Puzzle over African coins reveals Aboriginal rock art

Puzzle over African coins reveals Aboriginal rock art
Updated 01 October 2013

Puzzle over African coins reveals Aboriginal rock art

Puzzle over African coins reveals Aboriginal rock art

SYDNEY, Australia: Solving the mystery of how 900-year-old African coins ended up in remote Australia could not only recast the history of foreign contact Down Under, but shed light on Aboriginal rock art.
How the ancient Kilwa coins, believed to date from about 1100, came to be discovered on the Wessels Islands off the Northern Territory in 1944 has long posed questions about foreign visits to far off Australian shores.
Australian Ian McIntosh, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University in the United States, said rock art found on the islands — which includes one image which appears to show a type of European sailing vessel — could hold some clues.
“A big part of the next stage will be documenting, dating and interpreting (the art), together with indigenous peoples,” McIntosh told AFP from his home in Indiana.
The Kilwa coins were discovered lying in the sand by Royal Australian Air Force radar operator Maurie Isenberg during World War II when he was stationed on the island as the Pacific conflict raged.
He found nine coins in all, five African copper pieces and four Dutch coins of European origin which are not nearly as old.
Isenberg initially tried to sell the coins but was unsuccessful. He put them away for decades and it wasn’t until 1979 that he sent them to a museum for identification, along with a map showing where he had found them.
McIntosh said there were several theories on the coins, including that they were washed ashore after a shipwreck.
European sailors are known to have sailed the coast of Australia in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until captain James Cook landed in Sydney’s Botany Bay in 1770 that the British laid claim to the country.
The coins — believed to have originated in the medieval sultanate of Kilwa, an area which is now in Tanzania — have led to speculation that parts of northern Australia were visited by other mariners from as far away as the Middle East and Africa.
As McIntosh wrote in a recent paper for the journal “Australian Folklore,” in terms of the chain of events in the discovery, “the argument for the involvement of Kilwa traders and also the Portuguese is quite compelling.”
He notes the sea route from Kilwa in east Africa to Oman and then onto India, Malaysia and Australia’s close neighbor Indonesia was well established by the 1500s and probably for many hundreds of years before that.
McIntosh said a number of his team felt the coins had simply been washed ashore but admitted “we’re still toying with a whole bunch of ideas here.”
The academic says one explanation could be that a known Indonesian, a shipwreck survivor who lived his life on the Wessels Islands, could have brought the coins to the area. The coins, he speculates, may have represented this man’s “worldly wealth.”
McIntosh said an expedition he led in July to the site where the coins were discovered, which involved an intensive search in the harsh terrain, had not uncovered any further coins.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve developed a whole series of hypotheses to explain how those coins might have got from East Africa to northern Australia,” he said.
“The whole point of this initial site survey was to try and get enough evidence to push us in particular directions.”
What the researchers did uncover was the Aboriginal rock art and some potential evidence of shipwrecks — a not unlikely proposition given the dangerous reefs off the islands — in the form of a six-foot piece of timber from a boat.
McIntosh said the scientists would work with indigenous people to look at the art and see whether it matches any known ship types, adding that there were multiple stories of interaction in the past with “different people — black and white from somewhere else, not Aboriginal.”
For now the mystery remains.
“These coins probably remained in circulation for a couple of hundred years but only in the vicinity of East Africa, beyond that they didn’t have value,” McIntosh said, adding that other coins of this type had only been found in Zimbabwe and Oman.
“Nowhere else in the world have they been found, except for northern Australia,” said McIntosh. “Very unusual. That’s had everybody puzzled.”


Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations

Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations
Updated 10 May 2021

Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations

Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations

DUBAI: Lebanese artist Nourie Flayan is collaborating with US luxury fashion house Carolina Herrera on a set of Eid Al-Fitr illustrations. 

In celebration of the holiday, the brand is releasing a series of illustrations aiming to bring “together friends and families after Ramadan and highlight the strong family values that are at the core of the Carolina Herrera brand heritage,” according to a released statement. 

The artist also used the jasmine flower, which is a tribute to the iconic flower Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera seeks inspiration from. (Supplied)

The illustrations that Flayan created for Carolina Herrera evoke a modern festive atmosphere, which fits both Ramadan and Eid, featuring traditional prints such as the Mashrabiya, an architectural element that is a characteristic of traditional architecture in the Islamic world. 

