Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin wants you to question everything

Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin wants you to question everything
Amin’s work is known for its examinations of ways in which society engages with technology. Supplied
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Updated 18 October 2020

Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin wants you to question everything

Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin wants you to question everything

LONDON: For many artists, the final installation of an exhibition is the culmination of months or years of work — and the moment when their involvement in the artistic process, for the most part, comes to an end.

But for Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin, the opening of her first UK solo exhibition, “When I see the future, I close my eyes” — which runs at London’s Mosaic Rooms until the end of March 2021 – marks a starting point for her work. The exhibition consists of a series of ongoing projects, showcasing the Berlin-based multimedia artist’s examination of how technology engages with society in a political and territorial sense.

“What’s so exciting about this for me is that, because my work is so research intensive and requires collaboration in terms of how I mine material, (curator Anthony Downey and I) are exploring how we use the exhibition as a tool through which we produce knowledge with others,” Amin tells Arab News. “How do we use the exhibition to create new content by putting forward questions or ideas that will be developed throughout the duration of the show, as opposed to presenting them in a static, finite format?”




The opening of her first UK solo exhibition, “When I see the future, I close my eyes” runs at London’s Mosaic Rooms until March 2021. Supplied

Amin’s work is known for its extensively researched, detailed examinations of ways in which contemporary society engages with technological tools, and how associated hierarchies and dynamics of power have developed, particularly in the Middle East. Delayed from its originally planned start in May of this year, “When I see the future…” forms the core of an extensive program of ongoing events, running over the next six months.

“There are events happening almost weekly, including panel discussions, conferences, podcasts film screenings, a book launch, journal launches and much more,” Amin explains. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is the reason for the delayed launch, informed the way in which some of these events will be held and plays a role in the ongoing interactivity of the exhibition.

“We’re looking at ways in which things that happen in the online space are relayed differently to the physical space,” she says. “So instead of looking at this situation — of having to do things remotely — as a restriction, we’re embracing it, to see what it means to engage in this way moving forward. We’re attempting to conceptually focus on the technological tools, not just because we need to, but to see where they actually lead us.”




One of the exhibition’s works — “The General’s Stork” — is a striking project about surveillance. Supplied

That means placing some of those tools within a historical context — a characteristic of Amin’s work — as well as looking back at instances when such devices and capabilities, that are now ostensibly promoting communication during the global lockdown, have played a more problematic role.

“One of the works I’m showing is called ‘Project Speak2Tweet.’ It’s loosely about the internet shutdown during the initial days of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, and it reflects on how these tools – which were, at that point, presented as a democratic means of emancipation – have been used against us,” Amin explains. The notion that such technologies may not have lived up to their initial, utopian promise is also explored in another of the exhibition’s works, “Operation Sunken Sea,” which sees Amin playing the role of a dictator behind a quasi-scheme to drain the Mediterranean Sea in a borderline surreal look at how technological promise can hide dependence behind a mask of language and rhetoric.

“Our imagination of techno-utopian visions has hardly changed in 150 years,” Amin says. “Through the restrictions placed on us because of this pandemic, I’m reflecting on where the power dynamics are embedded in the technologies that we are dependent on. How do we talk about this while we’re in the middle of it?”

Another of the exhibition’s works — “The General’s Stork” — is a striking project about surveillance, recounting the remarkable-yet-true story of a migratory bird detained by the Egyptian authorities for espionage in 2013.




‘Project Speak2Tweet’ is loosely about the internet shutdown during the initial days of the Egyptian revolution in 2011. Supplied

“It’s an allegory to address the development of drone warfare with the Middle East as its backdrop, and the ways in which these mechanized birds are being used to surveil citizens around the world,” says Amin. “Now, the pandemic serves to further justify the use of these technologies while we are in a moment of hysteria and panic.”

Exploring the context and implications of these technologies takes on an even greater significance during an interview conducted over video-meeting software. “We’ve now become so dependent on online platforms for educational contexts too,” she adds. “Universities and schools are giving classes via services which ultimately control how we pass down information. What happens when we’re being surveilled through these platforms and are being told what we can and can’t teach, and in which ways? Who does this serve?”

All three works in “When I see the future…” showcase the kind of intense curiosity that shines through when Amin talks. It’s a trait that has endured from her childhood in Egypt. “From a very early age I have been questioning with a sense of skepticism,” she recalls. “And an art education really honed and developed those skills.”




“As Birds Flying” (2016) is a response to the media narrative in Egypt that has turned a bird into a symbol of state paranoia. Supplied

Amin’s family was supportive of her aspirational curiosity and encouraged her to express herself. She moved to Minnesota for her Bachelor’s of Studio Art, and has remained active academically in conjunction with her work. She currently lectures at Bard College Berlin, is a doctorate fellow in art history at Freie Universität and a Field of Vision fellow in New York, as well as visual arts curator at Mizna in Minneapolis, co-curator of the biennial residency program with Italy’s Ramdom Association, and co-founder of The Black Athena Collective — an arts and research project that explores artistic practice as a means for recording history.

