Kuwaiti visual artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein discusses some of his favorite work

Kuwaiti visual artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein discusses some of his favorite work
This artwork is from “Sawaber” project, named after a modernist housing development (in Kuwait) based on a design by the Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 May 2021

Kuwaiti visual artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein discusses some of his favorite work

Kuwaiti visual artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein discusses some of his favorite work

LONDON: Tarek Al-Ghoussein has an ability to immerse himself in projects that require commitment over an extended period of time.

Al-Ghoussein — a Kuwaiti artist of Palestinian origin — is currently on a quest to visit every one of the 215 islands that form the archipelago of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. So far he has visited 30, and the resulting images — recently on show in his exhibition “Odysseus” at Dubai’s Third Line gallery — compel the viewer to pause and enter into his imaginative journey.




Al-Ghoussein is a Kuwaiti artist of Palestinian origin. (Supplied)

He put the same kind of tenacious energy into the series of images he created of the abandoned Al-Sawaher housing estate in Kuwait. In hundreds of visits over three years he entered the deserted apartments and offered a poignant glimpse into the lives of the people who once called the estate home.

Al-Ghoussein is now a professor of visual arts at New York University in Abu Dhabi, but his chosen subject was not always his greatest passion, he explained. “I came to the visual arts gradually, through my passion for literature and classical music, particularly Beethoven,” he said. “My first loves were Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse and Günter Grasse and, later, Japanese haiku poets such as Matsuo Kinsaku. Clarity and cleanliness of form is something I really appreciate.”

Here, Al-Ghoussein offers some insights into a selection from his extensive body of work.

‘L1003672’

This is from my “Sawaber” project, named after a modernist housing development (in Kuwait) based on a design by the Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. It’s now gone. There were 33 buildings each with eight apartments — two on each floor. For about three years I went maybe 400 to 500 times and entered each of the apartments where I gathered objects and photographed what was on the walls. What fascinated me about that place was that you had Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Kuwaiti citizens and expats all living together in this community. I brought the framed painting you can see in this work back to photograph in my studio in Abu Dhabi. You also see wallpaper from one of the houses. This whole project is a kind of archiving. It was a wonderful experience.

‘Abu Dhabi Archipelago (Hami Rohah Gassar)’ (2016)

This project started in 2015.  One day I read an article explaining that the planning council was in the process of naming the 215 islands of Abu Dhabi. That was mind-blowing to me. I had no idea that Abu Dhabi had so many islands. I had just completed the “Sawaber” project, so I was looking for a long-term project and that article triggered my desire and imagination to go out and visit as many of these islands as I could in a spirit of discovery.

This image shows me on the bow of the boat. It was early morning — and I came across a gassar — a mini-island — named Hami Roha which means ‘protector of the soul.’ I thought it was an appropriate image to start the series with. The series is ongoing. I plan to finish it within a year or two. I have been working on this for five years. I hope it will be shorter than the journey of 10 years that Odysseus went on!

‘Untitled 2’ (Self-Portrait Series)

This was the first time I ever saw Palestine – you can see it in the background along the Dead Sea. In this series I am wearing the hattah (the Palestinian headscarf also known as the keffiyeh) that — in the West especially — has mistakenly been related to terrorism. This whole series is about challenging Western, and even some Middle Eastern, perceptions that Palestinians are terrorists.

‘K Files 735’

This was part of a project I did when I was asked to represent Kuwait in the Venice Biennale. I was living in Abu Dhabi  – I had just joined NYU –and  there was very little time for me to allocate to it. This was the first project where I did a lot of the research on places before I went. Normally it’s a mixture of visiting and looking and reading, but because I had precious little time I had to come up with an idea before I set out. So, talking to the curator, I saw one potential idea was mapping — and interacting with — the development of Kuwait. I went to several buildings, including the parliament, Kuwait Towers and the World Bank. I used this image because it was one of Kuwait’s earliest sports clubs and as a child I used to play basketball for that particular club.

