Biography Tina Gharavi Last of the Dictionary Men · Shields. Accompanying the exhibited video and...

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    BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road,

    Gateshead NE8 3BA UK Tel +44 (0) 191 478 1810.

    Opening Times: daily 10.00-18.00 except Tuesday 10.30-18.00. Free Admission.

    [email protected]

    LAST OF THE DICTIONARY MEN Stories from the South Shields Yemeni Sailors2 April – 5 May 2008

    In partnership with:


    Tina Gharavi is an award-winning filmmaker whose previous works have been official selections of the Sundance Film Festival and screened at festivals and broadcasts internationally.

    Born in Iran and educated in the US and France, Gharavi is founder of Bridge + Tunnel, a media production company based in the North of England focusing on the untold stories and unheard voices from the UK’s diverse communities. She is Lecturer in Digital Media at Newcastle University.

    Youssef Nabil was born in Cairo in 1972 and lives and works in New York. Nabil grew up in Cairo during the cinematic golden age of ‘Hollywood on the Nile’. The artist’s early attachment to the cinema can be traced in his images, which recall the nostalgia, glamour and elegance of the traditional hand-coloured black and white films.

    Nabil’s work has been presented on numerous solo and group exhibitions at venues including the British Museum, London; Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town; Centre de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona; and Aperture Foundation, New York.

    Further Information

    To find out more about Last of the Dictionary Men and our other exhibitions visit BALTIC Library & Archive online database

    The database contains over 100 films and audio files documenting the artists and their work.

    Free Daily Guided Tours

    From Monday 7 April this exhibition will be included in the free daily Guided Tours at 11.00 and 16.00, meeting at the Information Desk, Ground Floor. This excludes Thursdays at 10.00 when there is a BALTIC History Tour, priced £4.00 per person. No pre-booking for tours is required.

    BALTIC Podcasts

    For further information and to subscribe (free of charge) to BALTIC podcasts visit

    Cover image: Youssef Nabil, Last of The Dictionary Men, photographic series, 2008

  • LAST OF THE DICTIONARY MENStories from the South Shields Yemeni Sailors2 April – 5 May 2008

    Last of the Dictionary Men is the first exhibition of its kind to delve into the individual stories of the South Shields Yemeni community1. Focusing on the rich history of one of Britain’s oldest Arab and Muslim communities, filmmaker Tina Gharavi presents a series of fourteen video histories, and Youssef Nabil presents the monumental portraits of the ‘Dictionary Men’. The ‘Dictionary Men’ are the last surviving seamen from the first generation of Yemeni settlers in South Shields. Accompanying the exhibited video and photographic portraits is the cinematic screening of Gharavi’s film The King of South Shields, the little-known story of boxer Muhammad Ali’s wedding in the local Al Azhar Mosque.

    This, the first presentation of Last of the Dictionary Men at BALTIC, explores the North East of England’s proud maritime and industrial heritage that has all but disappeared from today’s modern landscape along the River Tyne. For over 100 years, thousands of seamen from Yemen worked on ships, some settled in the small town of South Shields and made it their home. The heritage of this remarkable Middle Eastern connection and the successful integration of this Yemeni community is at the heart of this project.

    For the main gallery, Gharavi has recorded fourteen intimate interviews of the ‘Dictionary men’. Presented on found television sets sourced directly from the local community, the height of each of the televisions corresponds to the real-life height of the Yemeni men. Meanwhile, monumental portraits of the Yemeni men hang on neighboring walls. This series of thirteen specially-commissioned images by artist Nabil are initially hand-painted images which have been enlarged, and form a contemporary commemoration of the men. Absent from this series however, is the fourteenth man, Mohammad Nasser, who passed away before the Last of the Dictionary Men project could be completed. His presence is marked at the door of the gallery with an early passport photograph.

    Over the course of three years, the Last of the Dictionary Men project has investigated the local Yemeni history and collaborated with the seamen to record their endangered stories and experiences. From the accounts of 800 Yemeni men from Tyneside who died at sea in World War II, to the misinterpretations of the trade union riots at the Customs House, Last of the Dictionary Men presents new ways of seeing, hearing and understanding the complexity of Muslim identities. It explores this within a North-East working class context and the current nationwide debates on immigration, identity and multi-culturalism.

    Cutting across the North East landscapes – industrial, political, social – as well as across continents and generations, this exhibition seeks to make an invisible history visible once more. It attempts to rectify the poverty of representation of Islamic communities in Britain today and foregrounds wider issues of diaspora2, migration and equality in notions of British identity, both past and present.

    The Dictionary Men are: Abdo Ahmad Mohammad Obeya, Abdo Mohamed Kaid, Abodo Wohab Abbas, Ahmed Hassan Kaid, Ahmed Hussein Abdulla, Ali Mohamed Ismail (Imam), Fayed Hassan, Ibrahim Mohamed Ali, Mohamed Al- Sayyadi, Mohammad Hassan, Mohamed Naser, Nasser Abdo Rehman, Saeed Mohamed Aklan Ghaleb, and Yehia Ado Ahmed.

    Last of the Dictionary Men is a Bridge + Tunnel Production.

    1Yemen is often known as ‘dictionary land’ referring to the origins of the Arabic language. 2Diaspora is a term which refers to any people or ethnic population forced to leave their traditional homelands.

    Right image: Youssef Nabil, Last of The Dictionary Men, photographic series, 2008 Left image: The King of South Shields, 2008, dir: Tina Gharavi, Bridge+Tunnel Productions