Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news

Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news
Winston Churchill was the United Kingdom’s prime minister from 1940 to 1945. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 March 2021

Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news

Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news

DUBAI: “Happy are the painters, for they are never alone.”

While many of us could mistake this famous quote for a comment by countless artists, you may be surprised to learn it was said by none other than  Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose passion for painting recently made headlines around the world.

Earlier this week, a painting of Marrakesh by the famed World War Two politician, who died in 1965 at the age of 90, smashed expectations and sold for a staggering $11.5 million at auction in London.

“The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque,” which was owned by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, was painted by Churchill during a wartime visit in 1943.




“The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” was painted by Churchill during a World War II visit in 1943. (AFP)

And while securing the allies victory against Nazi Germany may have been all-consuming, Churchill found snippets of time to pursue his passion for art after realizing his love for painting at 40 years old.

He was first introduced to painting during a family holiday in 1915 after his sudden fall from grace over his role in the disastrous Dardanelles naval campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Churchill, who served as the First Lord of the Admiralty during the campaign, hoped that this new skill would distract him from the ongoing strife engulfing Europe. 

For the artist-cum-politician, who completed an impressive 500 artworks, painting was a hobby; he did to unwind and gifted most of his works to friends. 

And while Churchill painted a varied array of landscapes, from quaint English country scenes to the immense cliffs near Marseilles in France, his depictions of Morocco feature among his most exotic paintings.




A museum employee poses next to a painting by Winston Churchill entitled “Gate at Marrakech, man on donkey” at Leighton House Museum in west London. (AFP)

His passion for the translucent light of Marrakesh, far from the political storms and drab skies of London, dates back to the 1930s when most of Morocco was a French protectorate.

Churchill’s first painting of Morocco was completed in 1935. Titled “Scene in Marrakesh,” it is set to be auctioned by Christie’s later this year.

The work was painted while on a stay at Mamounia, where he marveled at the “truly remarkable panorama over the tops of orange trees and olives,” in a letter to his wife Clementine.

He went on to make six visits to the North African country over the course of 23 years.




Christies auction house staff pose with a painting by Winston Churchill entitled “A view of Marrakesh” in London. (AFP)

“Here in these spacious palm groves rising from the desert the traveler can be sure of perennial sunshine... and can contemplate with ceaseless satisfaction the stately and snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains,” he wrote in 1936 in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

He would set up his easel on the balconies of the grandiose La Mamounia hotel or the city’s Villa Taylor, beloved by the European jet setters of the 1970s.

It was from the villa, after a historic January 1943 conference in Casablanca with wartime leader US president Franklin Roosevelt and France’s Charles de Gaulle, that he painted what came to be regarded as his finest work, of the minaret behind the ramparts of the Old City, with mountains behind and tiny colorful figures in the forefront.




A Sotheby’s auction house employee poses with a rare painting entitled “Churchill’s Marrakech” by Winston Churchill, at the auction house in London. (AFP)

“You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakesh,” he is reputed to have told Roosevelt. “I must be with you when you see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains.”

After the US delegation had left, Churchill stayed on an extra day and painted the view of the Koutoubia Mosque framed by mountains — he then sent it to Roosevelt for his birthday.

What makes “The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” so special is the fact that it was the only artwork he completed during World War II. 

However, it should be noted that Morocco was not the only Arab country Churchill painted. In 1921, he painted the Pyramids at Giza when he visited Egypt as Secretary of State for the Colonies for the Cairo Conference.

What makes this week’s whopping sale even more interesting, however, is the star power lent by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, who owned the piece before putting it up for auction.




The artwork had several owners before Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought it in 2011.

Jolie’s former husband Brad Pitt is known to be an art collector and during their 2014-16 marriage the pair bought some notable works, including pieces by Banksy and Neo Rauch.

The London-based auction house Christie’s told CNN that the Maleficent actress, 45, listed the artwork as property of the “Jolie Family Collection,” while US Weekly reported that it was a gift from Pitt to Jolie prior to their enagement.

The couple separated in 2016 and have spent years enmeshed in divorce proceedings, amid speculation about the division of their extensive art collection. They were declared divorced in 2019 after their lawyers asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning that two married people can be declared single while other issues, including finances and child custody, remain.

While Churchill’s painting of Marrakesh may no longer adorn Jolie’s walls, the sun-drenched piece will no doubt be appreciated elsewhere — at $11.5 million, we certainly hope so.


