Focus on sustainability at fifth Saudi Design Week in Riyadh

Over 40 participants are exhibiting and holding discussions about sustainability in design at Saudi Design Week in Riyadh. (AN photo by Bashir Saleh)
Updated 06 October 2018

Focus on sustainability at fifth Saudi Design Week in Riyadh

  • The fifth Saudi Design Week was launched at the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue
  • Designers invited to research how to produce their work in an environmentally friendly way

RIYADH: The fifth Saudi Design Week was launched at the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue on Oct. 3 and runs until Oct. 7.

The theme of sustainability in design is taken up through a series of lectures, workshops and exhibitions. Designers have been invited to research how to produce their work in an environmentally friendly way.

Local and international intellectuals were invited to join the conversation about sustainable design models. More than 40 participants are exhibiting and holding discussions about sustainability in design in a forum that promises to foster dialogue and a creative exchange of views and experiences.

Designers who are exhibiting their work include Innovate, Funoon Alturath, Aj Jewelry, Khashaba and Mode. 


Desert Designs: When old becomes new

Raneen Bukhari, the manager of Desert Designs, told Arab News about the family business: “It’s focused on giving value to heritage from the region so that we make sure nothing gets thrown away.” 

Desert Designs collects items that people no longer use and works with the client to reinvent the piece in a way that is meaningful so that they will want to keep the piece as art in their homes.

Bukhari added: “Our whole collection this year is basically about how we can work with old pieces that you own in your house and create them into beautiful new pieces of art. An artwork that you can see and admire every day.”

Her parents founded Desert Designs Art Gallery in Alkhobar. At the gallery there is a display of work by regional designers, an art gallery, an interior design department and a coffee shop. 


Geometry+Urban Affairs: Jewelry from industrial wastelands

Geometry + Urban Affairs took up this year’s theme of sustainability, making jewelry out of objects collected from industrial waste lands.

Thahab Osaimi, who owns the brand with Musab Abu Alhaija, said: “Our jewelry, especially our rings, are designed on geometric principles, through drawing geometrical shapes. We then create the shapes that we want to use in our work.

“I like jewelry and wear a lot of rings. I thought I could create something that is based on principles that I really know much about. People usually say science and art are not the same, however, I believe that they are quite similar, where one completes the other,” she said.  


Sibyl Design Studio: Multiple personalities blend in design studio

Rahaf Al-Muzaini and her partner Meaad Hanafi are the founders of Sibyl Design Studio. Their booth showcases furniture fashioned from recycled material.

When asked about the name of the studio, Rahaf said: “We named our company after a movie character who was strong, has multiple personalities and knows how to do everything in totally deferent ways. (The 2007 film “Sybil,” starring US actress Jessica Lange, tells the story of a woman diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.) So that character represents us as designers since each one of us has her own unique style and is good at something; therefore, we complement each other.”

The King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is the strategic partner of Saudi Design Week 2018.

The event also collaborated with the British Council, the Embassy of France and the Hungarian Embassy to produce a program to highlight the importance of good design.

Amir Ramzan, British Council country director, Saudi Arabia, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Saudi Design Week 2018 and to enable young Saudi designers to gain access to the UK’s design and creativity through a series of workshops and talks facilitated by a group of inspiring designers from the UK’s Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). For us, the arts represent a cornerstone of our mission to build greater trust and understanding between people in the UK and countries around the world.

“As such, we’re always looking for opportunities to find new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through the arts.”

90-year anniversary: How the Arab world came to know Tintin and Popeye

Updated 18 January 2019

90-year anniversary: How the Arab world came to know Tintin and Popeye

  • Middle Eastern fans fondly look back at two comic icons who share a birthday this year, although they’re not without controversy
  • An Egyptian publisher printed Tintin in Arabic, while Popeye was broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 and Spacetoon

