Offscreen Expeditions

Updated 19 August 2012
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Offscreen Expeditions

In a creative collaboration with Edge of Arabia, eleven young artists between the ages of 16-25 from Saudi Arabia were selected for The Most Competitive Youth award to attend Crossway Foundation’s Offscreen Expedition program in the UK.
The Most Competitive Youth award is an initiative of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to bring Saudi Arabia’s economy to the forefront of competitiveness by engaging youth in Saudi Arabia (Saudi nationals and residents) to improve their communities by teaching skills that inspire creativity and promote innovation.
In 2011, The Crossway Foundation (a London-based charity promoting creative and cultural collaboration between young people in the UK and Saudi Arabia) collaborated with SAGIA on their Arts and Creativity category of the Most Competitive Youth award.
The eleven winners: Salwa Ali, Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali, Nasser Al-Salem, Mohammed Al-Ashoor, Mario El Khoury, Nora AlGosaibi, Nahla Khogeer, Tahani Al-Briki, Ahmed Kurdi, Basmah Felemban and Nouf Alhimiary, were selected amongst an overwhelming number of participating entries in the nationwide creative competition, “Most Competitive Youth,” conducted in December 2011.
The winning artists were awarded with a 16-day sponsored cultural journey last month to the United Kingdom that allowed them the chance to collaborate and work with professional artists, designers, museum curators, social entrepreneurs and filmmakers to develop skills in leadership, communication and creativity.
The artists mainly working in photography, painting and mixed media, toured London and Cornwall to work with leading creative establishments, which included Tate Modern and Tate St. Ives, The British Museum, The Delfina Foundation, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Penguin Books, The Barbara Hepworth Museum, White Cube Gallery and Mile End Community Project.
“The aim of the project is to give young people from the UK and Saudi Arabia the chance to communicate and learn from each other in positive and creative ways,” said Offscreen Expeditions Director Stephen Stapleton.
One of the winning photographer Mario El Khoury said, “This competition was about Haj, a journey to the heart of Islam — Makkah. Being part of the Saudi youth, knowing that I am not Saudi, but born and living among a multicultural and multi-religious environment pushed me toward participating and submitting my material to this competition.”
“And here we are, back, filled with nostalgia but gladly, thankfully and constantly having a different and completely new point of view when it comes to arts in general,” he added.
The tour also entailed engagement in creative workshops like developing the ‘Hash Tag’ project using a variety of media like photography, sculpture and video. The project was based on the exploration of online communications in Saudi Arabia, and how the digital platform is bringing changes in the country that is hugely becoming a social media reliant society at large.
Other highlights included a critical thinking workshop at Tate St. Ives, surfing, hikes along the English coast, and a workshop at The Newlyn Gallery with local students.
The artists were also allowed the chance to display their winning submissions in a special exhibition at the British Museum’s Addis Gallery, alongside the Museum’s star-studded and enormously successful exhibition ‘Haj: Journey to the heart of Islam,’ that was launched early this year.
The end of tour was also marked with another celebratory public exhibition of works that were created during the course of the journey by the selected winners.
Chairman of The Arab British Center remarked,“I have been associated with Saudi Arabia for 24 years, and have never come across this degree of exhilarating work before. I loved the energy and joy of the students, and the chance you have given them to release it. They really give me hope for the future of the Kingdom.”
Salwa Ali, another winning artist from Jeddah, said, “This expedition was planned to enhance my artistic abilities, but it went far beyond that. It has not only given me more confidence as a person, but it has encouraged me to try new things and to constantly look out for new opportunities. Best of all, I have acquired an extended family in the Offscreen Expeditions team.”
The works of the Create and Inspire winners will be on display in The Arab British Center, UK, until Nov. 2012.
You can follow their journey at: www.facebook.com/offscreenexpeditions and www.twitter.com/offscreenexped
Sign up for the Offscreen Expeditions newsletter and watch the films at: www.offscreenexpedition.com
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Email: [email protected]

 


Rarer than a Sumatran rhino: a woman composer

Updated 18 February 2019
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Rarer than a Sumatran rhino: a woman composer

  • “I was the only woman in all my classes in the Conservatoire, and it was fine,” said Pepin, who is now working on her first ballet score in her Paris apartment which doubles as a studio

PARIS: Camille Pepin is part of a very rare breed. She is a female composer.
Women have conquered space, risen in the military ranks, but some professions remain resolutely and bewilderingly masculine.
When Pepin turned up for her first day at the Paris Conservatoire — as usual the only woman in a class of men — an official told her that her name wasn’t on the list.
But when she insisted that she was and that he look again, he cried, “Ah, you’re a woman!“
Camille is also a man’s name in France.
“I would never have thought,” he apologized. “There are so many men...”
With so few female composers in the classical music repertoire, it was an easy mistake to make.
Pepin has never let everyday sexism get her down though, laughing it off like water off a duck’s back.
“One male composer told me I was getting commissions because I was a woman and not too bad looking,” said the 28-year-old, whose first album, “Chamber Music,” is released later this month.
After a concert of one of her more combative pieces, “a man came to tell me my music was ‘very fresh, flowery and sweet’,” she told AFP.
“I am a woman so clearly those three words” apply, she said wryly.
Pepin, whose music recalls both Claude Debussy and American minimalist composers like John Adams, said sometimes the sexist stereotypes which persist in the classical music world are hard to take.

One “old school” music professor insisted she sit on his right at lunch “because that was a woman’s place” and sent her off to make the coffee.
“I was the only woman in all my classes in the Conservatoire, and it was fine,” said Pepin, who is now working on her first ballet score in her Paris apartment which doubles as a studio.
Mostly the young composer, who made her breakthrough with the orchestral piece “Vajrayana” in 2015, said she was treated exactly the same as her male colleagues in classes with French contemporary composers like Guillaume Connesson, Thierry Escaich and Marc-Andre Dalbavie.
Beyond the classroom, however, progress is slow in the conservative world of classical music.
Pepin believes it will take generations for the forgotten work of female composers to get just recognition.
Beyond the casual unthinking sexism, she said the biggest problem for young female composers was “a lack of role models.”
A few woman such as the American composer Meredith Monk, Kaija Saariaho of Finland and Tansy Davies from Britain have managed to break the glass ceiling.

But even Pepin admitted that when she was younger she didn’t know of a single female composer.
“We never studied them,” she said.
Who has ever heard of Helene de Montgeroult (1764-1836), Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) or Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847)?
Fanny was the older sister of the more famous Felix Mendelssohn, with many at the time saying her work was more expressive.
But after she married she was limited to domestic duties and had to content herself with being her brother’s chief editor and muse, which led him to call her his “Minerva” of wisdom.
“Lots of female composers were crushed like Clara Schumann (the wife of Robert Schumann),” despite being one of the most distinguished composers and musicians of the Romantic era, said the pianist Celia Oneto Bensaid, who often performs Pepin’s work.
“You play my music,” Schumann once bluntly told his wife, a star of concert halls across Europe.

Born into a family in the northern French city of Amiens that wasn’t particularly musical, Pepin began to write her own melodies at 13.
But even at the age of five in her ballet class, her eyes were more drawn to the piano.
“I was so fascinated that I would forget to do my exercises,” she said.
Before settling on composing, Pepin thought about being a dancer. “I need to feel the notes physically,” she said.
Her first ballet will be choreographed next year by Sylvain pad for France’s Ballet du Nord.
Finally, she feels she is getting beyond the dreaded question — “But what do you do for a living?” — when she tells people she’s a composer.
“They thought it was just something I did to chill on Sundays,” she laughed.