Lebanese artists address their country’s crises in new exhibition

Lebanese artists address their country’s crises in new exhibition
Amar Zahr is the founder and co-director of BAR. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 May 2021

Lebanese artists address their country’s crises in new exhibition

Lebanese artists address their country’s crises in new exhibition
  • In ‘Before the Cypress Broke,’ 15 artists examine how their country reached its current juncture

BEIRUT: “After the explosion, I was ready to give away everything I’ve ever done if it made the situation better. I hopped on any opportunity to donate my work in exchange for raising funds,” says Lebanese visual artist Ayla Hibri. “A lot of good people put together these platforms of exchange and it really felt like it was helping. It confirmed to me that art carries a kind of transferable honorable energy that can push people to do good.”

Hibri is by no means alone. Following the lethal blast in the Port of Beirut in August, Mary Cremin, the director of Void Gallery in Northern Ireland, reached out to Beirut Art Residency (BAR), offering the organization her support. She was willing to host a fundraising exhibition at her space in Derry, with all proceeds going towards the BAR Support Fund, which provides emerging artists with small grants.




“Everlasting Massacre,” Ayla Hibri, 2018. (Supplied)

“It was a very stressful period for us, as all three of our spaces in Gemmayze (the residency, the Project Space and La Vitrine) were heavily affected by the blast, as well as our homes,” says Nathalie Ackawi, partner and co-director at BAR. “We were, however, very moved by the messages of support we received, and this gave us strength to work on this exhibition.”

The end result is “Before the Cypress Broke,” which brings together work from 15 contemporary artists and addresses the seemingly simple, yet immensely complex, question of how Lebanon reached its current juncture. Borrowing its name from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem "The Cypress Broke,” the exhibition includes work from Ali Cherri, Charbel Haber, Omar Khouri, Salah Missi, Sirine Fattouh, Stephanie Dadour, Sandrine Pelletier, Gregory Buchakjian, Valerie Cachard, Ziad Antar and Hussein Nassereddine.   




“Everlasting Residue,” Ayla Hibri, 2017. (Supplied)

Hibri’s "Everlasting Massacre” was the first piece to be selected for the exhibition, “mainly because of the strong duality it holds,” says Amar Zahr, founder and co-director of BAR. “At first glance it looks to be a beautiful view. However, upon closer inspection the viewer will notice the mountain is literally being scraped off for cement — an illegal practice whereby Lebanon’s mountains are being wiped off the map. The natural environment has been altered for the sake of profitable investments, to build skyscrapers and to export cement. It’s a strong statement on the corruption that was ignored for so long, but is now clearly visible in the altered landscape of the country.”

Another of Hibri’s photographs, “Everlasting Residue,” is also included in the show. Both are part of a series called “Acts of Violence.” They represent what Hibri describes as “unfortunate interventions” — acts of apathy, indifference or contempt that are sadly common in Lebanon.




Ayla Hibri’s “Everlasting Massacre” was the first piece to be selected for the exhibition. (Supplied)

“They range from a plastic chair left behind after a picnic, to a whole mountain being destroyed, and it gets worse and worse until it leads to the explosion of the port and the destruction of half the city,” she says. “It’s all connected. They are examples that capture arrogance, negligence and disregard — attitudes and sightings that we have learned to live with. These photographs carry the weight of the price we have to pay and the damage that will need to be reversed in order to transcend to a better place.” 




Jacques Vartabedian’s “Prelude to Reversal” features a lone figure blended into a complex but colorful environment. (Supplied)

Although she wasn’t in Beirut at the time, the explosion halted everything for Hibri and her priorities radically shifted. She concentrated on being available for her family and friends, raising funds, and talking about what had happened in an attempt to try and understand. On a creative level, however, she has struggled. “It’s actually been quite hard. I couldn’t bring myself to take photos of Beirut after the explosion and I only managed to shoot one roll of film, which came out quite special but I will keep it to myself for now. It doesn’t feel right. Not much feels right to be honest when there is so much change to deal with and so many people suffering,” she says. “I spent most of my time the last few months researching, learning about our history, and trying to keep up with events as they occur, while maintaining my daily practice of going to the studio and working.” 

In contrast, Jacques Vartabedian’s “Prelude to Reversal” was an almost immediate response to the explosion — an attempt to recreate the destruction that he saw around him. It features a lone figure blended into a complex but colorful environment.




