Arbab Al-Heraf Cafe turned into music academy in Jeddah

Arbab Al-Heraf Cafe turned into music academy in Jeddah
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Saudi Arabia aims to produce a new generation of musicians and intellectuals through the new music institutions. (Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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(AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 01 May 2021

Arbab Al-Heraf Cafe turned into music academy in Jeddah

Arbab Al-Heraf Cafe turned into music academy in Jeddah
  • Through his academy and several branches scattered in the city, Al-Hudaif wants to show to the world that Saudis have immense talent in art and are open-minded individuals that welcome all different people

JEDDAH: Arbab Al-Heraf, or Masters of Crafts, the visionary project of Abdullah Al-Hudaif, has been transformed into an academy for music and art connoisseurs in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.

Started as a small project, a café that brought artists and craftsmen together under one roof, it is now an academy offering various academic courses ranging from drawing to musical instruments and singing.

Since the establishment of the Music Commission under the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia, this type of project has become increasingly popular, especially for music professionals.

Al-Hudaif aspires for his academy to be one of the accredited musical institutions in the Kingdom. They currently run their programs with Saudi music trainers and professionals, and the demand is increasing day by day, not only from music students, but also from people who yearn for a dose of culture.

Saudi Arabia aims to produce a new generation of musicians and intellectuals through the new music institutions.

HIGHLIGHT

What started as a small project, a café that brought artists and craftsmen together under one roof, it is now an academy offering various academic courses ranging from drawing to musical instruments and singing.

In addition to oriental music, new courses have been added for western musical instruments such as piano and for singing.

In Al-Hudaif’s office in Al-Zahra district, one can see his passion for art exhibited on the walls and stacked on his shelves, from artworks by Arab artists, vintage art magazines and books by world-renowned philosophers.

He told Arab News that he had 11 branches in Jeddah alone, each with a different function. “For example, we have a branch in the north of Obhur that is a museum for ancient Arabian art. There’s another branch called Bohemianhouse, a 150-year-old building for art workshops, a cafe and a studio for some of our artists.”

Another branch, called Bait Ziryab, was named after the famous musician Ziryab, from Andalusia, and is housed in a building more than 100 years old. “We’ve refurbished it, decorated it and turned it into an institute for music.”

They have trained more than 400 people in Bait Ziryab alone.

There’s also Bait Al-Hudaif, which functions as a lab for artists.

Arbab Al-Heraf runs different projects, such as the Lathrebo project, where volunteers enter ancient and abandoned houses in Madinah and turn them into art sites.

Another project launched by the academy aims to paint the walls of eight districts in Jeddah’s Old Town.

Yet another targets different segments of society, including younger audiences, with a podcast that teaches the importance of preserving the environment and recycling. “About 30 percent of our participants are made up of children, the rest is all adults.”

“We’ve had over 30,000 visitors to our different branches, and that is only the visitors. A lot of our participants have gained fame through their crafts, songs, movies or books whose inception began with us here at Arbab Al-Heraf,” he added.

Although Arbab Al-Heraf has found great success in cultivating Saudi artistic talents, it was not always an easy feat. Al-Hudaif said that Arbab’s beginnings were humble and met with many obstacles.

He said that one does not have to be a participant or a music student to visit his academy. “Art knows no culture or age or gender (barriers), it’s for everyone to be a part of.”

He said that his academy aims not only to invest in Saudi talent, but to unify people. “We all have different backgrounds and lives but under one roof we all unify for the shared passion for art, literature, music, films, etc.”

Through his academy and several branches scattered in the city, Al-Hudaif wants to show to the world that Saudis have immense talent in art and are open-minded individuals that welcome all different people.


THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss
Updated 07 May 2021

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss

THE BREAKDOWN: Saudi painter Nasser Almulhim discusses artwork inspired by loss
  • The Saudi painter, who made his debut at Art Dubai this year, discusses his artwork ‘Bright Pink Chasing The Blue Line’

DUBAI: This piece is so personal. It means a lot to me. I painted it recently, after my brother-in-law passed away. I usually treat art as therapy. The reason why I paint is to release this hidden energy within the soul  — the chaos within me. It’s a way of letting go of certain memories.

‘Bright Pink Chasing The Blue Line,’ Nasser Almulhim, 2021. (Supplied)

The first thing I did was to stretch a large canvas. I wanted to represent the beautiful memories between me and my brother-in-law and reflect what I’ve learned from his wisdom, brightness, and the love that he showed to his family. I even asked my young nephew Aziz to help me with this painting and to add his touches to the canvas to honor his father. There are flowers on the right side with funny childish colors. It was my nephew who painted them.

A lot of my paintings are pure abstract. I got influenced studying abroad in the United States, specifically by the New York school from back in the Sixties and Seventies — artists like Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell. Recently, I’ve been trying to add a sense of life to my painting through items that I see at my house, my mother’s and my grandmother’s house. It’s nostalgic, bringing certain memories into the present moment. I wanted to make it as happy as I could by using bright colors that represent my inner soul.

Almulhim said the reason why he gives random titles to his paintings is because he wants the audience to question and react. (Supplied)

My brother-in-law, who lived in London, was into nature, health, antiques and vintage stuff. So that’s why I added a watermelon and vases. It adds part of his soul to this painting. I study the painting before I paint, but for this work, it felt more real; organic and raw. When I finished it, I felt alive.

The reason why I give random titles to my paintings is because I want the audience to question and react. When I finished the painting, I saw that most of the colors were pink, and I saw this blue line in the corner. I wanted to relate my soul and my brother-in-law’s soul. It’s like I’m chasing his brightness, his soul, to catch it if I can.


Maldives’ Ozen Reserve Bolifushi: Not just for honeymooners

Maldives’ Ozen Reserve Bolifushi: Not just for honeymooners
Updated 34 min 55 sec ago

Maldives’ Ozen Reserve Bolifushi: Not just for honeymooners

Maldives’ Ozen Reserve Bolifushi: Not just for honeymooners
  • Proof that the Maldives can do family-friendly getaways… and do them well

MALDIVES: There was a time when the Maldives was considered out of reach for the majority of us non-celeb types — reserved mostly for newlyweds who had been saving up for an exclusive and secluded honeymoon. But as social media took hold over the years, and flying became more accessible, the nation’s cluster of islands started to attract a more diverse set of travellers; from the young and budget-conscious to the family-fun seekers.

The recently launched Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is proof that the Maldives can offer an excellent family-friendly getaway.

Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is proof that the Maldives can offer an excellent family-friendly getaway. (Supplied)

Formerly the Jumeirah Vittaveli Maldives, this luxury five-star resort was taken over by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts late last year and has since gone on to receive a high volume of bookings from the GCC. While travel restrictions haven’t eased in all areas, the Maldives has proven to be a popular choice with travellers based in the region due to the short-haul flights and strict safety precautions. For example, once on their hotel’s island, guests are not allowed to “hop” to other islands, and can only take a flight back home after testing negative.

But when you’re staying somewhere as beautiful as the Ozen Reserve, who needs to sail off to a neighbouring location?

The resort presents a special “floating” breakfast.  (Supplied)

Situated in South Male Atoll, the luxury resort is a quick catamaran trip from Velana International – staff are on hand to pick you up from the airport before taking you to a private lounge while luggage is loaded onto the boat. A 20-minute journey later, and you’re greeted at the resort with a traditional Maldivian welcome and water from a freshly-cut coconut.

So, what makes this a family-friendly resort, you ask? Well, the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi offers what they call an all-encompassing “Reserve” plan, meaning that almost everything is included in the price — from breakfast, lunch and dinner and all food and drink in your villa, to spa treatments, personal training sessions at the gym, and selected water sports.