US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
Updated 14 April 2021

US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)

DUBAI: US-Palestinian stand-up comedian Mohammed Amer, who goes by the name Mo Amer, is set to star alongside US actor Dwayne Johnson in the new superhero movie “Black Adam.”

The action-adventure thriller is DC Comics’ long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s commercial hit “Shazam!” with the two characters, Shazam and Black Adam, being rivals in the DC Universe.

It is still unknown what role Amer will play.

 

 

The talent is famous for his role in the award-winning Hulu sitcom “Ramy,” in which he stars as US-Egyptian actor Ramy Youssef’s Muslim cousin who owns a diner. Amer also has a Netflix comedy special called “Mo Amer: The Vagabond.” 

Amer is not the only Arab actor in the cast. Tunisian-Dutch “Aladdin” star Marwan Kenzari confirmed in February that he is also starring in the movie, alongside actors Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge and Quintessa Swindell.

 

 

Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock” from his professional wrestling days, announced he was taking part in “Black Adam” two years ago on Instagram: “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together,” he wrote at the time. 

The movie was supposed to be released in December 2021, but was pushed back due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Production is expected to begin in April in Atlanta.

According to Deadline, “Black Adam” is set for release in July 2022.


Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Updated 14 April 2021

Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP

DUBAI: Fulfilling every millennial and Gen-Z’s childhood dreams, stars from shows like “Hannah Montana,” “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Drake and Josh” came together to wish their Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan this week. 

Non-profit, US-based initiative Paani Project brought the stars together in a one-minute long video, which it shared on its official Twitter platform on the first day of the Holy Month.

“Ramadan Kareem,” wrote the non-profit on Twitter. “Paani brought out a few childhood favorites to share a message with you all.”

The video featured the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney, Jennifer Stone, Phil Lewis, Maria Canals-Barrera, Drake Bell and skateboarder Tony Hawk.

“Hannah Montana” star Jason Earles sent greetings to “all my wonderful, beautiful and inspirational Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Massey, who played Corey Baxter in “That’s So Raven” and “Corey in the House” said “I want to wish you guys a happy Ramadan. It is the most amazing time of the year and I want you guys to stay blessed and continue to make each other happy and be nice to one another.”

Paani Project was founded by four Pakistani-American students on a quest to provide sustainable solutions for the water crises in Pakistan.

“Wishing you a happy Ramadan, and thank you for all your work you’re doing in South Asia, building wells,” said Hawk in the clip. 

Naturally, millennials and Gen Z’ers on the social media platform were thrilled, sharing their excitement in response to the clip.

“I never knew I needed Mr. Mosbey and Mrs. Russo to wish me Ramadan Kareem.  Thank u 3ammo w 3amto (sic),” wrote one user, in reference to two characters from Disney sitcoms.

“I love this so much, so many of my childhood favorite actors are here! Warmed my heart to see it and great respect to the project for building wells and helping out!” wrote another.


Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback

Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube
Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube
Updated 14 April 2021

Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback

Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube

DUBAI: Iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan is back. After a 20-year-hiatus, the famed television star, who is beloved the world over for her “Fawazeer” series that traditionally aired during Ramadan, returned to our screens in an advertisement for Vodafone Egypt that marked the first day of the Holy Month.

In the ad, the trained singer and dancer wore a design by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad who created a bespoke look for the actress. 

Directed by Ahmed Shaker Khudai, the nostalgic, four-minute ad tells the story of Sherihan’s career, starting with her very first Ramadan fawazeer in 1985 –  a riddle show that started on Egyptian radio in the 1960s, which soon moved into television–  until her car accident in 1989, followed a years-long battle with cancer.

Murad took to Instagram to share his excitement over Sherihan’s on-screen return, writing: “After more than 20 years @sherihanofficial makes an impressive comeback with an ad for @vodafoneegypt that leaves a strong impression and takes the social media by storm,” adding “The star is wearing custom made @zuhairmuradofficial. The ad portrays her resilience in a journey that was filled with ups and downs.”


Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting
Updated 14 April 2021

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

Fine-dining expert Fatima Osman’s top tips for the perfect iftar table setting

DUBAI: After a year during which most people have spent more time at home than ever before, the month of Ramadan has also seen a pivotal shift in how it is celebrated.

No longer can fasting Muslims congregate in crowds around sumptuous hotel buffets or gather in large groups for a family iftar. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has put paid to that, certainly for now.

But, according to Fatima Osman, breaking the daily fast can still be a lavish and momentous event.

The founder of fine-dining tableware business, A’ish, believes that iftar at home can be as opulent as dining in a restaurant, with the help of what she refers to as “tablescaping.”