The artist also used the jasmine flower, which is a tribute to the iconic flower Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera seeks inspiration from — the imperial jasmine.

Many of her illustrations feature multiple hands. (Supplied)

Flayhan is a well-known advocate of women’s rights.

She often draws colorful sketches of women in the region and many of her illustrations feature multiple hands or eyes.

She often draws colorful sketches of women in the region. (Supplied)

Flayhan studied textiles in university before delving into illustration. During her career she has collaborated with international brands such as Shopbop, Gucci, Loewe, Yoox and Selfridges. This is her first collaboration with Carolina Herrera.


Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 

Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 
Updated 10 May 2021

Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 

Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 

LOS ANGELES: Twenty years after the first film premiered, “Fast and Furious 9” is finally coming out in theaters — and fans of the high-octane franchise can expect the usual high-speed thrills, lead star Vin Diesel told Arab News.

The release of the newest installment of the film series was delayed five times, at first to avoid competing with other films and later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we were filming in London in 2019, we had no idea (of) the year that was to come,” Diesel told Arab News. “We had no idea that we would be all isolated from one another. We had no idea how much we missed a movie like this that brings people together, that we can all look up on the screen and see a part of ourselves on the screen as a part of a global family.”

“Fast and Furious 9” sees criminal-turned-hero Dominic Toretto take a break from the fast lane as he cares for his young son. But action speeds back into his life with the return of his long-forgotten brother, a skilled assassin who is out for revenge.

“We’ve grown accustomed to accepting the fact that family and brotherhood is everything for Dom,” Diesel explained. “His mantra is ‘never turn your back on family’ and yet when he becomes a father, he has to take a closer look into his past, to a broken brotherhood.”

Wrestler John Cena joins the cast as the film’s chief antagonist, Jakob Toretto, while Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren will reprise their roles from the 2017 and 2019 films, respectively.  

They are joined by franchise mainstays Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang and Tyrese Gibson. 

The series is set to end after two more movies, but the producers are planning something that could be exciting for fans in the Middle East.

“All last week, I was working with (director) Justin Lin about ‘Fast 10’ and the Middle East, the return to the Middle East, came up in our discussions,” Diesel hinted.

Lin elaborated, saying: “The Middle East has some of the most loyal and amazing fans so that kind of started us talking about, in this final chapter if we’re looking for to reengage, where do we want to take the story? So, there’s a lot of talk and it was very organic and I’m very excited.”


Saudi actress Sumaya Rida personifies the zeitgeist of an era of change in the Kingdom

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Josselyn Ramirez)
One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Josselyn Ramirez)
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi actress Sumaya Rida personifies the zeitgeist of an era of change in the Kingdom

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Josselyn Ramirez)
  • Sumaya Rida is a rising star of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling domestic film industry, empowered by the Vision 2030 agenda  
  • Rida wants more investment in Saudi writers, producers and directors who can share the Kingdom’s stories with the world

DUBAI: Cinema returned to Saudi Arabia just three years ago, when a 35-year ban was finally lifted. Since then, movie theaters have been springing up across the Kingdom, invigorating the domestic film industry and inspiring a growing cast of homegrown actors.

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em” — among the first films to premiere in the Kingdom after legalization.

From early childhood, when she began performing in school plays, Rida knew what was her true calling. “I also used to make short films with my little sisters and brothers using my father’s Sony camera,” Rida told Arab News.

“I actually acted and directed short films when I was 12 years old. I loved how the whole family would gather to watch what I made, and to me it meant the whole world at that time, and filled me with passion.”

Saudi-born actress Sumaya Rida moved to the UK as a teenager to attend the King Fahad Academy, an elite independent school in the London borough of Ealing. (Josselyn Ramirez)

The Saudi-born actress moved to the UK as a teenager to attend the King Fahad Academy, an elite independent school in the London borough of Ealing. Even while completing an MSc in international marketing management at the University of Surrey, Rida kept up acting on the side, appearing in several commercials.

Following her studies, she spent five years in the world of business, but all the while felt a profound longing for the stage and screen. It took a chance encounter to set her on the right track.

“After working so much in the ruthless business world, I stumbled one day on Ali Al-Sumayin, a well-known, award-winning Saudi film and commercial director, who led me to the world of performing again,” Rida said.

