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.


Middle East Fashion Week announces dates for inaugural edition

The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek
The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek
Updated 18 April 2021

Middle East Fashion Week announces dates for inaugural edition

The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek

DUBAI: There’s a new fashion week in the region to look forward to. Middle East Fashion Week has announced its inaugural edition in a statement today. The six-day event is scheduled to take place at Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm from May 14-19. 

Unlike the traditional fashion week format we’ve all become accustomed to, Middle East Fashion Week is adopting a unique schedule, with a three-day sustainable fashion forum featuring high-profile international speakers, followed by three days of in-person fashion shows from international and regional designers, a gala dinner and a slew of other VIP events.

CEO of Middle East Fashion Council Simon J Lo Gatto, said in a statement: “Middle Eastern Fashion Week has been created as a platform to allow designers to come together with a unique opportunity to showcase in Dubai and to reach audiences not only across the GCC, but also the larger Indian subcontinent and Europe.”

He added: “Our goal is for the Middle East Fashion Week to become a biannual Fashion Week that acts as a reference point for designers from all corners of the world. Since inception in 2020, MEFC has positioned itself as the world’s first fashion council with sustainability as its core value and long-term objective. The platform was born from an inspiration to tackle climate change and pollution brought on as a direct result of the industry we love.”

The participating designers have yet to be revealed.


Beauty mogul Huda Kattan donates one million meals to new UAE campaign

The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images
The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images
Updated 18 April 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan donates one million meals to new UAE campaign

The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images

DUBAI: Dubai-based beauty mogul Huda Kattan took to Instagram on Saturday to reveal she has taken part in a food drive campaign launched by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The 100 Million Meals mission was launched to provide food parcels to disadvantaged communities across 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa in an effort to combat hunger and malnutrition, exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Kattan announced that she has donated one million meals to those less fortunate via her cosmetics company Huda Beauty.

“It’s hard to believe that in today’s world, in 2021, we’re still dealing with issues of malnutrition and that every ten seconds a child dies because of hunger. This initiative is so incredible and it’s just a reminder of how each and every single one of us has the power to make a change,” said Kattan in a video posted to her Instagram account.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Huda Kattan (@huda)

“I’m so proud to live in a country that prioritizes world hunger,” she said, urging her 2.2 million followers to donate to the charitable initiative.

The 100 Million Meals campaign is an expansion of the 10 Million Meals campaign, which was launched in 2020 to help those worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within a week of its launch, the initiative has raised over $21,200, equivalent to providing more than 78 million meals, as massive donations continue to pour in from individuals and companies inside and outside the UAE.

Kattan is an avid humanitarian and often steps up to help those who need it most.

In June, her cosmetics brand, Huda Beauty, donated $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a civil and human rights organization that provides legal assistance to low-income African Americans, during the height of the Black Lives Matters protests that swept through the US last year. 

Before that, the US-Iraqi beauty mogul pledged to donate $100,000 — to be split between 100 different freelance makeup artists providing them with $1000 each — in a bid to help people in the industry stay afloat financially during the pandemic.


Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.
Baked feta pasta.
Updated 18 April 2021

Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.

DUBAI: If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve drooled over one of countless images of baked feta pasta — a dish that went viral this year for that holy grail combination of anyone-can-do-it easiness and blissful deliciousness.

The dish, which consists of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and pasta, has been blasted all over the For You pages of millennials and Gen Z’ers on TikTok, and as of April 18,  #bakedfetapasta has more than 111.4 million views on the social media platform.

For those looking to whip up the dish for iftar, we asked Iraqi-Canadian chef Faisal Hasoon to share a simple baked feta pasta recipe with an Arab twist. 

The chef incorporates a fresh Middle Eastern flavor by way of roasted red peppers, sliced kalamata olives, a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of zest.  

Baked Feta Pasta

(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

Olive oil 3tbsp

6 cloves garlic (minced)

60g kalamata olives (sliced thin)

250g roasted red peppers (diced)

6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)

350g pasta (rigatoni) 

200g feta cheese (Greek, sheep or goat)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

Chilli pepper oil 1tbsp

Dried chilli flakes 1tsp

Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions: 

Step 1: In a medium sized pot bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as per the instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the remainder and set aside.

Step 2: Starting with a cold pan, cook garlic on low heat in olive oil. Allow it to simmer just before turning golden brown. Be sure not to overcook it as it will become bitter.  Add red chilli flakes and roasted red peppers, let it simmer for a few minutes then add sliced olives. Maintaining low heat and turning with a spatula frequently.

