Middle Eastern art exhibition celebrates life and work of Kahlil Gibran

Middle Eastern art exhibition celebrates life and work of Kahlil Gibran
For Lebanese-Syrian artist Rana Chalabi, Kahlil Gibran’s work continues to resonate. (Getty Images)
Updated 16 August 2018

Middle Eastern art exhibition celebrates life and work of Kahlil Gibran

Middle Eastern art exhibition celebrates life and work of Kahlil Gibran

LONDON: What is it about the work of the famed Lebanese poet, writer and artist Kahlil Gibran that touches the hearts of so many people across the world today, decades on from his death in 1931? An exhibition of art inspired by his writings held this month at Sotheby’s in London provided an opportunity to consider that question
“Kahlil Gibran: A Guide for our Times” was organized by the peace building movement, Caravan, and co-curated by Janet Rady and Marion Fromlet Baecker. It featured work by 38 artists from across the Middle East. The vision for the exhibition grew out of a recent book on Gibran titled “In Search of a Prophet: A Spiritual Journey with Kahlil Gibran” by the Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, Caravan’s founding president.
Chandler is committed to breaking down cultural, racial and religious barriers. Through the Caravan initiative he has hosted numerous exhibitions using art to build bridges between the Middle East and the West. He sees the message contained in Gibran’s 1923 book “The Prophet” as profoundly relevant today.
Speaking to Arab News at the packed-out event, he said: “All the artists in this exhibition are trying to express how they have been inspired, challenged and encouraged by Gibran’s themes of peace, love and harmony for all of humanity. The thread running through all the work is the unique role that Gibran plays in reminding us that we are one family.
“The idea of the Caravan movement is that we are all journeying together, regardless of background, tradition or religion,” he continued. “The arts have a unique role in peace-building between the Middle East and the West.”
Lebanese-Syrian artist Rana Chalabi, who was raised in Lebanon, said she first read “The Prophet” at school, but made a point of re-reading it several times before starting work on her contribution to the piece, “On Giving.”
Her painting shows a throng of people gazing upwards at a transcendent figure — the Prophet — who seems to shimmer above the multitude in hues of gold.
“To me, Gibran’s Prophet represents an enlightened mystic,” she explained. “He was so ahead of his time and such a spiritual person.”
For Chalabi, Gibran’s work continues to resonate. “The wisdom of Gibran is very much needed today,” she said. “He could explain his ideas in a simple way to people. In his day he was misunderstood and branded a heretic by those who missed the essence of what he was saying and took his teachings at a very superficial level.”
Chalabi was clearly pleased to have been invited to submit work to Caravan’s exhibition.
“I believe in what Rev. Chandler is trying to do,” she said. “We have to bridge the differences in the world and try to understand each other’s religions, cultures and perspectives.”
Bahraini artist Lulwa Al-Khalifa showed a striking painting of a woman, titled
“Blind Faith.” The starkly expressive figure looks perplexed and stares out from the painting with an abstract and tense expression.
Al-Khalifa said: “There are a lot of emotions I wanted to convey through this work. I was exploring the concept of faith and how sometimes people have to abandon some of the ideas that give them their own sense of identity and take a leap of faith. I consider the question ‘How much of you are you prepared to surrender for your faith?’ Faith is surrender with cause but without proof. Sometimes people have to face ambivalence, fear and anxiety on this journey.”
Al-Khalifa also stressed how relevant Gibran outlook remains today.
“I love how Gibran explored many aspects of many themes. His thought process is very fresh and modern — even today,” she said. “It is not rigid, but very hopeful and expresses love and acceptance.
“I really believe that all people are united as human beings. But we try so hard to separate from each other, even though in reality we all have the same concerns and loves and hates. We should come together,” she continued.
Lebanese artist Christine Saleh Jamil echoed Al-Khalifa’s sentiments. “Gibran means so much to me. Reading his book ‘The Prophet’ taught me a lot about life, how to live peacefully and accept things in a harmonious way,” she said. “His message is very important today.”
Jamil created “The Wanderer,” a captivating image of Gibran as a child, for the exhibition. Her work, she said, was based on a photograph and inspired by Chandler’s book, which, she said, “took me back to my childhood in Beirut.”
“That’s why I chose to represent Gibran as a child and in this image you see his face set among birch trees, as he loved nature,” she explained.
Lebanon’s ambassador to the UK, Rami Mortada — a special guest at the event — spoke to Arab News about Gibran’s legacy.
“The interest shown here tonight and the big turnout is an indication of how the message he stands for is relevant, badly needed and timely in our world today,” Mortada said. “It is a message of harmony and peace, of removing barriers between nations and cultures, and of interfaith dialogue. This is what Gibran encapsulated. If I had to sum up his work up in one word, I would say (it is) inspirational.”
Another ambassador, Dr. Alisher Shaykhov from Uzbekistan, stressed that Gibran’s work is of truly global significance.
“Gibran’s fame extends far beyond the Middle East. He is a person who has succeeded in transferring the spirit of the Islamic people in a harmonious way,” he observed. “One of his most important messages is that of the unifying elements, rather than the differences, between religions. He has a gift of being able to express the feelings of the people. The artists here, imbued with his spirit, have transferred his message through their artworks in their own personal way.”
Art enthusiast Mira Takla said she had attended a number of ‘Caravan’ art events and always found their message very persuasive.
“As far as I am concerned these events do more for interracial understanding and comprehension and tolerance of different cultures than many other such initiatives,” she said.
Another guest. Anthony Wynn, gave a good example of Gibran’s cross-cultural appeal, pointing out that he had often heard Gibran quoted at weddings in the UK — particularly a verse from “On Marriage” from “The Prophet”:
“Love one another, but make not a bond of love/Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls/Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup/Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf/Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone/Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”


