Kayfa-ta is a non-profit publishing initiative by Maha Maamoun and Ala Younis that uses the popular form of How-To manuals in a series of Arabic publications that weave art with “non-art” concerns. Addressing the layman and the specialized alike, without compromising content, the series would be produced, printed and distributed widely, economically and professionally to have quality Arabic publications for cheap prices.
This non-profit project is interested in publishing a series of Kayfa-ta (How-To) books that aim to bridge a gap in publications relating to art in the region, and address a lack of dialogue between art and the general audience. The severe lack, whether in quantity or quality, of publications pertaining to Art in the Arab region is a reality that practitioners and the general audience alike struggle with. The vast space between the locales where art is officially encountered (art academies, galleries, museums, biennials..etc) and the layman has resulted in a lack of engagement with and understanding of current art practices, as well as a blanket caricaturization and marginalization of art and its place in society. We believe however that current art languages and concerns are not per se distant and unintelligible to the general public, but rather that the neglect over the years of spaces and acts of mediation between art and its audience has resulted in the current exaggerated gap. We have thus chosen the popular vehicle of How-To books as our act of mediation.
How-to books are an old genre of writing that remains very popular to this day. Though the form of How-To guides is most commonly used as a strict transmitter of technical and practical knowledge, it is often and more interestingly used as a familiar and engaging entry point to more poetic subjects. This is where we would like to place this series of monographs – in the space between practice and poetry, where art borrows from life, and life borrows from art, and in the space in a library or a newspaper stand between fact and fantasy. Through a publication series, in Arabic, that is widely distributed and economically priced, we aim to publish monographs, authored by artists, writers and others, that relate to our present contexts in interesting ways, and that indirectly but cumulatively bring lateral, associative and creative subjects and modes of thinking and knowledge to the fore.
This publication series is research based. Through it we also aim to encourage topical research and the sharing of its results with specialized and general audiences locally, regionally and (when relevant) internationally. The insufficiency of research in the fields of art and culture, as in all other spheres of culture and science in the Arab world, is painfully clear and the result of it shows in the general weakness of discourse and production in the respective spheres. Having been recently on a jury of an arts and culture grant recently, it was interesting to see the huge gap in quality between proposed research based projects and object based projects (that is, artwork proposals..etc). This showed the primacy and real need for revisiting the research and critical groundwork in the field of arts today, as in other fields, for interesting and valuable content to emerge.
We intend to find the resources to extend the project over a minimum period of three years, producing four monographs per year, by commissioning and producing new works as well as the re-publishing of selected monographs.