Amin currently lives and works in Berlin, a city she feels allows for the kind of artistic experimentation places such as New York or London couldn’t offer. It’s also a place that attracts a lot of displaced talent from across the Arab world.

“As a result of all these failed revolutions, much of the Arab intellectual and artistic scene has transplanted here,” she explains. “There’s something incredibly sad about that — but, under the circumstances, we use this space to construct our lives anew and continue to fight for the ideas we believe in.”




Portrait of Heba Amin. (Getty Images)

It’s another example of a duality that fascinates her. And as “When I see the future…” continues to grow and evolve in situ, Amin is excited by the possibilities offered by the discourse she hopes to provoke through the exhibition, with audiences in London and beyond.

“This is an opportunity that’s so rare — to engage my work specifically as part of an extensive public program like this, one that I get to be integral in shaping. There will be new works that emerge from the discussions and events, we’ll be publishing a lot of materials including peer-reviewed journals.”

And there’s a sense of liberation in the final installation being anything but final. “Towards the end of the show, it might look quite different. And that’s exciting because it allows me to engage in my own show,” she adds. “Often, you don’t get that opportunity. To install my work in an exhibition, and have a public show around it with the purpose of developing it further? That’s very exciting.”


Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 
Updated 02 March 2021

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz makes new collection more accessible 

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz has just made his ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2021 collection more accessible to fashion lovers. 

According to WWD, the founder of Maison Rabin Kayrouz, who is based between Paris and Beirut, has expanded his offerings for the upcoming season and is “shifting prices downward some 20 to 30 percent.”

The designer’s new approach will allow women to turn to Kayrouz for day-to-day ensembles. 

Kayrouz’s new offerings are “soft and playful,” according to the brand’s Instagram page. In his campaign video, the designer showcased dresses, skirts, shirts, trousers and coats in a floral-inspired setting, mixing bold color blocking and fresh prints cut in light fabrics. 

Kayrouz, as well as renowned Lebanese label Elie Saab and Dubai-based atelier Kristina Fidelskaya, is set to present his new creations on March 6 at Paris Fashion Week. 


French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai slams Nick Jonas on Twitter

The French-Algerian singer called out Nick Jonas in a series of Tweets. File/Instagram
The French-Algerian singer called out Nick Jonas in a series of Tweets. File/Instagram
Updated 02 March 2021

French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai slams Nick Jonas on Twitter

The French-Algerian singer called out Nick Jonas in a series of Tweets. File/Instagram

DUBAI: French-Algerian pop singer Lolo Zouai has taken to her official Twitter account to call out Nick Jonas for allegedly copying her song “Jade” in a series of Tweets.

Zouai posted a comparison of the first few seconds of Jonas’s newest single “Spaceman” and her song “Jade,” featuring Blood Orange, to hint at the supposed similarities.

Both songs feature warped keys in the beginning. 

“Remember when u flew me out to LA to sign me then ghosted me (sic)” the artist wrote, alongside three cry-laughing emojis. 

Based on the 25-year-old’s tweet, fans were able to deduce that her hit single that catapulted her into fame “High Highs to Low Lows” was partly inspired by Jonas.

“Is that what ‘High Highs to Low Lows’ was written about!?” asked one user, prompting her to respond: “It’s a part of it yes.”

Another fan responded to her Tweet: “Not High Highs to Low Lows being about Nick Jonas I-” 

“Not fully,” replied Zouai. “Don’t give him that much credit! Trust me there r many shady people out here (sic).”

In the song lyrics for “High Highs to Low Lows,” Zouai croons: “Ooh, you wanna help me/Ooh, you wanna fly me out to LA/Dreams you wanna sell me I took a bite/ that’s a gold plate, a gold plate/Timing, he said it’s just bad timing/Lying, all I got from you was silence.”

She also posted a screenshot of a blank iMessage text conversation directed towards the former Jonas Brothers star. “Should I do it?” she asked her 27.6 followers. 

It’s uncertain if she ever did.


Model Imaan Hammam celebrates iconic singer Umm Kulthum in new interview

Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP
Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP
Updated 02 March 2021

Model Imaan Hammam celebrates iconic singer Umm Kulthum in new interview

Imaan Hammam is currently one of the most in-demand models on the scene. File/AFP

DUBAI: Morrocan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam was recently interviewed by award-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross for i-D Magazine’s latest “Dystopia Issue,” of which Hammam is the cover star. 

During the candid interview, Hammam spoke on everything from her charitable work with non-profit organization She’s the First to her first-ever magazine cover.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

Ross also quizzed Hammam about who some of the women that inspire her are, and the model’s answer may come as a surprise to some.

The 24-year-old revealed that one of her inspirations is iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, who died in Cairo in 1975.

“I don’t know if you know her. But she was an Arabic singer in the 60s,” she explains to Ross. “Her story is incredible. At that time, as a woman, to be a singer was really difficult. And you know all about that. So definitely Umm Kulthum,” she said.

Indeed, Umm Kulthum is considered one of the Arab world’s greatest singers to ever live.

