‘Calligraphies of the Desert’ takes readers on an artistic journey

‘Calligraphies of the Desert’ takes readers on an artistic journey
“Calligraphies of the Desert” is a new release by leading Iraqi painter and calligrapher Hassan Massoudy. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 January 2021

‘Calligraphies of the Desert’ takes readers on an artistic journey

‘Calligraphies of the Desert’ takes readers on an artistic journey

LONDON: At first glance, readers of “Calligraphies of the Desert,” a new release by leading Iraqi painter and calligrapher Hassan Massoudy, will be tempted to describe it as a visual treat; a stunning calligraphic interpretation of the desert. However, they may very well reconsider this reading of the text as they navigate their way through the book.

More than just a splendid calligraphy book, “Calligraphies of the Desert” is a masterful survey of writings about the Arabian desert, collected by Hassan’s wife, Isabelle Massoudy. The collection, we learn in an introduction by Isabelle, was prompted by the France-based couple’s multiple trips to the deserts of Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritania, as well as by Isabelle’s strong urge to “recover a little of that desert in Paris” by reading widely and devouring texts on the desert by renowed poets and writers.

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The authors of these texts, Isabelle says, “expressed in their writings a fair share of the emotions I had felt but could not yet express in words.” The result is an exquisitely made book — a collaboration between Hassan and Isabelle — that features texts by Rumi, Goethe, Baudelaire, Khalil Gibran, Al-Mutanabbi and Rabindranath Tagore, among others. Most of the texts are complemented by English/Arabic translations. Accompanying these segments are Hassan’s own magnificent calligraphic interpretations of many of them.

Hassan’s strokes are reminiscent of the desert. A desert color palette caresses his drawings: Shades of sand-yellow give way to a vibrant orange, before waltzing through a pulsating red-brown and stopping by other darker shades of brown. Likewise, the strokes are imbued with a sense of movement; they dance and twirl and whirl just like the desert’s sand waves.

“Calligraphies” is in many ways a celebration of the vast desert expanse — the laborious journey toward it, the silence and contemplation it brings to the traveler, as well as an appreciation of the path it enables toward knowledge of both self and the world.

 


Two winners announced as US university celebrates Arab art with Khayrallah Prize

Cover of Rula Jurdi Abisaab’s Arabic novel, “In a Box of Light.” Supplied
Cover of Rula Jurdi Abisaab’s Arabic novel, “In a Box of Light.” Supplied
Updated 31 min 5 sec ago

Two winners announced as US university celebrates Arab art with Khayrallah Prize

Cover of Rula Jurdi Abisaab’s Arabic novel, “In a Box of Light.” Supplied

DUBAI: Since its foundation in 2010, the Khayrallah Center at North Carolina State University has pursued its mission to research, archive, and inform the public about the history of the Lebanese diaspora.

One of the center’s standout activities is celebrating Arab culture through the annual Khayrallah Prize, introduced in 2015.

“When you talk about the history of the community, culture is a central aspect of who they are, whether it is day-to-day culture, such as food, or high culture as we imagine it to be such as literature, poetry, and art,” center director, Dr. Akram Khater, told Arab News.

A native of Lebanon, he said: “We wanted to not only recognize but to encourage people to explore the idea of being in the diaspora artistically.”

New York-based filmmaker Zayn Alexander submitted a 10-minute film, “Abroad,” which he stars in and is the first movie he has directed. Supplied

For the 2020 edition of the prize – which received approximately 100 entries of visual art, plays, poetry, and film – two co-winners have been announced: The New York-based filmmaker Zayn Alexander, and Montreal-based poet and scholar Rula Jurdi Abisaab.

Born in Lebanon, Alexander submitted a 10-minute film, “Abroad,” which he stars in and is the first movie he has directed.

It tells the story of a Lebanese couple, Jad and Rania, who live in New York but are struggling to make it into the movie industry partly due to typecasting of Arab actors. Things take a serious turn when Jad decides to return to Lebanon.

