Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time

Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time
1 / 5
Sultan bin Fahd interpreting how climate change has impacted his homeland's heritage and tradition. (Supplied)
Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time
2 / 5
Sultan bin Fahd's work of art made from plastic waste. (Supplied)
Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time
3 / 5
Sultan bin Fahd interpreting how climate change has impacted his homeland's heritage and tradition. (Supplied)
Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time
4 / 5
Sultan bin Fahd's work of art made from plastic waste. (Supplied)
Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time
5 / 5
Sultan bin Fahd's work of art made from plastic waste. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 20 March 2020

Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time

Preserving traditions and the environment, one installation at a time
  • Drawing inspiration from Arab history, Saudi sculptor turns plastic waste into artwork
  • Sultan bin Fahd's "Al-Hida’a” is the latest 21:39 art exhibition by the Saudi Art Council in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Along with the many other installations at the latest 21:39 art exhibition by the Saudi Art Council in Jeddah, one that has especially caught the attention of visitors as they passed by is a unique combination of plastic bottles twisted and warped, with an eerie clip of a singer in the background.

Made up of 24 bottles contorted using a heat gun, “Al-Hida’a,” which roughly translates to “a landscape which is threatened with losing its heritage and tradition,” is the artist’s interpretation of how climate change has impacted the lives of our ancestors.

The genius behind the exhibition is Sultan bin Fahd, who created it after much research and effort, drawing inspiration from Arab history.




Sultan bin Fahd

“I wanted to compare the relationship between the animal and the human with their changing environment,” he told Arab News.

“When I create installations, they always have something to do with personal or historical perspectives or the relationships between the objects and humans.”

“Our ancestors were wise without being educated — whatever they did worked perfectly with the environment. Then we came along with our modern ways and that started the downfall.” 

Sultan bin Fahd

Bin Fahd also said that he always felt Saudi tradition was being lost. “I just wanted to go back to what they were doing, respect and understand it. So, I wanted to highlight the humans and animals interacting with the environment around them and dealing with climate changes.”

The main inspiration for the piece was the artist’s fascination with the way herdsmen would spend days, and even months, alone with their camels. He also mentioned that camels were creatures that had emotional intelligence, but were not considered lovely because of how they look.

“Our ancestors were wise without being educated — whatever they did worked perfectly with the environment. Then we came along with our modern ways and that started the downfall,” he stated.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Al-Hida’a’ roughly translates to a landscape which is threatened with losing its heritage and tradition. ˜
  • To add more of an authentic Bedouin touch to the installation, Sultan bin Fahd researched into how branding was done among the nomads, differentiated by symbols. ˜
  • He mentioned that camels were creatures that had emotional intelligence, but were not considered lovely because of how they look.

When Bin Fahd received the brief for the exhibition at 21:39 he was asked to link his work with environmental issues. He told the Arab News team: “Since I am nomadic, I felt like with globalization, we are losing the wisdom of the old nomads.”

The main element of the piece was the audio that played — the sculptures on display were just a continuation of the sound, which represented how the herdsmen communicated with their animals, by singing.

Bin Fahd said: “People try to understand what they are saying but they aren’t saying anything. They are just singing tunes to communicate with their camels to make them do tasks.”

To add more of an authentic Bedouin touch to the installation, Bin Fahd researched into how branding was done among the nomads, differentiated by symbols. He took the branding symbols and dissected them, he explained. “I wanted the symbols to be more general.”

He burnt all of the symbols on a Bedouin tapestry made out of goat hair, and added it to the sculptures.




Sultan bin Fahd's work of art made from plastic waste.  (Supplied)

“These sculptures along with the audio represents our relationship with the animals and how it has changed over the years. The branding being on plastic represents modernization, as plastic is not natural so it shows the fact that they are now. It shows that our lives now are more industrial and artificial.”

Bin Fahd has always been a creator, but only emerged into the world as an artist recently.

It wasn’t until his partner opened up a shop and Bin Fahd contributed to it by decorating it that he caught people’s attention. He told Arab News that his wife pushed him to emerge as an artist. “That was the turning point for me — my wife pushed me to share with the world and told me that the people had to see this.”

The reason why he never considered showing the world his art was his lack of professional training in the field, he added. “In a way I was afraid of criticism.”

The sculptor is full of ideas and inspirations for his future.

