Bringing the rich legacy of Nigeria’s famed Mbari Club to Art Dubai

Bringing the rich legacy of Nigeria’s famed Mbari Club to Art Dubai
The gallery displays artwork of prominent African artists. (Tafeta Gallery)
Updated 20 March 2019

Bringing the rich legacy of Nigeria’s famed Mbari Club to Art Dubai

Bringing the rich legacy of Nigeria’s famed Mbari Club to Art Dubai
  • Mbari Club was founded by a group of artists in Nigeria
  • It aimed to support new artists in the country after its independence

LONDON: Eight leading modernist artists working across Africa and Europe from the 1960s to the present day are being showcased by London’s Tafeta Gallery at Art Dubai — the Middle East’s largest art fair, which kicked off on Wednesday and will wrap up on Saturday.   
They include Ibrahim El-Salahi, the first African artist to have a retrospective at the Tate Modern in London, and Bruce Onobrakpeya, whose works are in the collections of the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Gallery in Nairobi, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, among other prestigious places.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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All eight artists were affiliated with the Mbari Club for artists and writers in Ibadan, Nigeria and its regional chapters.
Established in 1961, the club was founded by a diverse group of artists, writers, musicians, actors and intellectuals.
Arab News met up with Ayo Adeyinka, founder and owner of Tafeta, to learn more about how the club nurtured talent. 
“The aim was to create an artistic space for artists to flourish post-Independence. The artists I’m bringing to Dubai showed at Mbari in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. They are very well established now, but back then they were fresh-faced starters trying to find their feet and create their own artistic language.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“The legacy of the club, which was pan-Aftican, is that it gave artists a platform to engage internationally,” he said. 
Adeyinka has a background in finance and was a keen collector of art before deciding to make his passion his career. “I found the arts a lot more engaging and fulfilling and knowing a bit about business always helps in the creative space,” he explained. 
He has showed successfully at Art Dubai over three seasons and is especially pleased that he has attracted Emirati buyers. 




(Tafeta Gallery)


Speaking of the event, he said: “It’s super well organized and the only fair I go to where a free lunch is served to the exhibitors! You feel looked after which is a bonus.”   

Asked about the art scene on the African continent, he pointed to Nigeria as brimming with talent and singled out its booming youth population as an important factor — media reports indicate that more than half of its population is under the age of 35.

“That’s a lot of young, creative energy which is drawing on the deep-rooted traditions of the country’s artists, writers and musicians,” he said. 


Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship

Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship
Saudi designer Malak Masallati chooses to preserve the traditional costumes of her country through a collection of wooden dolls called Nasana. (Supplied)
Updated 19 June 2021

Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship

Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship
  • The collection was launched in November 2020 and is currently on display at the Assila Hotel in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Every culture has a special way to tell the story of its people. Saudi designer Malak Masallati chooses to preserve the traditional costumes of her country through a collection of wooden dolls called Nasana (which translates to “our people”).
“Nasana is there to highlight the diverse individuals of Saudi Arabia, with their different backgrounds, ages, stories, traditions, and customs,” Masallati told Arab News, adding that it also reflects the pride Saudis feel for their Kingdom.
The collection was launched in November 2020 and is currently on display at the Assila Hotel in Jeddah. It has previously been exhibited at Shara Art Fair by the Saudi Art Council.

Saudi designer Malak Masallati chooses to preserve the traditional costumes of her country through a collection of wooden dolls called Nasana. (Supplied)

It consists of 15 dolls, each representing a different region of Saudi Arabia. Each character has a name inspired by traditional names from each region, including Saud, Al-Joharah, Nourah, Sitah, Abdulaziz, Itra, Hajjar, Zahra, Haylah, Obaid, Saeed, Amnah, Fatou, Fouad, and Shifa.
“I believe that Saudi Arabia has a vast heritage yet to be discovered (by many). The younger generation possesses the knowledge and creativity that is required to (promote that heritage),” she said, citing the Saudi fashion brand Sleysla, with whom she has previously worked, as a good example.

