Kuwaiti artist draws analogy between oil and pearls

Kuwaiti artist draws analogy between oil and pearls
Monira Al-Qadiri
Updated 10 February 2017

Kuwaiti artist draws analogy between oil and pearls

Kuwaiti artist draws analogy between oil and pearls

Oil and pearls are not a usual combination in the world of art, but in Monira Al-Qadiri’s art project “Spectrum I,” currently showcased at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery until April, a link is drawn between the two precious materials produced in the Gulf.

Her solo exhibition is demonstrated with four other artists from the Gulf who participated with their contemporary artwork under the theme “And Along Came Polyester,” organized by the 21,39 initiative.

Al-Qadiri is an Amsterdam-based Kuwaiti artist, born in Senegal and educated in Japan for 10 years.

She did her Bachelors and Masters, and received a Ph.D. in inter-media art, from Tokyo University of Arts.

Her research focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices.

Her international experience influenced her understanding of art and enriched her creativity. She is currently doing a two-year artist residency at The Rijksakademie in the Dutch capital until 2018.

“My work in this exhibition is a new body of work... It’s an idea I started in late 2014,” Al-Qadiri said. “I made a public sculpture of a giant oil drill, which was commissioned, in Dubai. I was thinking of public monuments in the Gulf. They’re always a camel or pearl-diving boat and things like that.”

The artist, born in 1983, told Arab News that her generation, which was affected by the oil boom, is underrepresented in art.

“We don’t know anything about the oil industry, even though it has affected our lives so much,” she said. “I feel like it’s in my blood. It’s kind of this mysterious thing in the background. We should formalize it, create monuments of it, and remember and think about it.”

Al-Qadiri’s grandfather was a singer on a pearl-diving boat who she has never met or known anything about.

“His life feels like some sort of a fiction. It’s so detached from our lives in the contemporary Gulf. It feels unreal. So this monument was made in relation to him.”

The oil-drill monument was installed at the Shindagha Heritage Village in Dubai, which is an old port that had pearl-diving boats.

The public sculpture, covered in pearlescent paint, creates what Al-Qadiri said is a “formal relationship between pearls and oil, to create a continuity of history in the Gulf.”

Through her public artwork, she drew an analogy of the connection yet detachment between her generation and that of her grandfather.

“I discovered that they (black pearls and oil) have the same color, but in lighter and darker shades,” she noted. I thought this color could represent the pre- and post-oil (generations) through this color, so the drill is a self-portrait and the boat is my grandfather.

“The funny thing is, when I made this sculpture in late 2014 it was just two weeks before the oil crash, and it hasn’t stopped since. I think the work two years ago and now has a totally different meaning.”

She then developed the idea and produced smaller oil-drill sculptures. Six of those are displayed on the purple wall of her solo space of the exhibition.

“It’s really exciting to be approached to show this work in Saudi Arabia. I thought it’s the most important place where it should be shown.”

She added: “The idea from that work is that I’m imagining it from a futuristic perspective. So when oil is finished or when it’s worthless in the future, which will happen eventually like it happened to coal before, there’s going to be a new technology that will take over from this industry.

“We should have to try to think about it like it’s something from the past. So people in the future can look back at these objects that they don’t know what they were for, in their beautiful shapes and colors. Maybe they’ll think they were things used in some kind of a ritual or an archaeological artefact. So I’m trying to force people to think about the future.”

Most of the work was accomplished in Amsterdam, where she also worked on carving a real pearl into the shape of a drill.

“A pearl, like oil, is an invader (of our world). It’s a bacteria that enters the shell, and the shell wants to protect itself so it ends up making this beautiful thing (pearl).

“I always think of oil like an alien that came to us and then it will go away. The pearl feels like this kind of an alien as well.”