Meanwhile, McGill University professor Abisaab’s Arabic novel, “In a Box of Light,” is centered on the theme of light and enlightenment.

Portrait of Rula Jurdi Abisaab. Supplied

Its protagonist is a young Lebanese woman who travels to New York to study filmmaking, encountering people of different backgrounds. Her relationship with an Iraqi man becomes central in her life but is problematic for her family back in a Lebanese village.

Khater noted that the winners’ individual works met the standard of the prize’s ethos.

“We’re looking for something that not only shows a high level of skill in their craft but also material that speaks to the themes of diaspora and immigration, exploring them with honesty, fresh eyes, and depth,” he added.

Portrait of Zayn Alexander. Supplied

Both recipients will share the $10,000 prize money. Due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020 was a challenging year for artistic communities around the world, which is why the Khayrallah Prize is a commendable effort to provide some financial help for artistic practitioners.

In normal circumstances, the prize winner would be invited to present their work at a ceremony in Beirut’s Sursock Museum. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a virtual event was expected to be held.


Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 
Updated 03 March 2021

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award 

DUBAI: US-Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa’s book “Against the Loveless World” is among the finalists for the 2020 Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award, organizers announced this week. 

Susan Abulhawa is a US-Palestinian writer. (Supplied)

The political activist’s book begins in the Hawalli neighborhood of Kuwait. It tells the story of a woman who has as many names as she has homes, moving from place to place as a child of exiles and becoming one herself during the Gulf War.

With her mother, brother, and grandmother Sitti Wasfiyeh, Nahr navigates a life through Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, a home she knows so little of, and then an Israeli prison.

With dreams of marriage, of her own children and of freedom, Nahr’s fight to survive a world that is intent on testing her lands her in situations that could break the weak.

In an unthinkably harsh reality, and one that is a continuous experiment in resilience, Abulhawa pushes to the fore themes of identity and adaptability, posing the question: How can an oppressor know roots when they live by unearthing trees?

Read Arab News’ full review of “Against the Loveless World” here.

Abulhawa is competing against author Michele Harper for her book “The Beauty in Breaking” and writer Kiley Reid for her novel “Such a Fun Age.” 

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia museum established its literary award in 1950.

The last two winners for the award in 2019 were British author Edward Posnett and Canadian- American writer Witold Rybczynski for their books “Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects” and “Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City” respectively.


Dubai exhibition explores ‘Age of Extreme Self’ in pandemic-hit world

Campaign for 5 Moncler Craig Green SS19 Collection, Craig Green x Moncler. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista
Campaign for 5 Moncler Craig Green SS19 Collection, Craig Green x Moncler. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista
Updated 03 March 2021

Dubai exhibition explores ‘Age of Extreme Self’ in pandemic-hit world

Campaign for 5 Moncler Craig Green SS19 Collection, Craig Green x Moncler. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista

DUBAI: While many industries have slowed over the course of the pandemic, the digital landscape in which we now live has accelerated.

The digital sphere, already fast-tracked before the pandemic through social media and other high-tech elements, is now the focus of our everyday existence. Our life now exists through screens. We work through screens, communicate through screens and connect with others through screens.

We also connect with ourselves through screens, and it is this idea of the self that a pivotal exhibition, “Age of You,” now open at the Jameel Arts Center, says is under threat as a consequence of our widespread digitalization.

Crowd Landscape, 2021, Satoshi Fujiwara. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista



The exhibition, which runs at the Dubai center until Aug. 14, was curated by three of the art world’s most respected curators: Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

It is based around the trio’s latest book, “The Extreme Self,” a sequel to their previous title, “The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present.” The new book features “13 immersive chapters that chart the remaking of one’s interior world as the external world becomes increasingly uncertain.”

Basar told Arab News: “The world in many ways feels unrecognizable from a year ago when the pandemic began. ‘Age of You’ shows you how, and maybe why that’s the case.”

Set across two of Jameel Art Center’s gallery floors, the new exhibition includes graphic design by Daly & Lyon, and works by more than 70 international visual contributors from the worlds of art, design, filmmaking, photography, technology and electronic music.

