‘Reimagined Narratives’ brings heritage and art together

‘Reimagined Narratives’ brings heritage and art together
Art D’Egypte also collects in-kind donations to the historic sites where it exhibits its art events. (Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

‘Reimagined Narratives’ brings heritage and art together

‘Reimagined Narratives’ brings heritage and art together
  • Art D’Egypte’s latest exhibition featured works that constructed new stories for the ancient heart of Islamic Cairo
  • Malak Shenouda, executive director of Art D’Egypte, is explaining the idea behind an artwork displayed in Moheb al-Din Hall

CAIRO: “As women of that era walked down the streets (of Islamic Cairo), all you could see of them was their jewelry. Everything else was covered up, these walks being their only interaction with public space.”

Malak Shenouda, executive director of Art D’Egypte, is explaining the idea behind an artwork displayed in Moheb al-Din Hall, one of four heritage sites on Cairo’s El-Mu’iz Street hosting the Art D’Egypte exhibition “Reimagined Narratives,” which ended November 9.

The artwork she is discussing was created by Egyptian artist Sherin Guirguis and comprises two huge kinetic sculptures — “Qasr Al-Shoaq” and “El-Sokareya,” named after the second and third installments of Naguib Mahfouz’s “Cairo Trilogy,” which served as the main inspiration for the artwork.

Mimicking the shape of “traditional Arabic jewelry” and made of materials “similar to harem mashrabiyyas,” the plywood sculptures “reference a woman’s body as she walks down a public street,” reads the concept statement.




The artwork was created by Egyptian artist Sherin Guirguis. (Supplied)

“Where we stand was the party hall and women were only allowed to take a peek at parties from upstairs,” says Shenouda, as we continue our tour of the hall.

“After setting up the exhibition we realized that all three artists exhibiting in this hall are women,” Shenouda says, explaining how this constituted a real “reimagining” of the space and its identity, considering that “women weren’t actually ever allowed here.”

“Reimagined Narratives” was curated by Art D’Egypte’s founder and curator Nadine Abdel Ghaffar and exhibited works by 28 contemporary Egyptian artists. Besides Moheb Al-Din Hall, exhibition sites included Bayt Al-Suhaymi, Qalawun Complex and Maq’ad Mamay Al-Sayfi Hall.

The artworks spanned a range of mediums, including art, video, mixed media and Integrated Virtual Reality installations, as well as sculptures, paintings, 3D projection mapping and a live painting performance. Each artwork was a response to this year’s curatorial statement — that the exhibition should “delve into the stories of people, places and things that have coexisted in one street (El-Mu’iz) for over 1,000 years.”




The artwork was created by Egyptian artist Ibrahim Ahmed. (Supplied)

“People have lived on this street for 1,050 years,” says Shenouda. “Even though it’s a heritage site, it’s still evolving and adapting to different cultures.”

The three-week exhibition was an invitation to artists to “question the historical narratives associated with this space and to also question whether these narratives are true, complete, fabricated, or whether we need to reimagine them (altogether),” says Shenouda.

The results were “site-specific artworks that elevate rather than emulate the narrative of these spaces,” reads a press release by Art D’Egypte.

One example is “Utopian Midnight,” a group of six stunning paintings by Egyptian-Greek visual artist Farida El-Gazzar, who Shenouda says was “drawn to the landscape of Bayt Al-Suhaymi and tried to communicate that in her paintings.” El-Gazzar stresses her connection with the house in her concept statement, specifying as her focus “the greenery — palms and other trees — surrounding the premises as it creates a harmonious transition and prepares the visitor before entering the magnificently detailed interior spaces.” She adds that her aim was to “recreate this experience in a walk around the house, bringing the outdoor into these intricate rooms.”




The paintings are by Egyptian-Greek visual artist Farida El-Gazzar. (Supplied)

Egyptian visual artist and interior architect Karim El-Hayawan’s reinterpretation took him elsewhere — to “random street observations in Cairo.” In his video installation, exhibited in Qalawun Complex and titled “Caught Up, Somewhere Down,” El-Hayawan incorporates Cairo street life into a visual work that “reflects on the perception of history and its perpetual state of being rewritten,” according to his concept statement.