Art as a source of empowerment

When asked how art can empower women in the Gulf, she said: “I have a very unique background when it comes to this. My mother is also an artist, and she started in the 1960s. Her work is very much about women empowerment and rights. I grew up in this atmosphere, and to me it’s completely normal. She — Thuraya Al-Baqsami — is a painter and print-maker who showed her work worldwide.

“I never actually thought about women not having rights. In our house it was the norm. I do feel a sense of empowerment (as an artist). Of course it’s there, that I am a girl from Kuwait.

“We always look at the Gulf as a whole, but every country has its individual experience and history. Kuwait in particular had its own renaissance era in the 1960s-70s, so we’re second-generation modernized Kuwaitis.”

After she left Japan in 2010, Al-Qadiri lived in Kuwait for a while then moved to Lebanon, where she lived for five years with her Lebanese husband, who is also an artist.

“Beirut is very interesting. It felt like it’s the most advanced art scene in the Middle East. There are so many artists and so many exhibitions and events going on. I learned a lot from being there. Also the way they treat contemporary art and talk about it is completely different than what I was used to in Japan, which was interesting and eye-opening.”

About her future plans, she said: “I have one year left in Amsterdam, and after that who knows? I think artists should be free and uncomfortable and live in places they don’t know, because you have to transform yourself and grow, and you never stop learning as an artist.”

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Saudi artist follows in pioneering father’s footsteps with unique painting technique

Saudi artist follows in pioneering father’s footsteps with unique painting technique
Najla Mohammed Al-Saleem’s paintings show off an elegant and three-dimensional visual aesthetic. (Social media)
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi artist follows in pioneering father’s footsteps with unique painting technique

Saudi artist follows in pioneering father’s footsteps with unique painting technique
  • There were tributes to her father recently for his donations to the King Fahd National Library, and she received an invitation to showcase one of his pieces at the Noor Riyadh Festival

RIYADH: A Saudi artist is following in her pioneering father’s footsteps by adopting the painting technique that he developed and used in his own creations and adding her own touches to it.
Najla Mohammed Al-Saleem is the daughter of the late Mohammad Al-Saleem, one of the founders of the Saudi modern art scene.
His art explored the content and form of the desert, using tones and techniques that conveyed the force of the sun and its effects on nature.  
Najla specializes in the horizonism style of painting which, she said, embodied horizontal lines and desert elements combined with Arabic words. The result is smooth lines that show off an elegant and three-dimensional visual aesthetic.
Al-Saleem recently opened a solo exhibition called “Origin of a Homeland” in Riyadh’s Turaif district, and was invited to display her work by the Royal Commission of Riyadh and Diriyah Gate Development Authority. The pieces reflect the Kingdom’s cultural and historical buildings.
“My father is my first master, the first to influence everything in my life, mostly art,” she told Arab News. “His style was very interesting to me.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Najla Mohammed Al-Saleem is the daughter of the late Mohammad Al-Saleem, one of the founders of the Saudi modern art scene.

• She specializes in the horizonism style of painting which embodies horizontal lines and desert elements combined with Arabic words.

• Al-Saleem recently opened a solo exhibition called ‘Origin of a Homeland’ in Riyadh’s Turaif district.

There were tributes to her father recently for his donations to the King Fahd National Library, and she received an invitation to showcase one of his pieces at the Noor Riyadh Festival. She said that nobody knew about the chosen artwork until the festival.  She said she hoped to see more museums everywhere, and encouraged local artists to read about talent as well as practice their own.
“We should revive the valuable artistic treasures at museums so that everyone can see them, especially the new generation.”
People had a responsibility to provide artwork that met international standards, she added.


Startup of the Week: Framed by Hams; Documenting precious memories

Startup of the Week: Framed by Hams; Documenting precious memories
Updated 20 April 2021

Startup of the Week: Framed by Hams; Documenting precious memories

Startup of the Week: Framed by Hams; Documenting precious memories
  • What makes Framed by Hams unique is the company’s ability to customize items so each frame is different

JEDDAH: Motherhood is the most precious experience in any woman’s life. Every mother wants to document each special moment with her newborn, whether through photographs, videos, sketches or paintings.

