Scape Specific

The revelations that the London bombers o last July were, apparently, ‘British’ Muslim young men cast a new and discomfiting spotlight on a new generation of Britain’s ‘Asian’ youth, in particular those with parents from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Already burdened with and suffering from wider societal ignorance, stereotyping and indifference, many younger British Muslim males have, since the bombings, found themselves being treated with (and discussed in terms of) increased suspicion that their Britishness counts for little or nothing, when set alongside the media-generated picture of them as resentful and disaffected fodder, ripe for someone or other mad mullah. This vexing and fractious scenario provides a perhaps unfortunately timely backdrop for the arrival of two new Book Works productions, both published at the end of last year. Sheik ‘n’ Vac by Yara El-sherbini and I’ll get my coatby Usman Saeed and Sukhdev Sandhu.

… Of the two publications, Sheik ‘n’ Vac is by far the most curious. Its handful of jokes and word-plays are, presumably, deliberately chosen for their weakness. For example: ‘What do Islam and Capitalism have in common? A fundamental belief in profits’. Or ‘No wonder they’re terrorists … one of the pillars of their belief is the giving of alms.’ The jokes and word-plays of the publication amount to just about two or three hundred words, though there’s plenty of blank space for these words to float around in. Easy to miss (but evidently important to the publication) are the previously-mentioned seemingly undecipherable stream-of-consciousness text, taking the form of a written monologue running along the foot of each of the publication’s pages. There are, apparently, buried coded messages in this flow of seemingly random sentences and misspelt words. Sheik ‘n’ Vac’s rather steep £5.99 price tag should focus the reader wonderfully, as he or she seeks to uncover these ‘messages…

… Though the tone of I’ll get my coat makes the reader want to open up a couple of veins, the book’s visual elements make it a surprisingly colourful affair. As such, Saeed rescues what might otherwise be an unremittingly forlorn, disconsolate and despondent homage to reality.

The above extracts are from two book reviews by Eddie Chambers titled "Scape Specific". The review appeared in  Art Monthly, London, Number 293, February 2006: 37