What’s more, the resort is home to an open-air ice rink and the Kuda Koli Kids Klub. Judging by how much fun a couple of younger guests in our group were having, the club is without a doubt a winning attraction.

All the water villas at the resort offer direct access to the Indian Ocean. (Supplied)

This is not one of those resorts where you just end up lying around doing nothing (although, obviously, that’s an option). There are plenty of opportunities to get active and social. Guests can make use of a beautiful swimming pool in the middle of the resort, close to an all-day lounge, Ozar, that serves snacks and drinks and has a snooker table. Meanwhile, each villa has its own bikes parked outside for riding around the resort, and the gym offers 360-degree views of the beach.

Should you want to ramp up your activity level, there’s the chance to bring some watersports right to your villa’s doorstep. All the water villas at the resort offer direct access to the Indian Ocean (via a water slide, if you like). A spot of snorkelling is perfect in the morning but for those not keen on salt-water swimming, a private pool is also available.

Formerly the Jumeirah Vittaveli Maldives, this luxury five-star resort was taken over by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts late last year. (Supplied)

Inside our water villa was a large double bedroom with separate seating area and en suite bathroom. Outside on the deck was a lounge area, with stairs leading to the water.

On our first morning, we were offered something a little quirky for breakfast. Rather than making our way to the all-day dining Vista Del Mar, we were presented with a special “floating” breakfast. A tray is set up in the private pool, on the water, with a delicious spread of breads, mezze, sushi, salmon and more laid out and left for you. This is definitely one that’s more for the photos than for convenience, as you’re essentially having a bite whilst standing up in the swimming pool. Plus, direct sunlight on sushi is probably not the best idea. Still, it was definitely a novel experience.

Sangu Beach serves up Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. (Supplied)

Among the resort’s other dining options, Origine is the place for seafood lovers, while Sangu Beach serves up Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Our favourite, however, was Tradition Saffron, where we sampled a delightful Indian thali.

While we managed to fit a lot into our short stay, the 48 hours we were there flew by and before we knew it, it was time to fly back. Given its distance from the airport, high-quality service, and the fact that guests can pay a single rate for everything, the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is definitely one we’d recommend — especially if travelling as a family or a small group of friends.


Rare engraving of the Kaaba to be offered at Sotheby’s

Rare engraving of the Kaaba to be offered at Sotheby’s
Updated 06 May 2021

Rare engraving of the Kaaba to be offered at Sotheby’s

Rare engraving of the Kaaba to be offered at Sotheby’s

DUBAI: Rare highlights from Middle Eastern history, including a 1791 engraving showing a panoramic view of Makkah, will feature in auction house Sotheby’s travel, atlases, maps and natural history online sale.  

The 430 x 865 mm engraving — the largest of its kind produced at the time — depicts pilgrims from as far as the mountain of Arafat arriving for the Hajj, charting their journey into the holy city. 

The remarkable print has long been considered unobtainable, with only a few copies believed to have survived a fire in Pera in Istanbul in 1791. The engraving is estimated at £12,000-£18,000 ($16,700-$25,000). 

It was commissioned by the diplomat Ignace de Mouradja d’Ohsson, who had earlier published a grand account of the Ottoman empire from 1787-1790.

Other images of Makkah and Madinah are being auctioned at the Sotheby’s sale, which will end on May 13. 

Lot 105, Mecca and Medina  Two watercolour and gouache views, India, c.1840. (Supplied)

Another rare bidding is a photo book by French writer and photographer Maxime Du Camp, “Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie,” which features 112 images of Egypt, six of Jerusalem and seven of Baalbek.

The photographer, the son of a successful surgeon, traveled to Egypt in November 1849 at the age of 27 with his friend novelist Gustave Flaubert. Each longed to explore the Middle East and secured government commissions to fulfil their ambitions. 