Step 3: Place the whole block of feta into the center of the pan and into the oven at 375 Celsius for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

Step 4: Place the pasta into the pan and mix well until all ingredients are well incorporated, adding reserved pasta water as needed.

Step 5: Finish with the zest and juice of one lemon, fresh cracked black pepper and thinly sliced basil. For an extra kick, drizzle over chilli oil and enjoy!

 

 


Lebanese author Hoda Barakat’s ‘Voices of the Lost’ is a dark, profound novel

The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied
The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied
Updated 17 April 2021

Lebanese author Hoda Barakat’s ‘Voices of the Lost’ is a dark, profound novel

The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied

CHICAGO: Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, “Voices of the Lost,” written by acclaimed Lebanese author Hoda Barakat and newly translated into English by Marilyn Booth, is a dark, profound novel that follows the lives of six men and women who confess their untold truths to their loved ones through letters. None of the letters reaches their intended recipients, however, and their devastating admissions are left to strangers who are then inspired to disclose their own secrets. And through their confessions, a series of letters emerges on life, love and devastating loss.

In an unknown part of the world, where war, poverty and destruction have caused life to veer in unpredictable directions, strangers struggle with the events of the past, both those they were responsible for and those they were victims of, which forced them into lives they neither wanted nor could have ever dreamed of. Split into three parts — for the lost, for the searching, and those left behind — the novel begins with an undocumented immigrant who is writing to an ex-girlfriend. He writes to her of the most profound and disturbing moment in his childhood, one that changed the trajectory of his life forever. From that moment on, life has never quite been the same, and it has led him to a dark place where he cannot mentally, spiritually or physically settle.

Barakat’s novel is a delicate experiment in confession and a testament to the catalyzing power of writing to reveal the truth. Her characters commit their lives to paper without the fear of retribution, confessing their crimes of infidelity, torture and more. None of the writers can return to his or home, to a state of comfort or to the past. Some have lost their countries, while others have simply run out of time.

Barakat’s characters must force themselves to move forward from their past sufferings. Where loved ones and society may not accept their revelations of shortcomings or shame, their confessions are a reconciliation with themselves. And in writing of their pain, they connect with one another. They are not alone, no matter how lonely the act of writing a letter can be. And in a moment of consciousness, awake in their confessions, Barakat’s characters reach a spiritual peak within themselves, one that pushes them to continue surviving.

 


US actress Yara Shahidi to produce new TV series

Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images
Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images
Updated 17 April 2021

US actress Yara Shahidi to produce new TV series

Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images

DUBAI: US actress Yara Shahidi is developing a new television series via her production company, 7th Sun Productions. The part-Middle Eastern star is set to executive produce and develop an on-screen adaptation of Cole Brown’s critically-acclaimed debut book “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World,” alongside her mother and business partner Keri Shahidi and Brown for ABC Signature.

“Honored to bring @coletdbrown’s incredible & nuanced telling of our stories as brown folx onto screens w/ my PARTNER IN CRIME @chocolatemommyluv! (sic)” wrote the 21-year-old on Instagram, alongside a screenshot of a Deadline article announcing the news of the series.

“The work of displaying and celebrating the ENTIRE spectrum of our humanity continues to feel more prescient (sic),” she added.

Published in 2020, “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” is a first-hand account of what it’s like to navigate life in America as a mixed-race adolescent. The book was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author.

According to the author, the book is heavily inspired by an essay he wrote in college.

“What a dream come true this is!” exclaimed Cole on Instagram. “It still astounds me to think that what began as a college essay a few years ago has made it all the way to ABC. No duo I’d rather work with to bring Greyboy to life than @yarashahidi & @chocolatemommyluv. Let’s get to work! (sic),” the author posted on social media.

Back in September, Shahidi took to social media to praise Cole’s debut book, writing that “his honest reflections on the way in which racial identity takes shape and shape-shifts through his own experiences feels intimate, and yet taps in to the common experience of moving through space as a black and brown person.” She added that “It’s been a must-read in our household!”

“Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” isn’t the only project that the “Grown-ish” star is currently working on. 

The US-Iranian actress and activist is also producing a new single-camera comedy series, titled “Smoakland,” for Freeform via her production company 7th Sun.

The rising star and her mother announced the launch of their new production company in July and signed an exclusive overall deal with ABC Studios which will see them develop television projects for streaming, cable and broadcast platforms.