‘(In) Consideration of Myths 966’

I took this image on Saadiyat Island. It kind of references the myth of Iron John – an old fable (written by the Brothers Grimm) about somebody going into the world on a journey of self-discovery. It’s referential to where I am. Much of my work is like an arena for me to interact with or interrupt a given scene. I took this image on Saddiyat Island. I shoot on a tripod and the setting up takes time. It really affects the interaction with the space. It becomes much more of an extension of your vision. It forces me to consider things a little bit more. It’s not about quick intuition. There is intuition involved but setting up becomes much more of a ritual and it slows the pace.

‘(In) Beautification 1713’

Around 2010, I was commissioned by the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi to produce a series of images on Saadiyat Island and the development of the museum. Because of the delay of the museum I had all these images and I wanted to get them out there. For me a work is not complete until it is out there in the public. That’s also when I discover my relationship to the work. My work is open to interpretation. I don’t really feel comfortable – nor do I wish to — forcing the viewer (to follow) a particular narrative.


Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie
Updated 25 May 2022

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja teams up with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman on new movie
  • The Emirati filmmaker and the two-time Academy Award-winning composer will collaborate on her upcoming feature, ‘Baab’

CANNES: UAE filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja has teamed up with the multi-award-winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman for her upcoming feature film “Baab.”

“This means the world to me, I feel like he is going to do something extremely unique and unprecedented and I need to match that with a picture, my camera language, and to be honest with my work,” Al-Khaja, herself the winner of multiple awards, told Arab News at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

Rahman — the Oscar-, BAFTA-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy-winning composer of more than 145 film scores — will score Al-Khaja’s upcoming feature film “Baab,” which she describes as her first “art-house” movie.

Al-Khaja (right) on the set of her short film 'The Shadow.' (Supplied)

Al-Khaja is widely recognized as the UAE’s first independent female filmmaker. Her previous work includes short films “The Neighbor,” “Malal,” “Animal,” and “The Shadow.” She co-wrote “Baab” with Masoud Amralla Al-Ali.

“People like her coming and laying the road for younger women is a fantastic thing to do and being a part of it is legendary,” Rahman said. “BAAB” will be his first Middle Eastern project, and he explained why he was immediately attracted to the proposed collaboration.

“For me, it feels like I’m just starting out,” he said. “It feels like it’s the first film for me, because she has a very new vision and she comes from a different place, which I have not been to before. And I always feel good about a clean piece of paper that has nothing written on it.”

The collaboration came about by chance, Al-Khaja explained, sparked by a spur-of-the-moment coincidence that led to a dream partnership.

A. R. Rahman with his two Oscars for 'Slumdog Millionaire.' (Supplied)

“The truth is, (this happened because of) Instagram,” she said. One day — having seen one of Al-Khaja’s Instagram stories in which she mentioned Rahman — her driver jokingly said to her, “Imagine if, one day, he called you.”

“He just put it out into the universe. It was just a casual remark, but two days later I got a call arranging a meeting,” Al-Khaja continued.

The pair both agree that the best collaborations often arise from such spontaneous connections.

“It was completely unplanned,” Al-Khaja said. “But I don’t want to say it was an accident. It was born out of an honest and real place.”

Rahman explained what initially drew him to the production. “I like the nuances,” he said. “There are open and unexplored parts of working with a filmmaker, which is great.”

He went on to explain his composition process: “Talking to a director, I find out the dos and don’ts — their inspiration and level of realism. I do a little bit of research to find sounds, sometimes I use them and sometimes I throw them away. Having it and discarding it is better than not having it when producing,” he said.

Al-Khaja bills the film, which — Variety has reported — follows a girl called Wahida as she investigates the mysterious death of her twin sister, as “100 percent art-house fantasy, and borderline horror.”

