Ibrahim Nehme, The Outpost
Beirut-based publication The Outpost describes itself as ‘A Magazine of Possibilities’, offering an alternative narrative for the countries and people of the Middle East. Founder Ibrahim Nehme has just published the sixth issue of his magazine, coinciding with a time when there is more need than ever for a positive outlook for this troubled area. We join Ibrahim as he returns home after overseeing the printing of the issue in Berlin. We’re also excited to confirm he’ll be speaking at The Modern Magazine 2015.
Where are you today?
I got back to Beirut last night; I was away for six weeks. I usually start my early morning shift at Dar, a café near my house with a nice garden. I make sure to come as early as possible before the moms and babies start coming and ruining everything. We don’t have an office so I work from cafes mainly. I consider paying for coffee as paying for office rent.
What can you see from the window?
There’s no window, just some plants covering a metallic, noise-absorbing fence, which was erected after the neighbors started complaining about the noise coming out of the café.
Are you a morning or evening person?
I’m both. I tend to be a more pragmatic person in the morning and an inspired one in the evening, so I allocate different tasks for different times of the day, depending on how the sun is setting, how traffic is moving, how the stars are aligning, etc.
Which magazine do you first remember?
National Geographic. My dad used to collect them and had a shelf with a long row of NGs, before he donated them to the local school.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
I picked up Nous magazine few days ago from Do You Read Me?! in Berlin. My heart immediately melted when I saw the cover of their ‘Panic Issue’ and I needn’t really look inside. I bought it on the spot and I’ve been thoroughly impressed since.
What’s your favourite reliable news source this morning?
Why do you publish The Outpost in English and not Arabic?
The reason we decided to start out in English was because we wanted to reach a group of people from the region who consume their media primarily in English. It was also an attempt to reach a global audience in order to break the stereotypes about this region in the West. But it was never either or. We always had a plan for publishing in Arabic; in fact we have just started work on it.
Tell us about your reasons for using the human body as the theme of the new issue.
Because our body is being invaded, violated, intoxicated, and numbed down. There are systematic attempts to crush and numb our body and turn it into a paralyzed, helpless, powerless, and insignificant entity. And if we were to be true agents of change in a region that is in dire need for change, then our body is our foremost instrument. The revolution starts from inside our body.
Your attention to design and visual detail is particularly unique when compared with other activist publications. Why is design so important for you?
This question reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a friend about why is it that whenever the conversation turns left, you expect to hear a lot of references of people being poor and penniless. In other words, why is it that leftists aren’t allowed to enjoy a good meal or wear a good pair of pants? And I feel this question is somehow the same, in the sense of why aren’t activist magazines supposed to look good?
I don’t mean to sound superficial, but at the end of the day we are living in a world where competition for readers’, or more generally audiences’, attentions is so tough, so a story packaged and delivered in a nice way has higher chances of being read or listened to than a story that is not. It’s the same with any other type of communication: people want to surround themselves with good stories, not boring ones. Now of course a story has to be good with or without good design, but good design definitely helps in getting it across!
Can magazines really change things?
Absolutely. Magazines can raise awareness and open people’s eyes to injustices, missed opportunities, hidden histories, etc. They can shift people’s perspectives and help them better understand who they are, to where they belong, and how the future might be looking. They can inspire them to take action and do good. They are also time capsules because they capture the energies and tensions of a particular era and of a specific group of people, and by doing so they are somehow writing history in their own way and on their own terms; this is also important.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
I’m speaking at Behance’s 99U Local conference in Beirut on Wednesday. It’s exciting because after three years of making the magazine and traveling with it around the world, it’s the first time I’ve been invited to speak in our hometown. It’s a sweet and exciting feeling.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
Plugging back to Beirut after six weeks away. So many things to catch up on and so many people to follow up with. I’m still not ready for it.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Trying to figure out what I will be talking about on Wednesday while it’s still calm and silent here, before the macchiato moms and their annoying kids start coming. Why can’t they just stay at home!
Ibrahim Nehme is one of the speakers at The Modern Magazine 2015. Book your ticket now.