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This Jailed Egyptian Activist’s “Made In Prison” Handbags Are A Political Fashion Statement

Asmaa Hamdy maintains her own line of knitted items as she serves a five-year prison term.

Photo via the Free Asmaa Masr Facebook page.

In July of last year, Asmaa Hamdy was among hundreds of students imprisoned for participating in protests against the military junta that removed democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi from power. Today, the dentistry student remains in prison, serving a five-year term, but she’s found something to occupy her time: knitting her own line of “Made In Prison” handbags. Hamdy had been knitting the bags for her friends and family on the outside when she began fielding requests from fellow prisoners. Her fiance, Ibrahim Ragab, says Hamdy’s knitting is not just a fashion statement but a political one.

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More than Guns and Oil

In post-Gaddafi Libya, an audacious few look to re-ignite the nation’s creative impulse.

When the unrest in Libya first began almost four years ago, newspapers and magazines reported about the explosion of art in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli. Graffiti and murals covered every inch of bullet-ridden surface, lending the streets a visual vibrancy that matched the revolutionary fervor in post-Gaddafi Libya. Art exhibitions were being held for the first time. The international press regularly gave shout outs to Libyan artists, like sculpture artist Ali Wakwak and ceramicist Hadia Gana. International organizations like the Goethe Institute and the British Council invested in efforts to promote local cultural production, funding literary and arts events in Libya.

The passions that fuelled the revolution were soon replaced by disillusionment with the stagnating democratic process. However, a number of institutions have emerged recently to rekindle the creative energies unleashed by the 2011 uprising. Among them is Noon Arts, an arts collective helmed by Najlaa Alageli and Nesreen Gebreel, two Libyan women who’ve spent much of their lives abroad.

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'We Need Him Alive!' Gaddafi and the Villains We Don't Put on Trial

Bursts of vengeance make for dramatic YouTube videos, but trials and testimonies go down in history books.

"Don't kill him! We need him alive!" Moammar Gaddafi's captors beg on a grainy cell phone video, shortly before bullets are heard flying through the air.

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