How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art

How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art
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Amal Al-Ajmi’s painting shows a woman wearing niqab and a man covering his face with a mask adding the caption ‘it is the niqabi men era.’ (Photos/Supplied)
How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art
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How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art
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Updated 14 April 2020

How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art

How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art
  • Even the simplest acts of love, compassion and solidarity have taken new forms

JEDDAH: Everything is changing as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rages on. Humanity is facing the biggest global crisis of this generation, where the impossible has already happened and things have suddenly overturned.

The current crisis has imposed radical changes on the way people practice daily life. Even the simplest acts of love, compassion and solidarity have taken new forms that are completely strange from what humans used to consider normal, whereas the greatest act of love is to stay away from your loved ones. 




Saudi artist Lina Amer used her art to express sentiments of Muslims across the world who are unable to visit mosques due to COVID-19. She showed mosques’ prayer rugs printed on a human heart depicting Muslims’ longing for mosques and prayer gatherings. Instagram link


Consequently, art and music production has also been affected. Arab artists are using their talents in different ways to enhance community connections, spread awareness, express appreciation and document history.
Saudi artist Lina Amer has used her art to document the effect of COVID-19 on the religious practices of millions of people around the world.
Saudi Arabia closed mosques for the customary five daily prayers as well as Friday congregations in March, many other countries took similar measures. Amer pictured mosques’ prayer carpets printed on the human heart with the caption “Pray at home, March 2020.”
Across Muslim countries, the call for prayer has partly changed, muezzins had to replace the penultimate part of the adhan — “Hayya Alasalah” (come to the prayer), with “pray where you are,” or “pray at home.”
Interpretations of sacred texts can change too in the time of the pandemic. Concept artist Yasmin (@yasmintoon) used a verse from the Qur’an that tells the story of the two sons of Adam, Able and Cain, to refer to the danger of handshaking as a greeting norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The verse reads: “If you will stretch forth your hand towards me to slay me, I am not one to stretch forth my hand towards you to slay you surely I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds,” (5:28)
While Asma Khamis (@a0sma.k), Omani painter and graphic designer, chose to send more than one message in her work where she substituted a sanitizer for an engagement ring.

I hope that artists play a positive role in this difficult period because it is unfortunately very stressful and uncertain.

Amal Al-Ajmi

“First, I wanted to express how brides feel, whose weddings were postponed or canceled because of the crisis,” Khamis told Arab News, adding: “It is intended to console those women by reminding them that sacrificing their special day indicates a high sense of responsibility towards the health of the community.”




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Khamis also wanted to say that sanitizers have become more important than jewelry because they help to preserve health. There is no more valuable gift than sanitizer because they are rarely available in the market.
Regardless of the obvious downside of this crisis, artists like Khamis see that it has given them two important things: “It has given us the time and a new problem, which is a new space for work and inspiration.”




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Other artists used their work to express their appreciation to health workers, like Bahraini artist and art director Sayed Al-Majed (@almajed.art).
Al-Majed pictured a medical staff member raising their hand with the victory sign using the line drawing technique, which he said “indicates interdependence, coalescence and unity between humankind, and the line ends with the heart symbol which indicates life, love, giving as well as gratitude to health workers.”
The circle represents Earth with its population under one roof.
Al-Majed said: “I believe that artists have an ethical and societal responsibility to devote their art in facing this crisis by spreading awareness and extending thanks and appreciation to the defenders of all humanity at this stage of our lives: Health workers.”

Sanitizers have become more important than jewelry because they help to preserve health.

Asma Khamis

Amal Al-Ajmi (@al.up2sky) from Kuwait agrees with Al-Majed that artists should use their art to spread awareness but she added that art has to be an antidote to the growing sense of alienation, isolation and anxiety.




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“I hope that artists play a positive role in this difficult period because it is unfortunately very stressful and uncertain,” Al-Ajmi told Arab News. Al-Ajmi decided to use art as to declare an ironic statement, by drawing a Khaliji woman wearing niqab and a man covering his face with a mask adding the caption “it is the niqabi men era.”

