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The blurred history of Orientalist art

Like many students of the Middle East, I am still haunted by Edward Said 41 years after he wrote “Orientalism”. The seminal book argued that Western academics, writers, artists and journalists had been agents of European soft power for over two centuries, constructing an image of the East th...

Grave hopping with Gilbert & George

Gilbert and George are standing before the grave of John Bunyan. A mossy effigy of the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” reclines on a magnificent limestone tomb in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in central London. But the artists are distracted from the grandeur of the monument by a small figure of ...

From Beyoncé to the big screen: the whirlwind rise of Melina Matsoukas

From the outside, Matsoukas’s rise to success seems almost frictionless. She got an agent as soon as she finished her postgraduate studies. Her first proper music video was for “Money Maker”, a bombastic strip-club anthem by rapper Ludacris and R&B singer Pharrell Williams in 2006, which ...

Why bacalhau will always taste like home

I grew up in a Portuguese immigrant household in Toronto in the 1970s, where we ate bacalhau several times a week. You might not be excited by the idea of eating salted cod every other day, but for my family it was a reminder of where we came from. Occasionally we’d eat bacalhau at Portuguese re...

Linda McCartney’s Polaroids: Instagram before it was cool

Linda McCartney was as candid a photographer as they come. She was known for pulling out her camera mid-conversation and snapping the face of her companion, an awkward habit that produced wonderful results. One of her best-known snaps captured Jimi Hendrix yawning at the album launch party for Sg...

How to feed a protest movement: cooking with Extinction Rebellion

Running a kitchen in the middle of a protest camp presents some unusual operational challenges. “We’re cooking most of the hot food offsite at the moment,” says George Coiley, as he leads me past boiling stove-top kettles, catering-sized saucepans and two volunteers preparing a fruit salad of ...

The Ukrainian protest film gripping Hong Kong

The blue and yellow poster shared on social media lists more than a dozen makeshift venues showing “Winter on Fire” on the evening of August 29th. At first glance, the design is indistinguishable from any cinema listing. But below the stylish Chinese calligraphy is a small illustration of a Moloto...

What it’s like to bring up a baby in a war zone

Syria was at war, but I’d fallen in love with my friend, Hamza, and we wanted to get married. We’d met at Aleppo University during the protests in 2011 against Bashar al-Assad’s government and we were together through everything as things got worse. Hamza had just finished medical school and Id ...

Walter Chandoha, pioneer of the cat meme

Walter Chandoha’s fascination with cats began when he rescued a mewling kitten from a frozen alley in New York. This fateful encounter with “Loco”, the name inspired by his nightly ritual of frenzied sprinting around his new owner’s flat, would set Chandoha on a path to becoming the master of ca...

What it feels like to swim in sub-zero waters

All I had to do was swim a single kilometre. It’s just that humans aren’t designed for immersion in -3˚C water. I was going to be the first person to swim in South Georgia (a remote island in the south Atlantic, east of South America and north of Antarctica), starting at the British scientific ...

The case against hard seltzer

Alcopops were a crucial part of my adolescence. At the sticky-floored bars and house parties of my teenage years, I was a keen imbiber of Bacardi Breezers, WKDs and VKs. They came in flavours like watermelon, tropical lime and – more cryptically – blue. Each one was trashy, sickly and showed yo...
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