Art Dubai opens with a bang, against the odds

Art Dubai opens with a bang, against the odds
Hussain Sharif, Faces #2, 2017. (Courtesy of Salwa Zeidan Gallery)
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Updated 03 April 2021

Art Dubai opens with a bang, against the odds

Art Dubai opens with a bang, against the odds
  • The six-day fair offers a test for the art market in times of coronavirus

DUBAI: Dubai always finds a way to surprise its sceptics. This year’s 14th Art Dubai is one of the first large-scale art fairs to take place outside of the virtual realm since the start of the pandemic. Its success will indicate the strength of the market during these trying times.

Art Dubai opened its doors on March 29 in Dubai’s DIFC (Dubai International Financial Center). This was the fair’s home when it launched in 2007 as the Gulf Art Fair, before it moved to the Madinat Jumeirah. 

As with other events now underway in the UAE, fair organizers have banked on the UAE’s high vaccination rate, with more than 50 percent of the population now vaccinated, a number second only to Israel, as ground to play host the annual event for collectors and art enthusiasts that have, just like in previous years, flown in from around the world.

There have of course been several changes this year. All gallerists are tested twice for coronavirus, once before the fair opened and again during the fair. There are many hand sanitizer stations in each hall and attendees are urged to wear their masks at all times.




Afifa Aleiby, Flute, 2012. (Supplied)

The fair’s structure and design also marked a break from its long-time home in Madinat Jumeirah’s Johara Ballroom. The 50 galleries from 31 countries — greatly scaled down from the 92 galleries from 80 countries at the 2019 fair — are on display this year in three long separated white tented halls. The smaller number of participants was approved by most attendees, with many fairgoers expressing a preference for the fair’s new, more compact design and easy to access location in the city’s financial district.

“We really had to innovate this year to bring Art Dubai to life,” fair director Pablo del Val told Arab News. “By moving to DIFC and changing our date by two weeks, we have been able to bring to life a physical fair with a re-configured format. This has allowed us to offer an exhibition of works for sale within an intimate, controlled environment that adheres to the latest safety measures. International galleries unable to attend in person due to travel restrictions have been able to take advantage of Art Dubai’s Remote Participation Program, whereby they have sent works for display on site and connected virtually with visitors at the fair.”

Some of the art world’s biggest names can be found at the fair alongside rising and established stars from the Middle East, Africa and Global South — regions Art Dubai has long worked to support.




Abdoulaye Konate, Kente 1 et motif du Sahel, 2020. (Supplied)

Smiles were everywhere, as was relief at being able to congregate in-person once again at an art fair. Sales were swift on the first two days — the fair runs till Saturday, April 3.

At the French Galerie Perrotin, a first-time participant, works by world-renowned artists Takashi Murakami, Keith Haring, and Xavier Veilhan could be found, with a work by the photographer JR selling on the first day for $65,000. Nearby at Custot Gallery, gallery staff rejoiced on the first day with sales of two works by British artist Ian Davenport in the range of $90-100,000 dollars each and a small Fabienne Verdier painting for $100,00. A series of works by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta sold to an institution for $50,000 on the first day at Galleria Continua and several works by Iraqi-born artist Afifa Aleiby at Berlin and London-based Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery for $50,000. London gallery Ronchini sold a Rebecca Ward work for $20,000.

Leila Heller Gallery, participating in the fair for the 14th year, raved about this edition’s “energy and curation.”




Afifa Aleiby, Acrobat, 2020. (Supplied)

“So many artists were working during the pandemic and their creativity was boiling,” said Leila Heller. “They have expressed so much in their recent work.” She showed a booth featuring new works produced after the Beirut explosions by Lebanese artist Marwan Sahmarani, whose work is also on show at a pop-up space in Alserkal Avenue titled After the Blast, documenting what happened in Beirut on Aug 4 last year. Heller sold five works by Sahmarani in the range of $60-90,000.