HIGHLIGHTS

• ‘Nasana’ is a collection of 15 hand-painted wooden dolls representing the traditional costumes of different regions of Saudi Arabia.

• The collection is currently on display in Jeddah and the dolls are also available to buy.

• Most of the collection’s costumes are based on information found in the book ‘Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia’ by The Mansoojat Foundation.

Masallati, who has more than 15 years of experience in interior design and residential renovation, is the founder of Dar Malak, a makers’ space in Jeddah dedicated to producing other unique Saudi products. The Nasana collection was itself produced there. The dolls are hand-painted by emerging artists from different Saudi communities working in Dar Malak.
“The collection went through a long design process, trying different techniques with various materials such as paint, gesso, as well as gold and silver leafing,” Masallati explained.
The dolls are based on research carried out online and in the field. “(We) captured stories and researched the facts,” Masallati said. “We traveled to most of these areas and incorporated details we found in Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum in Jeddah, where they showcase beautiful traditional costumes.”
She also mentioned that “Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia” — a book produced by the Mansoojat Foundation Collection, a charity dedicated to the preservation of ethnic textiles and designs — was of invaluable assistance to the project.
The Nasana dolls — some of which stand 59 centimeters tall — are also on sale for between SR9,000 and SR11,000 ($2,400-2,933).
Masallati said she and her team intend to expand the collection in the future, and to work with art college graduates. They will also produce a new collection this year, she said.

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International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 June 2021

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

In honor of International Sushi Day celebrated on June 18, here are six sushi spots to try in Saudi Arabia, rounded up by Arab News Japan.  

Chez Sushi

This modern and casual restaurant on Prince Saud Al-Faisal Road in Jeddah feature custom dishes such as a Japanese burrito and attractive lunch offers.

Oishii Sushi

Owner Khulood Olaqi turned this home-based online store into a fully-fledged restaurant where she is both a chef and manager. Cozy, warm and welcoming, Oishii Sushi is located in Riyadh.

Sushi Centro

Promising sushi that is “rolled to perfection,” the restaurant also provides traditional Japanese food that is rich in flavor and flair. Sushi Centro has two branches in Saudi Arabia, one in Jeddah in Centro Shaheen Hotel, and the other in Riyadh’s Centro Waha Hotel.

Nozomi

Nozomi’s menu is internationally renowned and award-winning, offering an unrivaled fine-dining experience on Riyadh’s Dabab Street.

Wakame

A hip restaurant that plays host to business meetings, gossip and fast-paced service at a dimly lit sushi bar, Wakame has three branches in Jeddah: In Ar Rawdah district, in Obhur and on Al-Malik Road.

Sushi Yoshi

A franchise with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar where guests can enjoy anime with their sushi. 


Arab filmmakers Kaouther Ben Hania, Sameh Alaa join Cannes’ short film jury

Arab filmmakers Kaouther Ben Hania, Sameh Alaa join Cannes’ short film jury
Updated 18 June 2021

Arab filmmakers Kaouther Ben Hania, Sameh Alaa join Cannes’ short film jury

Arab filmmakers Kaouther Ben Hania, Sameh Alaa join Cannes’ short film jury

DUBAI: The Cannes Film Festival announced this week that Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania and Egyptian director Sameh Alaa will be part of the short film jury at the 74th edition of the event next month.

Other jury members include filmmakers Tuva Novotny from Sweden, Spain’s Carlos Muguiro, screenwriter Alice Winocour, and actor Nicolas Pariser, both from France.

Alaa’s movie, “I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face,” won the coveted Palme d’Or in the Cannes Film Festival’s short-film competition in October. (Supplied)

For this year’s festival, which runs from July 16 to 17, the selection committee has viewed 3,739 short films. The jury will be awarding one of the 10 movies selected for the competition, including flicks from Brazil, Denmark, China, France, Hong Kong, and Portugal.

Ben Hania has been making headlines in the film industry after her critically acclaimed movie, “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” was shortlisted for the Oscar’s international feature film award in February.

