Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdallah questions our hyper-connected present

Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdallah questions our hyper-connected present
Sarah Abu Abdullah at the Jameel Art Center. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 February 2020

Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdallah questions our hyper-connected present

Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdallah questions our hyper-connected present
  • In ‘For the First Time in a Long Time’ the Saudi artist explores the tension between our virtual personas and our real lives

DUBAI: The sound of glass and hard metal emanates from a room in Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center. Something is being broken. Step inside the gallery and the noise is revealed to be coming from a video installation by Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdallah called “Salad Zone,” in which two women in black abayas are repeatedly hitting a large television. 

The work, a 20-minute single-channel video projection in color and sound — originally commissioned for “Rhizoma,” a group show that took place during the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 — is both alarming and humorous. Abdallah herself is a protagonist in the film, and like her other multidisciplinary work, “Salad Zone” oscillates between the real, the poetic and the absurd.




Step inside the gallery and the noise is revealed to be coming from a video installation by Saudi artist Sarah Abu Abdallah called “Salad Zone.” (Supplied)

It was inspired by a story a friend told Abdallah about an argument that took place at her home. “My friend was so angry that she took a stick and started smashing the TV,” the artist explains. “I thought it was funny because the TV room seems to be the place where a lot of anger develops. It’s also the place in a home where people gather the most.” 

The video is now part of “For the First Time in a Long Time,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center, which brings together works she produced over the last six years using a variety of media, including painting, text, video and installation.

Each work offers an often-satirical meditation on what Abdallah — who has a BA in Fine Art from the University of Sharjah and an MA in Digital Media from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) — describes as “our media-saturated present.” Her work is influenced by the constant flow of online data and images, the pop-culture of the Gulf, and her own personal references.




In “Salad Zone” two women in black abayas are repeatedly hitting a large television. (Supplied)

“The House That Ate Them Whole,” a three-channel installation from 2018, also focuses on the rituals and residues of daily life as a way to open up a wider conversation on social codes that transcend public and private spaces. 

“It’s a fictional story of a house that grew stagnant and bored and then ate its inhabitants,” explains Abdallah. “The story is told through witnesses. One person talks about a nightmare he had about an explosion that happened, while other scenes show people talking about the story in an investigative way, so that the story itself becomes almost real.” 

The reportage in the video emulates current news channels to such an extent that it blurs the lines between what is fiction and truth; and so begs the question: Does the media show us what is real, or simply figments?




Abdallah herself is a protagonist in the film, and like her other multidisciplinary work, “Salad Zone” oscillates between the real, the poetic and the absurd. (Supplied)

Both “Salad Zone” and “The House That Ate Them Whole” also reflect on how notions of power permeate even the most mundane aspects of everyday life — from the way public roads are accessed and navigated to structural configurations of the private spaces that occupy one’s family home. In Abdallah’s art, these seemingly unimportant things are significant to how we think and feel. 

Her work offers a dialogue that transcends public and private spaces and settles somehow in between — in a space where the unspoken social codes that are present in our daily lives can be discussed freely. 

“Much of my work is generated through conversations with friends and collaborating with other artists,” she says, nodding to the idea that her art serves as a fictional extension of her real-life explorations.

Two new works, “Bad Hunches” and “Trees Speaking With Each Other” were specially commissioned for the show at Jameel Arts Center. The former is a large-scale undulating painting incorporating images and forms collected by Abdallah. It functions as a visual diary. 




Her work offers a dialogue that transcends public and private spaces and settles somehow in between — in a space where the unspoken social codes that are present in our daily lives can be discussed freely. (Supplied)

“It’s a bit of journal that is trying to link different moments in my life,” says Abdallah. “Here is my cat and there is a tomato that you will see in the next room.” And the title? “It refers to the anxiety we feel today,” she says. 

The painting is scroll-like in form so that the viewer must spend time walking from one end to the other taking in the various figures, objects, thoughts and dreams that inhabit her mind and now her art.

In “Trees Speaking With Each Other,” a large wooden planter box contains several living, heirloom tomatoes. But not just any tomatoes. The mundane installation serves as a monument to a type of tomato once grown in Saudi Arabia that has now disappeared due to land reforms and urbanization. 

“It’s a work that speaks about the inability to recreate what has been lost,” says Abdallah. “I am from the Eastern Province (of Saudi Arabia) and, through urban development, farmlands have become compromised by the extraction of oil. These tomatoes are no longer available. They were grown by generations and generations of farmers. This piece is a gesture of nostalgia.”