“It feels like a real show of resilience to be here, after all the cancellations in 2020,” said Victoria Cooke, director of London and Accra-based Gallery 1957, who was participating in the fair for the third time. “We wanted to come to the fair with a sense of positivity and hope; we chose to bring Joana Choumali’s works — an artist who herself won the Prix Pictet award under the theme ‘hope’ — and Abdoulaye Konate, whose works emanate a sense of beauty wherever they are shown.” All of Ivorian Joana Choumali’s works sold by the second day in the realm of $9,000 to $14,000. The gallery is one of a number of spaces — Addis Fine Art, Tafeta and Akka Art Project — representing art from Africa, a key focus of the fair.




Hussain Sharif, Untitled, 2019. (Courtesy of the artist and Salwa Zeidan Gallery)

Many works on display were created during the global lockdowns of 2020 and the events that defined the year, particularly in the Middle East. At Saleh Barakat Gallery, for example, a large abstract expressionist painting by Iraqi-Kurdish Beirut-based artist Serwan Baran portrayed a scene of a destroyed car with the slight shadows of figures looking through debris, recalling the aftermath of the Beirut explosion.

“Art Dubai is embedded in the fabric of this unique city and plays an instrumental role in the development of the vibrant art and culture scene not only here in Dubai, but around the globe,” said Hala Khayat, Art Dubai’s new regional director. 

For centuries Dubai has served as a strategic city for trade, placed at the crossroads between the Far East and the West. Like the city’s cosmopolitan character, Art Dubai reveals itself as a multicultural fair, offering a richness of artistic pedigree from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

“We like to think of Art Dubai as the fair of discovery,” del Val said. “It is known for bringing together galleries that represent a large and varied global population, reflecting the multicultural identity of this city. The diverse collection of nationalities and communities that live in Dubai have a keen interest in seeing a representation of art from around the world.”


Maamoul: A major sweet item for Eid in Palestine

Maamoul: A major sweet item for Eid in Palestine
Maamoul and cakes are one of the most prominent pieces of celebration associated with Eid Al-Fitr, despite the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 May 2021

Maamoul: A major sweet item for Eid in Palestine

Maamoul: A major sweet item for Eid in Palestine
  • Prepared in circles, the Eid cakes are stuffed with dates, while maamoul are stuffed with dates or walnuts, pistachios and nuts, and the outer layer is sprinkled with crushed white sugar

GAZA CITY: In the last week of Ramadan, the smell of maamoul and cakes wafts from Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip. Maamoul, also popular in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, is a traditional shortbread cookie popular in the region, and one of the main sweet items prepared for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations.
Samira Al-Burai, 54, is enjoys preparing maamoul with her sons and daughters.
“We bring basic ingredients a few days before making maamoul. All the family members, including my sons, will participate in making it.
“I learned (how to) make cakes and maamoul from my mother, then I taught it to my daughters so that this tradition may continue during the last days of Ramadan. My children are accustomed to the smell of cakes at this time of every year.”
Maamoul and cakes are one of the most prominent pieces of celebration associated with Eid Al-Fitr, despite the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians.
Prepared in circles, the Eid cakes are stuffed with dates, while maamoul are stuffed with dates or walnuts, pistachios and nuts, and the outer layer is sprinkled with crushed white sugar.
Some women earn money during Ramadan by making and selling maamoul to others.
Salwa Kabariti, 57, used to make them for her family. With the passage of time and after they fell on hard times, she began to produce larger quantities and started selling to neighbors, friends and even to some shops.

SPEEDREAD

Maamoul and cakes are one of the most prominent pieces of celebration associated with Eid Al-Fitr, despite the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians. Some women earn money during Ramadan by making and selling maamoul to others.

“Due to our poor economic condition, I began searching for a source of income. This work offered a good source. It helped me and my family to overcome our economic crises,” Kabariti said.
“There is no Eid without maamoul. I love (it) and will continue making it every Ramadan as long as I have the ability to do so,” she added.
Despite the large number of bakeries that sell maamoul in the Gaza Strip, many women prefer making theirs at home to preserve the festive atmosphere in their households.
Lubna Al-Sumairi, 40, said: “I like preparing it in my house with my husband and other family members. Making maamoul is one of the most important customs that we enjoy during the
last days of Ramadan; its preparation, delicious taste, and the pleasant atmosphere gives us a happy feeling.”


