How Misk festival is enriching creative arts in Saudi Arabia

How Misk festival is enriching creative arts in Saudi Arabia
‘Flicker’ by Donia Al-Shetairy. (Supplied)
Updated 16 November 2019

How Misk festival is enriching creative arts in Saudi Arabia

How Misk festival is enriching creative arts in Saudi Arabia
  • Third edition of festival dedicated to the creative arts in KSA and abroad held in Riyadh
  • Misk Art presents a fair-like setup of local and international exhibitions, workshops and discussions

RIYADH: “We wish to open new horizons toward understanding the artistic aspects surrounding us and use them to enrich the local creative content as well as the Saudi art scene,” said Reem Sultan, CEO of Misk, referring to Misk Art, a festival dedicated to the creative arts in Saudi Arabia and abroad.

Misk Art presents a fair-like setup of local and international galleries, art exhibitions, workshops and talks with the aim to empower local artists and raise community awareness about the power of creativity.

Titled “Experiment 0.3,” the third edition of Misk Art focused on how the act of experimenting through critique and research empowers creativity and the local art scene.

From Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, about 50,000 visitors visited a temporary space on King Fahad Road in the Al-Yasmin district of Riyadh.

Here they viewed works by more than 250 artists showcased amid the initiative’s various sections, including an art district, numerous specially curated exhibitions, art installations and the North East Zone, an outdoor area where bold ideas can be tested.

Among the 15 participants in Misk Art 2019 were Jeddah-based Hafez Gallery and Athr Gallery; Mono Gallery from Riyadh; Egyptian Galler Misr; Riyadh-based Hewar Art Gallery; Ella Art Gallery from Manama, Bahrain; Palette Gallery from Riyadh; Jeddah-based Nesma Art Gallery; Sharqia Arts from Riyadh and 6th Sense Gallery, also from Riyadh.

Hamza Bounoua’s ‘My World 2’. (Supplied)

Misk Art is organized by the Misk Art Institute, a platform founded in 2017 to support art and artists operating under the auspices of Misk Foundation, established by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Misk Art 2019 was comprised of four exhibitions and about 100 workshops. It also included the second edition of its Sculpture Symposium, which saw 21 works commissioned especially for the event by sculptors from 14 countries.

“Everything was chosen based on the event’s theme to showcase experimentation,” said Sultan. “We also formed committees of well-known artists that helped to select and filter the artworks, artists, workshops and exhibitions under our supervision.”

In one of the event’s principal installations, a multitude of dead trees covered in foil by artist Abdullah Alothman entitled “Tin Farm” (2019) explored notions of collectivity and individuality through the natural phenomena of trees.

“The Tin Farm consists of a myriad of diverse trees like many souls with frozen oxygen in their veins,” said Alothman. “I exhibit trees of tinfoil in order to enter a state of lucid dreaming and artistic fantasy where the branches of the trees extend to the sky.

“Similar to fingerprints — no two are alike — every tree, every branch, every strand of grass has its own unique murmur.”

“Through experimentation we discover possibilities; through experimenting you connect with your creative soul, your unique and authentic voice; explore different realms of art, venture into unfamiliar paths and break every rule!” read a statement on this year’s theme.

What was paramount, said Sultan, was “deepening the concept of research and experience in various fields of art.”

In “Land, Medium, Idea,” artist and curator Moath Alofi created three stations exploring land, material and thoughts.

“We created three rooms; one to show the audience how Google Maps allows us to explore Saudi Arabia and how through this tool the visitor can interact and find their own unique places in the Kingdom,” said Alofi.

“The second station explored the various materials from which art can be made and the third room is like a speed-dating station for art and thoughts — like a five-minute consultancy with the artist and with me.

‘Simple yet complex’ by Maisa Shaldan. (Supplied)

“It’s a place where visitors could ask questions, discuss and explore art creation.”

In another exhibition, entitled “Flow,” Saudi artists Fahad and Talal explored the work of late 20th-century artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat through a jointly created artwork that bridged different styles and ultimately asked the question: Where does one artist begin and the other end?