Fatima Osman is the founder of fine-dining tableware business A’ish. (Supplied)

The phrase is used to describe the creation of the perfect table set-up for hosting family gatherings (COVID-19 safety compliant, of course) at iftar time. Osman said it was all about beautiful accessories and finishing touches, but she noted that it did not need to break the bank.

Her “key element” to setting up a table was the charger plate, a large, decorative base setting that other dinnerware was then placed on top of. That, along with some “distinctive cutlery,” could elevate any place setting, she added. It also meant that any crockery, preferably plain, could be placed on top.

“That way, you don’t need to invest in a crockery set, you can use simple things. It adds that element of glamour and a touch of luxury, and automatically elevates the experience,” she said.

Osman pointed out that accessorizing was the next most important aspect of setting up her table with simple touches such as adding napkin rings, fresh flowers for the centerpiece, and putting thought into what platter to use for serving food.

Osman pointed out that accessorizing was the next most important aspect of setting up her table. (Shutterstock)

“To me, the setting is just as important as the food. So much effort goes into the preparation of the meal, and I believe that the presentation of the food and setting is appreciation of the effort,” she added.

Before starting her business, named after her daughter Aisha, Osman was a lawyer in South Africa. She said formal dining had always been a staple of her annual Ramadan experience.

Buoyed by a family background in trade, she turned her passion for homeware into a company four years ago and has not looked back.

“Dining is so important to me as it was an integral part of my day with my family, and this is a legacy I wish to continue for my kids.

Fatima Osman’s business is named after her daughter Aisha. (Shutterstock)

“There was a lot of preparation that went into our iftar and while I am not insinuating that it should be that way, I do insist on the time and memories we created by just being around a table.

“If the best memories are made this way, shouldn’t we be using our best utensils, our best dinnerware, for the best company for the best reason?”

Her table setting is on show at a new exhibition during Ramadan at Dubai’s Indigo Living, the luxury home furnishing company. The display features a range of homeware and accessories from local female entrepreneurs and artisans.

Osman said: “I understand this is a month of prayer, but nobody said you can’t also have a good time. For me, a table and dinner and iftar signifies togetherness, this is a time to enjoy and go all out.”


UK Model Mariah Idrissi gets charitable for a good cause this Ramadan

Mariah Idrissi took to social media to share the charity Help Yateem's latest campaign. Instagram
Mariah Idrissi took to social media to share the charity Help Yateem's latest campaign. Instagram
Updated 14 April 2021

UK Model Mariah Idrissi gets charitable for a good cause this Ramadan

Mariah Idrissi took to social media to share the charity Help Yateem's latest campaign. Instagram

DUBAI: This Ramadan, UK-based charity Help Yateem will be selling Ajwa dates harvested in Madinah with all profits going toward the charity, which raises funds for orphans and widows across the Middle East and Africa. Pakistani-Moroccan model Mariah Idrissi, who is a brand ambassador for the charity, took to her Instagram account this week to support the good cause.

“I’ve been working with @helpyateem for just over two years now and I’ve seen the amazing work they do for orphaned children across Africa and Yemen,” she wrote to her 92,4000 Instagram followers. “This Ramadan, they are selling Ajwa dates straight from Al-Madinah and 100% of the profit will go back into the charity. Please enjoy the dates and support the many children who need it this year,” she added.

It’s not the first time that the UK-born model has worked with the UK registered charity.

Back in March, Idrissi and the Help Yateem team flew to Kenya to visit the Al-Walidayn centre, a mosque, hospital and girl’s orphanage that Help Yateem helped fund via donations made through its website.

“Landed in Kenya safe and sound with the @helpyateem familia! (sic),” wrote the hijab-wearing model at the time. “Can’t wait to visit the sites that you helped to build and share with you the difference that you’ve made.”

The 28-year-old, who made headlines when she became the first hijab-wearing model to front a major fashion campaign for H&M in 2015, documented her trip to the African country on social media, sharing pictures and videos of herself visiting different parts of Kenya on Instagram.

Idrissi uploaded a smiling photo of herself with two little girls who are seemingly from the orphanage that Help Yateem helped build.

She captioned the picture: “Some of my new friends over at @alwalidayncentre. On my first day arriving at this center, I couldn’t believe how big it was. This place is more than an orphanage, it’s an entire complex that doesn’t just benefit the children but also the neighbors in surrounding villages. It has an orphanage, madrasa, mosque, school, hospital and youth center. This is the first of its kind in the entire country! Keep following the journey, there’s so much I have to share with you guys.”