This exercise of reinterpretation underpins another magnificent artwork, “Nobody Knows Where They Are,” by artist Ibrahim Ahmed. Exhibited at Bayt Al-Suhaymi, the artwork comprises a chandelier installation and two textile works. The chandelier is an assemblage of found junk, including “armchairs, window frames, and a prosthetic leg,” discovered by Ahmed on the rooftop of a building close to El-Mu‘iz. Ahmed’s repurposed chandelier “create(s) a dialogue with the surrounding area that is precisely curated and heavily preserved in a profoundly controlled historical narrative,” reads the concept statement.

“Ahmed’s work is a reimagining of the (street’s) history through the general public’s experience of it,” adds Shenouda.

Some of this year’s artworks were a result of residencies held for artists at local Egyptian factories, a collaboration that allowed Art D’Egypte to ease production costs of some art pieces while also “engaging more of the private sector in Egypt,” Shenouda says.




Egyptian visual artist and interior architect Karim El-Hayawan’s reinterpretation took him elsewhere. (Supplied)

“One work was a huge metal structure. Once the design and concept were ready, we put the artist in touch with an iron factory to help them create this art piece by providing materials, machinery, et cetera,” explains Shenouda.

In fact, it is Art D’Egypte’s reliance on a “private-public partnership model” that makes the realization of such large-scale event possible. Art D’Egypte also collects in-kind donations to the historic sites where it exhibits its art events, in an attempt to “leave the space a bit better than when we came in,” says Shenouda.

“Through our collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities, we try to encourage private-sector companies to donate to these spaces,” she adds. Donations to this year’s heritage sites include interior lighting and landscape renovations. For its part, Art D’Egypte donated permanent fire extinguishers and security cameras.




This artwork was created by Karim El-Hayawan. (Supplied)

Beyond the exhibition component, Art D’Egypte runs an educational collateral program, which this year hosted public lectures by art professionals and curators held in parallel to the exhibition. The consultancy also hosts a Cultural Awareness Program to engage the community of historic Cairo by “help[ing] raise awareness to the value of our heritage and how to safeguard it.” The program comprises “The Theatre of Cultural Values,” an array of street theatre performances “tailored to convey values focusing on the importance of art and creativity, the protocol of visiting historical and artistic spaces, our history and identity,” according to the press release.

Another component of the Cultural Awareness Program is a series of workshops titled “The Heritage Guardians,” delivered by “specialists in the fields of contemporary art, heritage-awareness and archeology for students of the neighborhood.”

“We try to be more inclusive and to make arts and culture more accessible,” Shenouda says.




El-Gazzar stresses her connection with the house in her concept statement. (Supplied)

This is Art D’Egypte’s third annual exhibition following “Eternal Light- A Night of Art at the Egyptian Museum” (2017) and “Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms” (Prince Mohamed Ali Tewfik’s Manial Palace, 2018). But “Reimagined Narratives” was the organization’s most ambitious project so far.

“This year’s exhibition is in a much bigger space; is engaging the public much more, and is much more exposed,” says Shenouda. 

A retrospective of “Reimagined Narratives” can be seen at Abu Dhabi Art Fair from November 21-23.


Renowned US authors Tayari Jones, Brent Weeks join Abu Dhabi Book Fair lineup

US author Tayari Jones is set to take part in the event. (File/ AFP)
US author Tayari Jones is set to take part in the event. (File/ AFP)
Updated 11 May 2021

Renowned US authors Tayari Jones, Brent Weeks join Abu Dhabi Book Fair lineup

US author Tayari Jones is set to take part in the event. (File/ AFP)

DUBAI: Renowned US fantasy author Brent Weeks, US author Tayari Jones, Emirati writer Eman Alyousuf and Kuwaiti writer Taleb Alrefai are all set to participate at the upcoming Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre at the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, the 30th edition of ADIBF will see the participation of more than 800 exhibitors from 46 countries around the world, and will comprise more than 104 virtual and physical sessions.

Dr. Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, said: “Despite the challenges we have faced in the wake of the pandemic, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is committed to ramping up its efforts to support the publishing industry and to promote cross-cultural dialogue. We are proud to host this event which reinforces our position as one of the most prominent intellectual and literary forums in region, and gives us the opportunity to highlight Arab literary output while simultaneously celebrating the pioneers of arts and culture from across the world.”

