Aïsha Al-Ahmadi, from the sign to the truth

Aïsha Al-Ahmadi, from the sign to the truth
The installation “Signs: Vehicles to Truth” by Aïsha Al-Ahmadi. (Supplied)          
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Updated 31 March 2021

Aïsha Al-Ahmadi, from the sign to the truth

Aïsha Al-Ahmadi, from the sign to the truth
  • Aisha Al-Ahmadi’s artistic quest is rooted in literature. Her work is research-based and focused on the themes of identity politics, truth and perception
  • A master’s student in history of art and museum studies at the Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, Aïsha Al-Ahmadi emphasizes that everything informs her practice, even if she is not necessarily aware of the influences that affect her

BEIRUT: At 23, Aïsha Al-Ahmadi is what we call an “old soul”. Her career, from writing and literature to conceptual art, reflects the impressive maturity of the young Emirati artist. Her work features in the “Sense of Women” exhibition at the ME Hotel in Dubai. This exhibition-event, nestled in the undulating building designed by the Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is entirely dedicated to female art, as its title suggests. The works come from the MIA Art Collection, a foundation created by Chilean patron Alejandra Castro Rioseco.




Emirati artist Aïsha Al-Ahmadi. (Supplied)

Intrigued by Foucault’s response to Magritte’s calligrams ...

One cannot help but be challenged by this dark structure. Like so many signposts, words of red light are organized and drawn in dotted lines. They say “Art is subjective.” In another work, we can discern fragments of text: of / Truth / Our understanding… nothing which, end to end, really makes sense. For the young artist, “each word is unique, because the mind naturally links it to other words to form a sentence.” Aisha Al-Ahmadi’s artistic quest is rooted in literature. She says she aspires to a form of reconciliation and a feeling of belonging, between drawing, engraving, painting, photography and sculpture. She is intrigued by Foucault’s response to Magritte’s calligrams (in which the form recedes) and the signs become an integral part of her constructivist mode and end up linking spatiality and textuality.

“My love for art has always been linked to my love for writing. You could say that one led to the other. As a child, I wrote stories that I illustrated and sold to family members. It was my mother who saw this potential in me before I realized it myself, insisting on taking me to art classes. I have long remained attached to traditional mediums such as oil and acrylic paint, charcoal and printmaking. I only started experimenting with concept art during my undergraduate project and later, when I received the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan scholarship for emerging artists,” Aïsha Al-Ahmadi told Arab News in French.

Eclectic influences

When asked about the influences that have irrigated her passion, the young woman hesitates: “It’s always difficult to answer such a question. I feel like I have to pick my favorites. Every artist I’ve met on my path has taught me something, directly or indirectly. I admire the works of Jenny Holzer, Artemisia Gentileschi and Taryn Simon. On the literary level, I feel strongly inspired by the writings of Amin Maalouf, especially his book In the Name of Identity. Books such as The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own have greatly influenced my thinking and subsequently my art practice.”

A master’s student in history of art and museum studies at the Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, Aïsha Al-Ahmadi also emphasizes that everything informs her practice, even if she is not necessarily aware of the influences that affect her. “I think my academic readings inspire me with potential ideas for future research and subsequently for artistic production,” she says.

One day, in Arabic

Because she leads us into the territory of literature, we ask Aïsha why these words, to which she does violence by isolating them from the sentences that give them meaning, are specifically English words: “My artistic practice is deeply linked to literature and research. Language and literature are an integral part of my identity, and in particular the Arabic language. However, as I grew up, I focused more on English, which is not my mother tongue and which I needed to improve. As an adult, however, I had the pleasure to rediscover Arabic and fall in love with it again. I intend to produce works in Arabic, especially playing with homonyms,” she says.




Another view of the installation “Signs: Vehicles to Truth” by Aïsha Al-Ahmadi. (Supplied)

Female art in a world dominated by men

On the feeling that inspires her to be part of a female collective in the Sense of Women exhibition, Aïsha Al-Ahmadi underlines that she “really liked working with MIA art and especially getting to know the founder, Alejandra Castro.”

“It reminded me that women really stand with women,” she says, adding that “the support and love that went into the exhibition is very heart-warming. Being granted a representation as part of a women-only collective is important primarily because the art history canon has been largely dominated by men. It’s great to see an initiative shedding light on the achievements of women artists and I believe this contributes to the production of a more complete and inclusive art scene. Therefore, it is also a contribution in the history of art.”