In “For the First Time in a Long Time” — which runs until April 20 — the absurd, the powerful and the mundane are mixed with longing for what is no more. Abdallah preserves her memories not only of extinct tomatoes, but also of conversations with friends and her own explorations into the everyday wonders that make up daily life. In the end, her works are visual meanderings of the modern-day culture in the Gulf.


Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 
Updated 02 March 2021

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz has just made his ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2021 collection more accessible to fashion lovers. 

According to WWD, the founder of Maison Rabin Kayrouz, who is based between Paris and Beirut, has expanded his offerings for the upcoming season and is “shifting prices downward some 20 to 30 percent.”

The designer’s new approach will allow women to turn to Kayrouz for day-to-day ensembles. 

Kayrouz’s new offerings are “soft and playful,” according to the brand’s Instagram page. In his campaign video, the designer showcased dresses, skirts, shirts, trousers and coats in a floral-inspired setting, mixing bold color blocking and fresh prints cut in light fabrics. 

Kayrouz, as well as renowned Lebanese label Elie Saab and Dubai-based atelier Kristina Fidelskaya, is set to present his new creations on March 6 at Paris Fashion Week. 


French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai slams Nick Jonas on Twitter

The French-Algerian singer called out Nick Jonas in a series of Tweets. File/Instagram
The French-Algerian singer called out Nick Jonas in a series of Tweets. File/Instagram
Updated 02 March 2021

French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai slams Nick Jonas on Twitter

The French-Algerian singer called out Nick Jonas in a series of Tweets. File/Instagram

DUBAI: French-Algerian pop singer Lolo Zouai has taken to her official Twitter account to call out Nick Jonas for allegedly copying her song “Jade” in a series of Tweets.

Zouai posted a comparison of the first few seconds of Jonas’s newest single “Spaceman” and her song “Jade,” featuring Blood Orange, to hint at the supposed similarities.

Both songs feature warped keys in the beginning. 

“Remember when u flew me out to LA to sign me then ghosted me (sic)” the artist wrote, alongside three cry-laughing emojis. 

Based on the 25-year-old’s tweet, fans were able to deduce that her hit single that catapulted her into fame “High Highs to Low Lows” was partly inspired by Jonas.

“Is that what ‘High Highs to Low Lows’ was written about!?” asked one user, prompting her to respond: “It’s a part of it yes.”

Another fan responded to her Tweet: “Not High Highs to Low Lows being about Nick Jonas I-” 

“Not fully,” replied Zouai. “Don’t give him that much credit! Trust me there r many shady people out here (sic).”

In the song lyrics for “High Highs to Low Lows,” Zouai croons: “Ooh, you wanna help me/Ooh, you wanna fly me out to LA/Dreams you wanna sell me I took a bite/ that’s a gold plate, a gold plate/Timing, he said it’s just bad timing/Lying, all I got from you was silence.”

She also posted a screenshot of a blank iMessage text conversation directed towards the former Jonas Brothers star. “Should I do it?” she asked her 27.6 followers. 

It’s uncertain if she ever did.


Model Imaan Hammam celebrates iconic singer Umm Kulthum in new interview

Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP
Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP
Updated 02 March 2021

Model Imaan Hammam celebrates iconic singer Umm Kulthum in new interview

Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP

DUBAI: Morrocan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam was recently interviewed by award-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross for i-D Magazine’s latest “Dystopia Issue,” of which Hammam is the cover star. 

During the candid interview, Hammam spoke on everything from her charitable work with non-profit organization She’s the First to her first-ever magazine cover.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

Ross also quizzed Hammam about who some of the women that inspire her are, and the model’s answer may come as a surprise to some.

The 24-year-old revealed that one of her inspirations is iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, who died in Cairo in 1975.

“I don’t know if you know her. But she was an Arabic singer in the 60s,” she explains to Ross. “Her story is incredible. At that time, as a woman, to be a singer was really difficult. And you know all about that. So definitely Umm Kulthum,” she said.

Indeed, Umm Kulthum is considered one of the Arab world’s greatest singers to ever live.

The legendary Egyptian musician known as the “Star of the Orient” and the “Grand dame of Arab singing,” was revered globally for her unique vocals and popular hits like “Al-Atlal,” “Qadheet Hayati,”  and “Alf Leila w Leila,” among others.

Global music sensation Beyonce even paid homage to the late singer during her “On the Run” tour, where she sampled Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Omri” in the opening of a performance.

In addition to the iconic singer, Hammam also shared that her mother is also a huge source of inspiration to her, in addition to fellow supermodels Iman Abdulmajid and Naomi Campbell. 