Her work comes after a tweet by a Saudi influencer who wanted to promote niqab as obligatory for Muslim women said: “People are racing to buy masks to protect them from corona, while Islam discovered the treatment a 1400 years ago when it ordered the wearing of Niqab to as a protection against viruses.” The tweet went viral and was deleted days later after it received a lot of criticism.




Amal Al-Ajmi’s painting shows a woman wearing niqab and a man covering his face with a mask adding the caption ‘it is the niqabi men era.’ (Photos/Supplied) Instagram link


Michelangelo’s legendary painting “The Creation of Adam” will always find its place in every trend and will forever inspire artists and internet meme creators. Ibrahim Al-Baker (@ibxrm) reconceptualized the painting by adorning one hand with henna as it reaches from behind the door to the hand of her lover who holds a sanitizer.
Al-Baker used a sentence from a popular Khaliji song and reworded it saying, “I stand at your door bewildered and sanitized.”




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Similarly, collagist Razan Al-Naas (@razangryffindor) from Libya used the same hands from Michelangelo’s painting to place them under a huge sanitizer bottle, to resemble how suddenly sanitizers gained an existential meaning and an intrinsic value.

Artists have an ethical and societal responsibility to devote their art in facing this crisis by spreading awareness.

Sayed Al-Majed

In the same sense, designer Anas Al-Absi (@anas.alabsi.design) has placed the sanitizer in what Michelangelo depicted as God’s hand outstretched to Adam.




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In another piece, Al-Nass explained how quarantine measures are not new for people living in war zones, “In Tripoli, you can’t spell quarantine without war.”




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On the social impact of the pandemic, Moroccan artist Ichraq Bouzidi pictured how distancing has impacted society’s hospitable social habits, especially the Atay or Moroccan mint teatime, which is central to social life.
Bouzidi pictures two Moroccan neighbors continuing their teatime tradition though the windows, socializing while maintaining social distancing. One woman appears to pour traditional mint tea from her window to her neighbor’s cup reached out from the other window and the caption reads, “Confinement Story: So close no matter how far.”
The piece also reflects another important phenomenon that appeared during the crisis, which is the revival of the use of windows and balconies in different societies around the world.

The bustling life of the world before COVID-19 stripped windows and balconies of their value. But now, windows are no longer facing busy streets, they have recovered their value, with balconies becoming quiet and peaceful places. More importantly, they are a window of interaction with others in their neighborhood.




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Changes caused by the crisis will continue to appear to us day by day. Daily routines, patterns of social interaction, art, music and many other aspects of life after COVID-19 are never going to be the same again.


King Salman calls for global approach to tackling climate change

King Salman speaking at the virtual Climate summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
King Salman speaking at the virtual Climate summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
Updated 23 April 2021

King Salman calls for global approach to tackling climate change

King Salman speaking at the virtual Climate summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
  • Saudi ruler tells summit of world leaders the challenges created by global warming do not respect national borders
  • Biden says US will reduce emissions by up to 52 percent by 2030; China, Russia also pledge to make cuts

NEW YORK: Boosting international cooperation is the “optimal solution” to tackling climate change, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told a summit of world leaders on Thursday.

He said global warming threatens lives on our planet and that the challenges “recognize no national borders.”

“The objective is sustainable development, and in order to achieve this there must be a comprehensive methodology that takes into account the different developments and circumstances that exist around the world,” King Salman said during the Leaders Summit on Climate, which was hosted by the US.

He said the Kingdom has launched packages of strategies and introduced regulations with the aim of using clean, renewable sources to produce 50 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2030.

“Enhancing the level of international cooperation is the optimal solution to meeting the challenges of climate change,” the king said.

“During our G20 presidency last year we advocated the need to adopt a notion of a circular carbon economy, launching two international initiatives to curb land degradation and to protect coral reefs.”

He added that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced two new environmental plans: the Green Saudi Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative. They aim to reduce carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 percent of current global contributions.

“These initiatives also aim at planting 50 billion trees in the region,” he said.

The Kingdom, he added, will work with its partners to achieve these goals and host forums for both initiatives later this year.

“Finally we would like to affirm our keenness and commitment to cooperation to combat climate change, in order to create a better environment for future generations, wishing success for our efforts to protect our planet,” he said.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden — who convened the summit with a view to building global momentum for climate action ahead of COP26, the UN’s

Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November — pledged to cut US fossil fuel emissions by up to 52 percent by 2030.

“Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet,” Biden said. “It’s about providing a better future for all of us.” He called it “a moment of peril but a moment of opportunity.”

In his presidential campaign last year, Biden made tackling climate change one of his top priorities. While Republicans oppose his plans on the grounds they will cost jobs in the coal, oil and gas industries, Biden believes that a transition to cleaner energy sources will create millions of well-paid jobs, a stance echoed by many of the world leaders who attended the summit.

“This is not bunny-hugging, this is about growth and jobs,” said the UK’s Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Forty leaders are taking part in the two-day summit. The UN has described 2021 as a “climate emergency” year, with scientists warning that climate change caused by the use of coal and other fossil fuels is exacerbating natural disasters such as droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. There are fears that the world now faces a race against time to avoid the disastrous extremes of global warming.

The world’s most powerful nations have announced various measures to address the crisis. They include targets for reductions in harmful emissions, plans to stop the public financing of coal, and a commitment to integrating climate action into economic-stimulus plans in an effort to “build back better” after the pandemic-related economic collapse, with the goal of “leaving no one behind.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin also made commitments to reduce emissions. Neither of them made any mention of their respective non-climate disputes with Biden.

Xi — whose country is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, followed closely by the US — said that “to protect the environment is to protect productivity, and to boost the environment is to boost productivity. It’s as simple as that.”

Putin, who Biden recently referred to as a “killer” because of the Russian leader’s crackdown on opponents, said his country is “genuinely interested in galvanizing international cooperation so as to look further for effective solutions to climate change as well as to all other vital challenges.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a number of other leaders who spoke at the summit in welcoming the US back to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, from which President Donald Trump withdrew.

She told Biden: “There can be no doubt about the world needing your contribution if we really want to fulfill our ambitious goals.”

Small states and island nations, which contribute the least to greenhouse- gas emissions but face the most severe dangers and damage resulting from climate change as they are increasingly affected by hurricanes and rising sea levels, asked the major world powers for help.

Gaston Alfonso Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said his people are “teetering on the edge of despair.” He asked the international community for debt relief and assistance to help his country recover from the effects of storms and the pandemic, to “prevent a flow of climate refugees.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the commitments made during the summit to achieving carbon neutrality as “a much-needed boost to our collective efforts to address the climate crisis ahead of COP26 in November in Glasgow.”

He added: “It is now urgent that all countries, especially other major emitters, present their 2030 climate plans well before COP 26.”

Guterres also urged leaders to deliver on $100 billion of climate commitments made to developing countries a decade ago.

“The world will be watching carefully, particularly those already experiencing severe climate impacts and an ongoing economic crisis,” he said.

“Today’s summit shows the tide is turning for climate action, but there is still a long way to go. To avert a permanent climate catastrophe, we must now urgently build on the momentum delivered today, in this make-or-break year for people and the planet.”


‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
Updated 23 April 2021

‘Let’s Make it Green’ campaign plants 10 million trees across Saudi Arabia

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)
  • Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the ‘Green Saudi’ and ‘Green Middle East’ initiatives

RIYADH: A campaign to plant 10 million trees in 165 sites across the Kingdom to develop vegetation cover and limit desertification has been successfully completed.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the National Center for Vegetation Cover announced the success of the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign that was launched in October 2020. 

The campaign covered all of the Kingdom’s 13 provinces. The Eastern Province topped the list with more than 2.6 million trees planted, followed by more than 2.1 million in Madinah, over 1.3 million in Makkah, around 1 million in both Jazan and Riyadh, 462,000 in Qassim, and 270,000 in Asir.

Baha reached nearly 300,000, and more than 142,000 trees were planted in the Northern Border, followed by Jouf with more than 113,000, then Hail with about 85,000, Tabuk with over 75,000, and finally Najran with nearly 52,000 trees.

The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation. (Supplied)

The CEO of the center, Dr. Khaled Al-Abd Al-Qader, said that the campaign planted endangered trees and shrubs in areas that were environmentally degraded due to overgrazing, logging, uprooting, and urban sprawl.

“The campaign focused on planting native tree species which have adapted to Saudi Arabia’s environment and require limited irrigation,” he added.

The ministry ensured that the campaign was aligned with sustainability and water conservation requirements and by using treated wastewater or seawater for irrigation, in line with the best international practices.

The center and ministry worked in cooperation with various governmental authorities, private sector organizations, environmental associations, and community groups.

Minister of Water, Environment and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli said: “What we have accomplished is the result of the support and directions of the Saudi leadership to make the Kingdom a pioneer in protecting the Earth, achieve the international objectives in protecting the environment, increase the vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine life.”

Efforts will continue to plant more trees, in line with the “Green Saudi” and “Green Middle East” initiatives, he added.

Al-Qader said that the “Let’s Make it Green” campaign has recovered biodiversity, rehabilitated degraded vegetation cover sites, promoted positive behaviors to preserve the nation’s environment and improve the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.


Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time
Updated 23 April 2021

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

Volunteers in Asir donate 2 million hours of their time

MAKKAH: More than 11,000 volunteers in Asir region have donated more than 2 million hours of their time as part of an initiative that aims to encourage people to get involved in their communities, in particular with efforts to tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.

“It was launched by the Coronavirus Crisis Management Chamber in Asir, under the leadership and vision of Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal,” Nasser Qmeshan, who is supervising the initiative, told Arab News.

“It came as a response to the significant societal readiness to assist the government in its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic and its repercussions.”

It was necessary to develop a strategy, identify targets and set up a mechanism to ensure the efficient implementation of the project, he added. The strategy that was developed by the chamber included a vision for the initiative, specific fields of work, and clear goals.

“Those able to provide ideas, financial support or volunteer services in certain health, economic and social fields can apply through the initiative’s website,” said Qmeshan. “The site was visited by about 4,000 people in the first week after the initiative was announced.”

“Hundreds of activities not requiring assistance — such as financial support, in-kind support and physical preparation — were referred to the bodies that would directly benefit from them,” said Qmeshan.

“As for those that required assistance, a project was set up, partners were identified and approached, an action plan was developed, and standards were set along with performance indicators and launch mechanisms.”

HIGHLIGHT

  • The Nashama Asir initiative was launched last Ramadan to boost voluntary work and raise awareness in the region of its importance, in support of government efforts to increase participation.
  • Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

Specific projects included the provision of quarantine facilities, hygiene tools, and food baskets for families and employees who were struggling as a result of the pandemic, along with fundraising support.

In response to the initiative 11,077 people volunteered to help and so far they have carried out 2,008,841 hours of work.

Some of the activities were technical in nature, Qmeshan said, such as one “where a qualified group of young Saudi volunteers helped with maintenance work at family homes during the lockdown period.

“The requests for this service were processed automatically and the service was provided free of charge, while taking into consideration all precautionary health measures,” he added.

The initiative also helped to improve awareness of health and security issues among the residents of Asir region. Announcements and advice from the health and security authorities were translated into a number of languages, for example, and volunteers supported the work of the healthcare sector by highlighting the importance of social distancing and other precautions to slow the spread of the disease. They also provided healthy meals for workers during Ramadan, along with other types of community assistance.

Another project is helping municipalities implement pandemic precautions in markets and shopping centers. “The implementation of this project will start with the reopening of markets by the end of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Qmeshan.

A specialized, medical-manufacturing project was proposed to develop and manufacture spare parts for ventilators, along with various types of protective equipment, using 3D printers in engineering laboratories at King Khalid University.

Qmeshan said that dozens of officials and tribal delegations, including princes, ministers, tribal sheikhs and social figures, have visited the initiative’s operations center.


83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches
Updated 23 April 2021

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

83 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 83 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,166 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 116 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app. Authority officials in the Red Sea port city urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe
Updated 23 April 2021

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

KAICIID-organized forum of experts look to counter hate speech in Europe

RIYADH: The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) organized an expert forum on combating hate speech in collaboration with religious institutions and other organizations.
The meeting was held in cooperation with the European Council of Religious Leaders, the Religions for Peace in Europe, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The consultation aimed to explore pathways and efforts to combat hate speech in Europe by strengthening ties between religious and political entities and civil society.