New Saudi mother Hams Jambi thought of documenting her experiences in an innovative and artistic way: Custom-made nursery picture frames, with hand-drawn characters, shapes and plants, as well as registering the baby’s height and weight at birth, their date of birth and even the hour they were born.

The 25-year-old mother set up the company in early March, and her seven-month-old daughter Misk as her source of inspiration.

“Being a mom at this stage is what gave me this business idea. I was looking for something I couldn’t find in the market,” Jambi told Arab News.

“Giving birth and being a mother is an indescribable feeling — it is such a special experience that we want to materialize the memory and make it something tangible … That’s why we add all of the baby’s measurements, along with the timings,” she said.

Just like all mothers when they are expecting a baby, she started designing and decorating her child’s nursery. “When I was looking for pictures to frame, I didn’t find anything special, or … anything at all. Even Instagram businesses take pictures from online and print it on a canvas and sell it,” she said. “I wanted something different.”

She noticed two things that mothers were doing to decorate their newborn’s rooms: Either ordering art pieces from abroad, or simply printing from the internet.

“This is where the business idea came and I thought about making something special for each baby, and, of course, each mother wants something different and unique for her baby, different from (the) usual nursery decorations that almost everyone has,” she said.

What makes Framed by Hams unique is the company’s ability to customize items so each frame is different, with nothing repeated, unless the client asks for a specific design.

The new mother also expanded her target through providing a gift wrapping service for customers to buy the frames for friends or family members. “Our prices are affordable which makes it an even more convenient gift,” she added.

The startup has sold 12 frames so far, and is aiming to sell 200 by the end of the year. Keep up with Framed by Hams on Instagram (@framed_by_hams) where orders can be placed too.


Lebanese author Hoda Barakat’s ‘Voices of the Lost’ is a dark, profound novel

The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied
The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied
Updated 17 April 2021

Lebanese author Hoda Barakat’s ‘Voices of the Lost’ is a dark, profound novel

The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied

CHICAGO: Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, “Voices of the Lost,” written by acclaimed Lebanese author Hoda Barakat and newly translated into English by Marilyn Booth, is a dark, profound novel that follows the lives of six men and women who confess their untold truths to their loved ones through letters. None of the letters reaches their intended recipients, however, and their devastating admissions are left to strangers who are then inspired to disclose their own secrets. And through their confessions, a series of letters emerges on life, love and devastating loss.

In an unknown part of the world, where war, poverty and destruction have caused life to veer in unpredictable directions, strangers struggle with the events of the past, both those they were responsible for and those they were victims of, which forced them into lives they neither wanted nor could have ever dreamed of. Split into three parts — for the lost, for the searching, and those left behind — the novel begins with an undocumented immigrant who is writing to an ex-girlfriend. He writes to her of the most profound and disturbing moment in his childhood, one that changed the trajectory of his life forever. From that moment on, life has never quite been the same, and it has led him to a dark place where he cannot mentally, spiritually or physically settle.

Barakat’s novel is a delicate experiment in confession and a testament to the catalyzing power of writing to reveal the truth. Her characters commit their lives to paper without the fear of retribution, confessing their crimes of infidelity, torture and more. None of the writers can return to his or home, to a state of comfort or to the past. Some have lost their countries, while others have simply run out of time.

Barakat’s characters must force themselves to move forward from their past sufferings. Where loved ones and society may not accept their revelations of shortcomings or shame, their confessions are a reconciliation with themselves. And in writing of their pain, they connect with one another. They are not alone, no matter how lonely the act of writing a letter can be. And in a moment of consciousness, awake in their confessions, Barakat’s characters reach a spiritual peak within themselves, one that pushes them to continue surviving.

