body it inhabits, infects it and incrementally terraforms it. Think of it as The Thing of social phenomenas which is an extremely hostile shape-shifting organism that has the ability to exploit the specific systems of its host in order to survive and disseminate.

Ya Lahwiti

Everyone is to blame, including ourselves.

Our Universities Nurture It

  1. By hiring Western talents with completely unfair payments for their equivalent and sometimes more qualified Arabs.
  2. By relying on Western standards and education while propagating for western thinking and language to be the only way for progressiveness and modernity.
  3. By contributing to the inaccessibility of information, by locking away historical material in their private, exclusive, classist, elitist archives that are only reserved for its own benefits to sell itself back to us.
  4. Or by falling out of time, rusty, and conforming to how things are, rather than being a beacon of change, they are being the tool that makes sure we reproduce conformity.

We Accept and Facilitate It

The definition of we in this context is used loosely

  1. By participating in the mechanisms that leads to its validation.
  2. By not opposing it.
  3. By not criticizing it, at all, even worse, by criticizing, whoever is criticizing it. We have created the perfect panopticon.

The marketplace rewards it

  1. By paying us for it.
  2. By not caring about the wider culture and only caring about maximizing profit.
  3. By popularizing a “looking down” mindset on people and language.

Societies legitimises it:

  1. By not addressing the far reaching and aching inferiority complex.
  2. By losing its ability to self-reflect and mediate its challenges.
  3. By not demanding a more relevant culture.

Céline Raffy

Thus, we are detached from reality and forcefully shaped into something that we deem ugly. We have looked into the mirror and we are horrified by the spectacle of our being; it’s the reason for our awakening.

The Red Falcon
Muhammad Mustafa

We declare a rejection of these things in their totality and we will look for something that belongs to us. What is ours is out there, we know, we have seen, touched ,and heard it. It’s calling for us, when we pay enough attention we can hear it scream. Locked away from the public eye, in cold, deserted rooms. Mistreated or inaccessible. Between it and us, are the WALLS of bureaucracy, discrimination, paranoia, exploitation, stiffness, classism, regressivism, suspicion, oppression, hypocrisy, commercialism, and distrust.

Our inherent right is for that material to be preserved and made accessible to all those to whom it may concern, THE PUBLIC.

A manifesto within a manifesto:

When we started there was little to no archiving initiatives, but since we’ve moved forward we have seen a burst of similar regional approaches. That makes us thrilled and hopeful of the future. But, we need more.

Methods for others who are aiming to archive:

• Don’t archive what is being archived. If you find someone who is archiving what you want to archive, reach out and help.
• Remember that archiving is not a gimmick.
• Visual archives should be concerned with quality, rigor, and inclusiveness.
• Archives are not images and videos, they are information and context.
• You should not be selective about the data you collect. Don’t just archive beautiful things, archives should illuminate everything, including what could be defined as ugly, unimportant, or controversial.

Start to gravitate, cluster, group, collaborate, and unify.

For practicing designers, artists, or their relatives:

If you have work that is yours or of one of your family members, get in touch with us, we can redirect you or help you preserve it.

• Please don’t lock these away, get in the habit of archiving and documenting your work as you are creating it. Let us see it, and let us make sure that future generations see it too.

For private collectors, institutions, and universities:

Some of you are using cultural heritage material that originally belongs to EVERYONE and you are locking it away.

• Open up your collections and archives.
• Facilitate visits and research for EVERYONE. You have the capacity to do that, so do it.

For designers, researchers, educators, thinkers, and artists:

We need all of you

• Reach-out to a younger person and mentor them.
• Create alternatives, counter cultures, and question everything.
• Create small communities not bubbles and open up to other communities.

For students:

• Be curious about your history and dust it off.
• Rethink everything.
• Seek mentorship.
• There are more ways designers can function in society, commercial work is not your only hope, if you can’t find what you like, create it.

For cultural institutions, non profit national and international, and philanthropists:

• Support archival projects, design research projects, and writing. Our societies truly need it.

