What We Are Buying Today: Sondouki

What We Are Buying Today: Sondouki
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Updated 10 April 2020

What We Are Buying Today: Sondouki

What We Are Buying Today: Sondouki

With many parents looking for ways to keep their kids entertained during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdowns, enterprising Saudi sisters Samira and Feda Al-Tabsh might just be able to help.

In February the two moms founded Sondouki, an online store offering innovative sensory play kits for children.

Utilizing one of the sisters’ experience as a Montessori teacher, the entrepreneurial siblings have been able to add value to their brand of games and themed activities.

Their kits are aimed at children aged up to 10 years old and offer a range of play pursuits designed to stimulate youngsters’ senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, movement, and balance.

As well as helping kids to play, observe, explore, create and discover the kits have also been developed to allow them to do simple scientific experiments.

A special Ramadan box has been put together to help children learn about the famous themes of the month of fasting.

For more details about Sondouki and its products visit zid.store/sondouki or its Instagram account @Sondouki.


Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography

Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography
Updated 10 min 4 sec ago

Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography

Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography
  • ‘Their first reaction is they think it’s like magic,’ Sirkhane Darkroom project leader Serbest Salih says

DUBAI: Since Syria’s civil war began nearly a decade ago, thousands of refugees have crossed the border into Turkey. The city of Mardin, 30 kilometers inland from the Syrian border, is currently home to more than 80,000 displaced Syrian refugees, including children. 

One homegrown non-governmental organization is on a mission to put a smile on those children’s faces by teaching them analog photography through the ongoing, mobile project Sirkhane Darkroom, led by Syrian photographer and refugee Serbest Salih.

The project is an offshoot of the Sirkhane (which means Circus House) school, which was founded in 2012 and — aside from offering photography and music workshops —specializes in teaching young adults circus arts including acrobatics, juggling, and theatre performance. More than 3,000 youngsters in the Mardin Province have so far participated in Sirkhane’s various programs. 

Ilava while taking photos. (Supplied)

Salih, who is in his late twenties, says the idea for the photography workshops came from a trip he took with a friend to the city of Istasyon in 2017.

“It’s a very poor area and has never been reached by any humanitarian organization,” Salih tells Arab News. “We saw families from different backgrounds — Syrian, Iraqi, and Turkish. They speak the same language, whether Kurdish or Arabic, but they don’t talk to each other. We thought of using photography as a language. Analog photography can be like a key — a way to empower and bring together many communities in one place.” 

While Sirkhane has a few centers around the province, it is its caravans — which drive out to small towns and villages without any such cultural centers — that have made perhaps the greatest impact in the lives of child refugees, eliciting the same joy and curiosity as an approaching ice-cream truck.

Printing inside darkroom. (Supplied)

Inside the darkroom-like caravans, Salih teaches the children how to handle negatives and develop and print photographs the old-fashioned way. The children are given simple compact cameras and, for a couple of weeks, are free to photograph whatever they like, including sensitive subjects such as child marriage and child labor. 

“I show them all kinds of cameras — digital and analog. After that, I teach them composition,” Salih explains. Such a detailed activity can, in one way or another, grant children a sense of confidence and possibilities, especially the girls.

“Often, parents would say that girls (shouldn’t) participate in the workshop. Just boys. But after seeing that the girls are talented, they’ve started supporting and believing in them.” Most of the children will likely never have held a camera before, so they are amazed by what it can do through the click of a button. “Their first reaction is that they think it’s like magic,” remarks Salih. 

A selection of the children’s black-and-white snapshots are currently being shown by Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue as part of its “Chemistry of Feeling” exhibition, which runs until September, displaying works that highlight the resurgence of analog photography. Photographers from all over the world submitted nearly 100 images.

 More than 3,000 youngsters in the Mardin Province have so far participated in Sirkhane’s various programs. (Supplied)

“The children were very happy,” Salih said. “They’ve never heard of Dubai, but it’s great to see the pictures in an exhibition in the Arab world.”