“Climate change and global warming is such a vast problem and we have many things to discuss,” he said. “I think it is important for people to go on and talk about something that is dear to them.”


‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and some of the best videogames coming your way this year

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and some of the best videogames coming your way this year
Updated 25 June 2021

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and some of the best videogames coming your way this year

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and some of the best videogames coming your way this year

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Due Oct. 26

The standard of games based on Marvel franchises has varied wildly over the years. 2018’s “Spider-Man” was widely acclaimed and great fun, but last year’s “Avengers,” despite its great production values, was something of a damp squib. Still, there will be plenty of fans waiting to play as Peter Quill/Star-Lord leading his team through a series of missions to save the universe. While the rest of the Guardians — Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax — aren’t playable characters, you can utilize their skills by giving them orders. And you’ll need them: the heroes for hire will face some formidable opponents from the Marvel canon along the way. Narrative developer Mary DeMarle has promised surprises too. “They all have that weird, eccentric nature, bumbling around and so darned optimistic that they’ll improvise and find their way out of everything,” she told Space.com. “They get along so well, they care and have heart. Their interaction results in some really fun and exciting twists and turns and unexpected stuff.”

Little Devil Inside

Due in July

What was originally conceived as a modest indie game grew into something of a monster itself when its 2015 Kickstarter campaign raised more than $300,000. A little over six years later, Neostream Interactive’s action-adventure is finally ready for release. Set in the 19th century, the game follows Billy, a swordsman hired by Professor Vincent, Dr. Oliver and their research team to travel the game’s open world in search of the supernatural and “all phenomenal existence.” Don’t be fooled by the game’s stripped-back visuals — this is an incredibly ambitious exercise by the developers. Players will have to take careful note of their characters’ body language and behavior to ascertain what is necessary: characters may limp when wounded, for example, or shiver if they’re too cold, while those with a one-track mind will have limited vision. There’s satirical humor here too, with pointed remarks about financial inequality and a look into the more-mundane side of Billy’s life.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Due Aug. 28

One of numerous titles delayed from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this action-adventure game has stirred up considerable excitement ahead of its release. For one thing, it’s visually stunning — resembling a high-quality Japanese anime. You play as Kena, a young Spirit Guide searching for a mountain shrine. You can enlist the help of some incredibly cute little critters called Rot who can help you transform the overgrown jungle into a navigable environment. But you’ll also have to face off against more-threatening inhabitants too.

Life is Strange: True Colors

Due Sept. 10

Deck Nine’s third-person graphic adventure series returns, allowing the user to once again play as Alex Chen, the psychic empath who is able to read and manipulate emotions (at a price — she must take on those emotions herself) and thus understand and relieve trauma and stress. The latest iteration of the game is once again set in the beautiful (fictional) mountain town of Haven Springs. However, unlike previous versions that were released in ‘chapters,’ “True Colors” will be released in its entirety.

Deathloop

Due Sept. 14

Having also been heavily delayed by the pandemic, this intriguing game is finally coming out in September. The player takes the role of a multi-talented assassin, Colt, who’s stuck in a time loop at a party on an island. The loop resets at the end of every night, and the partygoers have no memories of the previous loop. But you do. Your task is to take out eight targets before midnight. Fail to take them all out and the loop resets. Die before you take them all out and the loop resets. You’ll have to fail multiple times before you have all the necessary information on your targets to succeed.

Ghostwire: Tokyo

Due in October

Tokyo’s citizens have almost all mysteriously disappeared, leaving deadly ghosts and specters known as Visitors to take over the city. The player’s character in this creepy action-adventure game is, according to the game’s combat director Shinichiro Hara, “a badass, spell-casting, high-tech ninja exorcist defeating countless evil spirits,” which sounds like a pretty good thing to be. He also stressed in the same presentation that the developers wanted to move away from the cliché of spell casters and magic users in video games not being physically strong. “That isn’t the case with ‘GhostWire,’” he said. “In ‘GhostWire’ you’re casting magic with martial arts movements.”