‘Grown-ish’ actress Yara Shahidi teases collaboration with Adidas

‘Grown-ish’ actress Yara Shahidi teases collaboration with Adidas
The US-Iranian actress is set to make her design debut with sportswear giant Adidas. File/AFP
Updated 09 May 2021

‘Grown-ish’ actress Yara Shahidi teases collaboration with Adidas

‘Grown-ish’ actress Yara Shahidi teases collaboration with Adidas

DUBAI: Part-Middle Eastern star Yara Shahidi is set to drop a new global collection created in collaboration with sportswear giant Adidas. The “Grown-ish” actress this week posted a teaser of her collaboration on Instagram, and the response to her designer debut is overwhelmingly positive.

 “Y’all knew this was coming #collab (sic),” she captioned a video of herself wearing a mustard yellow track jacket with a teal collar worn over a white shirt. “Yessss,” wrote US singer Justine Skye in the comments section, applauding her friend over her latest venture.

According to Shahidi’s Instagram post, the new line will be titled Recreate x Yara.

While Adidas hasn’t officially confirmed the news yet, it seems that Shahidi has been dropping hints about a collaboration with the sportswear giant for quite some time now — either that, or she’s just a dedicated Adidas fan. The 21-year-old has been championing the brand for months and has been seen multiple times wearing collaborations from the brand’s other partnerships, including lines with Pharell Williams and Beyonce.

In an IGTV video, the actress revealed that Beyonce sent her an entire clothing rack filled with Ivy Park x Adidas swag before the pieces even hit the shelves.

She also starred in a campaign for the brand’s signature Superstar sneakers in 2020.

The US-Iranian star appeared in the “Change is a Team Sport” advert alongside K-Pop girl group Black Pink, as well as Jonah Hill, Pharrell Williams and Anitta, among many others.

More recently, the Minneapolis-born actress starred in the latest Adidas Originals x Disney Stan Smith campaign.

Shahidi has been quite busy lately.

In addition to her forthcoming clothing line with Adidas, the multi-hyphenate is also developing two new television series via her production company, 7th Sun Productions.

The 21-year-old 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” and single-camera comedy series “Smoakland” alongside her mother, and business partner, Keri Shahidi.

Additionally, the actress, who is the youngest network producer ever, is set to star as Tinkerbell in Disney’s “Peter Pan and Wendy.”

Production on the new film, which is expected to arrive sometime in 2022, is currently underway in Vancouver, Canada.


Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul

Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul
(Supplied)
Updated 09 May 2021

Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul

Ramadan recipes: This freekeh-stuffed chicken is comfort food for the soul

DUBAI: Jordanian Chef Hassan Al-Naami shares his delectable recipe for fragrant freekeh-stuffed chicken, a dish that is wildly popular at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, where he brings his culinary vision to life at the hotel’s Middle Eastern restaurant, Amaseena.

As Ramadan draws to a close, give this dish a go for a special iftar this week.

Chicken ingredients:  

Whole baby chicken

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp paprika

1/3 tbsp 7 spice

½ tbsp coriander powder

2 ½ tbsp lemon juice

1 handful of almonds

1 handful of pine nuts

Freekeh ingredients:

5 cups freekeh 

3 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup onion (chopped)

1 tsp cinnamon powder

½ tsp cardamom powder

1 tbsp 7-spice

1 ½ tbsp cumin powder

6 cups chicken stock

Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.       Wash and drain freekeh until clean. In a hot pan combine olive oil and spices, toss for a few minutes till fragrant. Add the freekeh then sauté for another 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes on a low heat. The freekeh should be cooked but still have a chewy texture.

2.       Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a small bowl, mix all the spices and rub chicken with spices all over and inside, including under the skin. Take the cooked freekeh and stuff the chicken with it, cross the legs and tie with twine. Place the chicken in a roasting tray, cover with foil and roast for 60-80 minutes. Allow the chicken rest before serving (keeping it covered).