 


US actress Yara Shahidi to produce new TV series

Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images
Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images
Updated 17 April 2021

US actress Yara Shahidi to produce new TV series

Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images

DUBAI: US actress Yara Shahidi is developing a new television series via her production company, 7th Sun Productions. The part-Middle Eastern star is set to executive produce and develop an on-screen adaptation of Cole Brown’s critically-acclaimed debut book “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World,” alongside her mother and business partner Keri Shahidi and Brown for ABC Signature.

“Honored to bring @coletdbrown’s incredible & nuanced telling of our stories as brown folx onto screens w/ my PARTNER IN CRIME @chocolatemommyluv! (sic)” wrote the 21-year-old on Instagram, alongside a screenshot of a Deadline article announcing the news of the series.

“The work of displaying and celebrating the ENTIRE spectrum of our humanity continues to feel more prescient (sic),” she added.

Published in 2020, “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” is a first-hand account of what it’s like to navigate life in America as a mixed-race adolescent. The book was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author.

According to the author, the book is heavily inspired by an essay he wrote in college.

“What a dream come true this is!” exclaimed Cole on Instagram. “It still astounds me to think that what began as a college essay a few years ago has made it all the way to ABC. No duo I’d rather work with to bring Greyboy to life than @yarashahidi & @chocolatemommyluv. Let’s get to work! (sic),” the author posted on social media.

Back in September, Shahidi took to social media to praise Cole’s debut book, writing that “his honest reflections on the way in which racial identity takes shape and shape-shifts through his own experiences feels intimate, and yet taps in to the common experience of moving through space as a black and brown person.” She added that “It’s been a must-read in our household!”

“Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” isn’t the only project that the “Grown-ish” star is currently working on. 

The US-Iranian actress and activist is also producing a new single-camera comedy series, titled “Smoakland,” for Freeform via her production company 7th Sun.

The rising star and her mother announced the launch of their new production company in July and signed an exclusive overall deal with ABC Studios which will see them develop television projects for streaming, cable and broadcast platforms.


In the Iron Throne’s shadow: Arabs reflect on ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 years on

‘Game of Thrones’ topped the lists of most illegally viewed shows online, as many fans couldn’t afford or gain access to HBO’s streaming services.
‘Game of Thrones’ topped the lists of most illegally viewed shows online, as many fans couldn’t afford or gain access to HBO’s streaming services.
Updated 17 April 2021

In the Iron Throne’s shadow: Arabs reflect on ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 years on

‘Game of Thrones’ topped the lists of most illegally viewed shows online, as many fans couldn’t afford or gain access to HBO’s streaming services.
  • Middle Eastern fans look back on 10 years of a show that changed pop culture forever

RIYADH: Whether you loved it or hated it, followed it casually or watched every episode twice, chances are you’ve at least heard of the HBO smash hit series “Game of Thrones.” The eight-season fantasy epic, which began 10 years ago today, has secured its place in pop culture history as one of the most famous TV shows of all time.

The adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the show began on April 17, 2011, to an audience of eager fans. Over the course of its run, the show has garnered 160 Emmy nominations, taking home 59 of them, making it one of the most successful shows in history.

Najla Hussam, an avid fantasy fan who cited Martin as one of her favorite authors, told Arab News that the show provided a way for her to bond with her father, who started reading A Song of Ice and Fire when the first volume was published in 1996.

“My dad tried for years to get me to read the novels, but I honestly just wasn’t that interested. When the TV series first came out, he asked me to watch the first season with him to see if he could get me to change my mind about it. I was hooked instantly, and once the season was over, I borrowed all the books from him so we could discuss our theories about how the future of the show might look,” she said.

The show has also gained notoriety for other reasons. Due to its exclusivity of being shown on the HBO network, the show is also famous for being the most pirated TV series of all time. Consistently throughout its run, Game of Thrones topped the lists of most illegally viewed shows online, as many fans couldn’t afford or gain access internationally to HBO’s viewing and streaming services.

