Art of film comes alive in basement of Iraq aficionado

Abdel Qader Al-Ayoubi has scoured Iraq for old films and archive materials. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2018
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Art of film comes alive in basement of Iraq aficionado

  • The cinema experience in the country is now restricted to multi-screen theaters in the shopping malls of Baghdad and the main southern city of Basra
  • Foreign films are also on the program, such as the Spaghetti Westerns whose posters plaster the walls of his small museum that is open to the public on weekends and public holidays

KIRKUK: From black-and-white musicals to action movies, Abdel Qader Al-Ayoubi screens films and exhibits paraphernalia of the art form in his basement in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a cinema-free zone.
Ayoubi has scoured the country to collect 8 mm, 16 mm and 35-mm reels of old films, projectors, screens and archive materials from second-hand dealers, sometimes at exorbitant prices.
In the 1970s, the city of Kirkuk was home to five cinemas: The Khayyam, Hamra, Alamein, Atlas and the Salaheddin, said the educational adviser and longtime movie enthusiast.
The silver screen pulled in audiences in towns across Iraq until 1980 when war broke out with Iran, marking the start of decades of conflict.
It was only in December that Baghdad declared victory after a three-year battle against Daesh.
While the level of violence has declined sharply, the rich cultural life long associated with Iraq has struggled to make a return.
More than a decade of sanctions following Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, as well as long periods of militia and terrorist dominance after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the dictator, ensured an end to the golden age of cinema in Iraq.
The cinema experience in the country is now restricted to multi-screen theaters in the shopping malls of Baghdad and the main southern city of Basra.
In Kirkuk, which is home to Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities, “all the movie theaters have closed, for different reasons but mainly because of security concerns,” said 59-year-old Ayoubi.
Only in the basement of his home can a Kirkuk cinemagoer experience the whir of the film reel and the purring of the projector’s fan.
Ghassan Hawwa, an oil-sector worker who remembers the days of the Atlas and Hamra cinemas, is a regular in the audience on leatherette seats at the weekly rendezvous in the basement.
“Today, everybody watches DVDs or goes on the Internet,” sighed Hawwa, who along with a cluster of co-enthusiasts aim to bring cinema back to life in Kirkuk.
Action and horror flicks are a hit at Ayoubi’s cinema but his personal favorites are Arabic movies, the musical comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, and the good old-fashioned love stories.
Foreign films are also on the program, such as the Spaghetti Westerns whose posters plaster the walls of his small museum that is open to the public on weekends and public holidays.
Ayoubi guides visitors around his museum, giving the history of the reels, projectors and other cinema paraphernalia to a new generation “who know nothing of the cinema world of old.”


Art Dubai, where anything goes, gets off to a colorful start

The fair’s 13th edition runs from March 20-23 and features 92 Contemporary and Modern galleries from 42 countries. (Arab News)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Art Dubai, where anything goes, gets off to a colorful start

DUBAI: Art Dubai, the largest art fair in the Middle East, got off to a colorful start on Wednesday and more than 92 galleries showcased their chosen artists in the city’s Madinat Jumeriah.

The fair’s 13th edition runs from March 20-23 and features 92 Contemporary and Modern galleries from 42 countries, as well as a bevy of galleries from the UAE.  There are also a number of events going on around the city, as part of Art Week, including Art Nights at the Dubai International Financial Center, which took place on Tuesday. 

You can read more about Art Nights, and see the wild and wonderful art on show, here

Highlights include new gallery section Bawwaba, showcasing art from the Global South; UAE NOW - the first section of its kind - spotlighting local independent artist-run platforms and subcultures, their place in the UAE’s evolving landscape and contribution to creating new ways of thinking, theory and artistic movements and the Contemporary section — two gallery halls presenting work from 59 galleries from 34 countries by some of the most notable contemporary artists working today. It will make you smile, smirk and everything  in-between.

Art Dubai 2019 welcomes more than 500 artists representing 80 nationalities across its four gallery sections: Art Dubai Contemporary, Art Dubai Modern, Bawwaba and Residents.

We take a look at six of our favorite artists and pieces here.

The diversity on show is notable, with galleries from Latin America placed next to booths from Beirut, Saudi Arabia and London.

Pablo del Val, Artistic Director of Art Dubai, said: “Art Dubai continues to develop original content to redefine what an art fair can be and contribute to the UAE and wider region’s cultural landscape. We represent an art world that is truly global and inclusive, rooted in artistic discovery and the promotion of new and alternative perspectives, community building, idea generation and cultural exchange. Geographies, galleries and artists, art typologies and thematics that are not often seen side-by-side, or even as part of the same conversation, will converge at the fair. We hope that new discoveries will be made and new synergies formed.”

It’s a melting pot of artistic expression and media, with sculptures, canvases and the odd video installation vying for space in the crowded halls.

There is a distinct focus on contemporary art, so if you’re into museum-worthy paintings, this may not be your cup of tea, but if you are willing to experiment, it’s the perfect spot to question the boundaries of art.

Battery-operated imaginary animals careened across the floor in one booth, while a fine spider’s web of black string formed an origami-like sculpture in another — anything goes at Art Dubai, as long as it’s not too risqué.

But, why tell you when we can show you? Scroll through the photo gallery to find out more about the art on show here.