Lebanese artist Louma Rabah: ‘Painters are very lucky, we are free’

Lebanese artist Louma Rabah: ‘Painters are very lucky, we are free’
Louma Rabah’s decision to become a professional painter at the age of 30 required a leap of faith, giving up her job as a graphic designer and animator for Alsumaria TV. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Lebanese artist Louma Rabah: ‘Painters are very lucky, we are free’

Lebanese artist Louma Rabah: ‘Painters are very lucky, we are free’
  • The Lebanese artist discusses escapism and the importance of being true to yourself

LONDON: “The colors in my paintings come from my childhood memories. My dad used to work in agriculture, so it was always about nature, flowers and trees,” Lebanese artist Louma Rabah tells Arab News. “My happiness is in nature — even a gloomy tree can make me happy.”

Rabah’s parents divorced when she was just 18 months old and she went to live with her father, her half-Austrian stepmother (“who I regard as my second mum”), and her siblings. They fled Lebanon in 1985 because of the civil war and went to live in Vienna, then Egypt, before returning to Lebanon in 1990.

“I met up with my mother again in Italy when I was 15,” Rabah says. “She was living with her artist husband. She is also a painter, gifted at watercolors. Today she lives in Lebanon and we are close.”




Her house and studio had been extensively damaged. (Supplied)

Even though her mother was an artist, Rabah’s decision to become a professional painter at the age of 30 required a leap of faith, giving up her job as a graphic designer and animator for Alsumaria TV. Many of her family and friends advised her not to — particularly as she had a young son to take care of, having recently divorced. “I really didn’t have enough money to do this, but it felt good to me,” she says. “The people around me were more scared than I was.”

Ten years on, she not only makes a living from her art, but — more importantly — has the freedom to create on her own terms.

On the morning of the August 4 Beirut Port explosion, Rabah was happily absorbed in painting when she suddenly felt compelled to get out of Beirut. Her son accused her of being hysterical, but she was adamant. On checking into their hotel, they heard the news about the blast. Her house and studio had been extensively damaged. “The chair where my son likes to sit was right in front of a double-glazed window which was blown out.”

Rabah set about repairing her home and studio as quickly as possible. “It was very difficult to paint — it didn’t seem important,” she says. “But I realized I mustn’t give up, so I fixed my studio really fast and invited people to paint, read poetry and express their feelings. People thanked us for that: 'You are bringing a bit of hope to the neighborhood.’ Beirut is a very cultured city. If this dies, the heart of Beirut dies.”

Here, Rabah talks us through some of her favorite work.

‘Surviving the 4th of August’

This is the painting I was working on the morning of the port explosion. It was still wet when my home was damaged, and the shards of broken glass dried on the canvas. Volunteers came and tried to brush off the glass, leaving footprints. But the couple that bought it said they wanted it left as it was. So I left the glass embedded in it and we wrote on the back that it had survived the August 4 blast.

‘Escape in Nature’

This depicts the nature in the mountains where my mother lives. She has a beautiful garden connected to the valley where you can walk into endless wild flowers. When I take a photo, people think I’ve edited it; the colors are so vibrant. I painted this after the blast. You can feel the strokes are strong. When I did it I was angry — but I put it into something I liked, so I calmed myself. When I’m feeling angry or negative, I don’t paint the negativity — I don’t like to put my sadness or dark periods on the canvas because I think if I have the chance to make something prettier or happier, why not? After I paint something positive, my mood changes. It’s like therapy. A lot of artists painted the destruction after the blast, but it wasn’t something I wanted to put on canvas or even to see ever again. It doesn’t help me in any way.

‘Blooming Cactus’

I painted this when I was still married. I wasn’t a painter then — I was just painting at home. But I enjoyed doing this. I like the cactus; it’s a very resilient plant, very strong. Whatever the conditions, it still grows. Visually it’s very nice too — they look like little sculptures. You can see that, over time, my art has changed. Some of my early work was very orderly and constrained, but my new paintings are more free and abstract.

‘Field of Wild Flowers’

When you start making abstract art, it means you’re becoming more confident. With time you can — like a good writer — say less and project more. You get to convey what you’re feeling without having to paint every detail. Sometimes, I still go into nature and paint what I’m seeing, but most of the time it’s a feeling I want to put on canvas. I don’t think before I paint. I know what colors I’m feeling and what mood I’m in, but the outcome is a total surprise. I like to be free to paint whatever I wish. An artist shouldn’t worry about what people will like or not. They should be honest. People who paint are very lucky because we are free. We are doing what makes us happy and relaxed.

‘Cedar Tree in Spring’

In Lebanon we have beautiful nature and trees. It’s what makes us special in the Arab world. During this interview, I’m speaking to you from Dubai. I came here to stay with my sister, whose boyfriend was killed in the port blast. After this tragedy she decided to move to the UAE, where she has friends. On my first day in Dubai, I opened the window and there were New Year fireworks and people were clapping and laughing on the seafront. It made me cry because of the contrast between what Lebanon is facing now. But I’m looking forward to going home. I miss everything — my neighbors, the street, my studio.


