US show of Saudi art aims to test perceptions

In this undated photo provided by Arab American National Museum, "Digital Spirituality" by Saudi Arabian artist Amr Alngmah is seen. The piece depicts the cube-shaped Kaaba in the Saudi Arabian city of Makkah, Islam's most sacred site in the middle of a circuit board. (Courtesy of Arab American National Museum via AP)
Updated 16 June 2017
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US show of Saudi art aims to test perceptions

DETROIT: A US exhibition featuring the works of roughly 40 Saudi artists aims to share their expressions, foster conversations and challenge conceptions of life in the Islamic nation.
“Epicenter X: Saudi Contemporary Art” opens July 8 and runs for about three months at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
It will feature photographic and video installations as well as murals exploring themes of urbanization, globalization, religion and the impact of US culture on Saudi society.
It is among the first and largest US shows featuring a group of contemporary Saudi artists, some of whom have had their work exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and elsewhere.
It is also a big score for the Smithsonian-affiliated Arab museum in a Detroit suburb that can lay claim to being the capital of Arab America.
“I think there’s a lot changing in Saudi Arabia right now,” museum Director Devon Akmon said. “What I find really interesting is obviously the role of the artist in society, regardless of where they are. They are chroniclers of our time — they bear witness, they reflect, they speak about contemporary issues. That’s exactly what many of the artists in this show are doing.”
Themes explored in the exhibit include the role of urbanization and changing landscapes in cities and the impact of religion on society. Akmon said many Americans are neither “attuned to” those issues in Saudi Arabia nor aware that artists are “giving voice to these discussions.”
Akmon said he and his colleagues worked closely on the exhibit with the Saudi Arabia-based King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, known as Ithra.
The museum also expressed its desire to display a wide array of artwork representing a diversity of artists, including women.
Among the pieces that will be on display is “Digital Spirituality” by Amr Alngmah. Akmon calls it a commentary on “how technology is becoming a religion in our lives.”
Another artist involved in the exhibition is Ayman Yossri Daydban, who also is the museum’s current artist in residence. He will have three photographic works in the exhibit and will be staging two solo shows. Daydban, whose last name means “watchman” in Arabic, has been encouraged to use the museum’s exhibits and archives and surrounding communities as his “studio,” as he creates or collaborates on numerous multimedia projects.
“I have had many residencies, including in Dubai, Berlin and Paris,” Daydban said with the help of an interpreter. “This is the first time when I feel like I becoming younger, and I find it very refreshing. This residency makes me feel brave to ask questions.”
Akmon said his visit to the Kingdom opened his eyes to the burgeoning, expressive art scene in Jeddah featuring men and women. He hopes that visitors to the exhibit experience that as well.
“It was essentially discovery — getting an introduction to some of the ideas of the Saudi people that was unfiltered, so to speak,” he said. “That’s exactly what people will see when they come to the gallery — a range of ideas and philosophies emerging.”


New Zealanders give up guns after massacre, but some face blowback

A man looks at firearms on display at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 8 min 3 sec ago
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New Zealanders give up guns after massacre, but some face blowback

  • Police said they did not have data available on the number of weapons handed in since Friday
CHRISCHURCH, New Zealand: New Zealanders have begun handing in weapons in response to government appeals following the Christchurch massacre, but the gesture has put some squarely in the social media firing line.
John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton, decided to give his semi-automatic rifle to police after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday plans to tighten gun laws in light of the slaughter Friday of 50 Muslim worshippers.
She also encouraged owners to surrender unnecessary firearms after it emerged that the accused mosque attacker, Australia white nationalist Brenton Tarrant, had legally acquired the guns he used in the rampage.
Hart said it was an easy decision for him to hand in his semi-automatic and tweeted that “on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse. We don’t need these in our country.”
The tweet drew a barrage of derogatory messages to his Facebook account — most apparently from the US, where the pro-gun lobby is powerful and vociferous.
Hart deleted the messages but posted online: “A warm kia ora to all my new American Facebook friends.”
“I’m not familiar with your local customs, but I assume ‘Cuck’ is a traditional greeting,” he said of the insult, short for “cuckold’, frequently used by far-right extremists.
Hart told AFP many of the messages made inaccurate references to his sexuality.
“It was very sudden. It started about the time the US east coast was waking up. There seemed to have been a rallying call,” he said.
A more mild message, from Kaden Heaney asked: “What’s the point of giving up yalls personal guns? Yall do realize what happens to societies that give up their guns right? Evil people will get their hands on guns, knives, bombs or whatever they want to kill no matter what the intentions of good people are. Who will protect you.”
Christopher @offwhiteblogger said: “You did the right thing then; you clearly aren’t responsible enough to own a firearm.”
Police said they did not have data available on the number of weapons handed in since Friday.
But they issued a statement saying that “due to heightened security and the current environment, we would ask that people please call us first before attempting to surrender a firearm.”
A person calling himself Blackstone tweeted: “this is one of the easiest decisions I have ever made. Have owned a firearm for 31 years ... Once I realized that, the only way I could go forward with a clear conscience was to hand it into the police for destruction.”
Ardern has said that details of the government’s proposed law changes on gun ownership will be announced by next week, but she indicated that gun buybacks and a ban on some semi-automatic rifles were under consideration.
“As the Cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear: the terror attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores, it was in fact one of the worst globally in recent times, it has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws,” she said.
New Zealand police, meanwhile, were investigating a suspicious fire at a gun club in the far north of the country, but were not immediately linking it to the current gun debate.
There had also been a fire at the same club a year ago.