Artists address environmental crises in Jeddah art exhibition ‘I Love You, Urgently’

Artists address environmental crises in Jeddah art exhibition ‘I Love You, Urgently’
In Marwah Al-Mugait’s video, a powerful group of performers move and chant, recalling the reactive, unconscious defense mechanisms of organisms in danger. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Artists address environmental crises in Jeddah art exhibition ‘I Love You, Urgently’

Artists address environmental crises in Jeddah art exhibition ‘I Love You, Urgently’
  • The latest edition of Jeddah arts fair ’21’39 challenges viewers to make a difference

JEDDAH: Journey down the winding streets of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district and you’ll reach one of the many UNESCO-protected traditional homes that proliferate the area. Step inside and you’ll come into contact with something you didn’t expect: Several video works and installations that explore environmental crises in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

This is “I Love You, Urgently,” the main show of the seventh edition of ‘21’39 Jeddah Arts, which runs until April 18. Curated by Maya El-Khalil, it focuses on the global crisis of our planet through works by 21 local and international artists.

In one room a slide projector plays views of candy-colored water parks in the Eastern Province and Riyadh. While guests quickly become enamored with the photographs and the delectable aesthetic of the many slides and structures in the park, they’ll be puzzled by one aspect: There are no people in the images.




In an installation called “Al-Manakh, You Will Be Missed” (2019), by Saudi artists Alaa Tarabzouni and Fahad bin Naif chart the story of the Yamamah cement factory. (Supplied)

The installation — “1056%” — created this year by Aziz Jamal, an artist from the Eastern Province, documents how the elaborate and vibrant infrastructure of these abandoned water parks is now rendered purposeless. How? These desolate scenes scream of Saudi Arabia’s silent crisis: The country has used 1056% of its total renewable water sources, far exceeding the conservative global water-scarcity threshold of 20-40%. It has water debt.

As the Kingdom continues its rapid development — with buildings such as Jeddah Tower, which will stand 3,280-feet-tall (making it the tallest building in the world) when it opens later this year — the question of how the country will grapple with the water emergency threatening the desert landscape remains. Through his work, Jamal addresses this concern.




The installation — “1056%” — is created this year by Aziz Jamal. (Supplied)

“Participating in ‘I Love You, Urgently’ has proven to me that connectivity is in full effect when it comes to our relationship to our bodies and our environment,” says Jamal. “In a subject like the water crisis, the issue ripples into every crevice of our life and is at the core of our future in nearly every aspect.”

Elsewhere in the show, works by regional artists — which take the form of video, sculpture and installations — draw inspiration from the work of the award-winning German architect Frei Otto, who is the subject of a special exhibition in the show. Otto built a number of projects in Saudi Arabia during the 1970s and 1980s and was known for his willingness to experiment — drawing from the fields of biology and art for his structures.

“This exhibition is inspired by the legacy of Otto,” El-Khalil, the curator, tells Arab News. “The works created are personal statements by the artists. We are at a point now when Saudi Arabia is going through so much change and with so many projects being announced, I thought it would be interesting to present this alternative voice that has built substantial structures in the Kingdom.”

El-Khalil presented a brief to the selected artists, asking them to explore the concepts of biomimicry — an approach that seeks nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet; adaptability; and the idea of specificity from a local viewpoint.




Manal Al-Dowayan’s “Ephemeral Witness” (2020) tells of another kind of urgency: The changing status of women as they enter the public sphere of Saudi society. (Supplied)

The works on show in “I Love You, Urgently” illustrate the personal nature of the ongoing environmental crisis. In an installation called “Al-Manakh, You Will Be Missed” (2019), Saudi artists Alaa Tarabzouni and Fahad bin Naif chart the story of the Yamamah cement factory, built in the 1960s in the Al-Manakh neighbourhood of Riyadh. Producing 18,600 tons of cement per day, the factory is, almost single-handedly, responsible for the construction of the modern-day capital city. Now, though, it is on the verge of closure and the two architects used this work to contemplate the ramifications of its disappearance; the localized ecological crisis it has created by its presence; and what will happen to the community of workers who have worked —generation after generation — at the factory and will now need to go elsewhere. 