Nominated actor Tahar Rahim debuts unreleased Louis Vuitton watch at Golden Globes

The Franco-Algerian actor wore custom Louis Vuitton to the Golden Globes 2021. File/Instagram
The Franco-Algerian actor wore custom Louis Vuitton to the Golden Globes 2021. File/Instagram
Updated 01 March 2021

Nominated actor Tahar Rahim debuts unreleased Louis Vuitton watch at Golden Globes

The Franco-Algerian actor wore custom Louis Vuitton to the Golden Globes 2021. File/Instagram

DUBAI: The Golden Globes 2021 kicked off on Sunday night, heralding the start of the annual awards season calendar. When it came to red carpet style, just like their female counterparts, the men did not disappoint with their sartorial choices. 

French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim, who was nominated in the Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture category for his role in “The Mauritanian” made a fashion debut during the virtual awards ceremony wearing a head-to-toe Louis Vuitton look that included the French maison’s newest watch: The Tambour Street Diver.

The 39-year-old actor, who watched the virtual ceremony from his Paris hotel suite, wore the Skyline Blue model, customized with a black strap, that matched his navy blue, double-breasted suit. 

The unreleased timepiece will be unveiled at Watches of Wonder in Geneva in April and launch on April 9.

Rahim was nominated for his role as Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who was held for 14 years without charge in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The film is based on Salahi’s 2015 memoir, “Guantánamo Diary.” 

The film also stars Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The accolade ultimately went to the late Chadwick Boseman, who was awarded the Golden Globe for lead actor in a movie drama for his emotional role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”


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.


Model Shanina Shaik shows off trip to Dubai on social media

The part-Saudi model jetted off to Dubai this week. Instagram
The part-Saudi model jetted off to Dubai this week. Instagram
Updated 01 March 2021

Model Shanina Shaik shows off trip to Dubai on social media

The part-Saudi model jetted off to Dubai this week. Instagram

DUBAI: Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik has landed in the UAE, according to her Instagram Stories. 

The catwalk star, who has walked the Victoria’s Secret runway five times, announced that she landed in Dubai by way of a clip shared with her 2.2 million followers that showed her at Dubai International Airport collecting her luggage at baggage claim. “Landed in Dubai,” she revealed to her fans. 

The Saudi-Pakistani-Lithuanian-Australian star flew in from Los Angeles and it’s uncertain whether she is in the UAE for business or for pleasure. However, she made sure to document how she spent her trip on her Instagram account.

The model flew in to Dubai from Los Angeles this week. Instagram/@shaninamshaik

After checking into the Waldorf Astoria, where the 30-year-old was greeted with a floral bouquet sent from MAC Cosmetics Middle East as soon as she arrived, and she made sure to show off her treats from Mama Rita, the food delivery concept launched by Australian-Lebanese model  Jessica Kahawaty alongside her mother Rita Kahawaty. 

“Had to try,” Shaik captioned a picture of herself holding a white Mama Rita bag. 

Instagram/@shaninamshaik

The star later met up with her close friend, Dubai-based influencer Mahmoud Sidani, who is commonly known as Mr. Moudz to his legion of social media followers. 

“Look who’s in Dubai,” he excitedly announced in a video posted to his Instagram Stories of Shaik indulging in a dessert from local healthy restaurant Krave. “So, Shanina’s never tried a cheesecake from Krave,” he said, adding “I’m about to change your life. Have a bite.”

The next morning, Sidani picked up Shaik, AKA his “workout buddy for the day,” and the two headed to 51 Gym Dubai for an early bird sweat session. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Mahmoud (@mrmoudz)

In a recent clip, the Los Angeles-based beauty revealed that she hasn’t been traveling as often due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

She also shared her travel essentials for when she does hop on a plane. 

Instagram/@shaninamshaik

Among the items she can’t travel without are her silk pillowcase from Slip – “for hygienic reasons” – melatonin for sleep, gut probiotics, Vitamin C capsules and Zinc.

“That comes with me everywhere,” she stated.

Prior to going to Dubai, the jet-setting star was recently in Mexico and in Ghana, where she spent New Year’s Eve.


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. 


MAC Cosmetics teams up with Nadine Njeim on new makeup range

It is the second time the former Miss Lebanon collaborates with MAC Cosmetics. Supplied
It is the second time the former Miss Lebanon collaborates with MAC Cosmetics. Supplied
Updated 01 March 2021

MAC Cosmetics teams up with Nadine Njeim on new makeup range

It is the second time the former Miss Lebanon collaborates with MAC Cosmetics. Supplied

DUBAI: MAC Cosmetics has developed a 15-piece cosmetics range in collaboration with Lebanese actress and model Nadine Nassib Njeim. The collection features eye, lip and complexion products that come in striking Japanese cherry blossom-inspired packaging.

The former Miss Lebanon, who has previously launched the Mosaic Masterpiece collection with the beauty brand, appears wearing Zuhair Murad in The Black Cherry x Nadine N. Njeim collection campaign, which was lensed by photographer Desiree Mattson.

“I’m so excited to reveal my second collaboration with M·A·C Cosmetics, starring in the campaign for the new limited edition Black Cherry collection!” wrote the star on Instagram alongside images of the ad.

“Transform a brief moment of Cherry Blossom bliss into a full season of new looks, with this stunning color collection for eyes, lips and skin!” she added.

The Black Cherry x Nadine N. Njeim collection. Supplied

The collection includes a limited edition mascara, liner, lip primer, three lipsticks, four lip balms, four blushers and a Cherry Blossom Fix+ Spray that will hit shelves on March 10 in MAC Cosmetics boutiques as well as online.