Kerning Cultures

“Stories From The Middle East And North Africa, And The Spaces In Between”

Kerning Cultures is a female-led podcast founded in 2015 and is based in UAE. It is the first venture-funded podcast company in the Middle East. This podcast is Hebah Fisher’s idea; she is the co-founder of Kerning Cultures. This podcast formed in response to the lack of mainstream media in the Middle East, that young generation can relate to, also it came to existence aiming to open a new window to this misunderstood parts of the world.

This podcast started as a start-up and with very little help, the first three years Hebah Fisher (co-founder and CEO) and Razan Alzayani (co-founder and former executive producer) of the project, invested all their savings in this project, they worked for their” mission of telling stories of places they call home”. They aim to re-introduce the region to themselves and Middle Eastern audiences, as well as to introduce it to non-Middle Eastern listeners through their stories, stories that anyone even from very far away can relate to. So This podcast is being produced in Arabic and English.   

Usually the image of the Middle East, pictured by the main stream media is biased, one-sided and heavily politicized.

This podcast tries give an image of Middle East and North Africa, beyond the stereotypical characteristic and common generalizations, by covering different topics and telling stories of history, science, culture, current affairs from these regions and Middle East. Each episode somehow unveils the reality of life in the region and aims to give a balanced picture of its people, and their nuanced lived experience.

Various topics are covered in this podcast. for example “Birthplace of the UAE” is about Public Health; “Fight or Flight” tells the story of a kite maker from Afghanistan who immigrated to the US and “Reviving Hamra Street” is about Beirut and its street art.

Or in the episode, “Not Just My Hijab” a two-part series, women with different backgrounds talk about their stories and experiences of wearing Hijab or, discontinuing wearing Hijab and what it means to them. This narrates the lived experience of those women with their voices, which is different from the narrative of an article in a prestigious International journal picturing women wearing Hijab and mostly in relation to religious matter. There are many factors that impact and form people’s lives, belief system, culture and collective memories , though usually these factors are excluded from media narrative, Kerning Cultures is trying to shed light on those factors and various dimension of life in the Middle East.

In addition to its valuable content, Kerning Cultures choice of media, podcast and use of voice, makes a meaningful connection to the region through the old tradition of oral history and story telling.

Kerning Cultures was described by its listener from different corner of the world as: informative, touching, intriguing and a must listen.

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Akkasah, the Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi

Akkasah, the Center for Photography at New York University Abu Dhabi: Houses photographic heritage collections of the Middle East and North Africa. Since it is believed that the rich traditions of documentary, vernacular, and art photography in those regions has not acquired enough attention, Akkasah aims to investigate, document and preserve histories and contemporary practices of photography in those regions.

Akkasah contains 60,000 images, and gathers collection of prints and negatives; also it produces digital versions of collections of individuals or institutions who are willing to share their collections.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, street seller in the snow (circa 1930, Istanbul, Turkey). Source: Engin Ozendes Collection, Courtesy of Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.

The database is constitute of three collections of Historical Collections, Contemporary Projects, Photo Albums.

Akkasah turns out to be more than a database of photo collection, it became a successful collaborative project management, representing partnership between faculty and library, here more information ca be found in this regards.

Wall of windows and mihrab with men praying in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey Source: Engin Ozendes Collection, Courtesy of Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Furthermore, Akkasah through conferences, research fellowship program of the NYUAD institute, colloquia, and publications; tries to support research on Middle Eastern and North African photography also on cross-cultural and transnational aspects of it.

Some of Akassah’s activities includes:

  • Producing a series of publications that reflect the scholarly and archival concerns of the center
  • Commissioning new documentary projects on the diverse cultures and communities of the Unite Arab Emirates
  • Establishing a special collection of rare photobooks from around the world
  • Inviting applications for research fellowships in the area of Middle Eastern and North African photography through the Research Fellowships in the Humanities program funded by the NYUAD Institute.

In this article, you can read more the story of Akkasah: The long read: NYUAD’s Centre for Photography unveils a new collection of antique images from the Middle East

View of The Opera District in Dubai. (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 14 January 2017) Photographer: Michele Nastasi Source: Collection of A Gulf of Images. Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.