Tunisian artist Nicène Kossentini marries Arabic poetic text with glass art pieces

The Tunisian artist's works were displayed at the FIAC contemporary art fair in Paris last month. (Supplied)
Updated 08 November 2019

Tunisian artist Nicène Kossentini marries Arabic poetic text with glass art pieces

DUBAI: The multidisciplinary Tunisian artist tells us how her literary and artistic heritage influenced her poetic work on glass for the FIAC contemporary art fair in Paris last month.




Nicène Kossentini's poetic work on glass was influenced by literary and artistic heritage. (Supplied)

A few years ago, I started working with old Arabic texts and I copied some of their fragments in my work. I’m not interested in the aesthetics of calligraphy, but rather in language. In this work, each cloud shows what I was reading from the “One Thousand and One Nights” tales.

When I read the tales, I was so interested in the details, which build the imaginary. We have many details of clothes, food, music, and we can really catch all of the social and political aspects of Arab society — whether in Egypt, Baghdad, or Syria.

I studied fine arts in Tunis and Paris and I learned about contemporary and European art. Later, I returned to my hometown of Sfax and I started practicing a very specific art of my culture and heritage — painting on glass. In the 18th century there was a painter called Mahmoud Al-Feriani, who learned the artistic practice of painting on glass in Syria, and later produced a lot of these paintings in Sfax. I’m fascinated by this form of art and I wanted to reinvent this tradition.

I liked losing myself in the writing of “Nuages.” When I started reading and writing at the same time, I didn’t want to stop. Each day for six-to-seven weeks, I spent many hours working on the piece. I would open my “One Thousand and One Nights” book and write what I read directly onto the glass through the simple use of my brush and ink.

It’s an act of copying the Arabic language, but I’m also expressing my frustration because I have a feeling that I am losing my language. It is through language that we can imagine, and this notion of disappearing is what I am questioning in the work.


Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition. (Supplied)
Updated 21 November 2019

Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

  • Cairo Saturday Walks are a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city
  • The team is now exhibiting its work for charity at a gallery in the city

DUBAI: The Cairo Saturday Walks team, a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city, are now exhibiting their work for charity at a gallery in the city.

The exhibition brought together more than 50 local, international, professional and amateur photographers who are displaying their work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22.

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60. (Supplied)

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past, according to the founder of Cairo Saturday Walks Karim El-Hayawan.

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition.

El-Hayawan described the practice as an “organic experience,” during which photographers discover the city’s hidden gems.

The group is displaying its work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22. (Supplied)

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers.

El-Hayawan’s journey began after he took a basic introductory course in photography. “I did not have time during the week to work on my photography assignments. I used to go out every Saturday to take pictures and I used to post on my account. Then a lot of people started asking me ‘Where are these places? Where do you go? We want to join,’ although (these places) exist 10-15 minutes from anywhere in Cairo, but people did not notice them or had forgotten them,” he told Arab News.

The photographers walk around and discover the city’s hidden gems. (Supplied)

The group has a library of more than 15,000 pictures accessible on Instagram through #cairosaturdaywalks.

“We ask people who join us to share their pictures on that hashtag, with the intention of having a long-term documentation of Cairo,” El-Hayawan said. “Everyone takes pictures from his/her own perspective. It is extremely neutral; everyone takes pictures of whatever they want.”

In two to three years, people can go back to this documentation and see that Cairo looked this way at this time,” he said.

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past. (Supplied)

A typical Saturday for the photographers starts off at a cafe. “We meet in the morning at a coffee shop and we take a little bus that we rent every Saturday and we just hit the road to somewhere random and we get lost. We call them to pick us up from wherever we reach at the end of the day. The idea is that it has no structure and I really aimed at that from the very beginning,” El-Hayawan said.

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers. (Supplied)

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60, but El-Hayawan said that anyone can join the walk and share their pictures.

“I found out about Cairo Saturday Walks from Instagram. The spirit of people I walk with is just amazing. Also, the fact that I am Egyptian yet I still get amazed by Cairo’s streets is what pushes me to explore more every week,” Yara Wael, a 17-year-old photographer, told Arab News.