In the MENA region, the show was broadcast on the Orbit Showtime Network (OSN), with previous seasons being made available via the network’s on-demand service, OSN Play. Leading up to the start of season 7, OSN launched a 24-hour binge-watching channel, with all of the previous seasons being made available.

However, in the Arab world, the show saw a lot of pirating activity for another, unusual reason; the OSN network broadcast the show in its full, uncensored version, which caused a lot of fans to hunt online for a version that removed or glossed over some of the more controversial themes.

Danya Assad, a 30-year old viewer from Riyadh, said that she only started watching the series around the start of the fourth season in 2013. She was only able to get into the fandom around the time censored episodes started to become available online.

“I heard about a Game of Thrones group online made up of fans who volunteered to censor some of the more unsavory content, and that was how I was able to start watching,” she said. “I loved the premise of the show, I’m a huge fan of fantasy television and I was definitely interested in watching, but the amount of sexual content and other disturbing themes really put me off.”

Assad said that while some fans might argue that she didn’t get the “authentic” experience of watching the show, she feels much more comfortable knowing that she was able to bypass the more controversial themes and still manage to enjoy the show.

“I loved Game of Thrones because of the political intrigue, for the richness and depth of the lore and the history, because of the unexpected plot twists like the Red Wedding, for things such as the fashion and the set dressing. By removing the gratuitous sexual content and some of the more violent scenes, I don’t think I missed out on much,” she said.

A man stands atop the ancient fortress of Ait-ben-Haddou, where scenes depicting the fictional city of Yunkai from ‘Game of Thrones’ were filmed. (Getty Images)

The show has seen its fair share of controversy over the past decade. Despite the accolades heaped on the show, the amount of violence portrayed in the series, including the deaths of many innocents and children, the sexual content, and heavy themes such as incest and rape, have drawn much ire from fans and critics alike.

“I couldn’t make it past the first few episodes, honestly,” Talal Ashour, another Saudi fantasy fan, said. “I can understand the appeal, but to me Game of Thrones just crossed way too many boundaries. It’s a beautifully crafted show, and I’m still amazed by certain aspects of it, like the CGI dragons or the fact that they created a whole new language for the Dothraki, but I couldn’t get passed the darker aspects of the show.”

But perhaps the biggest let-down for fans of the series was the ending, which many fans believe was a massive disappointment and a departure from the grandeur of the previous seasons.

“Game of Thrones ended for me after Season 7,” Hussam said. “The more they started to deviate from the books, the less I started to enjoy it. I think the writers did fine when they had more content from the original books to work with, but once they started doing their own thing, it all just went downhill.”

Martin, notorious among fans for being slow to produce new novels, published the latest book in A Song of Ice and Fire in 2011, the same year the show began. Martin told the press at the time that the novel had taken six years to write, and that a sixth novel out of a planned seven, “The Winds of Winter,” was still in the works.

“I think the writers thought they could go off what they had and that the sixth book would be out by the time the series caught up,” Assad said. “It’s such a shame that they couldn’t or wouldn’t delay the series until the book came out. A lot of fans were unhappy with the way the series ended. I feel like we deserved better.”

Assad is not alone in that. A change.org petition appealing to HBO with a request to remake the final season with “competent writers” began circulating online the day the final episode debuted, with almost 2 million people signing and the numbers still increasing two years later.

However, despite the controversies and the overall disappointment with the way the series ended, the show has retained a strong fanbase in the Middle East.

“I had a Game of Thrones-themed birthday party in 2019,” Hussam said. “I dressed up as Daenerys, all of my friends came in costume, and my cake was a replica of the box that held Dany’s dragon eggs in it, including three edible cake eggs. It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

“I don’t think one bad season can ruin the whole series,” said Assad. “Even if the ending was disappointing, the other seasons are still incredible to behold. Maybe in time I’ll be able to go back and watch the show and enjoy it even more. And if the ending still disappoints me after the second time, I can always hold out hope for ‘The Winds of Winter.’”