Perhaps, as the work demonstrated, experimentation is continuous and part of an ever-evolving cycle of inspiration and exploration.

“Contrast in Harmony,” a show curated by artist Lulwa Al-Homoud, known for her contemporary calligraphic works, similarly explored how a visual expression of harmony can be achieved by simultaneously merging contrasting elements.

“A sense of peace can be generated even through our differences,” said Al-Homoud.

Participating artists included Hala Al-Khalifa; German artist Wolfang Stiller; Egyptian Hazem El-Mestikawy; Bahraini artist Jamal Abdulrahim; Ismail Al-Rifa from Syria and silkscreen prints of Victor Vasarely (1906-1997), known as the father of Optical Art.

“Soujorn,” an exhibition curated by Kolood Al-Bakr and Abdulsalam Al-Amiri, investigates the necessity of different experiences and knowledge throughout life.

“One can never acquire knowledge without an experience or form an idea without a dialogue,” said Al-Bakr.

A sense of peace can be generated even through our differences.

Lulwa Al-Homoud, artist

“One of the factors that contributes to the quality of human life is to go through different encounters and experiences that will eventually assist in improving human growth.”

Part of the exhibition was the installation “Did you capture it?,” by videographer Tarfa Bint Fahad with music by Weirdsaudi.

The video explored how our lives have been shaped by the Instagram images we consistently seek to take and how by doing so often miss the smaller, and at times, more important aspects of our daily lives.

“Did you capture it?” is dedicated to those moments that often go missing in the constant bubble of social media snapping. As Tarfa captures life’s little details, Weirdsaudi composes a score of music that similarly adds back the forgotten sounds of those moments into our daily lives.

Art at the Misk Global Forum Art was of pivotal importance during the Misk Global Forum, which was organized by the Misk Initiative Center at the Misk Foundation and took place from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14 in Riyadh under the title “Work Reworked”

It will explore new trends and changes in the world of work in the presence or more than 140 entrepreneurs and 5,000 people from more than 120 countries.

Entitled “Presence,” the first art installation, is in the form of an interactive experience presented by Misk Art Institute to explore how one’s presence, in body and soul, influences the way they perceive the world around them.

The second, entitled “Brace,” also offered an immersive digital experience by artist Abdul Halim Radwi, showcasing through large display screens covering the room the sensation of painting.

In December, Misk Art Institute will be participating in Diriya Season with an initiative called Tajallat.

Now in its fourth edition, Tajallat is an initiative where 20 artists from all over the Kingdom are invited to take part in a live-drawing show inspired by the historic Al Turaif District, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.


THE BREAKDOWN: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige discuss ‘Cedar IV, A Reconstitution’

THE BREAKDOWN: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige discuss ‘Cedar IV, A Reconstitution’
Updated 26 February 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige discuss ‘Cedar IV, A Reconstitution’

THE BREAKDOWN: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige discuss ‘Cedar IV, A Reconstitution’

DUBAI: Through their 2011 installation, The Paris-based Lebanese duo reflect on their 2011 installation, inspired by the Lebanese Rocket Society from the 1960s.

Lebanese Rocket Society. (Supplied)

Hadjithomas: It all started with my sister. She was researching Lebanese history and came across this story about rockets being launched from Lebanon (in the Sixties). It stayed in our minds. A few years later, we saw the stamp of the Cedar IV rocket, which was issued in 1964, and we thought it was really interesting. 

Joreige: We wondered why such a positive project disappeared from our history and memory. 

H: The Lebanese Rocket Society started in 1960 at Haigazian University. There was a professor — Manoug Manougian — who was really fond of rocketry. His students started making rockets and propellants at the university. The Lebanese Army joined in, but for Manoug and his students it was always an educational project — never a military one.

J: It wasn’t nationalistic either. Most of the people involved weren’t Lebanese — they came from all over the region. Through education, they were building peace.

H: They thought they were contributing to the space race — they were contemporary to the rest of the world, researching this fascination that people had for space. It’s about hope and dreams. So we felt that we should tell this story and find all the people that participated. That was not easy because they were scattered all around the world.

