Farah Al-Qasimi explores spirituality and Gulf history in latest film ‘Um Al Naar’

Farah Al-Qasimi explores spirituality and Gulf history in latest film ‘Um Al Naar’
The film’s titular protagonist is a jinn. (Supplied)
Updated 24 September 2019

Farah Al-Qasimi explores spirituality and Gulf history in latest film ‘Um Al Naar’

Farah Al-Qasimi explores spirituality and Gulf history in latest film ‘Um Al Naar’

SHARJAH: “Everyone in the Emirates has a jinn story — or a family with a jinn story, and yet everyone waivers in their belief. It’s not so much about the jinn as it is about what belief in spirituality allows us to do as humans.”

Emirati visual artist Farah Al-Qasimi is talking about her new film, a 40-minute fictional ‘documentary’ called “Um Al Naar” (Mother of Fire). The film will be shown for the first time in the region as part of Al-Qasimi’s solo show “Arrival,” which opens at the Third Line in Dubai on September 18 and runs until November 23.

The film’s titular protagonist is a jinn — a spirit capable of possessing humans — starring in a reality TV special in which she narrates her version of the history of her region (Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE).

“She laments her waning power and the loss of belief in the supernatural, and eventually decides to take matters into her own hands,” Al-Qasimi tells Arab News.

“We have come to known the jinn through folklore as mischievous, malignant characters, but I'm presenting Um Al Naar as an entity who might be simply misunderstood. Her dilemma is a fear of change, however inevitable and constant it is.”

Al-Qasimi is perhaps better-known for her photography than her films, but in this case, she says, “A longer film seemed appropriate; it gives room for different melodramas to unfold.

“I’m really interested in hearing people speak for themselves,” she continues. “The film moves between real documentary footage and silly, in-studio mockumentary, but everyone is speaking in their own expressive language, whether it's Um Al Naar, Ahmed the exorcist, or the men telling stories of jinn encounters.”

While there is a significant amount of humor in the piece, Um Al Naar “asks questions about belonging, mobility and cultural hegemony; questions that linger as we consider the significance of a lingering international presence in the Gulf, and questions of national progress and who (the Western presence serves),” Al-Qasimi explains.

“In our middle-school history books, the Portuguese and British invasions of the 1500s onwards is often overlooked or, at most, casually mentioned. And that's a pretty formidable history to contend with for such a young nation,” she continues. “The views are Um Al Naar's, but I like to think of her as an amalgamation of many of the critical thinkers I know and admire. She has a deep sense of love for her land, and considers critical thinking a necessary part of that love.”


Egyptian mission finds remains of Roman fort in Aswan

Egyptian mission finds remains of Roman fort in Aswan
Updated 19 January 2021

Egyptian mission finds remains of Roman fort in Aswan

Egyptian mission finds remains of Roman fort in Aswan
  • Archaeologists discovered the remnants of a Roman fort, including part of a church from the early Coptic period, and a temple from the Ptolemaic dynasty
  • A sandstone panel was unearthed, with images of the temple entrance, a man in the form of a Roman emperor, and palm leave engravings

CAIRO: The Egyptian archaeological mission working at the Shiha Fort site in the Aswan Governorate has discovered the remnants of a Roman fort, including part of a church from the early Coptic period, and a temple from the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the mission discovered a group of architectural elements of the Ptolemaic temple inside the fort as well as an incomplete sandstone panel, with pictures of the model of the temple entrance, a man in the form of a Roman emperor, and four sandstone blocks engraved with palm leaves.

The mission also found a clay vase and part of a red-brick vault dating back to the Coptic era.

“The mission has completed the work of uncovering the remains of the monastery and the church, and there are indications they were built on the ruins of a fort. German archaeologist Hermann Junker was able to uncover part of it between 1920 and 1922. That mission revealed the extension of the remnants of a mud-brick wall surrounding the Shiha church from the western side,” Mohamed Abdel-Badi, head of the Central Department of Antiquities of Upper Egypt, said.

During excavations, Abdel-Badi expected to find the remains of a marina. “The area was a quarry for cutting stones during the Ptolemaic period and, naturally, there was a marina that was used to transport these stones to build forts and temples,” he said.

He explained that work is still underway to uncover the remains of the fort.