As part of its cultural programme, the fair will feature the artistic and literary works of authors and artists from multiple fields. Among those will be American author Tayari Jones, considered one of the most important writers of her generation, who will hold a session to discuss her latest work. In another session, the fantasy great Weeks will talk about the importance of science fiction novels in transporting readers away from the monotony of their daily lives. Providing a regional perspective, Kuwait’s Alrefai will participate in a dialogue with Emirati writer Alyousuf, to discuss how the pandemic has encouraged reading.

British television presenter and historian Bettany Hughes will join a conversation about the impact of plagues and pandemics on civilisations, while Emirati writer Sultan Al-Amimi will speak about with the importance of short stories and their role in enhancing literary diversity. .


Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Updated 11 May 2021

Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)

CHENNAI: British actress Kate Winslet has dabbled in period pieces, rom-coms, dramas and everything in between, but in her latest outing in “Mare of Easttown,” set to stream on OSN in the region, she absolutely dazzles as a detective in a small, conservative town in Pennsylvania.

In bleak, deprived small-town America, everybody knows everybody and working as a cop is not easy for Winslet’s character Mare Sheehan.

Mare, who rarely smiles but is not grumpy or snappy, carries her own demons. She is tired and weighed down by grief over a family tragedy. Add to the mix a wayward ex-husband (played by David Denman) and a cagey daughter (Angourie Rice), and it seems her personal life is enough to fill a drama series on its own.

But this is a murder mystery, and soon our protagonist is faced with the unsolved case of a 19-year-old missing girl and more. The girl had been gone for a year, and her mother is a friend of Mare’s, which makes it difficult and personal for the detective. And it seems like a hard bolt from the blue when Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a single teenage mother, is found dead in the woods one night after townsfolk had gathered for a party.

The people of Easttown, used to leading uneventful lives, are not pleased with the ramped up police presence — including the intrusion of a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) who is brought in to assist Mare — and it is into this tense atmosphere that Brad Ingelsby, who created and wrote the series, tweaks the formula to add a romantic angle.

Mare meets writer and guest lecturer Richard Ryan (an intelligent, witty and charming Guy Pearce), who is visiting the town.

The writer turns “Mare of Easttown” from what could have been a dull and boring story into something that leaves us thirsting for more at the end of each twisting episode, where every detail matters.

It is a fantastic study in both police work and, more interestingly, the effect a brutal crime has on a community. The series is ably led by director Craig Zobel, who builds a convincing narrative style.

Of course, his eyes are on the star of the series, and it is remarkable to see Winslet so engaging.


US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Updated 11 May 2021

US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US actress and business mogul Jessica Alba showed off a pair of dainty heels by Lebanese designer Andrea Wazen and accessories by part-Arab jewelry designer Ana Khouri while out and about in New York last week.

The actress — who is also the co-founder of the billion-dollar home care business The Honest Company — was in New York to visit NASDAQ headquarters for the IPO of her company.

Later, she was spotted walking in Manhattan and even appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” wearing a pair of dainty rose-colored mules by Wazen.

Alba showed off the Denver mesh mules in pink, which feature a translucent upper, thin ankle strap and elegant pointed toe shape. The heels complemented a dark sage green bag by Celine and a greige trench coat-and-sheath dress combination.

The entrepreneur and actress wore a pair of pink heels by Andrea Wazen. (Getty Images)

Wazen isn’t the only Arab designer Alba flaunted while out and about in New York. She attended the IPO of her company wearing chunky gold statement earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. 

New York-based Khouri has seen her pieces worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron to Karlie Kloss and Alicia Vikander.

Wazen is also no stranger to celebrity fans, and has seen her designs sported by the likes of actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, model Ashley Graham, Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez during her “It’s My Party World Tour” in 2019.

The shoe designer is fresh off a win at the Footwear News (FN) Achievement Awards in December, nabbing the Emerging Talent prize.

“What a feeling… I cannot explain the joy and satisfaction I am feeling,” she wrote at the time, before thanking Michael Atmore, chief brand officer and the director of the event, for recognizing her as this year’s emerging talent, stylist Jill Jacobs for presenting her with the award and her team, who she said she couldn’t have “accomplished any of this” without.

“Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful city, my source of inspiration and my home Beirut,” she wrote.


Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world

Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world
Updated 10 May 2021

Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world

Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world

DUBAI: As UAE-based luxury womenswear label NIILI readies to bring its unique line to Saudi Arabia via the Homegrown Market, a concept store that showcases contemporary emerging Arab brands, the founders spoke to Arab News about their global hopes for the brand that was launched mere weeks before the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic. 