Finding your identity in a globalized world

Finally, on the difficulties of her generation, as a young Emirati, and her artist’s response to these concerns, Aïsha comments: “Personally, I believe that, like many other young Emiratis, I try to reconcile living in a world that is becoming more and more global and emerging from a collective society with individual voices. I believe that this struggle to establish one’s sense of identity is universal. With such big changes underway, now associated with a global pandemic, a lot of fears could emerge from the uncertainty. Regarding my artistic response, I tend to produce work that channels my thoughts on topics such as identity, perception and post-colonialism and is grounded in research. That being said, it is difficult and probably unrealistic to speak on behalf of an entire generation.”

  • Aïsha Al Ahmadi’s installation is part of the Sense of Women exhibition, ME Hotel, Dubai, from March 28 to April 20, 2021

Arab fans react to first poster of K-Pop supergroup Blackpink’s ‘The Movie’ 

Arab fans react to first poster of K-Pop supergroup Blackpink’s ‘The Movie’ 
Updated 22 June 2021

Arab fans react to first poster of K-Pop supergroup Blackpink’s ‘The Movie’ 

Arab fans react to first poster of K-Pop supergroup Blackpink’s ‘The Movie’ 

DUBAI: Popular K-pop girl group Blackpink unveiled the first poster of their film “The Movie” and Arab fans are over the moon. 

The production, set to premier in August, will mark the band’s fifth anniversary in the music industry.  

After the announcement was made, Arab fans quickly took to Twitter to express their excitement. 

“Another movie, and in the cinema?!” wrote one user. “The film’s poster is amazinggg,” another user wrote. 

Other fans made humorous comments about the name of the film. One tweet read: “The name of the movie is ‘The Movie,’” with a clip of an Arab man saying: “Wow, amazing. This surprised me.”

 

Last week, the production company YG Entertainment announced that this film will be part of the group’s 5th-anniversary project, titled “4+1 PROJECT,” and will drop in August to coincide with band members Jisoo, Jennie, Rose, and Lisa’s debut date, August 8. 


Timeless craft of cane carving sees Saudi statement pieces go global

Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs such as swords, or canes. (Photos/Supplied)
Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs such as swords, or canes. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 22 June 2021

Timeless craft of cane carving sees Saudi statement pieces go global

Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs such as swords, or canes. (Photos/Supplied)
  • Adel Al-Shehri turns handmade sidr pieces into online phenomenon using local talent, materials

MAKKAH: A young Saudi in the south of the Kingdom is bringing back the timeless craft of hand carving wooden canes with a new look to suit modern tastes, driving demand from Hajj pilgrims and online customers from around the world.

Walking canes have always been associated with the elderly and ill, and usually comprise simple designs that focus more on function rather than appearance.
That association has prompted Adel Al-Shehri to give the concept a new life by bringing back an old craft and turning canes into famous statement pieces used by Saudis.
Through his work, he can convey the cultural and historical essence of Saudi Arabia by engraving cultural designs on sidr wood.
Al-Shehri grew up in the southern mountain ranges of the Kingdom and uses the old indigenous tree to create unique intricately designed canes just as his forefathers once did.
The sidr tree, known as Christ’s thorn jujube, is an evergreen species that is a deep-rooted part of the culture. It can be used in medicine and also in the construction of canes and wooden objects found in many homes in the south of the Kingdom.

FASTFACT

The sidr tree, known as Christ’s thorn jujube, is an evergreen species that is a deep-rooted part of the culture. It can be used in medicine and also in the construction of canes and wooden objects found in many homes in the south of the Kingdom.

He told Arab News that he inherited from his ancestors a love of artifacts, such as shiny swords and jambiyas, a type of dagger with a curved blade. Growing up surrounded by architecture adorned in stones and wood, Al-Shehri said that he wanted to bring the rich history of design back using a product found right in his backyard.


“Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs, swords, or canes. However, shipping swords is a real problem, because they are considered white weapons. Meanwhile, some items lose quality or are damaged during shipping. This is why I shifted my entire focus to making canes,” he added.
Al-Shehri said that while carrying out his Hajj pilgrimage, he used his cane as a “crutch,” engraving his name on it. Soon after, he decided to use the phrase “Made in Saudi Arabia” and focus on the Umrah and Hajj seasons to introduce the product as a souvenir that could be carried back home by pilgrims. Al-Shehri said that some Hajj institutions even reached out to give out his canes as gifts at the end of pilgrimage tours.