Both Al-Khaja and Rahman are hopeful that the film will be something special. (Supplied)

“It’s hard to define,” she said. “It’s intense. There are some creepy parts where it’s extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know that I can classify it (entirely) as a a horror movie, but we have maybe two or three scenes that are over that line. But for the most part, I’d say it’s art-house fantasy.”

One of those “uncomfortable” scenes comes towards the end of the movie, she explained, where one of the characters is hanging inches away from the ceiling.

“She’s tied by her arms and legs with a rope. The ceiling is almost touching (her face) for the whole scene, then (suddenly) one rope rips and she’s hanging there a long time and she’s breathing against the ceiling, it’s quiet and then it snaps. That’s right at the end,” Al-Khaja said.

Shooting on “BAAB” will commence in Ras Al-Khaimah in March, and both Al-Khaja and Rahman are hopeful that the film will be something special — not just in terms of storyline and performance, but with costume design, production, and music.

“We really want to push this as far as we can,” Al-Khaja said.


French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival
Updated 25 May 2022

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival

French-Algerian star Lyna Khoudri amps up the glamour at Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: French-Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri touched down in Cannes for the premieres of her new films, “Novembre” and “Nos Frangins,” bringing her head-turning style to the annual film festival in the process.

At the “Nos Frangins” photocall earlier this week, the 29-year-old evoked casual-cool wearing a glittering silver shirt and a red miniskirt by Chanel. She chose a similar look at Cedric Jimenez’s “Novembre” photocall, opting for a plain white T-shirt tucked into a pink, fringed tweed skirt also from the Parisian maison. She accessorized the look with layers of pearl necklaces and monochrome Mary Jane pumps.

Lyna Khoudri and her castmates at the ‘Nos Frangins’ photocall. Getty Images

Khoudri, who is a Chanel brand ambassador — she made her runway debut at the most recent Chanel 2023 cruise show in Monaco — saved her most glamorous get-ups for the red carpet.

She attended Rachid Bouchareb’s “Nos Frangins” red carpet premiere, alongside her castmates Samir Guesmi and Reda Kateb, wearing a sheer black embroidered dress from Chanel’s spring 2022 couture collection.

The French-Algerian actress attended the premiere of ‘Nos Frangins’ in Cannes. Getty Images

Meanwhile on the red carpet for “Novembre,” Khoudri turned heads in a grey two-piece Chanel ensemble that consisted of a tweed, slightly-unbuttoned jacket and matching loose trousers. Paired with black Mary Janes, the look felt undecidedly unfussy yet glamorous.

As an ambassador for the label, the rising star is constantly turning heads on the red carpet in Chanel designs.

Case in point, at Tuesday night’s premiere of “L'Innocent,” where the actress showed up wearing a black, embellished halterneck top fresh from the brand’s 2023 resort collection paired with a leather miniskirt and pumps. 

Khoudri wearing Chanel 2023 resort. Getty Images

“Being supported by Chanel, a house with such experience of the festival, had true meaning,” said “The French Dispatch” actress in a recent video interview.

Khoudri, who is currently filming the hotly anticipated “The Three Musketeers” plays a lead role in both “Novembre” and “Nos Frangins.”

In “Novembre,” which tells the story of the terrorist attacks in Paris on the night of Nov. 13, 2015, the actress takes on the role of Samia, a charitable young woman who volunteers at a homeless camp. Her flat mate is bankrolling her cousin, one of the terrorists.

The latter revisits the tragic death of French-Algerian student Malik Oussekine, who died in police custody in 1986. Khoudri plays the role of his sister.

 


Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’
Updated 25 May 2022

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

Pakistan’s first Cannes film a ‘dream come true’

CANNES: The debut screening of Pakistan’s first entry to the Cannes Film Festival felt like “a dream has come true,” one of its stars, Sarwat Gilani, said after the film received a prolonged standing ovation.

The movie, “Joyland,” seeks to break gender stereotypes in the country.

“It felt like the hard work that people do, the struggles that we face as artists in Pakistan, they’ve all come to be worth it,” Gilani told Reuters this week.