J: We had to think about different strategies of reactivating the past in the present.

H: So we rebuilt a rocket with the help of Sharjah Biennale and we offered it to Haigazian University. Reconstitution is a way of giving matter — reality — to our lost memories. That’s why it was important to redo the rocket exactly as it was. We chose Cedar IV because it was one of the most successful, but we didn’t put the Lebanese flag on it.

 J: if you put a flag on it, it would become national and militaristic. By keeping it white, it’s a place of projection, a ghostly presence.

H: Today, it seems like a military missile but it’s not. 

J: The UAE probe (which reached Mars on Feb. 9) is called “Hope.” When you are targeting another dimension, something you don’t know, it is always a question of hope.

H: Lebanon is very rich in its people, but we are hostages of people that are corrupt and think only about themselves. We were really happy for the UAE when “Hope” reached Mars, and I think the Lebanese reacted to it because they felt they should also be dreaming — and having the possibility to reconstruct and free themselves from those corrupt people.

Escape to Cape Town

Escape to Cape Town
Updated 26 February 2021

Escape to Cape Town

Escape to Cape Town
  • The most prestigious venues in South Africa’s tourism capital have never been more affordable

DUBAI: The silence atop Table Mountain on a cloudless afternoon in December is an experience only the COVID-19 pandemic could have brought. 

As one of the most popular hikes (or cable-car rides, if you’d prefer an easier climb) in Cape Town, the summit is usually thronging with people wielding selfie sticks and smartphones whatever the day, leaving you jostling for a decent view of the famed Twelve Apostles to the left, and the sweeping city and harbor to the right. But on this Friday evening we find ourselves alone except for our guide and a peppy rock hyrax for company. 

Naturally, South Africa’s tourism capital is a different place during the pandemic. Like elsewhere in the world, it’s largely devoid of international travellers. This is bad news for the country’s tourism industry, but a positive point if you’re one of the few choosing to head abroad.

In Franschhoek, the picturesque valley filled with vineyards just north-east of Cape Town, a seat at one of the country’s premier restaurants has never been easier to come by. (Shutterstock)

The city’s top hotels are offering large discounts to entice travellers in. And Cape Town’s premier attractions — including its world-renowned restaurants — are easier to get into then ever.

South Africa opened its doors to tourists on November 1, but has since faced challenges in being perceived as a safe place to visit. In December, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country was in a second wave of infections, one that was crippling the hospital system. The South African variant of COVID-19 was also discovered. Flights into and out of the country were cancelled. Ramaphosa closed beaches and public parks and enforced a number of other restrictions in perceived hotspots — including Nelson Mandela Bay and the famous Garden Route. The move was another blow for the tourism industry there, which, after a tough lockdown period earlier in the year, was relying on the incoming flock of domestic tourists for the festive season. 

If you’re staying at the One and Only Cape Town, seek out David. (Shutterstock)

Cape Town and the surrounding area escaped strict restrictions, however. Its beaches, as well as the sparkling white bays and the quirky towns dotted around Cape Peninsula (Hout Bay, Kalk Bay, Muizenberg etc) are humming with locals. It’s a relative hum, however, with only a few beachfront restaurants nearing capacity and a palpable air of uncertainty. 

Wandering along Cape Town’s beachfront, you’ll be hard-pressed to hear a foreign accent. You can wander through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and not see another face for long periods of time. On a hike up Table Mountain, you might only encounter a couple of other people on the same route. The uncrowded outdoors beckon.

Many of the hikes in the city (Lion’s Head is another must-do) seem easy enough, but are better attempted with a guide — both for safety and enjoyment. Most hotels will either have one on staff or will be able to arrange one for you. If you’re staying at the One and Only Cape Town, seek out David. He’s knowledgeable about hidden spots on the hike, as well as about the area’s fauna and flora, meaning your hike will be peppered with educational tidbits too. 

Babylonstoren is arguably the region’s most popular spot. (Shutterstock)

One and Only Cape Town is a top choice if you’re looking to stay central — nestled in around the waterfront. Its affable army of staff positioned around the property at all times are vigilant about temperature checks and sanitization, and it’s a diverse enough hotel to mean you never have to leave if you’re nervous about mixing in crowds. A central island of resort-style rooms offer an escape to a tropical island in the middle of the city, surrounded by waterways where you can kayak or paddleboard. 