The canes I create are enough to stop importing canes that neither accentuate our identity nor highlight our intellectual and cultural message.

Adel Al-Shehri

He said that many people from across the world have requested their canes through Hajj institutions or on social media.
Most recently, he added, a German citizen requested four canes with different designs inspired by Saudi culture, but some customers request personalized canes or ones that are specifically customized to illustrate a memory.
Al-Shehri said that the canes he designs are delivered in handmade luxurious boxes that serve as a masterpiece to be displayed in a customer’s home. He described the cane as a “sign of prestige, warmth, and hospitality.”
The first thing that caught his attention as a child was how his family stores their ancient swords, guns, and jambiyas — all wrapped in ornate fabrics and stored in old boxes.

I inherited the love of artifacts from my ancestors.
Adel Al-Shehri

Al-Shehri had always wanted to put this heritage in the limelight and share it with other Saudi cities. The public’s broad praise of his initial work was the first building block in his dream toward producing his canes. He stressed that he often uses sidr wood for the canes because the diameter must be more than 40 centimeters.
For the wood fibers to grow, the sidr must also be dried for six months. “The handle is made from the core of sidr wood so that it could bear the grafting, which sometimes may reach a thousand grafts inside,” Al-Shehri said. With no educational experience, his drive to create such masterpieces taught him to push through and learn the craft with time and patience. “The manufacturing stages became an inspiration and taught me the ins and outs of this creative craftsmanship, which shaped the features of my personality and led me towards worlds of magic and beauty,” he said.
“I was first concerned with the metal lathe and mastering its unique way of manufacturing accessories and adding wood to them. I then focused on the element of touch and adding luster in the absence of real manufacturers in this field. I insisted on mastering the metal lathe myself so I would not have to depend on anyone else. My workshop, filled with nickel, chrome, stainless steel, and brass, along with the metal and wood lathes, became my best friend.
“I work for hours on end to meet the various requests, especially if a customer places an order for a special occasion with a tight deadline,” he added.
Al-Shehri said that what he and many other craftsmen in the Kingdom do promotes the Saudi culture and is a sign of pride in the Saudi identity. “The canes I create are enough to stop importing canes that neither accentuate our identity nor highlight our intellectual and cultural message.”


Courage at forefront of World Refugee Day mural by Syrian artist

Courage at forefront of World Refugee Day mural by Syrian artist
Updated 22 June 2021

Courage at forefront of World Refugee Day mural by Syrian artist

Courage at forefront of World Refugee Day mural by Syrian artist
  • Syrian artist Diala Brisly: “It’s very important to show solidarity among refugees”
  • “Courage is having fears, having all this worry, having all this trauma, and still having the energy to keep going”

LONDON: A refugee artist from Syria has created a unique piece of art that captures the spirit and courage of those fleeing war and poverty.
To mark World Refugee Day 2021, which was on Sunday, Diala Brisly created a mural with one key theme: The courage it takes to flee one’s home.
Commissioned by the International Rescue Committee, the piece depicts various people against a backdrop of a bombed city.
Now safe in France, Brisly said her work is about having the “energy to keep going through fear, trauma and upheaval.”
She added that the piece’s message — “refugees are courageous” — captures the essence of what it means to be forcibly uprooted.
“I really like the slogan because it shows strength, regardless of all the troubles that we’re going through,” she said.
The artwork depicts people of various ethnicities and identities, including children, and one man poignantly wearing a life jacket — a staple item of refugee migration across the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere.
“It’s very important to show solidarity among refugees. I believe in solidarity between all people. When we have this struggle in common, and we understand each other’s pain, we’re able to help each other because we share similar experiences,” said Brisly
“The media puts the spotlight on refugees when they’re in the middle of the sea. But it’s very important to understand that the crisis didn’t start in the Mediterranean, it started before,” she added.
“For me, courage is having fears, having all this worry, having all this trauma, and still having the energy to keep going.”
During the revolution against the Assad regime, journalists shared Brisly’s artwork to supplement their reports.
But this exposure, she said, put her life in danger. She fled Syria via Turkey and ended up in France.
Now she uses her talent to create moving works that support the causes she believes in, and runs art therapy workshops for children affected by war.
According to the UN’s refugee agency, nearly 82.4 million people were uprooted in 2020, fleeing war, violence, persecution and human rights abuses.


Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship

Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship
Saudi designer Malak Masallati chooses to preserve the traditional costumes of her country through a collection of wooden dolls called Nasana. (Supplied)
Updated 19 June 2021

Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship

Nasana wooden dolls: Preserving Saudi heritage through artisanship
  • The collection was launched in November 2020 and is currently on display at the Assila Hotel in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Every culture has a special way to tell the story of its people. Saudi designer Malak Masallati chooses to preserve the traditional costumes of her country through a collection of wooden dolls called Nasana (which translates to “our people”).
“Nasana is there to highlight the diverse individuals of Saudi Arabia, with their different backgrounds, ages, stories, traditions, and customs,” Masallati told Arab News, adding that it also reflects the pride Saudis feel for their Kingdom.
The collection was launched in November 2020 and is currently on display at the Assila Hotel in Jeddah. It has previously been exhibited at Shara Art Fair by the Saudi Art Council.

Saudi designer Malak Masallati chooses to preserve the traditional costumes of her country through a collection of wooden dolls called Nasana. (Supplied)

It consists of 15 dolls, each representing a different region of Saudi Arabia. Each character has a name inspired by traditional names from each region, including Saud, Al-Joharah, Nourah, Sitah, Abdulaziz, Itra, Hajjar, Zahra, Haylah, Obaid, Saeed, Amnah, Fatou, Fouad, and Shifa.
“I believe that Saudi Arabia has a vast heritage yet to be discovered (by many). The younger generation possesses the knowledge and creativity that is required to (promote that heritage),” she said, citing the Saudi fashion brand Sleysla, with whom she has previously worked, as a good example.

HIGHLIGHTS

• ‘Nasana’ is a collection of 15 hand-painted wooden dolls representing the traditional costumes of different regions of Saudi Arabia.

• The collection is currently on display in Jeddah and the dolls are also available to buy.

• Most of the collection’s costumes are based on information found in the book ‘Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia’ by The Mansoojat Foundation.

Masallati, who has more than 15 years of experience in interior design and residential renovation, is the founder of Dar Malak, a makers’ space in Jeddah dedicated to producing other unique Saudi products. The Nasana collection was itself produced there. The dolls are hand-painted by emerging artists from different Saudi communities working in Dar Malak.
“The collection went through a long design process, trying different techniques with various materials such as paint, gesso, as well as gold and silver leafing,” Masallati explained.
The dolls are based on research carried out online and in the field. “(We) captured stories and researched the facts,” Masallati said. “We traveled to most of these areas and incorporated details we found in Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum in Jeddah, where they showcase beautiful traditional costumes.”
She also mentioned that “Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia” — a book produced by the Mansoojat Foundation Collection, a charity dedicated to the preservation of ethnic textiles and designs — was of invaluable assistance to the project.
The Nasana dolls — some of which stand 59 centimeters tall — are also on sale for between SR9,000 and SR11,000 ($2,400-2,933).
Masallati said she and her team intend to expand the collection in the future, and to work with art college graduates. They will also produce a new collection this year, she said.

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International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia
Updated 18 June 2021

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

International Sushi Day: Delicious spots to try in Saudi Arabia

In honor of International Sushi Day celebrated on June 18, here are six sushi spots to try in Saudi Arabia, rounded up by Arab News Japan.  

Chez Sushi

This modern and casual restaurant on Prince Saud Al-Faisal Road in Jeddah feature custom dishes such as a Japanese burrito and attractive lunch offers.

Oishii Sushi

Owner Khulood Olaqi turned this home-based online store into a fully-fledged restaurant where she is both a chef and manager. Cozy, warm and welcoming, Oishii Sushi is located in Riyadh.

Sushi Centro

Promising sushi that is “rolled to perfection,” the restaurant also provides traditional Japanese food that is rich in flavor and flair. Sushi Centro has two branches in Saudi Arabia, one in Jeddah in Centro Shaheen Hotel, and the other in Riyadh’s Centro Waha Hotel.

Nozomi

Nozomi’s menu is internationally renowned and award-winning, offering an unrivaled fine-dining experience on Riyadh’s Dabab Street.

Wakame

A hip restaurant that plays host to business meetings, gossip and fast-paced service at a dimly lit sushi bar, Wakame has three branches in Jeddah: In Ar Rawdah district, in Obhur and on Al-Malik Road.

Sushi Yoshi

A franchise with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar where guests can enjoy anime with their sushi.