NIILI’s “N21” Fall/Winter 2021/22 capsule collection, which will be available at the Homegrown Market, is inspired by the rich heritage of the UAE and features two of symbols of the country’s culture — palm trees and henna, the ancient art that is commonly used to design women’s hands and feet for weddings and other religious events like Eid. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

A customized pattern melding the two is visible throughout the capsule collection on the label’s signature flowy kaftans. The new line is marked by soft pastels and natural hues, a color palette that was chosen to highlight elegance and femininity.

Launched mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the Middle East, NIILI has been fighting to build a name for itself in the competitive fashion market. 

The co-founders of the ready-to-wear brand, Emirati Khaled Al-Zaabi and Spanish Paula Quetglas Llop, discussed the fashion house’s main goals, how the brand is succeeding despite tough times and its new collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

“What we wanted to do was really create a truly wonderful luxury brand out of the region that would cater to the tastes of the region, but also share with the world our own views of design inspiration and luxury,” said Al-Zaabi.  

The entrepreneur said that he wanted to share Emirati culture with the world, but also stay true to the nature of the UAE. “It is a very inclusive country and a very global country to actually have that international view and international appeal,” added the founder. 

For Llop, she believes that this is the best time to “consume local.” She said that with the pandemic, the trend in countries now is to support “what’s going on in one's country.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

When speaking about the effect of the pandemic on NIILI, Al-Zaabi joked: “You could conduct all the analysis and industry studies… and then you launch on the 15th of January 2020, then a few weeks later there is a major global pandemic that hasn’t happened in a hundred years.”

He said that launching during the time of a pandemic was challenging. “It was and still is extremely difficult… tghankfully we are quite a lean structure as well. We’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices as well (with) cuts,” he explained. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

“It also allowed us to revise our strategy, revise our business plans and rethink a lot of aspects,” added Al-Zaabi. 

According to Llop, the major change for NIILI was going entirely digital. “We really had to think about how to proceed to get a space in the digital world that is absolutely flooded with brands and new things,” she said. 

However, the brand has been making moves since its launch. Just last month, NIILI launched on Ounass for customers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and beyond.


French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign

French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign
Cindy Bruna is one of the most recognizable models in the fashion industry. File/Getty Images
Updated 10 May 2021

French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign

French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign

DUBAI: Cosmetics giant L’Oreal has released a limited-edition makeup collection of nine products with Lebanese couturier Elie Saab. Saab is the latest designer to team up with the cosmetics company, which has partnered with other fashion houses such as Balmain, Isabel Marant and Karl Lagerfeld in the past. The campaign for the L’Oreal x Elie Saab makeup range was unveiled this week, starring French model Cindy Bruna.

The catwalk star appears in a beauty advert wearing a heavily-embellished gossamer dress designed by the Beirut-born couturier. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Bruna, who was born to an Italian father and a Congolese mother in France, actually landed one of her first modeling jobs for Elie Saab shortly after signing with Wilhelmina Models in 2012. 

She would go on to become one of the most recognizable models in the industry, making headlines as the first Black woman to walk exclusively for Calvin Klein in that same year.

Bruna, has been ranked as a “Money Girl” on models.com, alongside the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, meaning she is predicted to have longevity in the fashion world. She has walked the runway a clutch of high-end labels, including Chanel, Saint Laurent and Gucci, to name just a few.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Throughout her career, she has remained loyal to the designer who gave her one of her first modeling gigs and recently served as the face of Elie Saab Parfum’s 10-year anniversary campaign. 

Meanwhile, the exclusive L’Oreal x Elie Saab makeup collection is exactly what you’d expect from a designer beloved by celebrities for his stunning haute couture gowns.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

The nine-piece collection, which marks the designer’s first foray into beauty, includes four shades of lipstick, three creamy lip glosses, a nine-pan eyeshadow palette and an oil-infused mascara. Each comes in sleek, gold-tinged packaging that evokes the luxury of the designer’s signature ethereal gowns.

“My goal has always been to make women look beautiful and this collection allows me to bring an array of products to fit into women’s lives, helping them to feel more elegant and confident,”  Saab said in a statement about the collaboration.