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.


‘Arabs Are Not Funny’ comedy show just the opposite

Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians. (Supplied)
Updated 22 February 2020

‘Arabs Are Not Funny’ comedy show just the opposite

LONDON: Don’t let the name fool you, Friday night’s “Arabs Are Not Funny” comedy show was filled with nothing but quick-witted, snarky and overly-relatable quips. 

Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians Wary Nichen, Leila Ladhari, Mamoun Elagab and Esther Manito, with Iraqi-Scottish Sezar Alkassab hosting. 

The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta (a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound of joy) out of the audience, after encouraging them to “laugh at our culture and enjoy yourself.”

Sudanese-Irishman Elagab, who was recently nominated for BBC New Comedian of the Year, kicked off the night with a comedic look back at his upbringing in the UK, dealing with extremists in class, and the struggle of explaining stand-up comedy to his Sudanese uncle.

The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta. (Supplied)

Lebanese-Brit Manito humored the audience with stories of the struggle of taking her British husband to Beirut to meet her relatives, raising two children as an Arab mom, and having her Lebanese father living with her family yelling and cursing at the TV and on the phone. 

Tunisian-Swiss-Austrian Ladhari joked about her boyfriend’s father trying to bond with her by trying to sympathize with Daesh and letting her know that he “too doesn’t like eating pork.”

The highlight of the night was Algerian-Frenchman Nichen, who spoke of his job as a fulltime immigrant and the racism he endures in daily life in Paris. 

The show was organized by Arts Canteen, an organization that curates and produces events, exhibitions and festivals that support emerging, mid-career and established artists from the Arab world and surrounding regions, bringing their work to new audiences in the UK and beyond.