On Monday October 22, Paradox launches Notes From Aleppo, a new multimedia project by Syrian photographer Issa Touma. At Pakhuis de Zwijger, various artists, journalists and scholars will discuss the project and the current situation in Syria.

In 2012, the civil war in Syria forced photographer Issa Touma to leave his home in Aleppo. Reluctant to abandon his country he travelled back and forth until the city was re-unified again in December 2016. Notes from Aleppo shows the residents’ painstaking efforts to restore normality in daily life. He meets up with friends and neighbours, with those who are returning and with those who never left, and he uncovers who are really behind the reconstruction of Aleppo; not the regime, not the Russians, not Europe or the US, let alone the Gulf. The citizens’ stories reveal another side of Aleppo, one that has gone unnoticed by international media until now. Notes from Aleppo offers a subjective take on the ongoing conflict in Syria. In online episodes, the project explores what it means to live in a war-torn city and a society in need of complete rebuilding. Notes from Aleppo is the sequel to the award-winning short movies 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo and Greetings from Aleppo.

During the launch event, Issa Touma will discuss his work with Paul Aarts (Senior Lecturer Political Science, University of Amsterdam), Huib de Zeeuw (freelance investigative journalist, specialised in the Middle East) and Besan Zarar (independent journalist). The talk is moderated by Chris Keulemans and includes a performance by Syrian-Dutch musician Gharib Ali.

Notes from Aleppo is a free web app, based on the multimedia storytelling platform Slices. For more info check out notesfromaleppo.today.

About the speakers

Issa Touma (1962) is a photographer and curator based in Aleppo, Syria. In 1996, he founded Le Pont, an independent art gallery that organizes workshops (Art Camping) and an International Photography Festival. In 2015, he published the book Women We Have Not Lost Yet which also became an exhibition. The same year, he made 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo in collaboration with the Dutch filmmakers Thomas Vroege and Floor van der Meulen, followed by Greetings from Aleppo in 2016. In addition to worldwide screenings and over four million views on YouTube, 9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo, won the European Film Award (2016). Greetings from Aleppo was granted a DIG as well as DIRECTORSNL Award in 2018.

Paul Aarts has been a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the Department of Political Science (University of Amsterdam) for more than thirty years. He mainly works in the field of Middle East politics. He developed the ‘Zeytun Academic Exchange’ programme with academic institutes in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Morocco. His publications cover a wide range of themes. His most recent book (written with Carolien Roelants) is Saudi Arabia. A Kingdom in Peril (Hurst 2016), also translated into Arabic, Persian and Dutch.

Huib de Zeeuw (1984) is a freelance investigative journalist, specialised in the Middle East. He published in several Dutch news outlets including NRC Handelsblad, De Groene Amsterdammer and De Correspondent. In 2009 he visited Syria for six weeks and in the past years he wrote several articles about the war in Syria, including a series of publications about the role of Turkey in Syria. De Zeeuw studied Journalism, Arab Language and Culture and International Relations at the University of Amsterdam. His master thesis was about the role of Qatar during the Arab Spring.

Besan Zarzar (29) is a Palestinian Syrian. She works as an independent journalist. She graduated from the faculty of Media (Damascus, Syria 2013). And is currently studying modern Middle Eastern studies at Leiden University. In 2013, she moved to Egypt where she worked as journalist, radio presenter and correspondent. After arriving in the Netherlands as a refugee 4 years ago, she worked writing weekly columns for Haarlems Dagblad and for the website of NTR – New to the Netherlands. She is a freelancer for her company bps (Besan Press services) and a volunteer member at Globally Connected team in the Netherlands.

Chris Keulemans (Tunis, 1960) is a traveling writer, teacher and moderator. He was the artistic leader of three venues in Amsterdam: Perdu, Balie and Tolhuistuin. He writes travel stories and essays about art, war, migration and cities. Until September 2014 artistic director of the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. He grew up in Baghdad, Iraq. In 1984 he founded the literary bookshop Perdu in Amsterdam. During the nineties he worked at De Balie, Centre for culture and politics in Amsterdam, first as a curator, later as director.

Ali Gharib came to the Netherlands from Syria as a political refugee, 25 years ago. He is a musician and has been working since 2009 at foundations that work for refugees, such as Stil Foundation and refugee work East Netherlands. In 2015 he worked as team coordinator for the reception of 6 AMV-members. As an independent trainer he works at SHAAM ART. Gharib provides the section ‘Country Day Syria’ for Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland and gives workshops about Syria relating history, education & culture, politics, war and psycho-education. In addition, he advises various authorities on escorting refugees.


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