Young artists take center stage in Saudi exhibition

It is the 6th edition of Athr Gallery’s ‘In The Midst Of It All.’ (Supplied)
Updated 06 December 2019

Young artists take center stage in Saudi exhibition

  • Highlights from Athr Gallery’s ‘In The Midst Of It All,’ the sixth edition of its exhibition dedicated to showcasing young talent in the Kingdom

 

‘Emotional Metamorphosis’

Aisha Islam

This year’s Young Saudi Artist showcase at Athr Gallery — which runs until December 31 — features 22 artists based in the Kingdom (selected from over 200 applicants) tackling the theme of social change in the country and Saudi identity. Curator Zahra Dar Bundakji says the gallery called on artists to answer the question: “Who are you, in the midst of it all?”

Al-Dahran-based artist Aisha Islam explored connections between identity and wellbeing in her work — a series of x-rays belonging to her late mother onto which Islam has ‘painted’ patterns in henna. “My mother loved henna, it was very ceremonial for her and made her really happy,” Islam told Arab News at the exhibition launch. “Working on this series was my mourning process — accepting the loss and turning something sad into something happier.”

‘The Capable Machine’

Rajaa Al-Hajj

Al-Hajj is a Sanaa-born sculptor and painter whose work, according to the exhibition brochure, “explores art movements such as surrealism and cubism” and “observes striking resemblances between biology and machinery” while “giving body and form to the intangible elements of existence.”

The striking ceramic sculpture she created for “In The Midst Of It All” is an attempt by the artist to examine the impact that “artificial constructs” including borders and power can have on regular people’s ability to proceed with their daily lives. “She redefines authority as merely a position,” the brochure says. “One that can be changed at any given time.”

‘Architecture Light’ series

Feras Nour

The Jeddah-born photographer was an architecture student and that passion has become his main source of inspiration for his work, and the lens through which he scrutinizes social and cultural issues. “Many of his works started to explore subjects of culturalism, displacement and identity,” the brochure states.

The photographs selected for “In The Midst Of It All,” including this one — “Emergence” — focus on the presence of light and how it can alter people’s environment and perception. “Light is able to transform and awaken a building, an object or a material … and bring it to life by giving emotional depth and character regardless of the intensity of the light source,” the artist’s statement says. “It is an ever-changing and moving presence, a reflection of us.”

‘Nobody Asked For Your Opinion’

Hana Kanee

Kanee is a painter and mixed-media artist born in Jeddah whose landscapes and portraits focus on everyday life in the Kingdom, often depicting the clash between modernization and heritage. “Capturing conflict is a recurrent subject for Kanee, be it through depictions of traditional landscapes in Abha or the changes in the region’s urbanization, the relationships between millennials and the generations preceding them, or the struggle to find balance of identity,” the exhibition brochure says.

The three paintings shown here depict “eye rolls and cringes” and are a commentary on “our being receptors of information, and the lack of control over it by way of various intruding forms of media.”

‘Chanting’ (Performance and video installation)

Ftoon Al-Thaedi

Al-Thaedi, a Riyadh-born “cultural mediator and multidisciplinary artist” contributed a video installation and performance piece to the exhibition. “Chanting” aims to “bridge cultural and generational gaps and shift views, as well as break stereotypes about Saudi youth.”

In her performance, the artist created various forms of henna — leaves, bright-green powder, and the brown or black pastes — and smeared them over herself, using natural material “to create layers of (a) new and redefined identity that sits in between the past and the present.”

‘From Within’

Nasser Al-Shemimry

Al-Shemimry is a Jeddah-based sound artist also known as Desertfish. “He creates lush, sonic, and immersive soundscapes” and “focuses on topics such as the realm of human awareness of time, and aims to create a dialogue about the self in relation to the space it occupies.”

For “In The Midst Of It All,” Al-Shemimry created an audio-visual installation that uses infrared sensors to track viewers’ motion so that when they enter the room, a projection is cast on the wall. The work “highlights our spatial awareness,” according to the exhibition brochure.