GCC artists explore Ramadan during COVID-19

GCC artists explore Ramadan during COVID-19
Updated 15 April 2021

GCC artists explore Ramadan during COVID-19

GCC artists explore Ramadan during COVID-19
  • Khaleeji Art Museum’s latest installation showcases work from six emerging Gulf artists

BENGALURU: In Omani artist Mahmood Al-Zadjali’s latest artwork “More Precious Than Gold,” he photographs a woman eating a samboosa. Viewers may overlook the mundane act of eating and choose instead to focus on the aesthetic of the woman being photographed.

“During Ramadan, food turns into an obsession. Refraining from it during the day turns it into a desire,” writes Al-Zadjali on his Instagram account. He goes on to explain that, since people rarely make traditional Ramadan fare like luqaimat and samboosa through the rest of the year, come the holy month these delicacies are regarded as “more precious than gold.”

Bahraini artist Essa Hujeiry combines photography and digital work. (Supplied)

Al-Zadjali’s tongue-in-cheek photograph was part of last year’s online art exhibition “Ramadan in Quarantine,” hosted by the Khaleeji Art Museum (KAM), the region’s first digital art museum dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging artists in the region.

Since its launch on International Museum Day last year, KAM has held three online group exhibitions — “Khaleejis In The Time of Corona,” “Ramadan in Quarantine,” and “Art for Change” — and hosted two solo digital shows.

KAM’s founders, Emirati sisters Manar and Sharifah Al-Hinai, are also the team behind Sekka Magazine, an online arts and culture magazine launched in 2017, aimed at regional youth.
“Through Sekka, we get to meet a lot of emerging artists from the region,” Sharifah tells Arab News. “The art world is difficult to tap into — even more so when you are an emerging artist. The artists we worked with told us that the biggest challenge they face is that they cannot find spaces that will exhibit their work. So Manar and I had a conversation about this and we thought, ‘Why not start a digital art initiative?’ During a pandemic, digital is a great way to reach as many people as possible.”

This artwork is by Faisal Alkherji. (Supplied)

After several conversations, the duo settled on the idea of a digital museum dedicated to artists from the Arab Gulf states. “As far as we knew, it was something that didn’t exist,” says Manar. “We are very proud to be the first digital museum that provides this platform.” The sisters are currently in talks with various organizations in the UAE to host physical exhibitions in the future.

Their first exhibition, “Khaleejis In The Time of Corona,” received a positive response. “With lockdowns all over the world and the situation still new, people were interested in seeing how others were coping with COVID-19,” Manar says. The online gallery hit over 10,000 views.