Lot 93, Maxime Du Camp Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie. Dessins Photographiques. Paris, 1852. (Supplied)

During his trip, Du Camp took more than 200 photographs of about 60 different monuments and sites. Out of those, 125 were selected for publication, resulting in the present work, which was the first French book to be illustrated entirely with photographs. 

Another work reflecting the Arab world is an album of 144 photographs of scenes in and around Cairo in 1907 and 1908. 

The photographs include images of Sir Eldon Gorst (British consul-general to Egypt, 1907-11), Winston Churchill in Cairo, the ceremony of the Kiswah, and the funeral of Mustafa Kamil Pasha. 

The online auction is also presenting works featuring Saudi Arabia, Palestine and other countries in the region.   


How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch

How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch
Updated 06 May 2021

How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch

How Iraq’s Daesh-ransacked Mosul Cultural Museum is being repaired from scratch
  • Six years after its precious antiquities were wrecked by the terror group, the museum is slowly re-emerging from the rubble 
  • Remote training from the Musee du Louvre and Smithsonian Institution has allowed restoration work to continue despite the pandemic

DUBAI: On Feb. 26, 2015, disturbing footage emerged from northwestern Iraq showing Daesh militants smashing pre-Islamic artefacts and burning ancient manuscripts at the Mosul Cultural Museum.

The terrorist group had seized control of the multi-ethnic city the previous year, and had set about looting everything of value and destroying anything that failed to conform to its warped ideology.

Priceless objects, spread across the museum’s three central halls, had told the singular narrative of Iraq as a land of remarkable civilizations — from the Sumerians and the Akkadians to the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

A member of the Iraqi forces holds a damaged artifact in the museum on March 13, 2017. (AFP) 

And yet it took only moments, as the camera rolled, for Daesh to physically erase the evidence of thousands of years of human history. The images, reminiscent of the Taliban’s demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas, sent a wave of revulsion around the world.

At some heritage sites in Mosul, including the ancient city of Nimrud, up to 80 percent of the excavated and restored monuments had been destroyed, according to experts from the British Museum.

Almost two years after the pillaging, on July 21, 2017, Mosul was finally liberated by the Iraqi army, ushering in a period of painstaking reconstruction work to restore the city’s monuments, churches, mosques and archaeological treasures.

Iraqi forces battle Daesh outside Mosul Cultural Museum on March 11, 2017. (AFP)

An international partnership of institutions was established in 2018 to repair the museum’s damaged civil structure and collections ransacked by Daesh. Its members include the Geneva-based Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), the Musee du Louvre, the Smithsonian Institution and the World Monuments Fund (WMF).

These organizations work closely with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) and the museum’s director, Zaid Ghazi Saadullah.

The collaboration began when SBAH contacted ALIPH — an organization founded in 2017 to safeguard endangered heritage sites — to secure much-needed funding for the restoration.

Rosalie Gonzalez is a a project manager for the alliance. (Supplied)

“Iraq was one of the reasons ALIPH was created,” Rosalie Gonzalez, a project manager for the alliance, told Arab News. “It was one of the priority countries from the beginning. The Mosul Cultural Museum was the first project the foundation funded in Iraq.

“Through our calls for projects and our emergency relief mechanism, we funded 28 projects in Iraq for more than $9 million. Within three years, it’s a lot of progress and we’re very happy to have this extended portfolio in Iraq.”

Museum professionals who offered expertise and support were brought in to assess the extent of the damage.

Saad Ahmed, the Mosul Cultural Museum’s head of conservation (left), and Zaid Ghazi Saadullah, the museum’s director, examine a wood cenotaph in the Mosul Cultural Museum’s Islamic Hall in February 2019. (Supplied)

Nothing had been spared. The museum itself, founded in 1952, had been badly damaged, its windows and doors shattered, its roof torn open, and shell casings and unexploded ordnance left scattered throughout its grounds.

