Libyan art shares influences with several cultures that have historically been in the area: Romans, Ottomans, Arabs, Tuaregs, Berbers, Italians, and others. The earliest forms of art are in the form of cave drawings found at a site near Awiss. These drawings mostly show the hunt of animals and desert life. Really, what else is there? (I’m joking.) Wadi Tidwa is known for its more bizarre rock carvings, and archaeologists have thought that perhaps it’s related to some ancient religion because, you know, religion can be bizarre sometimes. Other areas where rock carvings have been found include Messak Settafet, Mellet, and Wadi Matkhandoush. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Libyans invented the wheel, and subsequently, there are about 500 examples of cave drawings of chariots. (Yes, but are they on fire?)
|It's supposed to be two cats fighting. They must've been able to see into the future and paint what I deal with every single day..|
Many of their folk art traditions are tied in with Islamic traditions. And per the Islamic guideline that no figures or animals are to be depicted, Libyan crafts and folk art do not have this either. Instead, geometric patters are used. Other crafts and folk arts include embroidery and weaving, metal engraving, instrument making, jewelry making (mostly out of leather, silver, and beads), and leatherwork.
|Libyan Berber jewelry|
Art has long been used as a means of expression and as a means of addressing issues that need to be dealt with. Unfortunately, many of Libya’s artists left the country due to the high level of censorship under the Gaddafi government. One artist is Aimen Ajhani (aka El Bohly). He was instrumental as a graffiti artist, and often created art with a political message. In Libya, he often faced arrest for his craft, many times reported by people who didn’t understand what he was doing — even after the war. I think that although most art was repressed for almost two generations, now that we’re on the other side of the Civil War, artists are finally starting to come out and be more open about it. The political situation is still somewhat shaky, but I think it’s heading in the direction of getting better. (Maybe? I hope?)
|by El Bohly|
Libyan literature stretches back thousands of years. Early Libyan literature was stemmed from its oral poetry traditions. It didn’t have as much impact on early literature coming out of the Arab Renaissance. However, its oral poetry strived, and it was this medium that was used to express their unsavory sentiments during the Italian occupation.
|by Sadeq al-Neihum|
Modern Libyan literature didn’t really get its momentum until after they gained their independence. Many of the writers who rose to prominence during the 1960s wrote on progressive and socialist views. Writers like Ali al-Regeie, Khamel al-Maghur, Sadeq al-Neihum, Khalifa al-Fakhri, and Muhammad al-Shaltami followed these themes and were widely read during this time.
These writers hit a wall after Muammar Gaddafi took over. He set up one single state-owned publishing house that everyone had to go through whether you liked it or not. The state got to decide who and what got published. The ones who didn’t like it were either imprisoned or just simply left the country. It was a rough time for anyone in the arts, especially if your views were contrary to Gaddafi’s. After the Civil War, however, this uber-conservative censorship was lifted, and writers could freely write again. (More or less, I suppose.) Their constitution made sure they wrote in freedom of the press. It’ll be interesting to see how free their freedom of the press is as we continue to watch the changes in their political situation.