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    TBILISI,GEORGIA: A grandmother plays piano at the wedding of her granddaughter. Photo by Justyna Mielnikiewicz, from Caucasus.

    Sha’abi music (literally translating to ‘the music of the poor’) is the soundtrack of a new Egypt: recorded in bedrooms, mixed on shoddy laptops and capitalizing on anger at the country’s economic and political situation. Young singers seethe about their frustrations through irreverent lyrics like “The people want phone credit! Just phone credit,” a play on the popular 18-day Tahrir Square uprising chant: “The people want the fall of the regime!”

    8%, the post popular Sha’abi band, performs on rickety wooden stages in alleys in their neighborhood of Matareya. Their latest recordings are passed from phone to phone by bluetooth; their YouTube videos have over 1 million listens; their Facebook page has hundreds of thousands of likes. 

    See more from Sha’abi Music, by David Degner

    'In a globalised world, it has become “much easier than before to consume Western products, therefore an increasing number of Arab parents worry that their children are getting too Westernised. This creates a demand for businesses that adapt Westernised products to their values, and it has been taking place across the Middle East – in television programmes, hip-hop music, comic books and ‘Arabised’ Barbie dolls called Fulla dolls.” A Fulla doll is, in essence, a Barbie doll that is “loving, caring, honest, and respecting of her mother and father”, say the doll’s creators.'

    With all of the issues roiling the Middle East, the cultural characteristics of everyday life often get overlooked. But for Natalie Naccache, a former member of Reportage Emerging Talent, the nuances of youth culture in the region can be especially telling. “I wanted to take a deeper look into how young people in the Middle East are growing up, who they look up to, and what moulds their beliefs.”

    Read more about Natalie’s project in British Journal of Photography.

    The term ‘Prepper’ refers to anyone who is preparing for the worst situations that may befall them: blackouts, food shortages, economic collapse, anarchy. Tim Ralston (top image) has become something of an icon among the Prepper community. He runs a successful business selling emergency supplies online, and has created a device he calls the Crovel: a swiss army knife shovel. He maintains a certain degree of secrecy - to meet with Ralston at his bunker in Arizona, the writer and photographer on this assignment were blindfolded, so as not to give away the specific location.

    See more from Preppers, by Charles Ommanney, here.


    Tripoli, Libya I July 24, 2012

    During the early morning ours after breaking their Ramadan fast, young Libyan men gather at a Tripoli pier to drift and drag race their cars. In typical Libyan fashion, the over-the-top dragging display destroys the vehicles in favor of reckless showmanship. (Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Getty Reportage)

    Conflict photographer Ben Lowy, on a grant from the Magnum Foundation’s Emergency Fund, has spent the last two weeks shooting from Libya on a photojournalism inspired Hipstamatic lens — and posting exclusively to Tumblr. Check out Lowy’s Tumblr and Storyboard’s interview with the photographer.

    Julien Goldstein has been nominated for the Visa d’Or Feature award, for his project Kurdistan: People with No Rights, but Anger. Winners will be announced Friday, September 7. The full feature is on the Reportage site.

    The Kurdish people who, for more than two thousand years, have been living in the lands of Anatolia and Persia, have their own unique history. Their land exists: it is Kurdistan, extending from the Anatolian plateau and plains to the Zagros mountains, but the borders of this vast land have never been recognized by any State.  There is a land, a language and a culture, yet today, in the early 21st century, the 40 million Kurds of the Middle East now form the largest population of stateless persons in the world.

    Everywhere we went, the Kurds we met conveyed the same feeling: the sense of belonging to a population that has been “sacrificed” by history.

    In the 20th century in particular, when this region of the world was weakened a number of times and saw its geopolitical map redrawn, the Kurds have never managed to gain recognition of their land and rights. Almost one century after the promise made by the Allied powers in 1920 to establish a “Great Kurdistan” in the Middle East, a promise never kept, the Kurds are still struggling to achieve this goal. With the exception of Iraq, with a Kurdish autonomous region in the north of the country since 1992, this is an ongoing struggle of an entire people, fighting for their rights – the right to their identity and the right to democracy.

    Once called the ‘Most Dangerous City in the World,’ Mogadishu is now slowly transitioning to peace.

    Images: MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - APRIL 30, 2012: The AMISOM (African Union Mission In Somalia) base at what was previously the luxury Hotel Al-Uruba in Mogadishu. AMISOM are operated by the African Union, with the United Nations’ approval. Their role since March 2007 has been to to train Somali security forces, implement national security, support the transitional government, and create security for the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

    MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - MAY 2, 2012: A teacher helps students in a recently renovated primary school for displaced children in Mogadishu. It opened in August 2011, and has 300 students; 200 boys and 100 girls.

    MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - MAY 2, 2012: A vendor prepares fresh catch at the booming fish market in Mogadishu. Fishermen, guarded by AMISOM weapons trained at the port entrance during the night, steer their boats in a particular way, as a code confirming that they are friendly, to bring their catch into port.

    From the feature Mogadishu’s Transition to Peace, by Susan Schulman.

    The documentary film Taqwacore : The Birth of Punk Islam features still images by Reportage photographer Kim Badawi, and a screening in Paris July 18 will be followed by a Q&A with Kim.

    'Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam follows Michael and his kindred spirits as they travel across the U.S. in their green school bus, challenging Muslims and non-Muslims with punchy anthems like Sharia Law in the U.S.A. Their spiritual odyssey then leads them to Pakistan, where they bring punk to the streets of Lahore and reconnect with Islam in a bold new way.’

    TIMBUKTU, MALI, JANUARY 2010: Men carry out prayers and remembrance as part of Islamic funeral rituals in Timbuktu.  Funerals in Timbuktu are conducted separately, with the women mourning inside the house of the deceased and the men outside on the street. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Reportage by Getty Images).

    As reported by the BBC, Islamist rebel groups in Mali destroyed six mausoleums in Timbuktu over the weekend, in what the International Criminal Court described as a “war crime.”

    See more Timbuktu images by Brent Stirton on the Reportage Features page.

    A couple walk in Hrodna. Natalia Bondarik, 31, on her wedding day The bedroom door of a client A guest at a wedding A wedding invitation


    Brides from Belarus 

    Maya Chirkova has paired Belarussian women in the city of Hrodna with foreign men for 15 years. She claims that 95 percent of men who come to Hrodna through her agency, Gimeney, find a wife and has tallied some 400 marriages to men from Western Europe and, recently, North America. Affiliated with La Strada International, the European network against trafficking, the agency also employs a psychologist to train the staff, and Chirkova takes personal responsibility to screen each woman for her catalog. In fact, she operates more like a traditional matchmaker than like a broker and even introduced her only son to his wife—a former client who had been determined to find a French husband.

    Her agency is not a stereotypical meat market where repugnant Westerners purchase young Slavic beauties for trophy wives. Chirkova’s female clients are of all ages and professions, and she insists that they have as much authority over their choices as the men do. Natalia, a 31-year-old personal trainer, convinced her French fiancé, Filip, to lose 24 kilograms and encouraged him to adopt a more modern sense of fashion.

    Women from Hrodna officially outnumber men 1.4 to 1, although locals claim the ratio is much higher. The women I photographed are Chirkova’s clients. Their sories dispel many conceptions of marriage agencies and reveal the deeper social conditions particular to both this specific region and Belarus as a whole, where men are spoiled by a plethora of beautiful women, and the Western concept of feminism is relative to Belarusian reality.

    [Photographs and text by Justyna Mielnikiewicz]

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