“Sirkhane,” reads a label at the exhibition, “is based in a region where it is difficult to be a child.” And yet, looking at the pictures, there’s something innocent, pure and universal about them. Two boys are photographed playing football, two girls are holding their cameras, a group of boys take a selfie, and a girl wanders in a field in the far distance. 

In an age where digital cameras, filters, and instant gratification rule, what makes shooting on film appealing?

“The anticipation is thrilling, waiting to see your work unfold,” said the Emirati artist Lamya Gargash in a GPP post on Instagram. “It’s not instant and that’s what I love most about it. Patiently you wait to see your vision and feel it’s come to life.”

Some of the children’s shots are out of focus or grainy, with white flash spots, but ultimately that simply adds to their intimacy, charm, beauty and humanity. (Supplied)

Salih says it helps children gain experience and go with the flow.

“When you give a digital camera to a child and he doesn’t think it’s a great photo, he will delete it (immediately). With analog photography, he’s just shooting photos and doesn’t know what will happen. But after seeing the results, he, or she, becomes self-confident,” he said.

The pictures from Sirkhane Darkroom bear little resemblance to the glossy, perfectly edited images we are most-accustomed to today. They are reminiscent, in a way, of Dorothea Lange’s powerful photographs of the Great Depression during the 1930s. Some of the children’s shots are out of focus or grainy, with white flash spots, but ultimately that simply adds to their intimacy, charm, beauty and humanity. 


Discovery reveals Babylonian geometry ‘1,000 years before Pythagoras’

Discovery reveals Babylonian geometry ‘1,000 years before Pythagoras’
Updated 05 August 2021

Discovery reveals Babylonian geometry ‘1,000 years before Pythagoras’

Discovery reveals Babylonian geometry ‘1,000 years before Pythagoras’
  • Researcher: 3,700-year-old clay tablet discovered near Baghdad will ‘change way we view history of maths’
  • The Old Babylonian period lasted between about 1900 and 1600 BC, and saw the advancement of religious, literary and scientific works

LONDON: The sale of a field in ancient Mesopotamia 3,700 years ago has been recognized as the first known use of applied geometry.

It was discovered that the surveyor of the land plot recorded the purchase on a clay tablet about the size of a palm by using complex strings of numbers known as Pythagorean triples.

“It’s a discovery that will completely change the way we view the history of mathematics,” said the lead researcher of the study, Dr. Daniel Mansfield of the University of New South Wales, Australia. “This is more than a thousand years before Pythagoras was born.”

Si.427, the label used by mathematicians to refer to the clay tablet, was first discovered near Baghdad in 1894, but it spent more than 100 years in a museum in Istanbul, left unnoticed by researchers. 

“It’s the only known example of a ‘cadastral’ document from the Old Babylonian period — a plan used by surveyors to define land boundaries,” Mansfield said.

“In this case, it tells us legal and geometric details about a field that was split after some of it was sold off.”

The Old Babylonian period lasted between about 1900 and 1600 BC, and saw the advancement of religious, literary and scientific works.

As a result of the Si.427 research, Mansfield believes that Babylonian surveyors would browse an array of Pythagorean triples and use one that best represented a rectangular plot to formulate a sales map, often using rope and other measuring devices.

“With this new tablet, we can actually see for the first time why they were interested in geometry: To lay down precise land boundaries,” Mansfield said.

“This is from a period where land started to become private. People started thinking in terms of ‘my land and your land,’ wanting to establish a proper boundary to have positive neighborly relationships. And this is what this tablet immediately says. It’s a field being split and new boundaries being made.”


The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry
Updated 05 August 2021

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry

The influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s high-end jewelry
  • Paris exhibition shows how one of the world’s most glamorous brands drew inspiration from regional designs

PARIS: Having already explored its links with Japan and ancient Egypt, the French luxury goods brand Cartier is now exploring the profound influence that Islamic art has had on the company’s history.

To do so, Cartier turned to the Louvre — home to both the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Department of Islamic Arts. The former hosts the largest collection of jewelry in France, while the latter contains a priceless and historic collection of artworks from the Islamic world.