Stray

Due October

Given the ubiquitous popularity of cats online, it’s amazing that “Stray” didn’t appear years ago. The game allows you to play as a lost cat, stealthily sneaking (or occasionally deliberately making a nuisance of itself) through a run-down and seedy cybercity populated by droids (generally not too threatening, in fact one of them — the flying drone B12 — will help you on your way) and a number of far more dangerous creatures, in the hope of escaping and finding your kin.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human

Due Dec. 7

With its mix of thrilling parkour, brutal zombie-killing action, and genuinely frightening jump-scares, the original “Dying Light” is one of the masterpieces of the overcrowded post-apocalyptic survival genre. So hopes are high for this sequel, which, judging by the previews, appears to have retained the elements that made the original so successful. Set 20 years after the original, the new protagonist, Aiden Caldwell, must navigate the open world of The City — an unspecified location in Europe — while deciding which of several factions to assist or fight, all while avoiding getting caught by the undead, especially at night.


THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights

THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights
Updated 25 June 2021

THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights

THE ROUNDUP – Regional pop-culture highlights

Hadi Sarieddine

‘Clarity’

The Dubai-based singer-songwriter, who goes by the artist name Hadi, just released his debut album “Clarity.” Hadi told Arab News that the record “blends elements of pop, rock and some soul/hip-hop.” Lyrically, it’s about “mental health and navigating through some of the heaviness that we may experience in life. But it’s also about celebrating being alive.” The title track was produced by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park as part of his #ShinodaProduceMe project.

Zeyada

‘Somewave’

The Egyptian singer-songwriter’s first release of the year is a mellow indie-pop number that is, the artist said in a press release, “meant to describe a state of quietness and surrender.” The accompanying video was shot in Dahab, south Sinai and “embraces the simple beauty and grandeur of the sea.” It has already racked up over 400,000 views on YouTube.

Bunu Dhungana

‘Confrontations’

The Nepali photographer’s series, from which this image is taken, was part of “Growing Like a Tree,” an exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation featuring work from 14 artists and collectives from South Asia. “Together they create a space where multiple voices and experiences are brought into dialogue with one another,” the gallery said in a press release, adding that Dhungana’s work “questions notions of gender and patriarchy.”

Bouziane

‘Till When’

The Moroccan singer-songwriter’s debut release for Universal Music demonstrates his versatility. The label describes him as a “triple-threat … with his abilities to rap, dance and play guitar.” The 29-year-old’s first single takes influences from Western pop and North African R&B to create a track that Bouziane described as being about “the limited opportunities and support (available to) the young people of Morocco.”


Lebanese artist Aya Haider reveals the hidden work of motherhood

Lebanese artist Aya Haider reveals the hidden work of motherhood
Updated 25 June 2021

Lebanese artist Aya Haider reveals the hidden work of motherhood

Lebanese artist Aya Haider reveals the hidden work of motherhood
  • Haider explores women’s often-invisible experiences of parenthood, domesticity, and labor

 

DUBAI: Several washing lines support an assortment of colorful garments between two walls. It’s a scene one would commonly find in a Mediterranean town during spring or summer when the warm rays of sun allow for garments to be easily hung to dry outdoors. Only this time there is no sun overhead and the pieces of clothing have long been dry.

The washing lines are part of British-Lebanese artist Aya Haider’s installation “Highly Strung,” a work that repurposes a domestic space with a powerful message of female empowerment. It was recently exhibited by Jeddah-based Athr Gallery in London’s Cromwell Place.

For 365 days, the artist and mother of three embroidered a piece of fabric she had used — perhaps children’s clothes, a piece of cloth, or her own dresses — then hung it up as physical proof of her daily chores, including  cleaning the house, ensuring school uniforms were clean and ready to wear, pumping milk and feeding her children. The thought-provoking installation celebrates the mundane, and often unrecognized, work that mothers do every day.

The washing lines are part of British-Lebanese artist Aya Haider’s installation “Highly Strung.” (Supplied)

“The labor force of motherhood is round the clock, underpaid and undervalued in society. We are like invisible workers,” Haider tells Arab News. “It’s very much about the physicality of all of these tasks. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I would feel like I had nothing to show for myself. Women do a little bit, a little bit every day and you come away with nothing tangible, so this installation literally quantifies (it) in a tangible way.”

The price of the work also reflects its labor. She took the minimum wage in the UK (£8.36 for those aged 21 or 22, equivalent to $11.59) and multiplied it by 24 hours and 365 days to price the work, arriving at a figure of more than $101,000. “That’s it’s true value,” she says.