Popeye, the scruffy sailor who remains one of the most loveable characters of all time, has been a popular fixture in Middle Eastern pop culture since the early 1980s. In addition to mountains of merchandise, particularly stuffed toys, being available in local shops, the cartoons were broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 (in their original English) and on Spacetoon (with Arabic dubbing). 
“I remember the first time I watched Popeye,” Zainab Basrawi, a 36-year-old insurance lawyer and self-professed Popeye enthusiast, told Arab News. “I learned to love spinach just from watching him save Olive every time. I believed him. I think he was a great influence on children to subtly ease them into eating their greens.”
Just one week after Tintin first appeared in “Le Petit Vingtieme,” Popeye made his debut on Jan. 17, 1929 as a side character in the daily King Features comic strip “Thimble Theatre.”
Created by the American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar, the one-eyed sailor with bulging forearms quickly grew in popularity, becoming the star of his own strip, an animated TV cartoon and a 1980 movie starring
Robin Williams. The theme song from the cartoon, “I’m Popeye the Sailorman,” is one of the most recognized pieces of music in pop culture history.
Compared to boyish, clean-cut, good- natured Tintin, Popeye is his polar opposite.
The sailor is rough, gruff and extremely tough, famous for the super-strength he gets from eating canned spinach, and his never-ending love triangle with his girlfriend Olive Oyl and rival Bluto.
Like Tintin, as a relic from another era, Popeye has also been criticized for racial stereotypes. In “Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves,” he is shown beating up poorly made caricatures of Arab men. In “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap,” the Japanese characters in the cartoon get the same treatment.
However, literary critic Sophie Cline said the comic strip is reflective of the time it was created in, almost a century ago. “I think it’s important not to ignore these pieces of our history, or hide them away, but rather to own up to our mistakes and learn from them,” she told Arab News.
She alluded to the new disclaimer that now precedes old Looney Tunes cartoons, informing viewers that their outdated “racial prejudices” no longer reflect Warner Bros. values but are “products of their time.”
“Popeye cartoons reflect the common view of the era,” she said. “A disclaimer should be enough.”

Tintin, one of the world’s most famous fictional journalists, traveled the world seeking stories and adventure, so he naturally spent a good amount of time in the Middle East.
Created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, better known by his pseudonym Herge (say his initials in reverse out loud in a French accent), Tintin travels the region in four of his books: “Cigars of the Pharaoh,” “The Crab with the Golden Claws,” “Land of Black Gold” and “The Red Sea Sharks.”
Tintin gained more of a foothold in the region when Egyptian publisher Dar Al-Maarif began printing the comics in Arabic in 1971. Renaming him “Tantan,” Dar Al-Maarif continued to publish the comics weekly
until 1980.
“Tintin has been one of my idols for as long as I can remember,” said Haytham Faisal, a journalist from Cairo. “I literally became a journalist because I wanted to be him. My dad used to take me to buy the comics from the local bookstore. I remember them being so expensive, so they were a rare treat. I’d always think twice before buying them, but I couldn’t always wait for the next comic to see what new story they have next. I still have some of them, they were that precious to me.”
Before appearing in book format, Tintin and his constant companion, the dog Snowy, were first introduced to audiences in “Le Petit Vingtieme,” or “The Little Twentieth,” a supplement to the Belgian newspaper “Le Vingtieme Siecle” (The Twentieth Century) on Jan. 4, 1929. Herge, however, maintained that Tintin was actually “born” on Jan. 10, when “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” began its serialization in the paper.
Despite the fact that he never seems to hand in any stories, the loveable and quirky Tintin is portrayed as talented at his profession, so much so that he is shown to be in high demand, with many press agencies offering him bribes for his dispatches.
Over the years, Tintin’s face has been used to advertise quintessentially French items such as Citroen cars and La Vache Qui Rit cheese. Enthusiasts of Tintin lore, known as Tintinolo- gists, have written entire books devoted to him.
Since 1929, more than 250 million copies of the Tintin comic books have been sold. His adventures have been translated in more than 110 languages, and the books are sold in almost every country in the world.
Tintin continues to grow in popularity, even 90 years on. He was the star of a full-length feature film, directed by Steven Spielberg, in 2011 and of an animated television series. The latter was broadcast on Saudi Channel 2 between 1991 and 1992 and a dubbed version has been on MBC 3 since 2003.
However, the history of Tintin has not been without its hiccups. Over the years, critics have argued that, like many of the comics of the era, it should undergo censorship or even outright banning from bookstores and libraries. One of the more troublesome ones is his second adventure, “Tintin in the Congo.”
The natives Tintin visits are crude stereo- types of African people, who are portrayed as ignorant and uneducated, and the references to slavery, such as when the natives refer to Tintin as “master,” make the comics hard to stomach.
Similarly, “Land of Black Gold,” which takes place in a fictional Red Sea state named Khemed, is also banned in several Middle Eastern countries today for its stereotypical portrayal of Arabs.
While some argue the comics are simply byproducts of their era, they are nonetheless somewhat difficult to revisit in the modern era. Attempts have been made to soften some of the references, with edits being made to “Tintin in the Congo” in 1975, but is that enough?
Not according to the London-based human rights lawyer David Enright, who wrote in the Guardian newspaper that “Tintin in the Congo” shouldn’t be sold to children. “Books are precious, but so are the minds of young children. It is vital that our children learn and explore the grotesque history of slavery, racism and anti-Semitism, but in the proper context of the school curriculum.”