While visiting Al-Sumayin at his office in Jeddah in 2017, Rida took part in an acting class. The familiar adrenaline rush of performing before an audience quickly came flooding back.

“I can’t describe the feeling,” she said. “I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach that day and I had this nostalgic feeling.”

Soon enough, Rida had recorded an audition and landed her first role. To prepare, she signed up for an intensive four-month acting course and one-to-one coaching with respected Turkish instructors, as advanced acting courses were not yet available in Saudi Arabia.

“In the Kingdom, we didn’t have any institutions for acting or performance training, so I had to do it the fast way,” Rida said.

“Every actor should have mentors, because they always direct you and show you different perspectives.”

From early childhood, when she began performing in school plays, Rida knew that acting was her true calling. (Josselyn Ramirez)

Today, Rida performs in both English and Arabic. For one show she had to master the bedouin accent. “It was a bit challenging in the beginning, but it was fun,” she said.

Her latest project is a movie called “Rupture,” a Saudi-made psychological thriller directed by Hamzah Kamal Jamjoom, produced by Ayman Kamal Khoja and funded by MBC Studios.

Playing the lead, Rida portrays the journey of a Saudi woman struggling to save her marriage, and ultimately her life, from a villain with a twisted mind.

“I played against Billy Zane from ‘Titanic’ who is both a wonderful human being and a tremendously talented actor,” she said.

“The movie intelligently incorporated a few powerful themes in its thrilling narrative. One of these was about standing up for your own cultural values, even when relocating to another country.

“Another was about the importance of privacy and the dangers of oversharing on social media, and the third was about the concept of striking a balance between co-dependency and individual freedom in a marriage.”

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For Rida, the most important part of the project was having the opportunity to play a strong, independent Muslim woman, standing up for herself, her family and her beliefs.

“It is honestly an honor and a rare opportunity to work with such gifted Saudi filmmakers and producers on this project,” she said.

“I’ve enjoyed Hamzah’s direction. His positive energy and passion were infectious. We will hopefully finish filming after Ramadan. I can’t wait to share this film. I’m excited because it’s one of the very few Saudi feature films that recognizes the struggles of Saudi women.”

The strict social codes and gender segregation of a much more conservative era meant that Saudi actresses were rare when Rida was growing up. Support from her family has been crucial, but so has been the opening up of Saudi society.

“The timing was very good because I started when Vision 2030 was taking place and I was going with it,” Rida said.

Under the Vision 2030 plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil, the Kingdom has placed greater emphasis on the arts, opportunities for young people and the social and economic empowerment of women.

Saudi Arabia has placed greater emphasis on the arts and opportunities for young people, and lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas in the Kingom three years ago. (AFP/File Photo)

As a result, Saudi women are finding their voices and discovering their strengths — a journey Rida says she found key to becoming a professional actress.

“This helped me to understand myself. I wanted to tell stories. We have a lot of stories here in Saudi Arabia, and I wanted to feel, to be able to emote, to risk and share, and to be courageous and vulnerable as an artist. This is very fulfilling.

“The real fulfilment also lies in overcoming all the limitations that have been placed on humanity.

“I discovered that performing is a very fun thing. It’s very nurturing, fulfilling and it feeds the soul and your inner self.”

As an artist, Rida is still on a journey of self-discovery and building her confidence on camera. She hopes to try new characters, to help her develop “naturally and sincerely, because acting is a continuous process — we keep learning and evolving constantly.”

As for her country, Rida says she is thrilled to see so many changes taking place and to be part of a new wave of young actors and filmmakers shaking up the Saudi film industry. “This makes me very happy and optimistic,” she said, but acknowledges there is still a long way to go.

As investment into nurturing talent in the Kingdom grows under Vision 2030, Sumaya Rida believes the future of Saudi filmmaking is a bright one. (AFP/File Photo)

“I see very passionate actors every now and then, but I really believe that we need to work on ourselves more than we think. It’s not just getting a degree in performing or acting and that’s it — it’s a continuous process.”

Rida also hopes to see more young Saudis coming forward to share their stories with the world. “We need to not only invest in actors but invest more in writers, producers and directors, because it’s not the job of one person alone,” she said.

“Acting is not only the actor you see on the screen. Behind that there is a huge production.”

Without investment, training and opportunities, this potential cannot be mastered. The raw ingredient, nevertheless, is talent — of which the new Saudi Arabia has in abundance.