The hotel is also home to Africa’s only Nobu restaurant. Given the freshness of the catch in this area of the world, it’s the perfect place to break up all your heavy game meals. Better yet, spend a rainy day trying a sushi masterclass and learn Nobu’s famous six-step nigiri method. 

Given the freshness of the catch in this area of the world, it’s the perfect place to break up all your heavy game meals. (Shutterstock)

Best of all, the Western Cape’s world-famous restaurants don’t need to be booked months in advance at the moment. Even in the really touristy areas.

In Franschhoek, the picturesque valley filled with vineyards just north-east of Cape Town, a seat at one of the country’s premier restaurants has never been easier to come by. For instance, at Babylonstoren, arguably the region’s most popular spot, bookings for its restaurant Babel open nine months in advance, with its website recommending booking two or three months in advance. Now, you can book with less than 24-hours notice.

La Residence, Franschhoek’s most beautiful property (and a favorite of Sir Elton John), is a boutique option at the best of times, but now it seems almost as though it’s your own private mansion. The 30-acre estate is positioned on a hillock overlooking the village on one side and with lines of vines on the other, as emboldened peacocks wander around your room, and up to your table at breakfast time. One couple has booked in for 46 nights, which may be a bit much, but it’s hard to blame them, given the (relatively) bargain prices and lack of crowds.

If you’re willing and able to travel — and if the country’s borders are open again — this might be the best possible time to visit this dazzling city.

Saudi-British artistic collaboration explores Saudi Arabia’s past, future

Saudi-British artistic collaboration explores Saudi Arabia’s past, future
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi-British artistic collaboration explores Saudi Arabia’s past, future

Saudi-British artistic collaboration explores Saudi Arabia’s past, future
  • Young artists received mentorship from prominent Saudi creator Manal Al-Dowayan
  • They were participants in Connect ME program, which fosters UK-Gulf artistic exchange

LONDON: An upcoming artist from Saudi Arabia has revealed the results of his collaboration with a British counterpart, launching digital artwork that “seeks to recalibrate viewers’ perception of ‘the other’ culture.”

Riyadh-based Meshal Al-Obaidallah worked with artist Carolin Schnurrer to produce the work, called “FAREWELL ARABIA: A Bold New Vision,” as part of the Connect ME Digital Residency program run by the Arab British Centre.

The initiative pairs young artists from the Gulf with British counterparts to foster artistic collaboration, and to consider how digital tools can encourage connectivity across borders despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the program, the young artists received mentorship from prominent Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan.

The work by Al-Obaidallah and Schnurrer explores Saudi Arabia’s rapid development during the 20th century and how it changed society, as well as looking ahead at what the future might hold for the Kingdom.

“Through our exchange, we collected found footage, sound bites, quotes, symbols and other fragments,” said Al-Obaidallah.

“These re-appropriated fragments were processed, destroyed, accelerated, decelerated and rearranged,” he added, describing it as a “mishmash of fact and fiction.” 

Eilidh Kennedy McLean, British Council country director for Saud Arabia, congratulated Al-Obaidallah on representing the Kingdom in the residency, saying: “It is an incredible, interesting time for artists to explore different mediums of collaborations to create and innovate despite the physical restrictions during COVID.” 

Also selected to participate in the Connect ME program were Emirati artist Dina Khatib and British artist Ollie Cameron.

They collaborated to create a work that explores “how visualizing the unseen space between them could become a means for connection and exchange.”

All four artists and their mentor Al-Dowayan will host an online talk on March 3 to discuss the program and their creations in-depth.

Hend Sabri’s ‘Ayza Atgawez’ to return on Netflix after 10 years

Hend Sabri’s ‘Ayza Atgawez’ to return on Netflix after 10 years
Updated 25 February 2021

Hend Sabri’s ‘Ayza Atgawez’ to return on Netflix after 10 years

Hend Sabri’s ‘Ayza Atgawez’ to return on Netflix after 10 years

DUBAI: Egyptian-Tunisian actress Hend Sabri is set to release a new season of her 2010 comedy series “Ayza Atgawez” (“I Want to Get Married”) on the streaming service Netflix, she announced on Thursday.