Jacques Vartabedian’s “Prelude to Reversal” was an almost immediate response to the explosion. (Supplied)

“I started painting it while the studio was in a chaotic state after the blast,” explains Vartabedian, whose studio is in the heavily damaged area of Mar Mikhael. “I just kept going to the studio for weeks, simply sitting there in the destruction and trying to digest it without moving a thing. I realized the need to recreate harmony with all the destruction around me by reimagining it in an aesthetic form.”

Vartabedian, perhaps, is in the minority. Daniele Genadry has also struggled creatively, not just with the explosion, but with all that has happened in Lebanon over the course of the past few years. She has found it “hard to react directly or even immediately on a creative level,” although she has been working on the idea of “first and last sight,” whereby perception is heightened through the knowledge of something’s potential loss. In other words, any given thing is only really seen for the first time when it is about to disappear.




“Familiar Mountains,” Daniele Genadry. (Harry Kerr courtesy of Void Gallery)

For the exhibition, which runs until June 5, Zahr and Ackawi chose a handful of prints from Genadry’s “Afterglow,” which features 20 photographs of a mountain view taken from Qartaba in Mount Lebanon. Shot over the course of 10 years, they vary in terms of timing, positioning, lighting and perspective, creating images that are “at once familiar and strange,” says Genadry, who also played with the distribution of light and color in each photograph. She then screen-printed them in black and white on mylar, a translucent material that changes appearance according to the light conditions in which the photographs are viewed.

“I think we are at a point right now where our perception of all nature is affected by a kind of bittersweet quality,” she says, “knowing that it is in danger and threatened due to the climate crisis and the shift in our relationship with it.” And because “Before the Cypress Broke” converses with grief and inevitability, says Genadry, “Afterglow” resonated “with the way I have approached the landscape motif in my work recently — as a bittersweet image.”




Daniele Genadry has also struggled creatively, not just with the explosion, but with all that has happened in Lebanon over the course of the past few years. (Supplied)

Although the question is left unspoken, all of the participating artists are faced with the same question: Where do they go from here? It’s almost impossible to answer.

“I believe that solidarity amongst the different players of the art scene both locally and internationally is essential,” says Ackawi. “Art and culture have always been essential pillars of the Lebanese identity, as well as its economy and tourism. It’s important for artists to continue to create and tell our story. As for us, as art practitioners and curators it is our job to support them in any way we can.”


Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 

Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 
Updated 15 June 2021

Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 

Morocco’s Casablanca to stage physical show at Paris Fashion Week 

DUBAI: Moroccan-helmed label Casablanca is among six other fashion houses set to present a physical show during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode – which organizes Paris Fashion Weeks – announced on Monday.

After two seasons of digital presentations, the hybrid event will return with a selected number of brands showcasing their Spring 2022 collections in person and others presenting digitally from June 22-27.

Casablanca was founded by Charaf Tajer. The menswear, Paris-based label is known for its ultra-wearable clothing made out of luxe silks and cashmeres that is inspired by Tajer’s Moroccan roots. 

His debut runway during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in 2018 was a love letter to his parents who met while working side by side in a clothing atelier in the fashion district of Casablanca.

Besides Casablanca, Dior, Hermès, Bluemarable, LGN Louis-Gabriel Nouchi and Officine Générale are also listed to present physical shows. 

Digital presentations will feature runways for Louis Vuitton, Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Loewe, Dunhill, and more. 

Just last week, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced that Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad will present his Autumn/ Winter 2021 couture collection in person at Paris Fashion Week, among seven other renowned labels including Dior, Azzaro Couture, Chanel, Giorgio Armani Privé, Balenciaga, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vaishali S. 

A limited number of guests will be allowed to attend the physical shows to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury

Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury
Updated 15 June 2021

Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury

Algerian director Mounia Meddour joins Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury

DUBAI: The Cannes Film Festival announced this week that Algerian director Mounia Meddour will be part of the Un Certain Regard jury at the 74th edition of the event set to take place from July 6-17.

The other jury members are UK director Andrea Arnold – the president, French actress Elsa Zylberstein, Argentinian director, producer and screenwriter Daniel Burman and US writer, director, producer and actor Michael Covino.

After making several documentaries — “Elementary Particles” (2007), “La Cuisine en héritage” (2009) and “Algerian Cinema: A New Breath” — Meddour directed her first short fiction film “Edwige” in 2011, which received a special mention at the Journées Cinématographiques in Algiers. 

In 2019, she created a sensation with her first feature film “Papicha.” 


Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’

Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’
The model recently sat down with i-D magazine. Instagram
Updated 15 June 2021

Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’

Gigi Hadid: ‘I’m sometimes made to feel too white to stand up for my Arab heritage’

DUBAI: Part-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid recently opened up about a host of personal topics in an interview with i-D magazine, shedding light on her experience of giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, feeling “weird” during her pregnancy during fashion month, her multi-cultural roots and how she intends to help her daughter embrace her different heritages, something, she reveals,  she  previously faced difficulty standing up for when it comes to her Arab roots.

Hadid and Zayn Malik, father of her nine-month-old daughter Khai, are both from mixed race households.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The 26-year-old model was born to Dutch supermodel and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Hadid and Palestinian property mogul Mohamed Hadid. Meanwhile, the former One Direction singer’s father is British-Pakistani, while his mother is English and Irish.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The parents of Khai revealed that their multicultural roots are something they talk about a lot as partners as it’s “something that we first experienced ourselves because both of our parents are their own heritage.”

Hadid went on to note that she sometimes felt that she was “too white” to stand up for her Arab heritage.

“In certain situations, I feel — or I’m made to feel — that I’m too white to stand up for part of my Arab heritage. You go through life trying to figure out where you fit in racially. Is what I am, or what I have, enough to do what I feel is right? But then, also, is that taking advantage of the privilege of having the whiteness within me, right? Am I allowed to speak for this side of me, or is that speaking on something that I don’t experience enough to know? Do you know what I’m saying?” she said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)


She added that she thinks it will “be nice" to have such conversations with Khai someday, "and see where she comes from… without us putting that onto her.

"What comes from her is what I'm most excited about," she added, "and being able to add to that or answer her questions."

 


London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida
Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied
Updated 14 June 2021

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

DUBAI: London Fashion Week is hoping to be back on track with the usual line-up of physical shows come September, but until then LFW’s “digital first” approach continued with another selection of online presentations from the capital’s designers alongside a handful of in-person events that took place from June 12-14. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Reem Juan (@reemjuan)

Held over three days, the latest edition saw 32 womenswear, menswear and accessories brands showcasing their collections on the LFW digital platform, including regional label Reem Juan. 

The Abu Dhabi-born womenswear designer presented her eponymous brand’s Fall 2021 collection via a four-minute fashion film as part of the fashion event. 

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

Inspired by the late Egyptian-born French icon Dalida, Juan decided to embrace femininity by churning out an ultra-romantic collection that included sparkling miniskirts embellished with tiny beads and worn with jumpers embroidered with famous Dalida lyrics such as “En chantant jusqu'au bout” and “C'était le temps des fleurs on ignorait la peur.”

Flower motifs appeared throughout, whether in the form of beaded appliques on tops or as prints on chiffon dresses and jacquard pant suits and skirts.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

Black turtlenecks got an ultra-feminine touch by way of lace collars while sharply-tailored blazers looked all the more elegant when paired with pussy bow blouses.

1970’s influence seeped into the offering in the form of thick belts cinched around the waist and denim wide-legged jumpsuits.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

If you’re in the market for a pretty frock, Juan’s latest collection provides plenty to choose from. The offering concluded with a lineup of elegant eveningwear that consisted of heavily-sequined, plunging gowns, tulle dresses with voluminous sleeves, beaded taffeta skirts worn with a matching bralet tops and embellished crepe kaftans in salmon, peach, lemon and mint hues.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

By using technology, minimal production waste and sourcing local hand craftsmanship to create her garments, Juan’s collection is as chic as it is sustainable. For instance, the designer utilized recycled taffeta to create one eye-catching yellow shirt dress with open eyelet details.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

Indeed, the designer’s efforts will resonate with the luxury consumer who values ethical clothing.


Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash
Flowers and tributes hanging on the fence of the Botanic Gardens on March 17, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Getty Images
Updated 14 June 2021

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

DUBAI: A producer for a controversial Hollywood film about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch terror attacks in 2019 has resigned from the project.

 The producer Philippa Campbell’s resignation comes after the Andrew Niccol-directed  film, titled “They Are Us,”  came under fire for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.

“I’ve listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people’s views. I now agree that the events of March 15, 2019, are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress,” she said in a statement released to the media.

“The announcement was focused on film business, and did not take enough account of the political and human context of the story in this country. It’s the complexity of that context I’ve been reflecting on that has led me to this decision,” she added.

Ardern, who is slated to be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne, said on Sunday it felt “very soon and very raw” for New Zealand, and that she was not an appropriate focus for a film about the mosque attacks. 

“There are plenty of stories from March 15 that could be told, but I don’t consider mine to be one of them,” she said. Ardern has stated that she has no involvement with the film, which would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.