From 9/11 to the Arab Springs, media coverage has become increasingly dominated by the Middle East in recent years. At the moment, as reports emerge of the kidnappings and deaths of foreign nationals in Algeria, we are again met with an image which has become par for course: the bearded jihadi fundamentalist facing the camera. Meanwhile, the wealth of footage documenting the uprisings in the Maghreb presents the region as one of constant turbulence and violence. There is a danger of reducing the Arab world to tired caricatures – or in the words of the late Edward Said (the main theorist on post-colonialism) a depiction of Arabs as ‘either oil suppliers or potential terrorists’. The current exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Light from the Middle East does not allow for any such crude taxonomy. The first major museum exhibition of Middle Eastern photography, it spans a huge scope of different work produced by artists from across the region, ranging from North Africa to Central Asia.
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