Arab artists pay homage to Notre Dame in new exhibition

New works are a reaction to the fire in France’s most-famous cathedral earlier this year. (Supplied)
Updated 30 September 2019

Arab artists pay homage to Notre Dame in new exhibition

PARIS: Millions around the world were in a state of shock when Paris’ beloved Notre Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames last April. Having survived the turmoil of the French Revolution and two World Wars, the revered 850-year-old Gothic-style monument suffered the collapse of its spiral and wooden roof and damage to its high altar. One commentator wrote: “The very heart of France and the soul of Europe have been suddenly and viciously ripped out.”

The day after the blaze broke out, Jack Lang — president of Paris’ Insitut du Monde Arabe (IMA) — joined forces with the French-Lebanese art collector and champion of Arab artists Claude Lemand to set up a tribute to Notre Dame from Arab artists. Deeply saddened by the damage caused by the fire, Lemand started contacting artist friends, to see if they would be willing to contribute commemorative works of art.




Azzawi, Notre-Dame, 2019. (Supplied)

“When I was watching this tragedy unfold on television, it reminded me of the beginning of the civil war in Lebanon,” Lemand told Arab News. “Notre Dame is a historical building that doesn’t belong just to French and European civilization, but to all of humanity. The Arab artist — like his European counterpart — has the right to convey his feelings and admiration towards this monument.”

Running through December 20, “Arab Artists’ Tribute to Notre Dame” showcases four new artworks created by contemporary artists from the Arab diaspora in response to the fire and its aftermath.

The renowned Iraqi artist Dia Al-Azzawi is one of them. His symbolic acrylic-on-3D-wood panel portrays a profile of the cathedral guarded by a carved-out cross — standing out in the midst of a red mass that not only represents the fire, but also rebirth.

Another contribution comes in the form of an abstract painting by the French-Moroccan painter Najia Mehadji. Completed in a single broad brushstroke, the painting’s dominating blue (a color associated with the Virgin Mary) swirl hints at the shape of the Madonna and Child statue that stands inside Notre Dame.




Najia Mehadji, Notre-Dame, 2019. (Supplied)

Montpellier-based Mohamed Lekleti’s mixed-media canvas is a conceptual work potraying “the duality of the world,” divided into two halves: good and evil. Lekleti’s work reminds the viewer of life’s inevitability, and to accept that events are sometimes beyond human control, but that taking action — no matter how slow or small — to heal wounds is important, as emphasized by the artist’s depiction of a hand sewing a thread.

Syrian figurative artist Boutros Al-Maari contributes a circular canvas illustrating fictional characters from Victor Hugo’s iconic novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” surrounding the burning cathedral. Inspired by his own heritage, Al-Maari depicts Hugo as a ‘hakawati’ — a storyteller in Damascus’ old cafés. It is a scene of both anguish and hope; of men crying in disbelief and the Virgin Mary being consoled with the offering of a flower.




Boutros Al-Maari, Notre-Dame, 2019. (Supplied)

According to Lemand, a second part of the exhibition will materialize early next year, exhibiting a new roster of artists.

“The goal of this exhibition is neither political nor financial,” he explained. “We just wanted to give an opportunity for Arab artists to present a brighter image of the region — far from the violence, the killing, and religious strife that have in recent years given the world a miserable image of the Arab world.”


Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra to speak at Sharjah forum

Priyanka Chopra Jonas has starred in more than 60 films and won multiple acting awards. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 February 2020

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra to speak at Sharjah forum

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has been announced as a guest speaker on the opening day of the 9th edition of Sharjah’s International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) on March 4 at the city’s Expo Center.

The Bollywood star and UNICEF Goodwill ambassador will lead a discussion on the impact of films and TV programs on shaping the public opinion during a talk entitled “Why Does the Screen Have so Much Impact on Public Opinion.”

A highly accomplished actress, Chopra Jonas has starred in more than 60 films and won multiple acting awards throughout her successful career, which makes her an ideal choice to discuss the power of visual media at the upcoming forum.

The session will be moderated by Lebanese television presenter and journalist Raya Abi Rached.