Book Review: A haunting tale from the shores of Jaffa

Updated 01 October 2019

Book Review: A haunting tale from the shores of Jaffa

CHICAGO: From the shores of Jaffa, where the sea has remained the same but the land has changed, comes a powerful tale of two cities that are one and the same. One city’s memories weave in and out of new buildings and language, and the other overlays ancient street names and former inhabitants, as an old resident complains: “I walk in the city, but it doesn’t recognize me.” 

From Palestinian author and journalist Ibtisam Azem comes “The Book of Disappearance,” a story that follows the life of Alaa Assaf and his family, the children and grandchildren of the only woman in their family to stay in Palestine after 1948.

When the reader meets Alaa and his grandmother, all the Palestinians in Israel, four million people, disappear overnight and are not seen again. Is it a miracle or a security operation? No one knows, but as fear and elation grip Tel Aviv, journalist Ariel tries to look for his friend, freelance cameraman Alaa.

When he cannot find him, Ariel finds his red notebook, the one in which he has written his memoir, in which his memories overlap with his grandmother’s — hers from old Jaffa, and his from new, and the surrounding villages now known as Tel Aviv. As Ariel tries to make sense of the mystery, he reads Alaa’s notebook and Alaa’s grandmother’s past comes to the fore.

Through Alaa, we read of his grandmother’s life in Al-Manshiyye, and later in Ajami, where she and other survivors were surrounded by barbed wire. She did not flee to Beirut but stayed and watched as the city around her left — its people dying or fleeing — and its survivors learned to live the lonely existence of strangers in their own land.

Through his grandmother’s memories, Alaa tries to understand himself and the city he grew up in. He writes about her Jaffa and his, “Two cities impersonating each other. You carved your names in my city, so I feel like I am a returnee from history...”

Azem’s work is powerful, her creativity stretching to far reaching corners and her recollections of an ancient land vivid in the mind. Her characters are resilient but shattered on the inside.


Indian label Two Point Two makes catwalk debut at LFW

Founder of Two Point Two Anvita Sharma presented her first catwalk show outside of India this week. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2020

Indian label Two Point Two makes catwalk debut at LFW

LONDON: “Two Point Two is a genderless, anti-conformist, all-inclusive brand. We don’t cater to any particular gender or any particular size,” declared designer Anvita Sharma at London Fashion Week’s Fashion Scout.

Some might say packing all that into a dress is a pretty big challenge, but this is something she clearly believes in.

This is Two Point Two’s first runway show outside India. (Supplied)

“We believe in diversity, independence and confidence and we support individuals who want to be as loud or mellow as possible. So we have a huge variety of colors, silhouettes and details,” she said.

Sharma, who studied at Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Paris, is a rising talent. Last year she won the third edition of “Scouting for India,” a global project developed by Vogue Talents in collaboration with FAD International Academy and FAD Institute of Luxury Fashion & Style.

The collection used wool and wool felt, shot cotton and wool and some Giza cottons for the shirts and dresses. (Supplied)

Her win included the opportunity to showcase her Spring/Summer 2020 collection at the Palazzo Cusani within the exhibition celebrating Vogue Talent’s 10th anniversary during Milan Fashion Week.

This week, amid the hectic backstage preparations for her Fashion Scout showing, she found the time to talk to Arab News, running us through her color palette and fabrics.

“We have a mix of neutrals and pastels as well as vibrant reds. Some shades are often categorized as either feminine or masculine, so we want to amalgamate both of them to say that colors are not supposed to be associated with any particular gender, color or race,” she explained.

The color palette was a mix of neutrals and pastels as well as vibrant reds. (Supplied)

“For fabrics, we have mostly used wool and wool felt, shot cotton and wool and some Giza cottons for the shirts and dresses. We have also done a lot of hand embroidery. One coat took four weeks to hand embroider,” she said.

The production for Two Point Two is based in Delhi.

For her next collection, Sharma is going to work with craft clusters of Indian women weavers based in the mountain city of Kullu, capital of the Kullu district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

She has a track record of being supportive of hand crafts — evident in her previous collections.

The production for Two Point Two is based in Delhi. (Supplied)

“Last season, we did handwoven fabrics of cotton and silk from another region in India. Now Two Point Two wants to bring different, dying crafts of India to an international audience,” she explained.

Commenting on her increasingly high profile, she said: “It’s very frantic and because I’m a perfectionist it really gets to me at times. I am happy to be here because it is London Fashion Week. This is our first runway show outside India — so we are very excited.”