Startup of the Week: Investing in art and culture in times of crisis

Startup of the Week: Investing in art and  culture in times of crisis
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Updated 22 December 2020

Startup of the Week: Investing in art and culture in times of crisis

Startup of the Week: Investing in art and  culture in times of crisis
  • Saggaf currently sells her products on Instagram and delivers them to all regions of Saudi Arabia

The coronavirus pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for businesses around the world, but it has also accelerated the growth of ecommerce as people increasingly rely on online services.
Saudi interior designer Abrar Saggaf (@Abrarsaggaf) launched her brand Shaqmata in July at the peak of the outbreak in the Kingdom.
But, rather than get bogged down by the economic conditions thrown up by the pandemic, Saggaf decided to challenge herself with something new.
“I asked myself a question: Why would one limit themselves to one specialty, career, and source of income when they can invest in their talents and explore many potential opportunities?” she told Arab News. “I opened my drawer and found that I had many drawings which I collected over the years, and they resembled our local culture and I decided to convert my art style into products.”
Shaqmata (@shaqmata), which means scribbles in Arabic, turns Saggaf’s art into everyday products.
For years she had been encouraged by friends on social media to make decorative items like rugs and pillows out of her drawings that were the product of her stress-relief strategy — doodling.
Saggaf began with bags and has launched three designs since July. The designs are based on three different characters she created to resemble a certain culture.
She is also working on launching a new product — a modern abaya or light jacket — within a month.
What sets Shaqmata apart from other brands are its reasonable price point, as well as its quality and sophisticated design.
“Each character of our products has a name, a birth date, and a story. The more you give depth to your product the more people can connect with it,” she added. “At the beginning people used to order the products by design, now they know the designs by their names.”
Shaqmata targets a wide audience. Anyone interested in something unique and special that has a story — but is also practical — is a potential customer for Saggaf.
“Also, those interested in creative local brands and culture and art enthusiasts.”
Her 10 years of interior design experience, together with her passion for art, helped to grow her business in a few months.
“Although this is a completely new experience for me, my long experience in interior design helped me understand how to satisfy the needs of the targeted audience.”
She encouraged young people to seize opportunities and dare to take the first step toward their dream projects. “If people try to explore themselves, everyone will be able to find a hidden talent inside that’s worthy of their attention and investment.”
Saggaf currently sells her products on Instagram and delivers them to all regions of Saudi Arabia. But they will soon be available at two concept stores in Jeddah and will become available in Riyadh and Alkhobar as well.
She also wanted to offer her products to a wider audience worldwide, with her brand functioning as a platform for creative artists with similar interests to contribute to it.
“My goals are limitless. I want to take this project to grow as big as possible, reaching customers all over the world.”


Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track

Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track
Updated 01 March 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track

Netflix’s ‘The Girl on the Train’ with Parineeti Chopra goes off-track

CHENNAI: “The Girl on the Train,” the bestseller written by British author Paula Hawkins in 2015, told the story of three women in bad relationships drowning their woes in binge drinking. The novel was on The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for 13 consecutive weeks before being adapted into a Hollywood film in 2016 by Tate Taylor, with Emily Blunt as the girl on wheels. Netflix has now brought out a Bollywood remake directed by Ribhu Dasgupta. Also entitled “The Girl on the Train,” it stars Parineeti Chopra (the cousin of actress Priyanka Chopra).

Dasgupta sticks to the thriller genre of the book, but instead of narrating the story through three women, he focuses on Chopra’s Mira Kapoor, a brilliant lawyer whose life spins off axis after she gets a man convicted. Practising in London (why this city was chosen remains a puzzle) and once happily married to Shekhar Kapoor (Avinash Tiwary), her relationship suffers after a tragic motor accident.

“The Girl on the Train” stars Parineeti Chopra (the cousin of actress Priyanka Chopra). (YouTube)

The audience watches as Mira takes a train back and forth from central London every day, passing the house where she had lived in absolute bliss. Seeing happily married Nusrat John (Aditi Rao Hydari) with her husband, Anand (Shamaun Ahmed), Mira becomes obsessed with what could have been her own life. Fueled by alcohol, she is driven into a self-destructive cocoon. Finally, when she is accused of murder, with British-Asian policewoman Inspector Kaur (Kirti Kulhari) leading the investigation, Dasgupta’s effort begins to sway as wildly as Mira’s tottering steps.

Parineeti Chopra is an amazing actress, but the script has been so shoddily written that it becomes clear midway that she has had a raw deal. A terribly tormented woman should have been offered a better script, but the director settled for smudged makeup and stage tricks — there is hardly any depth in the way her character has been built.

Tiwary gets nothing better — the minute he displays his darker, sinister side, he is sidelined with a fresh twist.

The one person who sparkles is Hydari, who manages to rise above the sparsely written part in a short screen time with a remarkable range which swings from love and care to anger and fear.

