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Abu Ammar is Coming

Naeem Mohaiemen / 2016

6 min
Bangladesh / Lebanon


As part of our Artists Cinema project collaboration with Independent Cinema Office we present the first in our series of new artists’ film commissions. Over the coming months we will present one new commissioned film per month, the films were originally commissioned to show in UK cinemas before feature films and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

A photograph circulates, showing five men staring out of a window. Actually, only four look out; the last man breaks protocol and looks at the camera. The light has a soft glow. The stage is a bombed building. All five men wear military fatigues; the color must have been olive green.

Snapped by a Magnum photographer in 1982, the image is a teasing enigma. Arabic newspapers claim it as evidence of Bangladeshi fighters in the PLO (Fatah faction). Go a little deeper into the memory hole and sediments will darken the third world international.

Still, the light was beautiful.

Abu Ammar is Coming continues The Young Man Was (2006-now) project’s exploration of the 1970s revolutionary left as a form of tragic utopia. Previous chapters have shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the 2011 Sharjah Biennial.

[Abu Ammar was the nom de guerre of Yasser Arafat. His Fatah faction of PLO fascinated Bangladesh JSD (National Socialist Party) leader Major Jalil, despite the sharper Marxist tendencies of the George Habash faction.]

Main picture credit: Volunteers from Bangladesh fighting with Palestinians, 1982 © Chris Steele-Perkins / Magnum Photos


Born 1969, London, England. Lives and works in New York.

Naeem Mohaiemen explores histories of the international left and the contradictions of nationalisms through essays, photography, film, and installation. Since 2006, he has worked on The Young Man Was, a history of the ultra-left in the 1970s, with each portion in a different medium.

Mohaiemen’s essays include “Islamic roots of Hip-Hop” (Sound Unbound, MIT Press), “Asterix and the big fight” (Playing by the rules, Apex Art), “Live true life or die trying” (Visual Culture Reader, 3rd Ed., Routledge), and “These guys are artists and who gives a shit” (System Error, Silvana). The themes he has addressed in his work have been described as “not yet disillusioned fully with the capacity of human society” (Vijay Prashad, Take on Art). Mohaiemen is a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at Columbia University.