Meanwhile, Alaa’s movie, “I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face,” won the coveted Palme d’Or in the Cannes Film Festival’s short-film competition in October.


Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene
Updated 18 June 2021

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene
  • Meet the director and producer leading the charge for a new wave of Algerian cinema

PARIS: Algerian director and producer Aissa Djouamaa (whose debut feature, “Cilima,” was helmed under his ‘artist name’ Aissa ben Said) may have chosen to keep his distances from the media, but he remains, nonetheless, a deeply committed artist, both behind the camera and on the ground. He is recognized as someone who has initiated a major and profound change in the movie industry of his native country, Algeria.

Perseverance is one of Djouamaa’s major qualities. When he was rejected by the School of Dramatic Arts in Algiers due to his unsatisfactory baccalaureate grades, he decided to study biology for four years, but his passion for cinema did not fade. So, in 2007 he took the decision to join the Tunis School of Arts and Cinema.

"I enrolled there with the intention of becoming an actor. But when I discovered the universe of the film industry, I started focusing on the picture, the frame and the writing,” he says.

“Cilima” is typical of the ideals behind Nouvelle Vague Algerienne, aimed as it is at reviving Algerian cinema. (Supplied)

Djouamaa ranked top of his class for two consecutive years before encountering a major problem. “I realized that I was attracted to disturbing social issues, to topics that were not supposed to be addressed,” he says. “I decided that for my final project I would make a movie about the aggressive police attacks that took place during the local derby between the Tunisian football teams Esperance Sportive de Tunis and Club Africain.” However, he was unable to get the necessary authorization, so his film was never completed.

In summer 2010, Djouamaa traveled to Algeria to produce his first short film “Un Cri Sans Echo” (A scream without echo), which focused on marginalized musicians living in Souk Ahras, the artist's hometown. The film was screened during the Doc à Tunis festival in April 2011, just months after then-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted at the start of the Arab Spring, and it earned Djouamaa his diploma.

When he returned to Algeria, he encountered numerous problems, mainly financial. “I worked as a sales consultant for a multinational company. Every vacation I had, I would make a short film,” he says. “I also taught at the Office des Établissements de Jeunes, which produced my first film.”

Djouamaa’s second movie — “Colors, the Country and Me,” was about a hero of Souk Ahras: Taoufik Makhloufi, the only Algerian to win a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Perseverance is one of Djouamaa’s major qualities. (Supplied)

“It’s about the new generation that perceives Algeria from a different angle,” he says. “It was time to write a new page of Algeria’s history as seen through the eyes of this generation.”

In order to emphasize a different vision to that of traditional non-fiction filmmakers, Djouamaa next decided to take part in his own documentary. “Talking about Algeria’s 50th Independence Day does not necessarily mean talking about the Algerian revolution as such, but rather talking about what Algeria has experienced, from independence until today,” he says.

Djouamaa was beginning to make a name for himself in his homeland. In 2014, he participated in the first Algiers French Institute laboratory and his film “Makash Kifach No Way” was broadcast on French television. The following year, he quit his job and headed to Canada to participate in KINOMADA — a non-profit film production platform — and to shoot his first fictional film, the short “We Return to Paradise,” which featured a rabbi, a priest and an imam. “I have never thought of presenting it in Algeria, as the topic (exploring the merits of art vs. religion) remains taboo.”

In 2016, he took part in a summer program at Paris’ renowned La Fémis film and television school. There, he filmed the Place de la Republique square during the “Nuit Debout” (Up all night) protests against new labor laws. “It has always been the French producing documentaries about Algeria,” he says. “It was about time that an Algerian made a documentary about France.”

His experiences in Canada and France inspired Djouamaa — despite Algeria’s “suffocating bureaucracy” — to establish his own production company, Nouvelle Vague Algerienne (Algerian New Wave). And it was his second fictional short, “Un Homme, Deux Théatres” (One man, two theaters), that saw his reputation grow outside of Algeria.

Djouamaa hopes to see Algerian cinema rise again. (Supplied)

“This film was the door to international recognition,” he says. “It got screened all over the globe. I even received an award for it in Madagascar.”