Haider has long worked within the interstices of art, politics, and society, with a particular focus on women’s issues.  “My work is all about storytelling, particular the stories of my mother, grandmother and my own,” she says.

“Highly Strung” is a work that repurposes a domestic space with a powerful message of female empowerment.  (Supplied)

Issues relating to displacement, memory and forced migration, particularly in the Middle East, inform much of Haider’s multimedia-based art. “I look especially at survival stories of communities and diasporas,” she explains.

She often repurposes used, recycled, or discarded items, endowing them with new life and meaning. Her 2013 installation “Year of Issue,” for example, consisted of 18 books representing the 18 countries across the MENA region, with each book sharing the same year of publication as its respective country’s year of independence — exploring memory, migration and loss with the irony and humor common to her practice. “These objects are important because they carry many stories,” she says.

Since becoming a mother, women’s issues have been at the forefront of her work. In pieces created for her “Out of Service” exhibition in 2019, she drew parallels between the untold stories of migrant female domestic workers and her own questions regarding the visibility of female labor.

She often repurposes used, recycled, or discarded items, endowing them with new life and meaning. (Supplied)

“During my talks with these migrant domestic workers we spoke of exploitation — being overworked, undervalued, working 20-hour days without a break, all things I relate a lot to motherhood,” says Haider. “It’s a blessing to be a mother but the hardships are often completely invisible or unspoken about.”

“Highly Strung” highlights not only the unsung labors of the female gender but also the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young mothers.

“The pandemic amplified everything I was feeling as a young mother,” Haider says. “After a day of homeschooling my children (aged 6,4 and 2), I would (work on) my art from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. Art became my outlet and a way to make sense of the injustices of the world during these trying times.”


French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury
Updated 24 June 2021

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim to join Spike Lee on Cannes jury

DUBAI: French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim will be part of this year’s Cannes Film Festival jury led by director Spike Lee, organizers announced on Thursday.

“The Serpent” star will be joined by US actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and “Parasite” lead Song Kang-Ho. 

It will be a female-majority jury for the July 6 to 17 festival, which has faced criticism in recent years for its lack of female representation.

Only one woman has ever won the Palme d’Or in its 73 years: Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993.

This year’s jury will wade through 24 entries (only four by women) to decide the winner of the arthouse world’s most coveted film prize.

The nine members include French actor-director Melanie Laurent, best known abroad for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

The jury also features several international filmmakers: Brazilian Kleber Mendonca Filho, who competed at Cannes in 2016 with “Aquarius”; Austrian Jessica Hausner, who competed with “Little Joe” in 2019; and French-Senegalese director Mati Diop, whose debut “Atlantique” won the Grand Prix the same year.

Egyptian director Sameh Alaa will be part of the short film jury. (Getty)

Rahim made his name with indie favorite “The Prophet” and recently had an award-winning turn in Guantanamo drama “The Mauritanian” and a TV hit with the BBC-Netflix show “The Serpent.”

Rahim is not the only Arab joining the jury for this year’s Cannes. 

Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania will be part of the short film jury. (AFP)

Last week, the festival announced that Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania and Egyptian director Sameh Alaa will be part of the short film jury.


French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion

French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion
Updated 24 June 2021

French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion

French-Lebanese illustrator Lamia Ziadé’s ‘My Port of Beirut’ addresses the devastation of the August 4 explosion
  • In ‘Mon Port de Beyrouth,’ the author and illustrator addresses the devastation wrought by the August 4 explosion 

PARIS: On June 6, portraits of Sahar Fares circulated widely once more on social media. With her long black hair and dazzling smile, she looked stunning in her evening gown. Fares should have been getting married that day, if she hadn’t perished in the Beirut Port explosion on the August 4, 2020. Called out with her fellow firefighters to extinguish the fire, she died on the port’s dock, having been caught in the explosion. 

Ten months later, there have been no convictions and no culprits identified for the blast. Meanwhile, Fares’ fiancé continues to share photos and drawings of her on Instagram, keeping her memory alive.

In Paris, where she has been living since she was 18, Lamia Ziadé was intensely moved when she saw those pictures on her phone, as she had been by so many of the images of other victims.

