‘Un(Masked)’: Group exhibition in Dubai unites Lebanese creatives

An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ exhibition in Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Aasiya Jagadeesh. Supplied
An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ exhibition in Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Aasiya Jagadeesh. Supplied
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Updated 29 March 2021

‘Un(Masked)’: Group exhibition in Dubai unites Lebanese creatives

An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ exhibition in Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Aasiya Jagadeesh. Supplied

DUBAI: Inside a warehouse in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s lauded cultural district in the city’s industrial Al-Quoz area, an array of limited edition design pieces and carpets come together in unison. From Egyptian alabaster objects and stools to specially crafted carpets featuring a multitude of patterns and cultural influences, as well as hand-crafted ceramics and evocative paintings, “Un(Masked),” a unique group exhibition staged by third generation Lebanese carpet maker Iwan Maktabi, brings together some of Lebanon’s most revered names in art, design and architecture.

Created in collaboration with Lebanese design platform House of Today and Beirut-based art gallery Saleh Barakat Gallery, the exhibition comes at a particularly dire time for Lebanon. Just over seven months since the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion rocked an already fragile nation, electricity continues to run low, inflation is at an all-time high and the UN has just declared the country a “hunger hotspot.” 

Unable to easily stage exhibitions in their home country, “Un(Masked)” is the first time since the explosion that Lebanese creatives have gathered together outside of Lebanon to present their work.




An installation view of ‘Un(Masked)’ featuring carpets by Gregory Gatserelia from his ‘ODYSSEY’ collection (right) and ‘Borderless’ by Studio Manda by Mohasseb and Kareen Asli (left), Egyptian Alabaster stools by Omar Shakil and wall ceramics by Hala Matta. Supplied

The show highlights the latest IWAN MAKTABI x Collection, an ongoing project involving a range of architects, designers and artists who have collaborated with Iwan Maktabi on limited edition carpets. These include David/Nicolas, Georges Mohasseb and Kareen Asli, Rola Salamoun, Nadine Kanso, Hala Matta, Omar Chakil and Gregory Gatserelia.

The name of the exhibition refers to the idea of breaking free from the chains of confinement that have gripped the world, and also the trauma that continues to plague Lebanon.

“I was sitting in Beirut with a couple of friends, and we were speaking about how our lives have been influenced by masks and confinement,” said Mohamed Maktabi, co-founder of Iwan Maktabi. “So instead of ‘revealing’ works of art and design as we once did, we are in essence ‘unmasking’ them to the world.”

Many of the works were supposed to be shown at bespoke design fair NOMAD, which was recently canceled. Instead, Iwan Maktabi, which is run by Mohamed and his two sisters Mona and Chirine, decided to show them in Dubai as part of the lead-up to Art Dubai.




An installation view of a carpet by Roula Saloumoun next to her mirror and console titled ‘Anatomy.’ Supplied
 

 “Everything always happens for a reason,” Maktabi told Arab News in Dubai. “After NOMAD got canceled we decided to come to Dubai and when I saw the space in Alserkal Avenue I fell in love with it because it was huge and it gave us the opportunity to show the full breadth of our IWAN MAKTABI x Collection. In addition, it coincides with Art Dubai, one of the few physical art fairs taking place in the world this year.”

Of note are the Egyptian Alabaster objects by Lebanese-Egyptian multidisciplinary artist Chakil. There are candle holders, stools and small circular chests made from the smooth seemingly mystical stone of alabaster.

“I chose Egyptian Alabaster to tell stories of healing energy and sensuality because it is literally part of the core of Egypt,” Chakil told Arab News. “Hopefully (my work can) build bridges between past, present and future and between my Western and my Middle Eastern heritage.”

The space, with its large windows that beam in rays of light highlighting the various works on display, acts as a temporary sanctuary for art and design. Amidst the breathtaking carpets on display are artworks by some of Lebanon’s most prominent names: Hala Shoukair, Fadia Haddad, Samir Sayegh, Tagreed Darghouth and Bassam Kawagi. Through their expressive canvases they sing a different song for their country, telling not only of its challenges but of its beauty and heritage.

“Lebanon is going through much more than a crisis,” added Chakil. “It’s more important than ever for Lebanese creatives to find outlets to express their visions to the world. Iwan Maktabi has offered us a window of expression in nearby Dubai and hopefully from there to the world.”

The exhibition runs until 4 April from 10am – 9am at Warehouse 82 in Alserkal Avenue Please contact [email protected] to book an appointment 


World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet
Updated 16 October 2021

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet
  • Artefact, nearly 3,500 years old, never exhibited as male and female figures so faint
  • Curator: ‘It is a Guinness Book of Records object, because how could anybody have a drawing of a ghost which was older?’

LONDON: The oldest depiction of a ghost recorded in human history has been discovered at the British Museum.