The result is “Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity,” an exhibition that runs in Paris from October 21 to February 20, and will then travel to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) in Texas.

17th Century Court Belt from Iran or India - silk with silver thread - from the Louvre. (Supplied)

Arab News spoke to Evelyne Possémé, chief curator of ancient and modern jewelry at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Judith Henon-Raynaud, curator and deputy director of the Department of Islamic Arts at the Louvre — two of the four curators of the exhibition. (The other two curators are Thomas W. Lentz, curator of Islamic and medieval art at the DMA, and Sarah Schleuning, the DMA’s interim chief curator and The Margot B. Perot senior curator of decorative arts and design.)

The exhibition, based on research that began in 2018 at the Louvre into Louis Cartier’s personal collection of Islamic art, consists of more than 500 pieces, including jewelry and other objects from Cartier, along with drawings, books, photos and archival documents tracing the brand’s interest in Islamic arts.

“The museum had acquired two Indian ivory pencil boxes from the early seventeenth century, which were part of this hitherto unknown collection,” Possémé told Arab News.

Cladding panel from Iran in late 14th - 15th century. (Supplied)

The exhibition is organized as a themed chronological tour divided into two parts, the first of which explores the origins of Cartier’s interest in Islamic art and architecture through the cultural backdrop of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and reviews the creative context, as designers and studios searched for sources of inspiration. It includes pieces from Cartier’s library, Louis Cartier’s personal Islamic art collection, and Indian and Iranian jewelry.

The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to pieces inspired by Islamic art, from the start of the 20th century to the present day, and draws heavily on drawings, jewelry and objects from collections belonging to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée du Louvre, which were part of the first exhibitions devoted to the arts of Islam.

The gallery exhibits some major pieces inspired by Islamic art and as well as animations detailing the composition of the jewels and their patterns.

Tiara, Cartier London, 1936. Platinum, diamonds, turquoise. (Supplied)

From the outset, visitors find themselves immersed in these shapes and motifs, with three of Cartier’s iconic creations set against masterpieces of Islamic art.

“The discovery of Islamic art at the beginning of the twentieth century had a significant impact on Cartier’s creators,” Henon-Raynaud explained. “Although famed for its garland-style jewelry, from 1904 onwards Cartier began developing pieces inspired by the geometric patterns of Islamic art found in books about ornamentation and architecture.”

The two curators cite enameled brick decorations originating from Central Asia and stepped merlons in the Art Deco style (a reference to the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925) as early influences on Cartier’s shift in its design philosophy.

Bib necklace 1947 - twisted 18- and 20-karat gold with diamonds and amethysts. (Supplied)

“This source of inspiration is perceptible throughout the twentieth century in the creations of the house,” explained Possémé. “They were sometimes easily identifiable, at other times broken down and redesigned to make their source untraceable.”

The House of Cartier, founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, initially specialized in selling jewels and artworks. It was only when Louis-François’ son Alfred took over the management of the company in 1874 — supported by his eldest son Louis in 1898 — that the house began to design its own jewelry, while continuing its activity of reselling antique pieces.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Paris was a hub for trade in Islamic art. Thanks to major exhibitions organized at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1903 and then in Munich in 1910, Louis Cartier discovered these new shapes that gradually permeated French society.

1924 head ornament - Cartier New York - Platinum - white and pink gold - diamonds and feathers. (Supplied)

Jacques Cartier, an enthusiastic traveler, visited India in 1911 to meet various Maharajas. The gemstone trade was in full swing by that time, and allowed Cartier to build a strong relationship with the Indian princes, so he collected many antique and contemporary jewelry items, which he would either resell unchanged, use as inspiration, or dismantle for incorporation into new designs.

“The influence of Islamic art is also clear in (Cartier’s) use of bold color ranges — lapis lazuli blue, emerald green and turquoise, for example — at a time when jewels tended to be created using diamonds in monochrome settings,” Henon-Raynaud said. “Finally, shapes and construction of jewelry from Persia and India gave rise to technical innovations such platinum mountings, in order to gain flexibility.”