3.       Serve stuffed chicken on over leftover cooked freekeh. Decorate with roasted nuts and serve with minted yogurt on the side.


Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan

Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan
The model teamed up with a restaurant in Amsterdam to prepare meals for the needy. Instagram
Updated 08 May 2021

Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan

Model Imaan Hammam prepares meals for the less fortunate this Ramadan

DUBAI: This week, Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam teamed up with Amsterdam-based restaurant The Wild Room to give back to those who need it most by helping to prepare meals for the most vulnerable in the community this Ramadan.

“Last 10 days of Ramadan! What a beautiful healing month! So sad it’s coming to an end,” the 24-year-old shared with her one million Instagram followers, alongside a carousel of photos depicting her pouring tomatoes into a pot, surrounded by bags of prepared meals and getting ready to pray.

“Today these women and I worked so hard to prepare meals for those in need. Helping others is not only important but also a GOOD thing to do. It makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone. And it's not all about money — we can also give our time, ideas and energy. I want to thank all the strong women today who were involved from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to be part of this initiative. May Allah bless you all,” she added.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

“My hope is that we all work to inspire each other to spread love and give support. Help people around you, because you can. That’s what this is all about.”

Since the Holy Month is a time for kindness and charity, Hammam makes sure to take the opportunity to give back to those in need each year.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

Last Ramadan, the catwalk star, who was born to an Egyptian father and a Moroccan mother, revealed that she donated to two mosques and She’s the First, a non-profit organization that fights gender inequality through education that Hammam is an ambassador for. 

The model also donated funds to a mosque in Fisher, Indiana, to help them develop a prayer space for women and to the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.


Saudi actress Sumaya Rida personifies the zeitgeist of an era of change in the Kingdom

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Supplied)
One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Supplied)
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi actress Sumaya Rida personifies the zeitgeist of an era of change in the Kingdom

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em.” (Supplied)
  • Sumaya Rida is a rising star of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling domestic film industry, empowered by the Vision 2030 agenda  
  • Rida wants more investment in Saudi writers, producers and directors who can share the Kingdom’s stories with the world

DUBAI: Cinema returned to Saudi Arabia just three years ago, when a 35-year ban was finally lifted. Since then, movie theaters have been springing up across the Kingdom, invigorating the domestic film industry and inspiring a growing cast of homegrown actors.

One rising star of modern Saudi cinema is Sumaya Rida, known for her breakout television roles in “Another Planet” and “Boxing Girls” and big-screen appearances in “Junoon” and “Roll’em” — among the first films to premiere in the Kingdom after legalization.

From early childhood, when she began performing in school plays, Rida knew what was her true calling. “I also used to make short films with my little sisters and brothers using my father’s Sony camera,” the 32-year-old told Arab News.

“I actually acted and directed short films when I was 12 years old. I loved how the whole family would gather to watch what I made, and to me it meant the whole world at that time, and filled me with passion.”

Saudi-born actress Sumaya Rida moved to the UK as a teenager to attend the King Fahad Academy, an elite independent school in the London borough of Ealing. (Supplied)

The Saudi-born actress moved to the UK as a teenager to attend the King Fahad Academy, an elite independent school in the London borough of Ealing. Even while completing an MSc in international marketing management at the University of Surrey, Rida kept up acting on the side, appearing in several commercials.

Following her studies, she spent five years in the world of business, but all the while felt a profound longing for the stage and screen. It took a chance encounter to set her on the right track.

“After working so much in the ruthless business world, I stumbled one day on Ali Al-Sumayin, a well-known, award-winning Saudi film and commercial director, who led me to the world of performing again,” Rida said.

While visiting Al-Sumayin at his office in Jeddah in 2017, Rida took part in an acting class. The familiar adrenaline rush of performing before an audience quickly came flooding back.

“I can’t describe the feeling,” she said. “I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach that day and I had this nostalgic feeling, so I told him I wanted a part in a show.”

Soon enough, Rida had recorded an audition and landed her first role. To prepare, she signed up for an intensive four-month acting course and one-to-one coaching with respected Turkish instructors, as advanced acting courses were not yet available in Saudi Arabia.