The image, on an ancient Babylonian clay tablet nearly 3,500 years old — acquired in the 19th century — shows a bearded man being led to the afterlife by a woman, with his hands held out before him, tied together.

Dr. Irving Finkel, curator of the Middle East department at the museum, said the tablet — which has cuneiform text accompanying the image, and which has never been on public display — was meant to help the living remove unwanted spirits by aiding them to settle unfinished business.

The nature of the tablet, Finkel said, had been missed for years because the image of the ghosts is so faint and only visible under certain light, while it is also significantly damaged. 

“You’d probably never give it a second thought because the area where the drawings are looks like it’s got no writing,” he told The Guardian.

“But when you examine it and hold it under a lamp, those figures leap out at you across time in the most startling way. It is a Guinness Book of Records object, because how could anybody have a drawing of a ghost which was older?”


Review: ‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ takes on a gargantuan challenge

‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
Updated 16 October 2021

Review: ‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ takes on a gargantuan challenge

‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)

LONDON: For the most part, British director Orlando von Einsiedel’s new Netflix documentary, “Convergence: Courage in a Crisis,” manages to strike a balance between poignant and harrowing without straying too far into self-indulgence. But only for the most part. The filmmaker, the creative voice behind the excellent “White Helmets” and “Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul,” has created a new documentary that is equal parts loving tribute and critical dissection, as he weaves together a series of different story threads, all following those impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)

 

The movie’s subjects are varied and diverse — from a first responder in the Brazilian favelas to a couple under lockdown in Tehran. An expectant mother and father in India tell their story, while a Syrian filmmaker volunteering at a hospital in London is also highlighted, alongside a young driver transporting staff and drugs in Wuhan and a doctor and activist working in Miami. Each story has something unique about it. Von Einsiedel’s greatest creative stroke in this movie is giving his subjects the room to tell their own stories, because each is heartbreaking and life-affirming in its own way.

 

Where the movie gets harder to follow is when the director tries to do too much in too short a time. In less than two hours, we get commentary on governmental mismanagement, the Black Lives Matter movement, institutional racism, nationwide inequality, and a handful of other topics made all the more pressing during the pandemic. There are also tantalizing glimpses inside the World Health Organization, and the Oxford University vaccine development program. But we must make do with just a few minutes of each, before we are whisked off to the next story. There is deep, resonant and powerful storytelling running throughout “Convergence” — if only we were given a little more time to take it all in.


Actress Salma Hayek shows off Elie Saab suit in Los Angeles

The actress showed off a leopard-print suit by Elie Saab in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)
The actress showed off a leopard-print suit by Elie Saab in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)
Updated 16 October 2021

Actress Salma Hayek shows off Elie Saab suit in Los Angeles

The actress showed off a leopard-print suit by Elie Saab in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US-Mexican actress Salma Hayek made an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in Los Angeles this weekend wearing a feisty leopard-print suit by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.

The actress, who is of Spanish and Lebanese descent, appeared on the TV show alongside fellow actor Kumail Nanjiani to talk about their latest film, Marvel’s “Eternals.”

For the occasion, she looked glamorous in a coordinating set by Saab, hailing from the designer’s pre-Fall 2021 collection.

The wide-legged animal-print pants featured a single black stripe on each leg, while the fitted blazer boasted black lapels and was worn over a sheer black top with a high collar.

(Getty Images)

The film’s star-studded cast includes Hayek, Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and teen Syrian refugee-turned-actor Zain Al-Rafeea, among others.

Directed by Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao, the plot centers on an immortal alien race with superhuman powers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years. The film is set to be released in theaters in November.

While chatting with show host Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday, Hayek revealed why her co-star Jolie smashed her face into a birthday cake in a video that went viral online in September.

When the show host asked about her 55th birthday celebration last month, Hayek said: “There was no birthday party. All of those people were crashers. I said, ‘I don’t want a birthday party this year.’ I had to work all day. Twenty-five people, that I told them there is no birthday party, showed up anyway,” she said, referring to the party documented in her September Instagram post. 

The actress then explained that it’s a Mexican birthday tradition to push a person’s face into their cake — and Jolie was tasked with the job.

In the video, a group of friends are gathered around the actress chanting, “Mordida!” as Jolie pushes Hayek’s face into her birthday cake.

“After you blow the candles, you have to mordida,” Hayek explained to Kimmel. “It means a bite. You have to bite the cake with your mouth, without your hands holding or anything. Then, there’s always one that comes and hits you and sticks your face inside the cake.

“We were starting, ‘Mordida!’ She’s like, ‘What’s happening?’” Hayek said of Jolie’s apparent confusion over the tradition, before she got in on the fun and smashed Hayek's face into the coconut cake.