At the 2017 Carthage Film Festival, Djouamaa encountered members of the Algerian Ministry of Culture, which only served to reinforce his belief that he was operating outside of his country’s mainstream media business. “They were wondering, ‘Who is this stranger, so unfamiliar to Algerian society, who doesn’t seem interested in who we are?’” he says.

But he got on better with the director of the Algerian commission which allocates funds to filmmakers, obtaining funding for five projects. He went on to shoot his first feature film “Cilima,” which he has described as a “one-of-a-kind film” that combined stories created by four young filmmakers from across Algeria.

“Cilima” is typical of the ideals behind Nouvelle Vague Algerienne, aimed as it is at reviving Algerian cinema.

“I am an artist who recognizes the enormous potential of the young generation. The Algerian New Wave is not just about producing projects talking about present Algeria. It’s a whole educational project. We are trying to make a change”, he explains. “I am a staunchly committed artist, a member of the Hirak. I have always refused to be part of the ingrained system.”

He went on to shoot his first feature film “Cilima,” which he has described as a “one-of-a-kind film” that combined stories created by four young filmmakers from across Algeria. (Supplied)

That system in Algeria, he explains, “was based on revolutionary films, subsidized with huge amounts of public money. Algerian cinema reached its peak with the Palme d'Or awarded in 1975 to Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. Then came the black decade that saw the number of movie theaters fall from 500 to just 40.”

Djouamaa hopes to see Algerian cinema rise again. Along with two other producers, he has set up the Basma Collective. “In this country we have a lack in film schools,” he explains. “It is extremely important not to cut corners. We are in the process of setting up Timi Lab — a writing development venture — in Timimoun, in the Algerian Sahara, with the help of funds from the international film industry. We are also preparing an African and Arab festival called Timi Film Days.”

As for his own filmmaking, Djouamaa is currently in the process of developing a documentary that he says will “destabilize the current system, especially its relations with France.” It is based around the story of the village of Reggane, the location of French nuclear tests between 1960 and 1968.

“I decided not to make a historical movie, but instead to bring in my creative touch,” he says. “The story is about an association that contacts an international law firm (in relation to the Reggane tests). The latter files a complaint before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Clearly, Djouamaa’s Algerian New Wave is set on making waves.


THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
Updated 18 June 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
  • The Lebanese artist discusses her 2021 mixed-media artwork, inspired by Beirut and showcased at the inaugural edition of Menart Fair in Paris last month

DUBAI: I started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. It began with a piece of my diary that I wrote in 1975. I was writing every day in this diary, describing a lot of paths that I used to walk in Beirut when I was 13. I was really struck by that. We were extremely free at that moment; we could do whatever we wanted, but we were well aware of the political situation. I would write everything that was happening in Lebanon during the beginning of the Civil War.

I took my diary and started to play with maps of Beirut, mixing what I remember with what’s happening now. I left Lebanon a long time ago, but I still keep going back and forth. I trained as an architect in France and I never forgot this idea of maps and psychogeography. I was very much inspired by how you reconstruct your own geography. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about how you keep searching for others, sensations, vegetation and light.

She started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. (Supplied)

In “Wandering City #17,” the writing is based on my diary entry for June 28, 1975. I went to my parents’ office with my mother to pick up my passport because I was traveling. We had to meet my father at the temple, which was next to my parent’s office. There were a lot of bombs on the way. June 28 was a real trauma for everyone. 

I picked pink because I wanted something happy. Even if the war was happening, we were extremely happy. Pink and orange were the colors of my teenage years in the Seventies, or at least what I remember when I visualize that time: the colors of the clothes, movie posters, record covers, store fronts.

The process is, I transfer my map onto the cotton canvas and I pin everything and then I draw on top of it with acrylic pencil, layer by layer. Only the writing is stitched. When I do my maps, it takes forever, but it’s a kind of meditation and I don’t want it to finish. It’s a way to stay in my childhood. I’m trying to say goodbye to Beirut, but it’s not working.