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December 23, 2006

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Joe Pollitt

This might sound a little strange but I just had to tell you. The Prophet has died.

Néjib Belkhodja | The Artist | The Prophet has died....

This is merely a whisper being sent out to the world about the genius of the late, great Néjib Belkhodja. He lived amongst us for seventy-four years and consumed life and lived like so few. He had integrity, something that is lacking in the world today. He set such high standards for himself and others around him. He was the man to teach the world about the power of art and the way in which we should conduct ourselves in our lives. It is difficult to put into words the importance of this man. He lived an outspoken existence with courage and conviction. The word Prophet is a word that best describes the giant that is, Néjib Belkhodja. During his lifetime he was a Nation builder and a world guide. He was often ignored and marginalised yet still he bore the troubles of his Independent Nation on his shoulders. His work is so important, to see it and understand it will change the way you see yourself and all that is around you. Throughout his life the Leaders were fully aware of the power of Belkhodja; a man who would not be broken by the State or who could not be used as a political toy. He suffered enormously throughout his life, humiliated and disregarded by the Nation. On the 16th June 2007 in the Medina in Tunis I heard such pitiful tributes to a man of such stature who, at the end was honoured by hyocrites. He died virtually penniless and his work is jailed in Banks and Five Star Hotels around his native country of Tunisia. You wont see the work of Belkhodja in any Museum around the world. No. His work is too powerful to be released by his jailers. He sheds light on all the World Leaders. He opens our minds to what is the function and meaning of Art. His work develops Nations and his contribution to the world is beyond compare. His departure from this world has come at just the right time; when the world needs him most. Here is a man, who belongs to us all and in his lifetime has shown us the meaning of generosity. His work introduces us to poets and architecture, to calligraphers and musicians. The subtly within the work is breathtaking and he puts into place the order in which art should be seen, heard and spoken.

Born in 1933 his mother was Dutch and his father Tunisian. He grew up in the Medina in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, North Africa. For those that don't know what the Medina is, it is the heartbeat of the city, where all the aristocracy resides. It is a walled city within a city, with narrow streets as arteries and huge colourful studded doors, which break up the continuity of the whitewashed wall. The Medina has it's own language, it own specific architecture. The Medina is the untouchable heart of North Africa. The reason Belkhodja chooses to focus his work on the importance of the Medina is that it is the heart of life. It is beyond the control of modern dictatorship. So his work is about the spiritual heartland of the World. The significance of the Medina in Belkhodja's work is constant. For nearly forty years he focused his whole artistic life around the idea of the Medina and his work reads like a biblical message to us all. His work is invincible and belongs to us all, to cage it would be a travesty of justice. I would like the World to stop for just 2 minutes to Honour the Life of Néjib Belkhodja | 1933 – 2007.

If you want to see his work go to www.africanpaitners.blogspot.com

Joe Pollitt

Dear Ross Day,

Thank you very much for posting this information about African Painters. Africa, in my mind, is an abstract idea and in many ways a barrier to entry to the elite International art market. This exclusion is stunting the contemporary growth of a Continent. Numerous black artists that live outside the Continent are apprehensive when considered as African Painters as it seemingly devalues their work and pigeon-holes them as lesser artists.

The artists that I have chosen on the website and the blog are all embracing their connection to Africa and throwing it right up in our faces. What I would like to encourage is the breakdown of the word “Africa” and begin to see it in its entirety - all 54 countries that are housed on this enormous Continent. Once we have managed to decode the word we will then be able to make a judgement on the work being produced, country-by-country and artist-by-artist and begin to see, with renewed vision, the fantastic work being produced. This process is a fantastic journey of discovery that we can all afford. Personally, it has been a honour and priveledge to work towards these goals. Thank you for recognizing my efforts.

Joe Pollitt

Joe Pollitt

I have just returned from Tunisia, where I met up with some extremely interesting artists, namely Abderrazak Salhi, Samir Ben Ameur and Baker Ben Fredj, all of which are friends and live in a coastal town of Hammamet about 30 minutes from Tunis. I have just written about an Iraqi artist who lives in Tunisia, Samir Nanoo who I met in the Capital. His work is really amazing and a most see. In this world of hatred he sees a new truth. He has been moving from Iraq, Germany and Tunisia for the past 15 odd years.

It was most interesting to announce to the group in my worst french, that I was the man behind the African Painters website. The artists had not really seen themselves as African, more Arabs. What is interesting about North Africa from Libya to Algeria is that the Mediterrean sea and the strong dictators, within each country divides the countries from Europe and below lies the Sahara and this in effect creates an impression of Island people, with interesting and unique perspectives on the world at large. It is not a vision shared by the Middle East, nor the majority of Africa or either Europe or America. It is wholely unique and varies from each country. Tunisia is most interesting and stands out in terms of art against the Egyptian, who look directly into the Middle East and Morrocco, which is almost nose to nose with Spain; so Tunisia has it's own uniqueness. It is extremely developed, especailly for a country with so few resources and has an incredible sense of National pride, this has a lot to do with the football/Soccer success of the World Cup. As one of the smallest countries in Africa it manages to filter all the problems of Africa and the Middle East and still remain similar but noteably different. It is an amazing experience to go to Tunisia, the people are so well educated and talk of the difference between the Occidental world and the Oriental world. I was most enlightened by the artists and the country. It's really worth a visit.

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