“In the Kingdom, we didn’t have any institutions for acting or performance training, so I had to do it the fast way,” Rida said.

“Every actor should have mentors, because they always direct you and show you different perspectives.”

From early childhood, when she began performing in school plays, Rida knew that acting was her true calling. (Supplied)

Today, Rida performs in both English and Arabic. For one show she had to master the bedouin accent. “It was a bit challenging in the beginning, but it was fun,” she said.

Her latest project is a movie called “Rupture,” a Saudi-made psychological thriller directed by Hamzah Kamal Jamjoom, produced by Ayman Kamal Khoja and funded by MBC Studios.

Playing the lead, Rida portrays the journey of a Saudi woman struggling to save her marriage, and ultimately her life, from a villain with a twisted mind.

“I played against Billy Zane from ‘Titanic’ who is both a wonderful human being and a tremendously talented actor,” she said.

“The movie intelligently incorporated a few powerful themes in its thrilling narrative. One of these was about standing up for your own cultural values, even when relocating to another country.

“Another was about the importance of privacy and the dangers of oversharing on social media, and the third was about the concept of striking a balance between co-dependency and individual freedom in a marriage.”

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For Rida, the most important part of the project was having the opportunity to play a strong, independent Muslim woman, standing up for herself, her family and her beliefs.

“It is honestly an honor and a rare opportunity to work with such gifted Saudi filmmakers and producers on this project,” she said.

“I’ve enjoyed Hamzah’s direction. His positive energy and passion were infectious. We will hopefully finish filming after Ramadan. I can’t wait to share this film. I’m excited because it’s one of the very few Saudi feature films that recognizes the struggles of Saudi women.”

The strict social codes and gender segregation of a much more conservative era meant that Saudi actresses were rare when Rida was growing up. Support from her family has been crucial, but so has been the opening up of Saudi society.

“The timing was very good because I started when Vision 2030 was taking place and I was going with it,” Rida said.

Under the Vision 2030 plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil, the Kingdom has placed greater emphasis on the arts, opportunities for young people and the social and economic empowerment of women.

Saudi Arabia has placed greater emphasis on the arts and opportunities for young people, and lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas in the Kingom three years ago. (AFP/File Photo)

As a result, Saudi women are finding their voices and discovering their strengths — a journey Rida says she found key to becoming a professional actress.

“This helped me to understand myself. I wanted to tell stories. We have a lot of stories here in Saudi Arabia, and I wanted to feel, to be able to emote, to risk and share, and to be courageous and vulnerable as an artist. This is very fulfilling.

“The real fulfilment also lies in overcoming all the limitations that have been placed on humanity.

“I discovered that performing is a very fun thing. It’s very nurturing, fulfilling and it feeds the soul and your inner self.”

As an artist, Rida is still on a journey of self-discovery and building her confidence on camera. She hopes to try new characters, to help her develop “naturally and sincerely, because acting is a continuous process — we keep learning and evolving constantly.”

As for her country, Rida says she is thrilled to see so many changes taking place and to be part of a new wave of young actors and filmmakers shaking up the Saudi film industry. “This makes me very happy and optimistic,” she said, but acknowledges there is still a long way to go.

As investment into nurturing talent in the Kingdom grows under Vision 2030, Sumaya Rida believes the future of Saudi filmmaking is a bright one. (AFP/File Photo)

“I see very passionate actors every now and then, but I really believe that we need to work on ourselves more than we think. It’s not just getting a degree in performing or acting and that’s it — it’s a continuous process.”

Rida also hopes to see more young Saudis coming forward to share their stories with the world. “We need to not only invest in actors but invest more in writers, producers and directors, because it’s not the job of one person alone,” she said.

“Acting is not only the actor you see on the screen. Behind that there is a huge production.”

Without investment, training and opportunities, this potential cannot be mastered. The raw ingredient, nevertheless, is talent — of which the new Saudi Arabia has in abundance.

“It’s unlimited,” said Rida. “It’s infinite and it keeps evolving.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek