Local art scenes get more creative as pandemic keeps curtains closed

Nitin Miranin is a Mumbai-based comedian who has been doing live performances online due to the pandemic. Supplied
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Updated 05 July 2020

Local art scenes get more creative as pandemic keeps curtains closed

DUBAI: Every artist, now more than ever, needs to reinvent themselves to cope with changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, a veteran stand-up comedian said, as he ventures on an unusual four-country Zoom comedy tour to kick off in the UAE.

Indian comedian Nitinn Miranni said it was tough to adapt to how the entertainment industry was changing due to the pandemic that has forced a global shutdown of art and culture communities.

"Because of the pandemic, we have to now reincarnate - we have to be reborn. This is something we've never done before," Miranni told Arab News over Zoom, an increasingly popular platform, not just for business meetings anymore, but for the live entertainment industry.

Miranni said he was enjoying the new experiences the pandemic has put him in as a comedian, but had to face different challenges along the way - from some technical aspects to an impact to the actual performance and experience.

"I remember the first show I did was very difficult for me - the connection was not that great, there was a bit of a lag. I had a very tough time, but then I realized that you have to adapt. As an artist, that's what you do.”

Miranni, who deems audience participation in his performances to be so crucial, said comedy is about “making moments with people,” which was made particularly difficult because of the new performance setup.

“Every art form comes with its ambience, it comes with its own energy. I know for a fact that no matter how much you try, how hard you try, watching something online will not give you goosebumps as much as watching Celine Dion hit one note live,” he said, adding “that is the genesis of artform - it requires interaction. It's an exchange of energies.”

Echoing Miranni’s sentiment was Award-winning poet Dorian Paul Rogers, who founded Abu Dhabi-based Rooftop Rhythms in 2012, and has been involved in virtual projects even since the pandemic broke out.

“When you're in person you get the spirit of the community - it's palpable. You see people's facial reactions, you see people snapping their fingers, laughing. Our show is definitely a community-based show. That was my biggest fear - that the show may feel impersonal or may feel disconnected,” he said

But Rogers said he was lucky to have the support of technically-capable organizations like The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, who was also keen on exploring bringing live performances into the online world.

“What we lost in physical connection, you're able to gain it back in a virtual way. For example, while you're performing can leave emojis or hand claps. People can give you real-time feedback, which you can't do on a physical show,” he told Arab News.

He said there have been “many benefits to doing virtual events,” one of which is scalability and access.

“We were able to reach thousands of people. We had people checking in from different countries all over the world. We had performers perform from other parts of the world. We would've had to fly these people in to perform if it was a physical show,” Rogers explained.

He was particularly excited about how they were able to engage “audience members from all over the world who wouldn't have tapped in.”

“I think it's an opportunity to show the talent in the GCC. It's also an opportunity for us to broadcast the positivity of what we're doing through poetry and shed a light on the stereotypes of this region,” Rogers said.

Both artists believed the world needs art now more than ever - with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the fact that most people have had a hard time keeping their relationships intact because of the social distancing norm.

“I feel like continuing these events at any capacity during the COVID-19 from a virtual standpoint is important because a lot of us need that connection. We are closed in our apartments most of the time. We lost that connection - that feeling of belonging. I believe that arts communities are critical for that reason,” Rogers said.

“Art is essential in the sense that it connects us and increases mental wellness. If we're able to do so in a safe way from our homes, I think it's going to continue to improve our creative community and also keep us connected in some regards,” he added.


Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim undergoes 6-hour surgery after Beirut explosion 

Updated 05 August 2020

Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim undergoes 6-hour surgery after Beirut explosion 

DUBAI: Lebanese actress Nadine Nassib Njeim revealed on Instagram that she underwent a six-hour surgery after a massive explosion ripped through Beirut on Tuesday, killing over 100 people and injuring thousands. 

“Half my face and my body were covered in blood,” said Njeim, who lives close to the port area where the explosion happened, captioning a video – shot by someone else – of her damaged apartment.

“I thank God first, who saved my life. The explosion was close, and the scenes you see do not do it justice. If you visit the house and see the blood everywhere, you would be surprised as to how we are still alive,” the star, who has two children, wrote captioning the clip that shows shattered glass, cracked walls and broken furniture strewn all over her living room.

According to her post, the star went down 22 floors, barefoot and covered in blood and sought help from a man who was in his car. 

“He dropped me to the nearest hospital, but they refused to admit me because they were packed with wounded people,” she said. “He dropped me to another hospital where they immediately took me in and I underwent a six-hour operation.” 

The 36-year-old actress said her children were not home and are “fine and safe.”

Multiple Lebanese celebrities have also taken to social media to share videos of their destroyed homes. 

Singer Haifa Wehbe shared, on her Instagram Stories, clips of the destruction that ravaged her home. “We are all okay thank God. My house is next to the explosion,” she wrote to her followers before asking them to keep her house helper, who got injured in her head and eyes, in their prayers.

Clips circulated on social media of Lebanese fashion designer Dalida Ayach, who is also the wife of singer Ramy Ayach, in the hospital being treated for her injuries. 

Singer Elissa, who recently released a new album, took to Twitter to share pictures of the aftermath of the explosion. “It affected the metals and the properties this time, but who will bring back the dead? Who will bring back Beirut?” the star wrote.

Singer Ragheb Alama’s house also got destroyed, but luckily, he and his family were on a trip outside the city.

The ateliers of renowned Lebanese designers have also been ruined, including Maison Rabih Kayrouz and Ralph Masri’s flagship stores.

Taking to his Stories, Kayrouz shared videos of the damage caused by the explosion to his atelier. “Our courageous team trying to save… what could be saved!” the designer captioned one clip of one of the atelier workers pulling out clothing from the debris.