World’s largest floating nightclub opens on Dubai’s historic QE2 cruise liner

World’s largest floating nightclub opens on Dubai’s historic QE2 cruise liner
Updated 16 October 2021

World’s largest floating nightclub opens on Dubai’s historic QE2 cruise liner

World’s largest floating nightclub opens on Dubai’s historic QE2 cruise liner
  • Float Dubai, billed as ‘the world’s largest floating nightclub,’ still faces COVID-19 restrictions
  • Ship, launched by namesake Queen Elizabeth II in 1967, has sailed over 6m nautical miles

LONDON: The world’s largest floating nightclub has opened onboard the retired Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship in Dubai.

The luxury Float Dubai venue, which can accommodate 1,000 people, hosted an opening party on Thursday ahead of its first weekend.

Celebrities including American actress Lindsay Lohan, rapper DaBaby and British boxer Amir Khan are expected to appear aboard the ship this weekend, which once hosted the likes of Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, partying will be limited, with tables needing to be booked in advance, security guards preventing people from standing up and dancing, and plainclothes police officers patroling the venue to prevent infringements. 

Dubai extended the strictest anti-COVID-19 measures in the UAE, with seating rules in many hospitality venues only relaxed in August this year.

Many are now allowed to stay open until 3 a.m., but social distancing measures remain in place.

Rob Smith, a British expat who attended Float Dubai’s opening night, told The Times: “It feels so good to see things opening back up again. It feels like things are getting back to normal.”

The QE2 was bought by Dubai government entity DP World, controlled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, in 2008 for around $88 million.

Parts of the vessel were converted into a hotel in 2018, with plans to base it off the Palm Jumeirah island resort.

The club’s opening was delayed by the onset of the pandemic, with the rooms left vacant and the QE2 subsequently relocated to Rashid Port, where its monthly upkeep is estimated at around £650,000 ($893,424).

British expat Lara Rogers added: “The ship has an eerie vibe to it. It’s a shame to see it like this. It needs some TLC (tender loving care) to bring it back to life because it has so much history here within these walls. Maybe the club can help inject some excitement for it again.”

The QE2 was originally launched in 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland. At 963 feet, it is estimated to have carried over 2.5 million passengers over its lifetime, traveled around 6 million nautical miles, circumnavigated the globe 25 times, and even served as a British troop ship during the Falklands War in 1982.


Stars shine on the ‘Casablanca Beats’ red carpet at El Gouna Film Festival

Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk arrives for the screening of ‘Casablanca Beats’ at the Festival Plaza, on 2nd day at 5th edition of El Gouna Film Festival, in El Gouna, Egypt, on October 15, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2021

Stars shine on the ‘Casablanca Beats’ red carpet at El Gouna Film Festival

Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk arrives for the screening of ‘Casablanca Beats’ at the Festival Plaza, on 2nd day at 5th edition of El Gouna Film Festival, in El Gouna, Egypt, on October 15, 2021. (AFP)

EL GOUNA: Egypt’s El-Gouna Film Festival screened its first movie on Friday — the Moroccan film “Casablanca Beats.” 

Stars, including Tunisian actress Dorra Zarrouk and Egyptian actress Amina Khalil, arrived on the red carpet in glamorous gowns. 

Zarrouk opted for a voluminous grey gown by Dubai-based fashion house Maison Yeya. She accessorized her look with jewelry from Yessayan Jewelry, founded in Lebanon. 

Meanwhile, Khalil chose an asymmetric golden dress designed by Egyptian couturier Sara Onsi. She completed her red carpet attire with a clutch from the Egyptian brand, previously championed by Kylie Jenner, Okhtein. 

Amina Khalil. (AFP)

Egyptian actress Youssra wore a hot red satin gown from Egyptian fashion house Nazazy Couture. Her chunky gold earrings and bracelet were custom made by Egyptian label Dima Jewelry. 

Youssra. (AFP)

Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen was among the guests who attended the event. This is Wazen’s first time attending the festival. 

In an interview with Arab News after the event, she said: “I was so impressed, from the moment I walked in everything was extremely organized. It was such a beautiful venue. We’ve been to a lot of film festivals, a lot of red carpet events, and I don’t think we’ve seen something on this level.

“So, I am super proud to see something like this coming out of the Arab region. I can’t wait to be there again hopefully next year,” she added. 

The eyewear designer wore a one-shouldered golden gown by Lebanese couturier Nicolas Jebran.  

Egyptian actors Jamila Awad, Rogena, Ola Roshdy, Ahmed Dawood and veteran actress Laila Eloui were among other celebrities who posed for pictures before the screening.

“Casablanca Beats,” which was in competition for the prized Palme d’Or, had its world premiere in the official competition of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by renowned French-Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch, the film tells the story of a former rapper, Anas, who takes a job at a cultural center in a working-class neighborhood in Casablanca.

Encouraged by their new teacher, his students try to free themselves from the weight of restrictive traditions in order to live out their passions and express themselves through hip-hop. 

The director and actors were not able to attend the screening of the film in El Gouna, said the executive producer who attended the red carpet.   

It is competing for the feature narrative award at El Gouna Film Festival.