REVIEW: Mads Mikkelsen shines in darkly humorous revenge drama ‘Riders of Justice’

REVIEW: Mads Mikkelsen shines in darkly humorous revenge drama ‘Riders of Justice’
Updated 05 August 2021

REVIEW: Mads Mikkelsen shines in darkly humorous revenge drama ‘Riders of Justice’

REVIEW: Mads Mikkelsen shines in darkly humorous revenge drama ‘Riders of Justice’
  • Anders Thomas Jensen delivers an unexpected, thrilling gem with this Danish action-comedy

AMSTERDAM: Danish director Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Riders of Justice” initially presents as a straightforward vigilante revenge thriller. Mads Mikkelsen stars as military veteran Markus, whose PTSD is apparently clear to everyone but himself and his commanding officers, who ask him to extend his overseas tour by a further three months.

Soon after, his wife is killed in a train crash. Their teenage daughter Mathilde was present, but survives, as does statistics genius Otto, who had given up his seat for Markus’ wife moments before the crash. With the help of two ‘eccentric’ fellow geeks — abuse-survivor Lennart and the obese, spectacularly foul-mouthed Emmenthaler — Otto figures out that the train wreck was, in fact, no accident, but a scheme planned by the titular motorcycle gang (and organized crime outfit) to get rid of a key witness in the upcoming trial of their club president, Kurt Olesen.

“Riders of Justice” is directed by Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen. (Supplied) 

Otto’s “facts” seem to stack up. But they were obtained illegally and cannot be taken to the police. So the three oddballs head to Markus’ house, where they explain that they believe his wife was an innocent victim of a carefully planned assassination. Markus vows to take revenge, and they agree to help him.

So far, so formulaic. But this is where “Riders of Justice” departs from its seemingly straightforward path, evolving instead into something original and unexpected — a musing on randomness and coincidence, an examination of camaraderie, and an exploration of love and grief and trauma. All with a healthy dose of very black humor thrown in.

Mikkelsen is excellent as the ultra-Alpha male Markus — his stoicism covering a storm of violence waiting to erupt as he tries in vain to quash his anger and grief at his wife’s death and his frustration at his inability to connect with Mathilde. But the supporting cast all play their part too. Each of the main characters is damaged in their own way — whether physically, emotionally or both — and while Markus is apparently the strongest (in all senses) of them, it becomes clear that the others have skills and strengths that he simply doesn’t possess, but that he will desperately need if he is to survive intact.

Jensen has crafted a hugely enjoyable, hugely original piece of work that deserves to be seen by a wide audience. Be warned, though, this is definitely not a family-friendly movie.


Dior is set to stage its first exhibition in the Middle East

Dior is set to stage its first exhibition in the Middle East
The "Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams" exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Getty Images
Updated 04 August 2021

Dior is set to stage its first exhibition in the Middle East

Dior is set to stage its first exhibition in the Middle East

DUBAI: “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” is a new fashion exhibition coming to Doha, Qatar, later this year. Designed specifically for the Middle East, the forthcoming exhibition is a celebration of the Parisian maison, which is turning 75 in December.

Mark your calendars, for the exhibition will take place from November 2021 until March 2022 at Doha’s M7 art center following successful stops in Paris, London and Shanghai.

The iconic Dior Bar suit. Getty Images

With special curation by Olivier Gabet, the Director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the hotly-anticipated exhibition will feature a lineup of memorable pieces that have defined the heritage fashion house, such as the iconic Bar Jacket, an iconic garment instantly-recognizable by its cinched waist from Monsieur Dior’s revolutionary 1947 collection as well as other objects that fashion enthusiasts will revel in.

Also on display will be original sketches by the legendary designer for his couture collections, a baccarat blue crystal limited edition Miss Dior perfume bottle from 1947 and haute couture creations by succeeding Dior creative directors such as John Galliano, Raf Simons and Yves Saint Laurent.