With contrivances and coincidences at every turn, the train goes way off track. While the original work invested in emotional trauma and psychological brutality, which the girl fought to emerge from the mess, Dasgupta offers a murder mystery whose carriages seem uncoupled. The work is so choppy that a lot of talent, including that of Kulhari, is wasted.


Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community
Updated 01 March 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan speaks up against racism toward Asian community

DUBAI: US-Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan on Monday spoke out about racist comments towards the Asian community that she says have “increased dramatically” since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2019 in China. 

On her makeup brand Huda Beauty’s Instagram page, she shared a story writing: “At Huda Beauty, we stand against racism of any kind. Today, we want (to) draw attention to the violent hate crimes against the Asian community that have increased dramatically since the pandemic began.”  

Instagram:@hudabeauty

The makeup artist and entrepreneur added: “Sadly these alarming events have had very little attention with the media, and that is not okay.”

Kattan shared a series of images that gave her 47.8 million followers insight into the issue. The source of the statistics presented in the images is not immediately clear.  

Kattan also shared a video by Michelle Lee, host of The Science of Beauty podcast, who addressed this issue. In the video, Lee said: “Racism was always there, but the pandemic has given people an excuse to act on it.” 

In the 84-second clip, Lee shared videos of Asians people being pushed, thrown objects at and made fun off. 

“No one’s going to pay attention to you. You’re a stupid blue Asian haired girl,” said one man in the video. 


Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry to star in Netflix’s ‘The One’

Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry to star in Netflix’s ‘The One’
Updated 01 March 2021

Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry to star in Netflix’s ‘The One’

Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry to star in Netflix’s ‘The One’

DUBAI: Egyptian-British actor Amir El-Masry is set to star in Netflix’s new sci-fi drama “The One.”

The series, which is set to launch on March 12, is based on British author John Marrs’ novel, “The One.”

It is set in the future, in a world where a DNA test can find your perfect partner – the one person you’re genetically predisposed to fall passionately in love with.

El-Masry will star alongside actors Hannah Ware, who will play the role of Rebecca – the founder of MatchDNA, a company that pairs people with their soulmates, and Dimitri Leonidas, who will play the role of James, Rebecca’s best friend and the co-founder of MatchDNA. 

El-Masry will play Ben who is best friends with James and Rebecca.  


Trailer drops for Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle

 Trailer drops for Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle
Updated 01 March 2021

Trailer drops for Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle

 Trailer drops for Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle

DUBAI: Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey released the trailer for her eagerly anticipated interview with Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle on Monday.

This will be the couple’s first major interview since they stepped back from their royal duties in January 2020.

In the short clip, Winfrey told the viewers: “There’s no subject that’s off limits.” 

“My biggest concern was history repeating itself,” Prince Harry said in the clip.  

“I am just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you, with my wife by my side, because I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us,” he explained, referring to his mother Princess Diana. 


Chadwick Boseman wins Golden Globe for his emotional final movie role

Chadwick Boseman wins Golden Globe for his emotional final movie role
Updated 01 March 2021

Chadwick Boseman wins Golden Globe for his emotional final movie role

Chadwick Boseman wins Golden Globe for his emotional final movie role

LOS ANGELES: Chadwick Boseman was named best movie actor at the Golden Globe awards on Sunday, six months after his death at age 43 shocked fans around the world.

Boseman, best known for the superhero movie “Black Panther,” was awarded the Golden Globe for lead actor in a movie drama for his role as an ambitious trumpet player in 1920s jazz drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

His widow, Simone Ledward Boseman, delivered a heartbreaking speech while accepting the award through tears on Boseman’s behalf.

“He would say something beautiful,” she said. “Something inspiring. Something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can. That tells you to keep going ... and I don't have his words.”

“Ma Rainey” was Boseman’s last film performance, and Sunday’s Golden Globe marked the biggest Hollywood award for Boseman in his career in film and television. He has also won posthumous awards for the “Ma Rainey” role from several movie critics groups but was never Oscar- or Golden Globe-nominated while he was alive.

Boseman died in August 2020, having kept secret a four-year battle with colon cancer.

In “Ma Rainey,” the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s stage play of the same name, Boseman plays trumpet player Levee, hungry for change, who clashes with blues singer Ma, played by Viola Davis, on a hot 1920s day in a Chicago recording studio.

In one of the play’s key moments, Levee rails against God for turning his back on Black people in a speech that fellow cast members said gave them the chills when filming, even though they were unaware he was struggling with cancer.

“Something very spiritual happened in that moment. It was something you could not look away from. ... It was an extraordinary moment. It was a terrifying moment as well,” actor Michael Potts said in an interview last year.

Boseman is also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award next month, and is widely expected to be a strong Oscar contender when nominations are announced in mid-March.

“And honey, you keep ‘em coming,” Ledward Boseman said at the end of her Globes speech.