Marc Kober and Dias Ferhat in Parisian Cultural Center of Egypt

users-msh-desktop-dias-dias3.jpg Marc Kober is a poet and an ardent scholar who defended his Ph.D. thesis on Georges Henein at la Sorbonne in 1996. This specialist of Oriental literature was born (1964) and raised in Nice but presently he teaches Modern and Contemporary literature at Paris 13 University, in Paris. He has travelled widely, lived in Italy and Japan (Osaka and Nagoya), and as the result of his experience he has produced a large body of writing published either separately in a book form or in  numerous reviews and magazines. It is important to notice that this experienced Orientalist has absorbed the atmosphere of his favorite scholarly topic which is Far and Middle East- as a poet, he has always collaborated with visual artists. He has had his poetry either illustrated by painters such as Gerard Seree, Enrico Baj and the calligraphers such as Yukano Ishiguro or himself- as  he was also trained in Japanese calligraphy he has illustrated the paintings of Dias Ferhat  with his own poems. In 2005 Kober had collaborated with Dias on a set of calligraphed poems stitched onto stones and pieces of wood-floor in the Society of French Poets in Paris, and more recently, these two exhibited their Oriental arabesques (Dias’s paintings framed with Kober’s poems) at the Egyptian cultural center in Paris. Marc Kober had studied Japanese calligraphy in Japan in 1997 and had participated in the production of the poetry books illustrated with etchings- once upon a time he would design up to 30 calligraphed books honoured by just about 15 poems printed on beautiful luxurious paper in large format. Kober emphasizes the fact that his work with Dias differs in scope and quality from the one he executed with his previous collaborators. The poet says that their collaboration closed up more towards precision  regarding the so called  painterly interpretation of the poems and it’s been much larger in scope: the  chosen poems  which are quite long are chosen by the painter himself. There is a dream like quality of their collaborative work together as well as in their individual respective verbal and visual expressions. They first met in a “dreamlike” work setting which is the surrealist magazine “Superieur Inconnu” in 2001 where Kober-editor presented Dias’s work. Their recent collaboration has bloomed with oneiric colors, with pinks, all shades of purple and deep blue, the color which Kober “chose instinctively” one morning as he was waking up. He comments upon his own work by accentuating the paradox: in such a Cartesian world that he inhabits – the pure meaning of his poetry resides in its obvious non-sensical quality or on a certain “non-cartesian logic”.  He adored working on pale pink paper, the color of Kober’s preference, which was taken over from the cover of his handsome poetry book “Sixty Kisses”, previously published by “La Mezzanine dans l’Ether”. Unlike Marc Kober, Dias Ferhat grew up in a distant Algerian casbah where he, as an autodidact, started drawing and painting at age sixteen. By 1975 he reached the colorful city of Paris where he tried to sell what he knew and had on his fingertips, that is, a certain sense of Orientalism which he clearly manifested iin his early paintings of “Turkish baths”, odalisques and other Ingres meets Delacroix subjects. It was only in the period of 1980s that Dias started refusing the cultural identification  and an unwilling “return to his North-African roots” - he enlarged his notion of cultural background and started sharing his days with Nina Simone. In the busy 1990s, the painter increased speed and diversity of his painterly movement as he explored the cinematographic themes and the iconic world of stage and theatricity. The last decade of Dias Ferhat’s work is marked by the sense of calm and poetical reflexivity brought into his world   through his collaborative work with poets such as Kober, thus his latest show  at the Egyptian Cultural Center bears the poetical title “Torch Song”. Indeed on his huge acrylics and pastels on paper one can hear the meditterannean and arabic soul songs, chants of local griots as much as metaphysical and musical yearnings of Dias’s contemporaries. The Arabic calligraphy on his painting becomes a living flame, fire eating up and purging both continents, Europe and Africa, bringing them together and at the same time splitting them apart. There is a spiritual meeting point between these two continents as much as there exists  a meeting spot between poet Kober and painter Ferhat: their work essentially quite different, finds one common ground in the oneiric landscape of dreams and dreaming to which both collaborators tend to migrate. Both artists live in the world disintegrated by daily worry, existential angst and patience as Ferhat has, quite appropriately entitled one of his paintings “Waiting for Messiah”. As they travel the road from their interior to the exterior world filled with non-sensical political and social events, Kober the poet and Ferhat the painter  present us their dreamscape which transcends the pillars of history or geography for that matter. Nina Zivancevic