Gilani, a film and TV starplay, plays Nucchi in “Joyland,” which competes in the “Un Certain Regard” section, a competition focused on more art-house films that runs parallel to the main “Palme d’Or” prize.

(FromL) Pakistani actress Sana Jafri, Pakistani actress Sania Saeed, actor Ali Junejo, director Saim Sadiq, actor Alina Khan, Pakistani actor and model Sarwat Gilani, actress Rasti Farooq and film producer Apoorva Charan attend a photocall for the film “Joyland” at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. (AFP)

Nucchi belongs to a household that has long hoped for the birth of a son to continue the family line, with the consecutive birth of her three daughters not enough to please her conservative father-in-law.

And her brother-in-law Haider secretly falls in love with a transgender woman Biba, who fights for her right to work as a performer.
“Joyland” also explores the frustration of women seeking to pursue a profession, when Haider’s wife Mumtaz falls into a depression for being forced to stay at home and do household chores and stop working as a make-up artist.
“It’s not just about a love story anymore. It’s about real-time issues, real life issues that we all go through,” Gilani said. 
She said she hoped Pakistani movie-goers and critics would give “Joyland” as warm a reception as it received in Cannes.
“I’m very positive that at least our people will understand that this is also a kind of cinema that can be successful. If worldwide, then why not locally, nationally,” she said.
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to 28, with the prizes awarded on the last day. 


Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

Saudi-Lebanese designer Talal Hizami takes us back to school with latest collection

DUBAI: Fashion lovers can expect a heavy dose of nostalgia with Saudi-Lebanese-Palestinian designer Talal Hizami’s latest collection, which he released as part of his ready-to-wear menswear brand Pacifism.

His high-school-inspired offering “Alma Mater” is a sartorial tribute to the London-born creative’s educational background and is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back.

“It’s always important for me to try to depict very vivid stories of nostalgia through my collections and my shoots,” he said.

The collection is in line with fashion’s ongoing obsession with looking back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Y2K nostalgia is currently a huge trend in Western fashion, much of it driven by a new generation of designers who came of age in the 2000s. Hizami, who turned 29 in February, made a show of it in the lookbook for “Alma Mater,” which was shot by Iraqi-Canadian photographer Cheb Moha against the backdrop of school lockers.  

When it comes to the clothing, the designer transports us back to school with his clever take on looks you might find the average high school student wearing in a school hallway. To start, the designer reinvents the varsity jacket, a symbol of US school jocks, by his utilization of Japanese nylon fabric.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. At Pacifism University, a bird wearing a maroon knit serves as the symbol for the college team’s Peaceful Doves. The word dove is also used to describe someone who advocates for peace, or in other words a pacifist.

The sporty vibe is dialed up with ultra-cozy terry cloth shorts and high socks.

There are also casual t-shirts bearing fictional school mascots. Photographed by Cheb Moha

Having studied in both the English and US school curriculum, Hizami wanted to merge all the experiences and essence of his emotions during his formative school years.

In addition to the Ivy League hopefuls and jocks, Hizami’s new collection offers the full high school experience with pieces aimed at the science aficionados and preppy crowd. Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back that spells out “Pacifism” while school uniforms get a streetwear spin in the form of loose black slacks and button-up polo shirts.

But perhaps nothing screams nostalgia more than the collared rugby shirts. Big in the mid-80s, rugby-stripe pullovers have made a huge resurgence, showing up in the collections of J. Crew, Alexander Wang, Koche, and now, Pacifism.

Oversized coats are emblazoned with a periodic table-inspired print on the back. Photographed by Cheb Moha

“This collection is fitting, in particular for me, because I wasn’t very good at writing stories in school so this is a way in which I find it comfortable to story-tell,” said the designer, who founded his brand in 2019 and made his London Fashion Week debut a year later. 

The collection is set to release via two drops at the end of the month online on Pacifism’s website and select e-tailers.


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.