The museum’s once monumental winged bulls, known as Lamassus, had been reduced to gravel, while its figurative sculptures lay dismembered where they had fallen.

A rich collection of embellished friezes and Assyrian paintings had been looted and 25,000 manuscripts burned to ashes.

The remains of one of Mosul Cultural Museum’s lamassu statues. (AFP)

Perhaps the most harrowing sight of all was the gaping hole left in the floor of the Assyrian Hall, where a throne-like platform had stood before it was blown to pieces. One expert who visited the site likened it to a crime scene.

“I think the whole museum community felt like this really was a terrible crime against culture and history, and we had to do something about it,” Richard Kurin, ambassador-at-large at the Smithsonian Institution, told Arab News.

Ariane Thomas, a Mesopotamian art specialist and head of the Oriental antiquities department at Musee du Louvre, echoed his sentiments.

Ariane Thomas is the director of Oriental antiquities department at Musee du Louvre. (Musée du Louvre)

“It’s a complete loss,” she told Arab News from Paris. “It was a bit like losing someone I knew. I was also struck by the fact that so many people were deeply moved even though sometimes they didn’t know much about those objects.”

This shocking act of vandalism was not merely the product of Daesh’s ideology of “separating people from their history,” but was driven in large part by the pursuit of profit, Kurin said. After all, the militants looted several highly valuable items.

“There was an economic (logic) to this,” he said. “They were blowing up what they couldn’t carry and then removing what they could so that they could presumably sell it in exchange for armaments, bullets and explosives.

The Mosul Cultural Museum was the first project the foundation funded in Iraq. (Supplied)

“We know that Daesh engaged in a whole system of doing that. They gave permits to people to loot archaeological sites.”

A dedicated team of Iraqi experts, trained by professionals from the Louvre and Smithsonian, has set about sorting through the debris to salvage and conserve what was left behind.

What they find is carefully documented, catalogued and placed in a local storage facility that today functions as a fully equipped conservation laboratory, used by specialists for all recovery activities.

Richard Kurin is the  ambassador-at-large at the Smithsonian Institution. (Smithsonian Institution)

The painstaking process of piecing objects back together has been carried out with the help of specialized equipment and computers supplied by the Louvre.

“What we did was treat the museum like it was an archaeological site,” said Kurin. “Rather than throwing all the rubble away, we collected it, labeled it and kept it systematic so that you could find the pieces of what was originally a whole.”

Progress was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions, but restoration advice and assistance continued remotely.

Iraqi forces battle Daesh outside Mosul Cultural Museum on March 11, 2017. (AFP)

“We decided that there was no reason to stop. And, morally, we couldn’t do so,” said Thomas. “So we built, from A to Z, a training program online on various subjects to better prepare the museum’s rehabilitation.

“We are still producing new videos. So far, we have 30 to 50 videos that are all in French and Arabic. We somehow invented a new way to move forward on the restoration despite the distance due to the health crisis.”

As for the integrity of the building itself, a team from WMF was brought in to assess and install a steel scaffolding to hold up the precarious floor of the Assyrian Hall while further structural inspections take place.

The museum was founded in 1952. (Supplied)

Experts hope to reopen the museum within three to four years.

The revival of the Mosul Cultural Museum is significant on many levels: It emphasizes camaraderie in times of crisis; the city’s true multi-faith identity; and, above all, the refusal to allow Daesh’s “year-zero” ideology to prevail.

“Increasingly, museums have realized that they have a responsibility beyond their walls,” said Kurin.

As for Mosul, the museum’s emergence from the rubble offers cause for optimism. “By rebuilding the museum and the collections, the Iraqi team along with the international partners are sending a message of hope,” said Gonzalez.

“We will bring this museum back to life, and by doing so we will protect our past and build a better future.”


THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region
Updated 06 May 2021

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region
  • From a Palestinian violinist to Lebanese dream-pop, via Saudi shoe stylings and Syrian artworks

Postcards

The Lebanese dream-pop trio released a new track “Home is so Sad,” from their upcoming album “After The Fire, Before The End,” due out later this year. The song is apparently inspired by the eponymous Philip Larkin song. It’s a typically atmospheric track — Julia Sabra’s melancholy lyrics floating over a distorted guitar line built over a pounding drum beat. As Sabra sings of “Blood from your nostrils/Blood from your ears” and “There’s a hole where you knee should be/But I am not afraid” it’s not hard to imagine where the Beirut-based band found the inspiration for this song. The accompanying video, by Nadim Tabet, is the first of a series to go with the album, the band explained on social media: “The idea is to have some sort of visual archive of our shared experiences over the last couple of years.”

Lulu Al-Hassan

The Saudi shoe designer has teamed up with regional retailer Shoemart for a limited-edition capsule collection called “Lule Loves Celeste,” which is exclusive to the Middle East. With 28 satin styles — including peep-toe mules, stilettos, slingbacks and platform heels — in a color palette ranging from classic blacks to bright yellows and reds, the collection will be released just ahead of Eid. “Your shoes are your statement, and this collection will translate that into confidence,” Al-Hassan said in a press release.

OVIID

This exciting Lebanese trio are currently in the process of recording their first EP, and gave us a taste of what to expect recently with a live performance of their song “Statues” for Light FM’s online concert series “Videos in our Studios.” The band describe their sound as “rhythmic prose infused with electronic influences rebirthing heritage, folklore and nostalgia” and “inspired by Kraut, Oriental and Electronica.” “Statues” has something of an Eighties’ vibe, with bassist and vocalist Antonio Hajj’s baritone delivery over layers of looped guitar lines, delivered with subtle skill by guitarist Tony Dauo. Hajj told Arab News, “The track, like the EP, is made up of many rooms; each one is a feeling or a state of mind. It has tension — the ride and the feeling of being suspended in mid-air.” That feeling is mirrored lyrically, he explained: “We talk about how we are taught to internalize and keep to ourselves. The setting we’re in doesn’t help and suffers from an identity crisis itself, so the only way is to keep your ‘light’ and keep going forward.”

Thaier Helal

The UAE-based Syrian artist’s latest solo show, “Abyss,” runs at Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery until May 10. A statement from the gallery says that while the artist’s new work “differs in texture, stepping away from his structural and sculptural approach,” Helal “continues to pose radical questions, (addressing) many subjects concerning our existence, meaning, and current state of bitterness that drains the mind and soul.” His artwork, one example of which — “Behind The Line” — is seen here, falls somewhere between figurative and abstract. “The artist’s technique plays with composition and vantage point,” the gallery continues. “The aim is for each viewer to see something personal that references past experiences, to take the viewer to extremes of imagination.” 

Akram Abdulfattah

The Palestinian violinist, composer and producer recently released his second album, “Monologue.” The blend of traditional Arabic music with pop, jazz, and Indian sounds reflects Abdulfattah’s multi-cultural background: He moved to the US from Palestine aged seven. The album is intended to reflect his life’s journey, as well as the politics of Palestinian life. “The album’s sense of collaboration could be seen as a metaphor for long-standing peace in the region,” according to a press release. According to Abdulfattah, the album “can be imagined as a dialogue with the inner self. It’s about finding unity in the self and discovering similarities in the richness of different music languages and culture.”

Allexa Bash 

Bash, a Dubai-based Ukranian singer-songwriter, released a new single, “Heartbeat,” in late April. It’s a pop track with downbeat, piano-led verses leading to big choruses dominated by dubstep-style synths. Bash is a former contestant on the Ukrainian version of “The Voice” and her vocals are certainly powerful. Lyrically, according to a press release, the song is about “being real, about showing yourself, about listening to thoughts and embracing them. And, finally, letting your heartbeat act as a lighthouse, leading you in the dark, showing you the way.”