Grateful town of Bethlehem holds Banksy exhibition

Bethlehem is also the site of Banksy’s famous Walled Off hotel, at a location directly opposite a wall erected by Israel, famously claiming to offer the “worst view of any hotel in the world.”(File/AFP)
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Updated 22 August 2020

Grateful town of Bethlehem holds Banksy exhibition

  • Banksy has been active in the West Bank for over 15 years
  • Visitors to the exhibition are given a free Banksy-themed face mask upon arrival

LONDON: The British artist known as Banksy has become the subject of an exhibition in the occupied Palestinian territories.
As a gesture of thanks for his contribution to increasing tourism and awareness, photographs and prints of 20 pieces of artwork have gone on display in Manger Square in the town of Bethlehem, which has been a key site of much of Banksy’s recent activity.
He has been active in the West Bank for over 15 years. Four of his most prominent works are located there.
The anonymous artist recently auctioned a triptych of paintings, depicting scenes alluding to the Mediterranean migration crisis, at the London auction house Sotheby’s, raising £2.2 million ($2.87 million) for a hospital in Bethlehem.
The town is also the site of Banksy’s famous Walled Off hotel, at a location directly opposite a wall erected by Israel, famously claiming to offer the “worst view of any hotel in the world.”
As part of the Manger Square exhibit, the words “Thank you Banksy” were carved across a stretch of beach.
“Banksy always surprises us, and today I want to surprise him, to show Banksy that we’re grateful for the support,” exhibition coordinator Yamen Elabed said in a video message.
“I just want the message of thanks to reach Banksy … He has helped our economy with ‘alternative’ tourism.”
Ayoub Ali, a Bethlehem taxi driver, told the Guardian newspaper that Banksy’s work had helped diversify tourism in Bethlehem, which is a major pilgrimage destination as the site of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Tourists “only know Bethlehem is where Jesus was born, the Church of the Nativity — which I am proud of — but Banksy’s idea is also to see where there are 3 million Palestinians living, in the West Bank,” Ali said.
The town has suffered a serious drop in tourism since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic led to global lockdowns and the virtual suspension of international aviation.
“This city relies on tourism. So many people are now out of a job, with the closing of hotels, souvenir shops, many restaurants, tour companies and a lack of work for tour guides like myself,” Elabed said. “We all are just waiting for tourism to return.”
Visitors to the exhibition are given a free Banksy-themed face mask upon arrival.
Elabed said the artist had put himself at serious risk by doing so much to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people. 
“It was a risk because during the first uprising and second uprising, drawing graffiti on the wall was forbidden. Many people got hurt or arrested for doing graffiti. So Banksy did a lot for Palestinians,” Elabed added. “We want to see him again in Palestine.”


Lebanese-Brazilian label presents new UAE-inspired collection at Arab Fashion Week

Updated 57 min 5 sec ago

Lebanese-Brazilian label presents new UAE-inspired collection at Arab Fashion Week

DUBAI: Dubai-based label AAVVA on Thursday presented its fall-winter 2020 collection, Mother of Pearl, during Arab Fashion Week (AFW), which runs virtually until Saturday.

AAVVA was founded by Lebanese and Brazilian design duo Ahmad Ammar and Vincenzo Visciglia. The ready-to-wear label has been on the market since 2011, continuously creating stylish and avant-garde silhouettes.

The brand showcased its new pieces as part of Brazil Noble, the first ever virtual fashion event that aims to bring Brazilian fashion to the world through AFW.

The brand showcased its new pieces as part of Brazil Noble, the first ever virtual fashion event that aims to bring Brazilian fashion to the world through AFW. (Supplied)

For their latest collection, the pair were inspired by the UAE’s history and success.

“We wanted to pay tribute to the country that inspired us to start and grow to where we are today, and also mix the free-spiritedness, art, and vibe of the Brazilian design,” they told Arab News.

The new creations feature black and white looks embroidered with angelic white pearls.

“We wanted to be chic, but also since our previous collection was full of color, we were in the mood for something more muted yet extremely lavish. The pearl embroidery is not like something we’ve done before, intricate, full, and yet simplistic in essence,” they said.

For their latest collection, the pair were inspired by the UAE’s history and success. (Supplied)

The designers said the collection was “empowering and unique” because they “placed importance on volume and movement to enhance the female silhouette, a signature of our design element.”

Has the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic affected AAVVA’s design process? Yes, is the answer.

“We think the pandemic has affected everyone and all walks of life,” they said. “We were blessed to be in the UAE – a country that is so involved in the welfare of its people. The country took amazing measures to protect its people. While the world around us shut down, we were still able to work slowly but surely amidst the lockdown.

“The measures held us back from sourcing fabrics internationally, or getting the work done on the pieces as we usually do – but we still created a collection that we are proud of and that definitely brought a smile to many faces,” they added.

They noted that since the virus outbreak, businesses and the fashion industry had become more digitalized.

“Fashion has been shot into digital space and it is proving a fascinating journey. While people in fashion are aware of what they are missing – the emotional and storytelling impact of real fashion shows – we have to adjust to the new alternatives. As they say, ‘the show must go on.’”