“I want this artwork to become a dialogue starter for changes in legislation and on the growth and deterioration of the environment,” bin Naif tells Arab News. “The environment is urgent and this relates to the theme (of the show). There’s an emotional urgency now to save the environment.”

In a large-scale 11-minute video called “I Lived Once” (2020) by Riyadh-based artist Marwah Al-Mugait, a powerful group of performers move and chant, recalling the reactive, unconscious defense mechanisms of organisms in danger. “My collaborators and I came out of this project with different realizations about how precious this environment is, and how it has been giving to us unconditionally,” says Al-Mugait. “There was beauty in how we collectively felt connected to nature and our environment with our movements.”




The large-scale 11-minute video called “I Lived Once” (2020) is by Riyadh-based artist Marwah Al-Mugait. (Supplied)

Other works on view ponder the rate of change taking place in the Kingdom. Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan’s “Ephemeral Witness” (2020) tells of another kind of urgency: The changing status of women as they enter the public sphere of Saudi society. The work — a large recreation of a desert rose made in natural silk, ink and rope — hangs from the ceiling of one room of the Gold Moor Mall, another location of ‘21’39. The desert rose, Al-Dowayan says, was always portrayed as a beautiful mystery. Here, she uses it as a metaphor for what she calls an “ephemeral witness to time” — words used by geologists to describe rare crystals. Her work, like its name, is a witness to the Kingdom’s rapid development, its effects on the environment and on women — Al-Dowayan cites a 2019 report from CommsMEA, which says women’s participation in the workplace in Saudi Arabia rose from 3 percent to 20 percent in a little over a decade.

The effects of the shift are both behavioral and social. They also change the nature of shared physical space. Al-Dowayan seems to ask: How does one reconcile with the past as we accelerate into the future and a new society?

The same goes for the environment. “The emergency situation we face today cannot be handled by one group,” she says. “Artists and their spaces of activity must participate in addressing the impending danger facing us and our future.”


Beirut stars in Lebanese author’s comical coming-of-age debut

Beirut stars in Lebanese author’s comical coming-of-age debut
Updated 08 March 2021

Beirut stars in Lebanese author’s comical coming-of-age debut

Beirut stars in Lebanese author’s comical coming-of-age debut

CHICAGO: Lebanese author A. Naji Bakhti’s debut is a comical coming-of-age tale of a boy growing up within the confines of post-civil-war Beirut.

With a Muslim father, Christian mother, and a curious little sister, the young Adam Najjar navigates adolescence in the vibrant coastal city.

In Bakhti’s “Between Beirut and the Moon,” Najjar flirts with adulthood as the Lebanese capital teeters between peace and conflict while flourishing in its multiple identities.

Despite the harsh realities of war and limited finances, and the difficult school yard choices children must make, there is a brightness to Najjar’s world that comes in the form of his family’s never-ending ability to adjust, his father’s books, and the scenarios that play out in his life.

A sharp wit and endless curiosity drown out the bombs falling around his sixth-floor apartment off Hamra Street in Ras Beirut as his family hides in the bathroom for safety.

Bakhti displays Beirut in all its multifaceted brilliance, pluralism, and conflicts and through Najjar, his family, and friends tries to make sense of the complex histories of characters, and religious and political tensions.

With the works of Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish nearby, a mother who wants him to live out his dream, and his father’s articles and obituaries, the Najjar family members force light into the dark corners of their lives.

In an old city that has built and rebuilt itself, Bakhti manages to convey the dream of a young boy, in a humorous way, when life wants to weigh him down.

Bakhti does not romanticize Beirut but creates an ever-increasing feel of belonging, and a love of the imperfect and sometimes dangerous. There is a fighting spirit for home, one that asks of his main character, why would you ever want to leave Beirut for the moon?

Because between Beirut and the moon, anything can happen. It is where life takes place.


Taylor Swift, BTS, Cardi B and more to perform at Grammys

Taylor Swift is set to perform at next week’s Grammy awards. File/AFP
Taylor Swift is set to perform at next week’s Grammy awards. File/AFP
Updated 08 March 2021

Taylor Swift, BTS, Cardi B and more to perform at Grammys

Taylor Swift is set to perform at next week’s Grammy awards. File/AFP

NEW YORK: Taylor Swift, BTS, Cardi B and Billie Eilish are set to perform at next week’s Grammy Awards.