“It’s unlimited,” said Rida. “It’s infinite and it keeps evolving.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Screenwriter Mariam Naoum works with acclaimed Irish filmmaker on Egyptian serial killer show

Screenwriter Mariam Naoum works with acclaimed Irish filmmaker on Egyptian serial killer show
Updated 08 May 2021

Screenwriter Mariam Naoum works with acclaimed Irish filmmaker on Egyptian serial killer show

Screenwriter Mariam Naoum works with acclaimed Irish filmmaker on Egyptian serial killer show
  • The acclaimed Egyptian screenwriter on her controversial career and her latest project about a pair of serial-killer sisters in early 20th-century Alexandria

DUBAI: Egyptian screenwriter Mariam Naoum has been sued three times for the films she has made. For her, that’s not a sore spot — it’s a badge of honor.

“It makes me stronger, actually,” she tells Arab News. “I don’t think, ‘Oh, I got sued. I have to be more careful.’ I think, ‘OK. I got sued. I must have tackled something that is bothering people. I must have embarrassed someone who needed to get embarrassed.’”

Now, Naoum is working with acclaimed Irish filmmaker Terry George on a new true-crime series about twin serial killers in Egypt. George, an award-winning writer and director, has worked on such iconic films as “In the Name of the Father” (1993), “The Boxer” (1997), and “Hotel Rwanda” (2004).

The endeavor will see Naoum tackle one of Egypt’s most famous real-life stories — that of Raya and Sakina, the serial-killer sisters who wreaked havoc on Alexandria in the early 1900s.

Naoum remains one of Egypt’s preeminent firebrand writers. (Supplied)

It’s a story that has been told many times in many different ways in Egypt, but two things will distinguish Naoum’s upcoming adaptation. First and foremost, it will be made not just for an Egyptian audience, but a global one, with a planned rollout on international streaming platforms.

The screenwriter is no stranger to the scene, in fact It’s been more than 10 years since Naoum first turned industry heads with “One-Zero,” and she remains one of Egypt’s preeminent firebrand writers, one whose work enjoys critical acclaim and enduring popularity by focusing on issues facing everyday people, especially women.

Naoum, however, doesn’t push hot-button issues in her work in order to draw controversy. She does so to embolden those without a voice, and hopefully lay the groundwork for change. When “One-Zero” came out in 2009, Naoum was initially taken back by the lawsuit she was hit with for the film, but quickly realized that it was not a sign that she had failed at her mission.

“When I got sued, I was really shaking at first, but then I discovered that very few were actually against it. I actually reached people as I wanted, and they understood what I was talking about. A lot of people were supporting me. Then, at the box office, ‘One-Zero’ did very, very well. People really loved it because it was talking about them. So I said, ‘OK, I will follow my instinct. I will always have people that are against me, but I will put it behind my back,’” says Naoum.

While Naoum hasn’t been sued in six years, she doesn’t see this as a sign that her work has mellowed. If anything, she says, Egypt has begun to get used to her way of storytelling, and trust her voice and compassion for everyday people.

Her work, including 2019’s “Between Two Seas,” is written as accessibly as possible, in part to bridge the divide in prosperity and eductation between Egypt’s social classes. (Supplied)

In one particular controversy in 2015 for her TV series “Under Control,” Naoum tackled substance abuse, something that was initially misunderstood by some viewers as an endorsement rather than a condemnation. As the series went on, however, the feedback began to change.

“And at the end, they were, like, thanking me because I made them think about this issue that people don't want to think about. Because of social standards in Egypt, people are really in total denial about what's happening to their kids. Something may be in the street, but it's in your house, but you don't know about it because you're putting your head in the sand. I had to fight these preconceptions and, in the end, I succeeded.”

Since Naoum is primarily focused on the issues that plague her society rather than pointing blame at anyone in particular, she often garners criticism from multiple sides, because everyone — from conservative to liberal — has truths they don’t want to face about themselves.

“Our society is very rich with characters and stories,” Naoum says. “And it is very controversial to dive into the fact that we have a lot of double standards in our society. So you have very traditional people that are doing things that we cannot imagine they would do, and you have people who you think are very liberal, but there are still very harmful or backward ideas inside their heads. We have all these differences and contradictions, but that gives us richness as characters. Even though it might be negative, it is richness nonetheless.”