The legendary Egyptian musician known as the “Star of the Orient” and the “Grand dame of Arab singing,” was revered globally for her unique vocals and popular hits like “Al-Atlal,” “Qadheet Hayati,”  and “Alf Leila w Leila,” among others.

Global music sensation Beyonce even paid homage to the late singer during her “On the Run” tour, where she sampled Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Omri” in the opening of a performance.

In addition to the iconic singer, Hammam also shared that her mother is also a huge source of inspiration to her, in addition to fellow supermodels Iman Abdulmajid and Naomi Campbell. 

“My mom has been a big inspiration for me as well, because she came to Holland as an immigrant and really took care of us,” noted the catwalk star. “I mean, I don’t really come from a wealthy family and you know, we’ve had our struggles but she was inspirational.”

She added: “Someone I really appreciate is Iman, the other Iman. Iman and Naomi Campbell, they’re the ones that opened the doors for us. Bethann Hardison, too, she’s the queen. She’s the best. Yeah, so I think those are the people I really aspire to.”


Netflix’s new show ‘The Big Day’ is far from reality

‘The Big Day’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
‘The Big Day’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
Updated 02 March 2021

Netflix’s new show ‘The Big Day’ is far from reality

‘The Big Day’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied

BANGALORE: Think “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Bling Empire,” “Indian Matchmaking,” and now, “The Big Day.” It would seem that Netflix wants viewers to know that the rich Asian is here to stay, with its new production about India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry.

The Conde Nast India reality series follows couples as they embark on over-the-top marriage events orchestrated by luxury wedding planners for a rich Indian clientele.

Three 40-minute episodes – each featuring two couples – focuses on the themes of connecting with roots, questioning age-old rituals, and love triumphing over all.

The premise of the show is the rise of an Indian millennial generation that is going against the grain – be it in the choice of a partner, opting for a sustainable wedding, or having a priestess officiate the marriage ceremony.

And it is not only limited to the festivities of the big day; this generation is ready to explore who they are and what they need out of relationships.

Three 40-minute episodes focuses on the themes of connecting with roots, questioning age-old rituals and love triumphing over all. Supplied

Equality in marriage is a common theme through the series – a concept that a patriarchal society such as India still grapples with. Only recently, regional film “The Great Indian Kitchen” was lauded for shining light on gender inequality in Indian marriages.

The redeeming moments in the show come by way of baby boomer parents admitting that commitment is far above rituals and societal pressures that Indian society is so entangled in, even in this day and age.

There are couples who challenge the power dynamics of the great Indian wedding: Why should the groom’s family have absolute power and say, and why is being a headstrong woman with a take-charge attitude considered a bad thing? The couples question age-old rituals and beliefs and retain whatever makes sense to them.

Unfortunately, the modern messages are drowned out by the ostentatious and blatant display of wealth, complete with life-size Faberge eggs and Victorian-themed parties.

It is a glaring privilege that lets the nouveau-riche choose a wedding venue or a partner – a vast majority of the subcontinent does not have that simple privilege. And it is this sad reality that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.      


Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award

 Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award
Updated 02 March 2021

Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award

 Egyptian singer Fatma Said nominated for BBC Music Magazine award

DUBAI: Egyptian singer Fatma Said has been nominated for the BBC Music Magazine’s 2021 Vocal Award for her debut album “El-Nour,” the music sensation announced on Instagram this week.

“I am excited and honored to learn that I am nominated for the BBC Music Magazine’s 2021 Vocal Award alongside wonderful artists that I admire and look up to,” she wrote captioning the announcement picture released by the BBC. 

She is competing against Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski’s album “Mahler,” as well as French pianist Alexandre Tharaud and operatic soprano Sabine Devieilhe for their album “Chanson d’Amour.”

In “El-Nour,” which she released in June 2020, she sings some of the most famous Arabic songs like “Sahar El-Layali” by renowned Lebanese singer Fairouz and “Yamama Beida,” an Egyptian folk song composed by Dawoud Hosny in the late 19th century. 

In a post she shared on Instagram upon the release of her album, the musician said: “My debut album ‘El-Nour,’ (the light) in Arabic, has been years in the making. With it, I want to explore how music that has been interpreted many times can be presented in different ways, in a different light.”

It connects three cultures and languages – Arabic, French, and Spanish – and shows how much, despite cultural, geographical, and historical differences, they have in common musically,” she added.⠀ 

Over her career, Said has shared the stage with renowned musicians such as Leo Nucci from Italy, Rolando Villazón from Mexico, Juan Diego Florez from Peru, Michael Schade from Canada and Jose Cura from Argentina. 

She also performed recitals with German clarinetist Sabine Meyer and British pianists such as Malcom Martineau, Roger Vignoles, Joseph Middleton.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in music from Berlin’s Hanns Eisler School of Music in 2013, Said was awarded a scholarship to study at the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan, becoming the first Egyptian soprano to perform on that iconic stage. 

In the past years she has won several major singing competitions including the 8th Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in Dublin, the 7th Leyla Gencer International Opera Competition in Istanbul, the second prize at the 16th International Robert Schumann Lied Competition in Zwickau and the Grand Prix at the 1st Giulio Perotti International Opera Competition in Germany.