The new show, directed by Egyptian filmmaker Hady El Bagory, will be called “Al Bahth Aan Ola” which translates to “Finding Ola.”

In the 2010 series, Sabri played the role of Ola, a young pharmacist from a middle-class family who hoped to get married before she turns 30.


A post shared by هند صبري (@hendsabri)

Sabri took to Instagram to reveal the news to her 2.9 million followers. “I am excited because I will meet Ola Abdel Sabour again after 10 years,” she said in a video she shot on set. “Do you remember her? You do for sure. You ask me a lot about her. I am trying to look for her in a new world. We will discover what she did after 10 years.”

“Just like you all changed after 10 years, she also changed. But, some things never change,” she added, revealing that veteran Egyptian actress Susan Badr, who played Ola’s mom, will also be in the show’s new season.


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The show will star Egyptian actors Mahmoud Ellithy and Nada Moussa, who appeared in the one-minute clip that Sabri shared.

Sabry has previously collaborated with Netflix on a campaign, “Because She Watched,” to curate an inspirational film collection on the platform.


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The 41-year-old actress, who has a degree in law, has made history by becoming the first Arab woman to serve as a jury member in the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

Just last month, she was named Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.


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Sabri, who is a UN goodwill ambassador for the World Food Programme, started acting in 1994 in Tunisia. She then moved to Egypt, where she got married and currently lives, to expand her outreach.

With a career that spans over two decades, she has proven to be one the Arab world’s most iconic actresses with a number of successful films and shows under her belt.

‘News of the World’ offers little that’s new

‘News of the World’ offers little that’s new
Updated 25 February 2021

‘News of the World’ offers little that’s new

‘News of the World’ offers little that’s new
  • Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass reunite on sweet-but-shallow Western

AMSTERDAM: Tom Hanks as an ageing cowboy searching for his place in a world that is changing too rapidly for him? No, this isn’t “Toy Story 4.” Sadly. 

“News of the World” sees Hanks reunite with director Paul Greengrass — the combo behind 2013’s “Captain Phillips.” Here, Hanks plays another captain, Jefferson Kyle Kidd — a veteran of the Confederate army in the US Civil War who now makes a living traveling from town to town reading the news from the latest papers he can find to people who pay 10 cents apiece to hear it. While on the road, he encounters a young German girl by an overturned wagon. She had been kidnapped by Native Americans as an infant and raised as one of their own, but is now being returned to her only surviving relatives by a soldier who has died in their wagon crash. 

“News of the World” sees Tom Hanks reunite with director Paul Greengrass. (Supplied)

Kidd ends up, somewhat convolutedly (but essentially because he’s such a good guy), having to transport the girl, Johanna — who barely speaks German or English — to her aunt and uncle himself; a long, dangerous journey made even more dangerous by predators, both human and animal. As they travel, Kidd tries to connect with Johanna, who clearly identifies as Native American and has no desire for a ‘Western’ life. 

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Hanks in this role, since his name is now pop-culture shorthand for this type of world-weary, kind, level-headed character. Kidd is all of those things. Hanks plays him perfectly. 

Tom Hanks plays the role of a captain, Jefferson Kyle Kidd. (Supplied)

Though billed as a Western, this is no action movie. Instead, it’s a contemplation of a divided nation attempting to pull itself together, and of love and responsibility. Johanna’s actual relatives are far less invested in her welfare than Kidd (they’ve never met before and she is borderline-feral, after all). 

The success of the film rides on the chemistry between Helena Zengel as Johanna and Hanks as her guardian. I wasn’t entirely convinced — in comparison, to say, the similar couple in the Coen brothers’ 2010 take on “True Grit.”

“News of the World” is a sweet, downbeat-but-optimistic movie, and certainly not bad. But it is more notable, ultimately, for the films that it isn’t, rather than the film it is.