The Recording Academy announced Sunday that Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa will also hit the stage at the March 14 event. The show will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on CBS and Paramount+.

The Grammys were originally supposed to take place on Jan. 31 but were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The academy said in a statement that “artists will be coming together, while still safely apart, to play music for each other as a community and celebrate the music that unites us all.”

Trevor Noah is hosting the show for the first time. Other performers include Chris Martin, John Mayer, Doja Cat, Maren Morris, DaBaby, HAIM, Lil Baby, Brandi Carlile, Roddy Ricch, Brittany Howard, Miranda Lambert, Mickey Guyton and Black Pumas.

Beyoncé is leading nominee with nine, followed by Swift, Lipa and Ricch, who each earned six nominations.


Bella Hadid stuns on Givenchy Fall 2021 runway

Bella Hadid wearing Givenchy Fall 2021 RTW. Instagram
Bella Hadid wearing Givenchy Fall 2021 RTW. Instagram
Updated 08 March 2021

Bella Hadid stuns on Givenchy Fall 2021 runway

Bella Hadid wearing Givenchy Fall 2021 RTW. Instagram

DUBAI: Matthew M. Williams presented the Givenchy Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection via an audience-free runway show at a 50,000-seat concert venue in Paris on Saturday. 

For his sophomore offering, the new creative director of the Parisian maison churned out a lineup of extravagant looks that were modeled by the likes of Adut Akech, Jourdan Dunn, Vittoria Ceretti and Bella Hadid.

Hadid closed the show, wearing a black deconstructed top and tailored black trousers.

She later posted a picture of herself on Instagram wearing a piece from the designer’s Fall 2021 collection — an angular leather bag, with a chunky silver chain strap.

“Right after walking the @givenchyofficial show,” she captioned the photo. 

Hadid, who was born in the US to a Dutch mother and a Palestinian father, is a Givenchy house favorite.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

She recently appeared in Williams’ first official campaign at the helm of the Givenchy brand.

For the campaign, the Parisian fashion house’s artistic director invited a few models and musicians to style themselves in key pieces from his debut Spring collection.

Hadid opted for a beige-toned dress with crystal-embellished cutouts at the elbows and a larger cutout in the back, paired with the brand’s marshmallow slides.

Late actor Paul Walker’s daughter, Meadow Walker, also made her runway debut for Givenchy this season, opening the show. 

The Givenchy Fall 2021 show was Williams’ first runway presentation for the house.

Celebrities Kim Kardashian, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Doja Cat and more all slipped into looks from Williams’ Fall 2021 collection as they watched the livestream of the show.

US actress Anne Hathaway posted a carousel of images, along with a sweet caption thanking Williams for the invitation and for sending her “these gorgeous threads.”

“How I look getting to see Givenchy’s virtual fashion show,” the Oscar winner wrote, referring to her outfit.

The founder of streetwear label 1017 Alyx 9SM was appointed as the creative director for the Parisian luxury label last June.

He became the French house’s seventh couturier, succeeding previous Creative Director Clare Waight Keller, who stepped down from the role in April after serving for three years.


Leading e-tailer Net-a-Porter makes its Middle East debut with localized platform

The luxury etailer offers a diverse range of brands. Supplied
The luxury etailer offers a diverse range of brands. Supplied
Updated 08 March 2021

Leading e-tailer Net-a-Porter makes its Middle East debut with localized platform

The luxury etailer offers a diverse range of brands. Supplied

DUBAI: This week, e-commerce platform Net-a-Porter made its official and highly-anticipated Middle East debut. 

The localized platform will be available in both Arabic and English and as a mobile app and website, which has been customized to fit the needs of the Middle Eastern consumer. 

Optimized features include dual language product search as well as local editorial content and product curation. Meanwhile, prices will be displayed in local currency according to the market. 

The localized platform will be available in both Arabic and English. Supplied

For those who have been paying close attention to the booming Middle Eastern market, the launch of a version of the website in the region is hardly surprising — the region is one of the largest luxury markets in the world.