Their latest installation — “Ramadan amid COVID-19,” which began April 12 — sees seven artworks from six emerging regional artists displayed on the façade of the 36-story Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai Festival City (DFC). The show runs until April 26 with four ‘screenings’ every evening.

Ishaq Madan’s photograph features a gloved hand holding prayer beads. (Supplied) 

The works include Bahraini photographer Ishaq Madan’s “Ramadan 1441.” His photograph features a gloved hand holding prayer beads. The idea came to Madan during the height of the pandemic last year. “Ramadan usually witnesses triple the worshippers, but as the world shifted away from normalcy, the connection, for some, (was) difficult to find,” he explains. “As mosques closed their gates to worshippers, a new spiritual battle began — of finding connection with the heavens above. As some may struggle, it is important we strengthen our spiritual connections.”

Madan created a painting-like effect for his image by combining natural light techniques with unusual perspectives — portraying a subtle visual story through characters captured in the frame.

Omani artist Mays Almoosawi’s “Ramadan, the blessed month of peace and goodwill” is a digitally sketched illustration of an Arab woman reclining on a crescent moon. (Supplied)

Omani artist Mays Almoosawi’s “Ramadan, the blessed month of peace and goodwill” is a digitally sketched illustration of an Arab woman reclining on a crescent moon — a longstanding symbol of Ramadan. Almoosawi includes further symbolism such as a coffee cup, and a traditional Arab kaftan.

“The illustration speaks of the COVID-19 situation in Ramadan,” she says. “Most of us (usually) spend the holy month gathering with family and friends. But this year, we are patiently waiting for life to get back to the way it was.”

Almoosawi’s work often features female figures in various shapes and forms. It represents the society that she grew up in, she says. “As an Arab girl, I was always surrounded by women. Hearing their stories and their insecurities had a big impact on me.”

In Omani artist Mahmood Al-Zadjali’s latest artwork “More Precious Than Gold,” he photographs a woman eating a samboosa. (Supplied)

Bahraini artist Essa Hujeiry combines photography and digital work. His artwork features a gloved, glittering hand pouring coffee out of a sparkling pot into a cup held by another’s hand. “(Coffee), in the Arab tradition, unifies people and brings them together,” Hujeiry says. “It is a constant in our lives and also a cultural symbol that embodies the idea of hospitality, unity, and safety in families during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Hujeiry has always been inspired by the cosmos, space, and illusion, he explains. His work is reflective of this, with several elements of glitter and spatial effects interspersed with cultural symbols. The rest of this series, he says, shows how we can be unified as a society even though we are facing a global pandemic that isolates us.

COVID-19 may have changed the way people celebrate Ramadan, but Hujeiry hopes that it won’t change the meaning behind the celebration. “We will still celebrate it with our loved ones, but keeping safety precautions in mind,” he says.


Saudi Arabia’s Princess Lamia pens love letter to creativity for Vogue Arabia on World Art Day 

Saudi Arabia’s Princess Lamia pens love letter to creativity for Vogue Arabia on World Art Day 
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Princess Lamia pens love letter to creativity for Vogue Arabia on World Art Day 

Saudi Arabia’s Princess Lamia pens love letter to creativity for Vogue Arabia on World Art Day 

DUBAI: In honor of World Art Day — celebrated on April 15 — Saudi Arabia’s Princess Lamia bint Majed Al-Saud shared her view on how art and creativity have “the power to shape our future; whether social, cultural, or economic” in an article for Vogue Arabia, especially in light of a global pandemic that has brought the world to a griding halt over the past year. 

“While the past year has brought with it an array of challenges, creatives across the world have found inspiration in the most difficult times,” she added. 

Indeed, artists across the world have garnered inspiration from lockdown and social distancing measures — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, recently launched a digital showcase titled “COVID-19 Exhibit” that showcases just that. 

In the article penned by Princess Lamia, she declared that “art is central, not peripheral, to social change,” echoing the view that creativity has the power to effect change at all levels of society. 

“Art, in all of its forms, enhances cultural understanding while addressing social issues, increasing economic opportunities, and contributing to a more tolerant, prosperous world,” she said. “Today, on the occasion of World Art Day, we celebrate art as a veritable catalyst for social action, one that continues to facilitate local action and broader social change.”

She shared her views as Saudi Arabia’s art scene continues to grow, with the successful participation of Saudi galleries at March’s Art Dubai 2021 and a slew of local art fairs and initiatives by the Misk Art Foundation and Ithra, including the ongoing Year of Arabic Calligraphy. 

The princess also discussed the goals of Alwaleed Philanthropies — a charitable organization, chaired by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud, which collaborates with a range of philanthropic, governmental and educational institutions to combat poverty, empower women and youth, develop communities, provide disaster relief and create cultural understanding through education.

Princess Lamia said: “We understand the important role that the creative industries play in meeting the sustainable development agenda…We believe that art inspires feeling and emotion while providing a window through which people can explore different perspectives.”

“Art, in all of its forms, enhances cultural understanding while addressing social issues, increasing economic opportunities, and contributing to a more tolerant, prosperous world,” she said. “Today, on the occasion of World Art Day, we celebrate art as a veritable catalyst for social action, one that continues to facilitate local action and broader social change.”

She penned the article as Saudi Arabia’s art scene continues to grow with the successful participation of Saudi galleries at Art Dubai 2021 and a slew of local art fairs and initiatives by the Misk Art Foundation.  


THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region

THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region
Updated 15 April 2021

THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region

THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region

FREEK

The Dubai-based, UAE-born Somalian MC — one of the leading figures in the Arabic drill scene — released new single, “Kafi,” late last month, ahead of a new album due to drop at the end of May. “Kafi” isn’t typical of Freek’s repertoire, it’s calmer, but with a strong lyrical message. In a press release, he described it as an “emotional” track that “tackles the issue of child abuse … and how children deal with it.”

HUDA LUTFI

The veteran Egyptian artist’s latest solo show, “Our Black Thread,” is currently running in Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery. It consists of hand-sewn, embroidered works that began as improvisations on organza teabags. “She asks what form of intentionality separates craft from art,” a gallery statement read. “She (uses) repetition as a formal statement on endurance and resistance.”

DB GAD

The 28-year-old Egyptian rapper released his new track “Mooga” (Waves) this month. It’s a song inspired by the well-known novel “The Life of Pi,” he explained in a press release. “As lonely and emotional as one can get when leaving your home and the ones you love, sometimes you have to let go and just go with the waves,” Gad said.

MARWAN PABLO

The Egyptian MC and trap pioneer formerly known as Dama made an unexpected comeback from his ‘retirement’ (announced last year) in late February, releasing a hard-hitting new song called “Ghaba” (Jungle), the video for which has now racked up more than 13 million views on YouTube. It was followed up in late March by the release of “CTRL” — a five-track EP.


Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’

Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’
Updated 15 April 2021

Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’

Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’
  • ‘We created something that speaks to what an occupation takes away from people,’ Shoufani says

BEIRUT: “It’s immensely surprising, and a step in the right direction for the Academy,” says

Palestinian-American filmmaker, writer and poet, Hind Shoufani, of this year’s list of Oscar-nominated short films. “They’re looking at diversity, women’s voices, underrepresented minorities; they’re paying attention to intense, conflict-driven and truthful stories.”

One such story was crafted by Shoufani and compatriot Farah Nabulsi. “The Present” — directed by Nabulsi — has already won a BAFTA in the British Short Film category and is nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at this month’s Academy Awards.

Shoufani believes that “The Present” owes much of its capacity to resonate with so many people to its authenticity (it was shot in the West Bank) and the simplicity of the story. (Supplied)

Available on Netflix, “The Present” chronicles a day in the life of Yousef, compellingly depicted by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who sets out across the West Bank to buy a birthday gift for his wife. His 10-year-old daughter, played by the talented Mariam Kanj, joins him on a journey peppered with the injustice and humiliation emblematic of the daily plight of people living in the Occupied Territories.

Shoufani — a Fulbright scholar born to Palestinian parents in 1978 in Lebanon who has lived between Damascus, Amman, Beirut, New York and Dubai — explains that the partnership between Nabulsi and herself was “collaborative and fruitful.” The director supplied the film’s overarching themes and inspiring narrative threads and Shoufani fleshed them out in script and dialogue, introducing crucial plot elements, such as the daughter as a character.