‘Fake Persian Carpet’

Ibrahim Romman

The Jeddah-born artist and graphic designer relies heavily on research for his artworks, often using found material to create them. “He explores Arab cultural identity” and “questions the influences between East and West.”

In “Fake Persian Carpet,” Romman used imagery from the daily life of his grandmother, replacing her imported carpets with “a bespoke carpet of his own making.” The work was influenced by Romman’s studies on “Arab aesthetics and impressions of opulence, success and ‘culture,’” with particular focus on “notions of Westernized beauty and style standards, as appropriated by Arabs through travel and as diasporas.”

While all the elements in the work are taken from his grandmother’s life and home in Saudi Arabia — patterns from her furniture, the tiles that create the border — all the objects in her home, the artist realizes, are imported. “Which begs the question: What is Saudi aesthetic identity, and where does it come from?”


Lebanese luxury soap brand sees boost in sales amid pandemic

Updated 27 May 2020

Lebanese luxury soap brand sees boost in sales amid pandemic

DUBAI: In 1999, Syrian-Palestinian fragrance connoisseur Hana Debs Akkari pursued her passion project in Lebanon by founding a sophisticated soap company called “Senteurs d’Orient,” or “Fragrances of the East” in French.

Akkari envisioned that her handcrafted soaps would symbolize the beloved floral essences of the Middle East, particularly the Levant, which is reportedly the world’s oldest soap-making region.

With the pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Akkari’s small, family-run luxury soap business has witnessed an increased demand in their natural products nearly twenty years since its founding.

Portrait of Sarah Akkari, CEO of Senteurs d’Orient. (Supplied)

“Since the pandemic was declared, we saw a spike in our online sales,” said Lebanese-Canadian and New Yorked-based Sarah Akkari, Hana’s daughter and CEO of Senteurs d’Orient, to Arab News. “People are washing their hands more often, and their hands are becoming drier as a consequence. So, they’re also looking for a natural soap, such as the ones we offer. Our antibacterial soaps are packed with different nourishing ingredients like glycerin, Shea butter and Vitamin E.”

Operating from Lebanon, Senteurs d’Orient’s factory is run by a diligent team of chemists and artisans, many of whom are women as female education and empowerment in the workforce is at the heart of the company’s ethos.

Engraving soaps at the Lebanon factory. (Supplied)

After mixing the chemical-free ingredients by hand, the soaps are air-dried for 10 ten days and later machine-molded and carefully hand-wrapped. True to the company’s name, the delicate floral scents of gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, and rose of Damascus draw their inspiration from eastern gardens.

To show support for the selfless medical workers, some of whom reached out to Akkari and expressed interest in Senteurs d’Orient’s soaps, she recently donated nearly 500 packages to doctors and nurses from four American hospitals — two in Los Angeles, one in New York and another in New Jersey.

Each package is an ‘Oriental Trio Box’, containing three bars of soap, the shapes and engravings of which are inspired by the decoration of ‘maamoul’, the Levant region’s quintessential pastry.

“When you’re facing this type of crisis and you’re receiving emails from doctors and nurses or anyone on the frontlines, it’s a not a request you can reject,” explained the 32-year-old entrepreneur. “It’s something that we really wanted to be part of and it brought us much satisfaction knowing we could contribute in this way.”

The company has expanded its international presence and line of therapeutic products, creating bath salts, multi-purpose oils and thinly sliced, single-use soap leaves. (Supplied)

Under the leadership of Akkari, the company has expanded its international presence and line of therapeutic products, creating Mediterranean orange blossom bath salts, multi-purpose oils and thinly sliced, single-use soap leaves of amber and tea flower.

It is the authenticity of Senteurs d’Orient’s products that Akkari hopes will come through.

“You feel the fragrance is coming straight from the flower,” she said.