Saudi women artists throw light on their work at Jeddah event

Updated 16 September 2015

Saudi women artists throw light on their work at Jeddah event

JEDDAH: More than 30 Jeddah art aficionados and cultural cognoscenti gathered at the US Consulate on Monday for a panel discussion on Saudi women in the arts.
The event was part of the ongoing public affairs series called “Friends of the Arts.”
The work and perspectives of artist/scholar Dr. Lina Kattan, painter/professor Samiah Khashoggi and photographer Suzan Iskandar were presented at the event.
Kattan, a graduate in Islamic Art Education from King Abdul Aziz University and a Ph.D. in Visual and Performance Arts from Texas Tech University, presented selections from her recent projects. Employing a unique approach known as collaborative art, some of Kattan’s works are a fusion of creativity from two or more artists. She also discussed pieces from her recent US exhibition.
Khashoggi, professor of interior design at Dar Al-Hekma College, has degrees from Kingston University and De Montfort University UK. Since 1990, Khashoggi’s life has been divided between her academic profession and an art practice. In 2005, Khashoggi founded Saudiaat, a women artists’ group diverse in their styles and techniques united by their gender and solidarity. She has extensive experience with digital art.
Born in Makkah, the artistic talents of Iskandar were discovered while she was in elementary school. She began her professional career in 2002 as a newspaper photographer covering events and official ceremonies. This past summer she was the featured artist at the Jeddah Festival, with a pavilion exclusively devoted to her images of the Two Holy Mosques and the surrounding region.
Following the formal presentations, the three Saudi artists fielded numerous questions from an inquisitive audience.
Responding to a query on her series of women’s face coverings, Kattan said: “Whenever I do artwork, I like to research the religious documents. I put it as an open statement to the spectators for them to judge for themselves about the idea.
Khashoggi has exhibited in numerous group shows. Her first solo exhibition, “Reflections” was held in 2000 at Al-Alamiya Art Gallery in Jeddah. Her art developed from conventional realism to a more stylized expressionist approach. Describing her recent work, she mentioned the collages as a process of “collecting textures” and incorporating collages. “I prefer that there is a bit of humanity and a bit of a personal touch in everything. The digital world is becoming too flat and too repetitive, computerized, robotic.”
Answering a question from the audience about the dominant, empty areas of her paintings of women in abayas, Khashoggi said: “You give space for the composition to breathe. If I complicate it, it will take away from the structure itself. The presence of ‘the ladies’ has to be the most important thing.”
Iskandar showed her recent book of photos of the Two Holy Mosques. She stated that photograph uses a language that is universally understood. One of her favorite experiences was how the viewing her photographs was a catalyst for a Chinese man convert to Islam. “My photographs convey an unseen message,” she said.


A narrow, airbrushed take on the Syrian war

“Between Two Brothers” screened at the recent Cairo International Film Festival. (Supplied)
Updated 20 January 2020

A narrow, airbrushed take on the Syrian war

  • Syrian auteur Joud Said’s latest feature is based on the Syrian war and its impact on two siblings.

CHENNAI: Syrian auteur Joud Said’s latest feature, “Between Two Brothers” — which screened at the recent Cairo International Film Festival — is based on the Syrian war and its impact on two siblings.

Khaldoun (Mohammad al-Ahmad) and A’rif (Lujain Ismaeel) see their relationship torn apart by the strife in Syria, leading to agonizing days for their childhood sweethearts, twins Nesmeh and Najmeh.

A’rif goes to war, aligning himself with anti-government forces, while Khaldoun, who had been spending time outside his country, returns to mayhem.

The characters see their world turn upside down when A’rif kidnaps several men and women from the village. Nesmeh and Najmeh are part of the hostages and what ensues is a dilemma that sees A’rif turn  violent and vindictive.

Each brother has his own opinion on what is right and what is wrong about the war and this leads to a chasm opening up between them.

The director, who has come under heavy fire in the past for his supposedly pro-government views, is controversial to say the least.

In 2017, Syrian director Samer Ajouri withdrew his entry “The Boy and the Sea”  from the Carthage Film Festival in protest at the selection of Said’s feature, “Rain Of Homs.” Later, in 2018, Egyptian director Kamla Abu-Zikry accused Said of helming films which represented the Assad government’s viewpoint.

Despite the director defending his films in a clutch of newspaper interviews, it should be noted that “Between Two Brothers” was produced by Syria’s National Film Organization.

Said makes a pitiful attempt to teach the audience that each side has its reasons. But it is not hard to see where the tilt lies — we do not see any state security forces and violence erupts solely from the rebels’ ranks. In a way, “Between Two Brothers” airbrushes the destructiveness of war, with blatant symbolism and a couple of comedy scenes further eroding a subject as grim as this.

Yes, there are some visually arresting shots of the countryside captured with articulation and imagination by cinematographer Oukba Ezzeddine and the actors who played both brothers did a fair turn in their roles, but all in all it was far too narrow a representation of war to be effective.