“We had long sessions where we would go through different drafts of the script, talk through scenes and negotiate ideas,” says Shoufani, who also edited the film. “We ended up creating something that speaks to the heart of what an occupation takes away from people, in terms of agency and the ordinary ability to have freedom of movement and dignity.”

“The Present” is available on Netflix. (Supplied)

Shoufani believes that “The Present” owes much of its capacity to resonate with so many people to its authenticity (it was shot in the West Bank) and the simplicity of the story.

“Most people nowadays don’t want to sit for two hours and watch a highly nuanced, socioeconomic/class-driven, ethnographically correct, anthropologically dense film,” she says. “We don’t try to explain the past 70 years of Zionism, we don’t moralize or make grandstanding political statements... Instead, you have this ordinary man with a beautiful daughter whom anyone would only want to protect and love. Your natural human instinct is to want to keep this little girl safe and make sure she’s okay.”

And while Bakri’s Yousef is seemingly the protagonist, it is ultimately Kanj’s portrayal of Yasmine that steals the show and infuses the film with a powerful message. “She has a strong hand in how the story resolves. It’s about the power of youth and women. It’s inspiring but also heartbreaking. And it gives us an opportunity to appreciate the strength and determination of this 10-year-old kid.”

“The Present” chronicles a day in the life of Yousef, compellingly depicted by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who sets out across the West Bank to buy a birthday gift for his wife. (Supplied)

Shoufani passionately praises everyone involved, especially Palestinian producer Ossama Bawardi. “I introduced Ossama to Farah, and I couldn’t be happier for him — he put this crew together in the West Bank and did all he could to get this film out into the world. He really believed in it, and I want to give him a shout-out because he’s just awesome.”

Though “bewildered” and “astounded” by the industry’s acclaim for “The Present,” Shoufani is equally thrilled by many of her other endeavors, including two personal projects that are close to her heart.

One is “They Planted Strange Trees,” her upcoming film that documents “the various identities of the Christian minorities in the Galilee,” where Shoufani’s family is from. While being intrigued “to explore indigenous communities that people don’t really talk about much around the world,” the journey is also very personal. “It’s also about reconnecting with my family, and what it means to not belong, and yet very much belong there.”

“They Planted Strange Trees” is her upcoming film that documents “the various identities of the Christian minorities in the Galilee.” (Supplied) 

The other is a four-part series that captures the stories of four female Arab poets and draws its working title — “Poeticians” — from a group that Shoufani founded. “We’ve filmed in five or six Arab countries for eight years, and I’m trying to create a purely video-art-driven essay on taking poetry into a visual language. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than making films that are based on poems.”

In the short term, however, she is very much looking forward to seeing how “The Present” does at the Oscars.

“I think it is vital that global audiences see this film, and I’m proud to be part of that experience,” she says. “As Palestinians, we have an unending array of stories to bring to life, because of our diaspora, our fight, our complex history and our strength. And, yes, our profound beauty as people.”


US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
Updated 14 April 2021

US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)

DUBAI: US-Palestinian stand-up comedian Mohammed Amer, who goes by the name Mo Amer, is set to star alongside US actor Dwayne Johnson in the new superhero movie “Black Adam.”

The action-adventure thriller is DC Comics’ long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s commercial hit “Shazam!” with the two characters, Shazam and Black Adam, being rivals in the DC Universe.

It is still unknown what role Amer will play.

 

 

The talent is famous for his role in the award-winning Hulu sitcom “Ramy,” in which he stars as US-Egyptian actor Ramy Youssef’s Muslim cousin who owns a diner. Amer also has a Netflix comedy special called “Mo Amer: The Vagabond.” 

Amer is not the only Arab actor in the cast. Tunisian-Dutch “Aladdin” star Marwan Kenzari confirmed in February that he is also starring in the movie, alongside actors Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge and Quintessa Swindell.

 

 

Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock” from his professional wrestling days, announced he was taking part in “Black Adam” two years ago on Instagram: “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together,” he wrote at the time. 

The movie was supposed to be released in December 2021, but was pushed back due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Production is expected to begin in April in Atlanta.

According to Deadline, “Black Adam” is set for release in July 2022.