Terry George is the award-winning writer and director who has worked on such classic films as “In the Name of the Father” (1993), “The Boxer” (1997), and “Hotel Rwanda” (2004). (AFP)

First and foremost though, Naoum writes with everyday people in mind, not only as her subjects but as her audience. Her work, including “Under Control” and 2019’s “Between Two Seas,” is written as accessibly as possible, in part to bridge the divide in prosperity and eductation between Egypt’s social classes.

“I want to help less-educated people feel that they, too, are part of society — that they are heard, that they are seen, and that we feel what they feel,” says Naoum.

If Naoum has evolved as a writer, it is in showing more compassion to her characters, especially the men.

“I think, with experience and maturity, I learned how not to pass judgment on characters,” she says. “Instead of hitting my head against a topic, I learned how to maneuver, without losing what I want to say or the stories I want to tell.”

To create something that can be watched by audiences across the world, Naoum is collaborating with George who has spent his entire career unafraid to talk about hot-button topics.

Understanding the layers to Raya and Sakina’s story has been another development of her own maturity. (Supplied)

“I started writing a Raya and Sakina story maybe three years ago, but then dropped it. Then this year I was contacted to co-write with Terry on the project. The universe seemed to make everything fall into place. When I spoke to Terry, I saw he had this new vision about how the story could be told, and I have been working with him to tackle it from different angles to add more layers to the subject than has been done before,” says Naoum.

Understanding the layers to Raya and Sakina’s story has been another development of her own maturity, as she understands that even those painted as evil by society actually have a more nuanced story that demands to be told.

“Once you have the experience, then you can you can dig in depth into all the components of these characters, and you can find a way to even look at these characters through a feminist lens. When I was young, it was a story about serial killers. Then when you have a deeper look, you start to see how they developed into what they became. No one is born as a killer. There was a journey that led to these murders. We are working on understanding what happened, and how Raya and Sakina became killers,” she explains.

For once, however, Naoum will be making something not just to hold a mirror back up to her own society. With “The Alexandria Killings,” as the show will be called, in what is planned to be a true-crime anthology series produced by Dubai-based company Yalla Yalla, she will have the opportunity to speak to the world about her home country.

“I will be working with Terry to help figure out what those misconceptions even are. And if foreigners are seeing us a certain way, maybe we can change this a bit. This is such a new experience for me. I'm looking forward for it,” she says. “It’s a huge challenge, but I think it's finally time to do it.”


THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss
Updated 07 May 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss
  • The Saudi painter, who made his debut at Art Dubai this year, discusses his artwork ‘Bright Pink Chasing The Blue Line’

DUBAI: This piece is so personal. It means a lot to me. I painted it recently, after my brother-in-law passed away. I usually treat art as therapy. The reason why I paint is to release this hidden energy within the soul  — the chaos within me. It’s a way of letting go of certain memories.

‘Bright Pink Chasing The Blue Line,’ Nasser Almulhim, 2021. (Supplied)

The first thing I did was to stretch a large canvas. I wanted to represent the beautiful memories between me and my brother-in-law and reflect what I’ve learned from his wisdom, brightness, and the love that he showed to his family. I even asked my young nephew Aziz to help me with this painting and to add his touches to the canvas to honor his father. There are flowers on the right side with funny childish colors. It was my nephew who painted them.

A lot of my paintings are pure abstract. I got influenced studying abroad in the United States, specifically by the New York school from back in the Sixties and Seventies — artists like Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell. Recently, I’ve been trying to add a sense of life to my painting through items that I see at my house, my mother’s and my grandmother’s house. It’s nostalgic, bringing certain memories into the present moment. I wanted to make it as happy as I could by using bright colors that represent my inner soul.

Almulhim said the reason why he gives random titles to his paintings is because he wants the audience to question and react. (Supplied)

My brother-in-law, who lived in London, was into nature, health, antiques and vintage stuff. So that’s why I added a watermelon and vases. It adds part of his soul to this painting. I study the painting before I paint, but for this work, it felt more real; organic and raw. When I finished it, I felt alive.

The reason why I give random titles to my paintings is because I want the audience to question and react. When I finished the painting, I saw that most of the colors were pink, and I saw this blue line in the corner. I wanted to relate my soul and my brother-in-law’s soul. It’s like I’m chasing his brightness, his soul, to catch it if I can.