“My mom has been a big inspiration for me as well, because she came to Holland as an immigrant and really took care of us,” noted the catwalk star. “I mean, I don’t really come from a wealthy family and you know, we’ve had our struggles but she was inspirational.”

She added: “Someone I really appreciate is Iman, the other Iman. Iman and Naomi Campbell, they’re the ones that opened the doors for us. Bethann Hardison, too, she’s the queen. She’s the best. Yeah, so I think those are the people I really aspire to.”


Netflix’s new show ‘The Big Day’ is far from reality

‘The Big Day’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
‘The Big Day’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
Updated 02 March 2021

Netflix’s new show ‘The Big Day’ is far from reality

‘The Big Day’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied

BANGALORE: Think “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Bling Empire,” “Indian Matchmaking,” and now, “The Big Day.” It would seem that Netflix wants viewers to know that the rich Asian is here to stay, with its new production about India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry.

The Conde Nast India reality series follows couples as they embark on over-the-top marriage events orchestrated by luxury wedding planners for a rich Indian clientele.

Three 40-minute episodes – each featuring two couples – focuses on the themes of connecting with roots, questioning age-old rituals, and love triumphing over all.

The premise of the show is the rise of an Indian millennial generation that is going against the grain – be it in the choice of a partner, opting for a sustainable wedding, or having a priestess officiate the marriage ceremony.

And it is not only limited to the festivities of the big day; this generation is ready to explore who they are and what they need out of relationships.

Three 40-minute episodes focuses on the themes of connecting with roots, questioning age-old rituals and love triumphing over all. Supplied

Equality in marriage is a common theme through the series – a concept that a patriarchal society such as India still grapples with. Only recently, regional film “The Great Indian Kitchen” was lauded for shining light on gender inequality in Indian marriages.

The redeeming moments in the show come by way of baby boomer parents admitting that commitment is far above rituals and societal pressures that Indian society is so entangled in, even in this day and age.

There are couples who challenge the power dynamics of the great Indian wedding: Why should the groom’s family have absolute power and say, and why is being a headstrong woman with a take-charge attitude considered a bad thing? The couples question age-old rituals and beliefs and retain whatever makes sense to them.

Unfortunately, the modern messages are drowned out by the ostentatious and blatant display of wealth, complete with life-size Faberge eggs and Victorian-themed parties.

It is a glaring privilege that lets the nouveau-riche choose a wedding venue or a partner – a vast majority of the subcontinent does not have that simple privilege. And it is this sad reality that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.      


Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award

 Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award
Updated 02 March 2021

Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award

 Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award

DUBAI: Egyptian singer Fatma Said has been nominated for the BBC Music Magazine’s 2021 Vocal Award for her debut album “El-Nour,” the music sensation announced on Instagram this week.

“I am excited and honored to learn that I am nominated for the BBC Music Magazine’s 2021 Vocal Award alongside wonderful artists that I admire and look up to,” she wrote captioning the announcement picture released by the BBC. 

She is competing against Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski’s album “Mahler,” as well as French pianist Alexandre Tharaud and operatic soprano Sabine Devieilhe for their album “Chanson d’Amour.”

In “El-Nour,” which she released in June 2020, she sings some of the most famous Arabic songs like “Sahar El-Layali” by renowned Lebanese singer Fairouz and “Yamama Beida,” an Egyptian folk song composed by Dawoud Hosny in the late 19th century. 

In a post she shared on Instagram upon the release of her album, the musician said: “My debut album ‘El-Nour,’ (the light) in Arabic, has been years in the making. With it, I want to explore how music that has been interpreted many times can be presented in different ways, in a different light.”

It connects three cultures and languages – Arabic, French, and Spanish – and shows how much, despite cultural, geographical, and historical differences, they have in common musically,” she added.⠀ 

Over her career, Said has shared the stage with renowned musicians such as Leo Nucci from Italy, Rolando Villazón from Mexico, Juan Diego Florez from Peru, Michael Schade from Canada and Jose Cura from Argentina. 

She also performed recitals with German clarinetist Sabine Meyer and British pianists such as Malcom Martineau, Roger Vignoles, Joseph Middleton.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in music from Berlin’s Hanns Eisler School of Music in 2013, Said was awarded a scholarship to study at the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan, becoming the first Egyptian soprano to perform on that iconic stage. 

In the past years she has won several major singing competitions including the 8th Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in Dublin, the 7th Leyla Gencer International Opera Competition in Istanbul, the second prize at the 16th International Robert Schumann Lied Competition in Zwickau and the Grand Prix at the 1st Giulio Perotti International Opera Competition in Germany.