Monday 21 June 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 21/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Towering ambition

Today marks four years since the destruction of Mosul’s historic al-Nuri mosque. The building and its leaning minaret had long defined the skyline of Iraq’s second city, until a bomb was placed inside it by Isis insurgents after government forces moved to recapture the city in 2017. Plans to rebuild the mosque, which dates back to the 12th century, have understandably drawn global attention. Mosulis, architects and international critics have been butting heads over the most appropriate design approach.

The final UAE-funded, Unesco-led proposal (pictured) was drawn up by a competition-winning team of Egyptian architects. It will see the mosque complex mostly reimagined, with only the leaning minaret and prayer hall rebuilt as they were before. Many Iraqis and Mosulis who backed a more traditional reconstruction are disappointed but this deviation from the original should be celebrated. Why? Because after years of war in a city that was once a crossroads for cultural and religious tolerance, the communities that call it home need to be rebuilt, as well as the building itself.

The current plan focuses on social cohesion and community repair for Mosul in a way that simply replicating the form of the original mosque could not. The new design will see al-Nuri become more integrated with the city thanks to a number of additional entry points, including a symbolic new main entrance on the historic street that links the city’s Muslim, Christian and Jewish quarters. A new school will be built and courtyards, with water features and shading, will provide communal gathering spaces too. With this in mind, the success of the rebuild should not be judged on aesthetic comparisons with the building’s predecessor but on whether it truly delivers on the ambitions outlined above. For the sake of the city, here’s hoping it does.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Global

Women with influence

Leaders from Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern (pictured, on right, with Merkel) to Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan have garnered plenty of positive attention in the past year: a study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in the summer of 2020 found that countries led by women reacted “systematically and significantly better” to the early stages of the pandemic than their male counterparts. Today’s Women Political Leaders summit, an annual gathering that started in 2013 in Brussels, will focus on lessons from the pandemic and what women leaders bring to policy-making in its aftermath. Attitudes among the public remain surprisingly sceptical: an annual survey released last week of citizens in G7 nations, known as the Reykjavík Index, has been almost unchanged for the past three years; on balance, men are still favoured over women in leadership roles.

For more on the summit from organiser Silvana Koch-Mehrin, listen to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Iran

Home and dry

Iran has elected the head of its judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi (pictured), as its new president. The 60-year-old’s candidacy was favoured by the hardline 12-member Guardian Council, which answers to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei. The contest, if it can be called that, was largely characterised by poor voter turnout following the body’s decision to prevent most reformist candidates from taking part.

“We shouldn’t expect a radical change in Iran’s foreign policy under Raisi’s leadership,” Holly Dagres, senior fellow at The Atlantic Council and curator of The Iranist newsletter, tells The Monocle Minute. Dagres notes that Raisi has committed to upholding the nuclear deal that was agreed with Western powers and is currently being renegotiated after the US’s 2018 withdrawal. “But at home, the new president could well take things in a different direction,” she says. “He was the Supreme Leader’s chosen candidate, so expect him to very much toe the Guardian Council’s conservative line.”

Image: Getty Images

Art / USA

About face

When they were unveiled in 2018, the official presidential portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald (pictured, on right, with Wiley and the Obamas) broke new ground by being the first such works by black artists. This past weekend a national tour of the paintings got underway in the Obamas’ hometown of Chicago, where they are currently on display at the city’s Art Institute. From Chicago the portraits will travel to four other art museums across the country – in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Brooklyn – ending in May next year. “It’s a high-water mark but it’s a new normal,” Wiley told the Art Institute last week, speaking remotely with Sherald to mark the tour’s opening leg. Wiley expects that the commissions and tour will provide a broader boost to artistic diversity. “In the end, they’re portraits of us, the artists,” he said. “In the blast zone of the Obamas’ decision to commission us, there will be a lot of winners.”

Image: Courtesy of Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra

Culture / France

Sounds of summer

Musicians in more than 1,000 cities will take to the streets today as part of Fête de la Musique. Launched in France in 1982, it celebrates the work of aspiring artists and street musicians with live music performances in public spaces. Today’s events will be particularly welcome after a year of lockdowns and while Paris and the rest of France remain the epicentre of celebrations, the annual tradition has been spreading under the rubrique of World Music Day. Here are four European highlights:

Festa Della Musica, Brescia: This festival in northern Italy is set to please fans of just about any musical genre. Expect a mix of pop, funk and techno on stages across the city, from the Broletto courtyard to the MO.CA cultural centre.

Church of St Blaise, Dubrovnik: Croatia’s World Music Day celebrations include a performance by the brass and percussion septet of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra (pictured) in this baroque church, one of the historic city’s most prominent sites.

Gärten der Welt, Berlin: Festivities kicked off in this public garden and park with an opening performance last night ranging from the Vokalhelden (the Berlin Philharmonic’s youth choir) to local musician and composer Thomas Krüger, also known as Mr Pianoman. It continues today with dozens of events in spaces throughout the German capital.

Megaron Gardens, Athens: The gardens next to Megaron Concert Hall are a delightful site for performances by female vocal group Chóres, the Athens Classical Players and Encardia, an ensemble inspired by the rich musical tradition of southern Italy.

M24 / The Stack

‘DJ Mag’, ‘Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle’ and ‘The Travel Writing Tribe’

This week on The Stack we speak with the editor of iconic dance music title DJ Mag and pay a visit to the Barbican for its latest exhibition, Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle. Plus: we speak with author Tim Hannigan on his new book The Travel Writing Tribe: Journeys in Search of a Genre.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Gentle Living

From how to make the most of your free time to rethinking the way you work, shop and even sleep, this book is packed with tips for making good things happen, doing something you care about and finding a slower pace of life that’s kinder to yourself, those around you and the planet.


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