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Since March 2003, this online magazine has presented articles, information, and visual material on current art whose essential point of origin or reference is in the Islamic world. Of course, this also includes the work of artists who live elsewhere, but who see their cultural home in countries and regions shaped by Islam. To prevent misunderstandings: this publication is not about "Islamic" art.
Since it was launched in March 2003, until it was renamed at the end of February 2007, the title of this online magazine was “Contemporary Art from the Islamic World”. In full consciousness of its questionability, the editors took up a widely used term that suggests a generalizing view of the countries and regions that have a majority Muslim population. In this way, we wanted to speak to stereotypical ideas in order to counter them by confronting them with works by artists who do not fit the usual clichés. It has been repeatedly underscored – and in the course of the years also demonstrated with articles and works – that the point of this project is to foster not only a differentiated perception of artistic practices, but also of the complex reality of life in the "Islamic world". This is primarily done by presenting a large number of individual artistic positions behind which a broad range of personal, cultural, religious, social, and other contexts become visible. While the strategy of using the first title functioned quite well as far as the audience in the "West" is concerned, it sometimes caused uneasiness, specially among artists who did not want to be categorized by a label tied to a religion.
For this reason, the editors have decided to give the online magazine a less limiting title. In fact, the process of renaming already began in 2006, when Pat Binder and Gerhard Haupt curated the exhibition "Nafas" for the ifa Galleries in Berlin and Stuttgart, whose conceptual starting point was this magazine. What was said on this occasion about the meaning of the title and the reasons for its choice applies fully to the publication that has now taken this title (quote from the catalog introduction):
"If one asks people who speak Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Malay, or Indonesian what they understand by the word
nafas, one receives almost identical answers: breath, breathing. A variation with the same origin is the Turkish
nefes. The word appears in many combinations and nuances, usually apparently with positive connotations.
Nafas can be used in the sense of "second wind", i.e., being able to endure difficulties, or in the sense of a refreshing breeze that soothes torments. When someone carries out specific activities especially well, for example cooking excellently, it is said that he or she has
nafas – talent, a particular way, a personal style in this area. Sometimes
nafas is associated with the meaning "freedom", for example in Sufism, a mystical current of Islam. The root of the word is nafs, which means "self" or "soul" in Arabic and which is regarded as the dynamic power breathed into a person’s body at the beginning of life.
Nafas as the title and metaphor for the concept and framework of this project because of such connotations and the presence of the word in so many different cultures of the Islamic world. Especially significant thereby was that the word is etymologically closely tied to the existence of the individual and that some of its derivations can be applied directly to creative activity."
More about the concept, see the >> editorial
The former title of this publication was “Contemporary Art from the Islamic World”