 

Behold These Glorious Times!, 2017, Trevor Paglen. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista



“Age of You” also includes new commissions that showcase various aspects of what the curators have termed “the extreme self,” including works by Yuri Pattison, Satoshi Fujiwara and Stephanie Saade, whose work deals with screens, crowds and “emoji-as-surveillance.”

There are also films by Trevor Paglen and NVIDIA Research, and audio “deepfakes” by Vocal Synthesis that are created through artificial intelligence. The works of Jenna Sutela, Sara Cwynar and Victoria Sin explore transforming perceptions of the face and the body, while Craig Green’s collection and campaign for Moncler marries menswear with a machine.

“It seems that ‘Age of You’ is one of very few large-scale museum exhibitions to open anywhere in the world this spring, and its subject matter could not be more timely,” Antonia Carver, Jameel Arts Center director, told Arab News.

Illocutionary Utterances, 2018, Victoria Sin. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista


“The exhibition has been in development for a number of years, and its first iteration was at MOCA Toronto, with whom we collaborated on the show,” she added. “It addresses issues that are very ‘now’ — how technology is shaping us, how our data has become the global commodity of today and how our new ‘extreme selves’ are shaping our world.

“But through the pandemic, the exhibition became even more urgent and relevant to our age. The curators adapted the show over the past few months, and brought in further discussion of our online lives and our new understandings of the individual and the crowd.”

The works — a mix of emojis, films, bold statements and installations — relay feelings of happiness, sadness, depression and confusion. Among the highlights is Satoshi Fujiwara’s eight-meter-high, 22-meter-long photographic sculpture that has transformed one of the center’s inner gardens into a surreal skyscraper of faces.

Untitled (iOS emoji content aware fill), 2021, Yuri Pattison.Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista



There is also Jenna Sutela’s lava lamp heads, which, according to Basar, “remind us that humans are maybe the most alien life forms on earth.”

Another installation, a 10-meter-high outdoor banner, displays a new Russian doll emoji tagged with four words that reiterate our obsession with the self: “Me. You. It. Us.”

As the viewer walks through the exhibition, they feel the same electrifying and confused pulse that screens in everyday life emanate. “Age of You” emphasizes the obvious: This century’s most valuable resource is you — all of your online behaviors turn into the data and algorithms that dictate the movement of our digital sphere.

“‘Age of You’ addresses a global phenomenon, but as the first post-pandemic exhibition addressing this theme, it’s particularly apt that it is staged in the UAE, in the Gulf, and from here, beams out globally,” said Carver.

‘Age of You,’ Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniela Baptista



“It’s well known that here we have a particular affinity with new technologies, high mobile phone usage, and an intense interest in artificial intelligence, and in debating and developing strategies for the future. This show has a dynamic, seductive theme and design, but it’s not an easy one — it challenges each and every one of us to interrogate our lives and our relationships with technology.”

A book on the exhibition is due for release later this spring. The book “will travel, which means the show will travel, too,” Basar said.

The exhibition leaves us with this question: What if the future is dictated by the unintended consequences of who you are and your online actions? Only time and our actions will tell.


Moroccan-British model Nora Attal voices support for Asian community in the US

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal voices support for Asian community in the US
Updated 03 March 2021

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal voices support for Asian community in the US

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal voices support for Asian community in the US

DUBAI: Moroccan-British model Nora Attal took to Instagram this week to speak up about violence against the Asian community in the US in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

She shared an image on her Instagram Stories from a page that reported that a university lecturer was attacked by a racist gang of men in Southampton. 

Instagram/@noraattal

She wrote: “This is disgusting… people are using Asians as a scapegoat to vent their anger.” 

Earlier this week, US-Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan also took to Instagram to voice her concerns. “Sadly these alarming events have had very little attention within the media, and that is not okay,” she wrote in a message she shared on her makeup brand Huda Beauty’s Instagram page on Monday. 


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.