The French-Lebanese author and illustrator published her book “Mon Port de Beyrouth” (My Port of Beirut) in April. (Supplied)

The French-Lebanese author and illustrator published her book “Mon Port de Beyrouth” (My Port of Beirut) in April. In it, she looks back at the tragedy, combining text and drawings inspired by photos shared on social media or published in traditional media: memories and moments captured on the spot.

In January, putting the finishing touches to the book, she couldn't help but add one last drawing: one of Sahar Fares celebrating her final birthday at the fire station. "I finished working on the book a few days ago,” she wrote on the final page. “But this morning, a short video made me cry. It was impossible not to add this last drawing.”

Fares became, for Ziadé, “the heart of the tragedy.” 

In her book, she looks back at the tragedy, combining text and drawings inspired by photos shared on social media or published in traditional media. (Supplied)

“That girl is a movie character, a full-fledged heroine straight out of a novel,” Ziadé tells Arab News. “Hers was the first of the victims’ faces to be shared on social media. She was so beautiful, so full of life… During the six months I was working on the book, pictures of her kept coming through. It felt like I knew her. This wasn’t the case for the other victims — most of them having just one shot of them being shared on social media. That girl is the one who filmed the last video of what was going on right before the port explosion. She took the photo of the three men trying to open the doors leading inside the hangar. I don’t know what other character could have been as strong.”

In the introduction to the book, Ziadé said she had been unable to sleep properly since the explosion at the port, and was liable to burst into tears throughout the day. When she speaks to Arab News, it is apparent that the emotions raised by the blast remain raw today, if slightly less immediate. 

“I no longer cry every day, the way I used to during the six months in which I wrote the book,” she tells us. “But I still follow the news every morning and the situation in Lebanon — the economic crisis and the political situation — is hitting hard. People are hungry, they get shot and thrown in jail when they protest. It’s terrible. I am still very worried about the situation and not very optimistic. One of my book’s last drawings depicts the light of the setting sun on the silos, as a symbol of the end of an era. It would take a miracle.”

In January, putting the finishing touches to the book, she couldn't help but add one last drawing: one of Sahar Fares celebrating her final birthday at the fire station. (Supplied)

When respected French daily Le Monde first contacted Ziadé the day after the explosion to ask if she would be interested in producing an article for their weekly magazine, she declined. 

“I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t well at all,” she says. “I had no intention to write at all. I didn't feel like I could do something on the spur of the moment. I felt so devastated.

“But the next day, I told myself that one could not just say no to 15 pages about Beirut in Le Monde,” she continues. “So I started drawing.”

Once the article was published, Ziadé’s editor suggested that the project should be expanded into a book. This was not a random proposal. As Ziadé explains, in all of her work, from her first book “Bye Bye Babylon,” her aim has been “to bear witness to Lebanon’s history. — whether I have lived it or not — and to keep a trace, shed light on unknown stories, dig in the archives.”

Her desire is that the book will stand as “a testimonial, a tribute to all the victims and to Beirut itself.” (Supplied)

But “Mon Port de Beyrouth” was a little different, she explains: “My approach has always been about bearing witness, telling a story, but this was the first time I did that live, on the spot, as an event is unfolding. It was a quite difficult task because I didn’t have the necessary hindsight.”

The book is also, she says “quite personal.” Aside from the general research she did on the port, and the fact that her drawings are based on actual pictures, she also looked into her family history. The result is an intimate, revealing portrayal of events that at times feels like reading someone’s diary. “The fact that I worked on it while I myself was completely devastated (comes across) in the writing,” she says. “I was working 24/7. No distractions. No movies, no books, nothing that could take my mind off the tragedy for a fragment of time.

“Working on something tangible surely helped me,” she continues. “But, conversely, I was also immersed in this constantly. I couldn't get away from it.”

In the introduction to the book, Ziadé said she had been unable to sleep properly since the explosion at the port. (Supplied)

Her desire is that the book will stand as “a testimonial, a tribute to all the victims and to Beirut itself.” 

And while her earlier admission that she is “not optimistic” still stands, Ziadé does have hope for Lebanon and its people.
“Without hope, you stop living and watching the news,” she says. “There are people who no longer want to hear about what is going on. But I believe there is always the possibility of doing something.

“The reconstruction work is well underway,” she continues. “We will get through this.”

 Adapted from an article originally published by Arab News France: https://arab.news/wnywd.