We are finding ways to re-connect, to assemble a response, beyond borders and beyond the physical, we will harness what is ours. We will free history from its archons, hypocrites, and the dictators of documents and information.


What we need:

We need a change in protocol. A collective mindset shift. A radical rethinking of how we look at history and the criteria we use to define historical or cultural heritage materials.

“We need an Archive fever. A fever that is widespread and contagious.”

Call to action

“We are calling out for a regional movement of creating both physical and digital archives and a reimagining of the existing ones. We are calling for a reconfiguration of how we define cultural heritage material. A preservation of not just archaeological finds, but language itself, books, magazines, art, and culture. We should perceive all printed matter as historical documents.”

An open ending:

Archives are our collective memory.
Archives are not the past, for us they are the present and the future.
Archives are a way for us to gain sovereignty of who we are, autonomy, and heal.

* To sign this manifesto, write your name and location in Arabic and English in the comments below or send your information HERE

Signed This Manifesto:

Moe Elhossieny - Egypt
Sophia Alami - Morocco
Omaima Dajani - Palestine
Karim Fouad - Egypt
Yaman Tomeh - Lebanon
Muhammad Mustafa - Egypt
Sarah Al Adayleh - Jordan
Areej Atallah - Saudi Arabia
Engy Hashem - Egypt
Nourhan Elbanna - Egypt
Ganzeer - USA
Huda AbiFarès - Netherlands
Dana Al-Sheyyab - Jordan
Maria Habib - Lebanon
Ra'fat Ali - Netherlands
Haya Halaw - Syria
Fenna Zamouri - Belgium
Tewa Barnosa - Libya
Sarah Saleh - Netherlands
Kinda Ghannoum - Belgium
Ahmed Foula - Egypt
Mohamed Farahat - Germany
Magd Elsherif - Egypt
Ali Raafat - Egypt
Hessa Lootah - UAE
Nada Abdallah - UAE
Fai Ahmed - Saudi Arabia
Randa Hadi - Kuwait
Mona Bashir - Palestine
Roï Saade - Lebanon
Basma Hamdy - Egypt
Mohamed FELLAH - Morocco
Aya Tarek - Egypt
Munirah AlShami - Kuwait
Mohamed Gaber - Netherlands
Naïma Ben Ayed - England
Sulaiman Alomar - Kuwait
Moneeka Thakur - England
Nour Hamade - England
Med Be - Morocco
Dahlia Mahmoud - Sudan
Rawand Issa - Lebanon
Amira El-sheikh - Egypt
Serena Safieddine - Morocco
Batoul Bennani - Morocco
Yzza Slaoui - Morocco
Ines Tazi - Morocco
Raya Shaban - Jordan
Rosy Tahan - Syria
Haneen Nazzal - Palestine
Yazan Mohammed - Saudi Arabia
Reina Akkoush - Lebanon
Farah Al Souri - Palestine
Mariam El Ashmawy - Egypt
Noha Zayed - UK/Egypt
Razan Basim - Jordan
Thikra Ahmad - Saudi Arabia
Hadeer Omar - Egypt
Hana Shokr - Egypt
Yazan Al Ghraowi - Syria
Yasir Abdullah - Egypt
Salma Fahmy - Egypt
Habiba Fouad - Egypt
Mahmoud Marzouk - Egypt
Hana Shokr - Egypt
Dala Itani - Lebanon
Sam Abillama - Lebanon
Acil Benamara - Algérie
Muhannad Helvacı - Turkey
Joud Tanta - Turkey
Yasmine Nabli - Switzerland
Anas Alaa - Egypt
Talal Moualla - Czechia
Celine Raffy- Egypt
Rami Abu Shakra - Lebanon
Waad Ahmed Atia - Egypt
Amjad hameed - Iraq
Salma Abdelrahman - Egypt
Shaima Elbardawil - UAE
Nada Elsibaey - Egypt
Somayah Alzahrani - Saudi Arabia
Pascal Zoghbi - Spain/Lebanon