Sheathed in a cover picturing a naked woman enveloped in crimson silk fabric like a flower, the first issue of the Arabic quarterly magazine Jasad will be launched next month here in Beirut and become the first of its kind in the Arab world. The Magazine (www.jasadmag.com) describes itself as “specialized in the Body’s arts, sciences and literature.”
Jasad, according to its creator and editor-in-chief, Joumana Haddad, who is also a poet, will be a “forum” for all kinds of expressions of the body — erotic and non-erotic — in the form of essays, literature, arts, photography and more. Jasad is, she says, neither a women’s magazine nor Arab pornography; it is not about beauty, “as we define it.”
The first issue of the publication will include topics ranging from fetishism and self-mutilation to cannibalism, while the second issue will feature a lengthy piece on the “relationship between the handicapped and their bodies,” one fraught with “love and hate” — topics that are not normally associated with notions of beauty. While steering clear of any political or ideological labels, Haddad, nonetheless, hopes that Jasad will help people see another vision of the body, going beyond the “superficial” dichotomy related to “women’s pornography or its counterpart, the veil.”
Jasad will hit bookstores in Lebanon in sealed bags and be distributed via DHL to subscribers in other Arab countries in order to avoid censorship in a region where open expression on bodies, sexuality and eroticism is considered taboo. Haddad has been receiving “insulting or bullying” messages on the magazine already, but she is convinced that Jasad, as a “niche cultural project,” will gradually gain acceptance.
There are some good omens. For instance, Haddad had little difficulty in finding the 50 contributing writers for the first issue, while hundreds of subscriptions have been made so far, many of which, surprisingly enough, were from Saudi Arabia.
To possible charges that Jasad is an imitation of the West and its widespread practice of explicit bodily expressions, Haddad responds that the magazine is done “with your own culture, with your own words, with your own language, with your own writers, with your own artists. This in itself gives it the authenticity it needs.” On a different note, Haddad maintains that no one is “pure” from Western influence today — even her Arab critics probably eat McDonald’s for lunch and wear Levi’s jeans, she noted — and that we are by necessity “a mixture of everything.”
Joumana Haddad, creator and editor-in-chief of Jasad Magazine. (Giorgio Pace)