Nisreen shocair, CEO of Yoox Net-a-Porter Middle East, said in a statement: “As the leading luxury platform, the launch of the localized Arabic site allows us to celebrate the unique beauty and talent of our community in the Middle East, bringing Net-a-Porter even closer to its customers,” adding “We will continue to realize exciting developments in future, including collaborations with local designers through to new personalized experiences supported by platform capabilities, to ensure we continue to offer best-in-class curation and service in the market.”

Net-a-Porter follows in the footsteps of other luxury brands, such as Farfetch, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, which have recently introduced Arabic versions of their websites in an effort to facilitate the online shopping experience of shoppers based in the region.


Meet the women educating their Instagram followers on female health, one post at a time

Nour Emam (L) and Dr. Deemah Saleh (R) run Instagram accounts where they share information on intimate female health. (Supplied)
Nour Emam (L) and Dr. Deemah Saleh (R) run Instagram accounts where they share information on intimate female health. (Supplied)
Updated 08 March 2021

Meet the women educating their Instagram followers on female health, one post at a time

Nour Emam (L) and Dr. Deemah Saleh (R) run Instagram accounts where they share information on intimate female health. (Supplied)
  • Dr. Deemah Salem and doula Nour Emam run Instagram accounts where they debunk myths and share information on female intimate health

DUBAI: Conversations around female intimate health have long been taboo or non-existent in Arab cultures. But a new crop of female doctors and healthcare practitioners on social media are aiming to destigmatize sexual wellness and educate women about their health, one Instagram post at a time.

“There are so many stereotypical taboos regarding women’s health in the UAE,” Dr. Deemah Salem told Arab News.

The specialist in obstetrics and gynecology in Dubai, who goes by @dr.deemahsalem on Instagram, said: “Being Arab-American myself I understood how some myths about women’s health could have developed, but I made it a mission to debunk them because some of these myths can lead to harmful practices.

She uses her platform to inform her followers about all aspects of sexual health, and talk about issues that many women might be embarrassed to discuss.

Salem believed that sexual education was still frowned upon in the region due to conservative cultural norms and that, while most UAE schools offered sexual education classes for young girls, a lot of females still felt uncomfortable about discussing intimate matters with doctors.

“It’s possible to educate women about their sexual and reproductive health while still respecting cultural and religious values. Women need to feel comfortable to discuss their intimate issues with their gynecologists.”

Egypt-based doula Nour Emam said there were popular misconceptions about what sex education actually entailed. “I think people think that if we have sex education, we’d be promoting sex and promiscuity, when in reality having sex education at primary and secondary levels in school usually means youth engage later in sexual activities and what’s more important is that they are safe (while) doing so,” she told Arab News.

She founded the Instagram page @thisismotherbeing in order to give women the information they need about their health and, with 173,000 followers, the message clearly resonates.

Many women are either unaware, or worse, misinformed about their sexual education because there is scarce access to accurate information. 

According to Salem, there are several myths and areas of concern that women in the region need to be educated on.  

“We need to teach women how to practice feminine hygiene in a healthy way, help them understand how normal female genitalia functions, to realize the role of preventative healthcare, to encourage women to discuss any sexual concerns with their doctors, and to educate about domestic and intimate partner violence.

“In addition to harmful practices, ignorance can lead to an array of problems for women, including unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, recurring vaginal infections, sexual dysfunction disorders, mental health disorders and marital issues… just to name a few.”

These female healthcare practitioners are no strangers to backlash despite - or perhaps due to - their engaging social media presence.

“I’m the most loved/hated woman in Egypt,” Emam remarked. “People think I’m leading young girls astray and that my information will ‘give them ideas.’ Of course, this is to be expected. No one wants to admit that the stuff I talk about is real and true, especially when this information enables women to choose.”

She described what she believed to be the most important areas for knowledge dissemination online.

“Absolutely everything,” she stated. “Reproductive and sexual health education is a continuum. It’s an entire spectrum and you can’t take one thing without learning the rest. Women just need to be certain that they have rights when it comes to their place in society, healthcare and maternity care.”