Tuesday 8 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 8/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Rena Effendi

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Life through a lens

Few countries have suffered more from the one-dimensional narratives conveyed by news headlines than Libya. Media reporting of the chaos that followed Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011 has too often obscured how ordinary Libyans have navigated life in the years since. Moreover, Libya was so isolated under Gaddafi that the country’s social fabric and culture remain little known to the outside world. When I joined photographer Rena Effendi to report from Tripoli for Monocle in 2021, it was Rena’s scenes of daily life in the Libyan capital that captivated readers who were eager to learn more.

For these reasons, I was delighted to hear about the Album Libya project, launched this month by the Arete Foundation for Arts and Culture. Its curators, including poet Khaled Mattawa, asked Libyans to share images from their family photo albums and personal stories that tell a larger story of the country’s past and present. Some of the photographs date back to the pre-Gaddafi 1950s and 1960s, while others are more recent. Together, they are a reminder of the quotidian, intimate realities often lost in the footnotes of a nation’s history. The Arete Foundation describes the project as “a collective love poem ignited by the spark of heartbreak and grief”. The hope is that sharing memories in this way can help to heal societal wounds caused by years of civil conflict.

Album Libya, which is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, is available online and in book form, with an English translation coming soon. Its recent launch in Tripoli included an exhibition of photographs from the project with accompanying testimonies. The Arete Foundation has said that it wants to take the exhibition overseas and I hope that it does. It would help to open Libya up to the world.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle’s North Africa correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Space / Russia

Reaching for the moon

Russia is preparing to launch its first lunar lander mission in nearly half a century. According to the Roscosmos Space Agency, the Luna-25 space probe (pictured) will launch on Friday from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East; residents of nearby villages will be evacuated for their protection. Luna-25, which will lift off on a Soyuz-2 Fregat booster, has been designed to make a soft landing on the moon’s little-explored south pole and to study the surface layer and explore the region for ice.

Russia’s renewed space ambitions come as the country continues its brutal invasion of Ukraine, which has put a dent in international space co-operation. Moscow is expected to pull out of the International Space Station after 2024 and has ramped up bilateral co-operation with China, taking Earth’s geopolitical tensions beyond the atmosphere.

Image: Getty Images

Environment / Brazil

Seeing the wood for the trees

Heads of state from eight Amazon nations will meet in Belém in northern Brazil today for a crucial two-day summit that seeks to protect the world’s largest rainforest. The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) has not met in 14 years, during which time there has been a surge in deforestation and wildfires in the rainforest.

Today’s summit finds the leaders of Colombia and Brazil, the group’s largest nations, at loggerheads over oil development in the Amazon. Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, has pushed his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to block all new drilling operations in the region but the administration in Brasília is starkly divided on the issue. Lula, meanwhile, has beseeched every ACTO country to pledge an end to deforestation by 2030, which all except Bolivia and Venezuela have done. The hope is that the countries will put their differences aside and come to a consensus on both issues when the summit ends tomorrow – for the good of not just the region but the whole planet.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / Thailand

Capital grains

After last month’s unexpected announcement by India’s government that it would ban exports of non-basmati white rice, Thailand has seized the opportunity to fill the gap. India’s decision followed significant crop damage from uneven rainfall during the country’s monsoon season, which caused domestic rice prices to increase. Now, Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter after India, is experiencing a surge in business, according to the country’s commerce minister, Jurin Laksanawisit.

Thai officials have reassured its citizens that enough rice will be produced for domestic consumption despite the increase in exports. The country aims to trade more than eight million metric tonnes this year, up from 7.7 million last year. Though India’s export ban is expected to be temporary, Thailand is clearly bowled over by this chance to help meet global demand.

Image: Lionesa Group

Stationery / Portugal

Ink big

There are few things more important to an architect than the instrument they use to write, scribble and draw with. And now this relationship between practitioner, craft and tool is being honoured by French manufacturer Bic, which has launched a new pen to mark the 90th birthday of Pritzker Prize-winning Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza.

The limited-edition Bic Cristal Re’New elevates the design of the brand’s classic biros to a premium level, with a matte aluminium body, refillable cartridges and laser-engraved quotes from the architect in Portuguese and English. The pen will be available exclusively from the Livraria Lello bookshop in Porto. Siza is known for using a Bic Cristal Original in his everyday life and at his sketching table – making this special edition of his favourite pen a fitting tribute to his groundbreaking achievements.

Image: Ankit Jain

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Udaan Park, Udaipur

Ananya Singhal of Studio Saar takes us on a tour of his firm’s recently completed lakeside pocket park in the Indian city of Udaipur.

Monocle Films / Architecture

The world’s best public housing?

The world is urbanising fast. But how do you accommodate people in cities in a way that offers dignity, affordability and a sense of community? Vienna might have a solution. Explore the enduring legacy of the city’s Gemeindebau apartment blocks in the latest episode of our Design Tours series.


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