CAIRO: All tickets for the “Kings of the Sun” exhibition in Prague have been sold out until June 6, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anani launched the exhibition last August along with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
It is the first Egyptian antiquities exhibition in Prague and the largest exhibition of antiquities from the Old Kingdom.
A large number of Czechs have visited the exhibition, said Mostafa El-Wazeeri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, adding that it had attracted around 10,000 people since the show reopened on May 4.
Ibrahim Mostafa, the inspector escorting the exhibition, said around 400 people were visiting every day.
Visits are taking place in line with COVID-19 precautionary measures — social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizer use, and time-reserved tickets.
On display are 90 artifacts that were unearthed during excavations in Abusir by the Czech mission, including a basalt statue of King Raneferef.
The exhibition’s inauguration coincided with the 60th anniversary of the start of Czech archaeological work in Egypt.
The aim of the show is to offer Czech visitors a glimpse into ancient Egyptian civilization and encourage them to visit the country to see more of its monuments as well as enjoy its beaches and landscapes.
The exhibition will be divided into five sections: Origins of the Arabic script, development of calligraphy, master calligraphers, calligraphy and contemporary art, and calligraphy, artificial intelligence. (AN photos/Basheer Saleh)
Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh
Event devoted to the art form opens on Wednesday at the National Museum of Riyadh
Updated 16 June 2021
RIYADH: Artists have been sharing their thoughts about the “mesmerizing and elegant” beauty and spirituality of Arabic calligraphy, and the importance of the art form, ahead of the opening on Wednesday of an exhibition in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi conceptual artist Othman Al-Khuzaim believes that global interest in the art of Arabic calligraphy has grown in recent years, and this can be attributed to increased awareness of its beauty.
“The general interest of people in calligraphy has led them to show appreciation for Arabic calligraphy, with all its mesmerizing and elegant shapes and forms,” he said.
“Arabic calligraphy stands witness to beauty, which is depicted by Arabic calligraphists on walls inside the Two Holy Mosques to add more spirituality to the holy places.”
Describing Arabic calligraphy as one of the most prominent forms of visual art, Al-Khuzaim said he often recommends it to people and encourages them to enjoy and appreciate it even if they cannot read the language or understand the meaning of the words.
Script and Calligraphy: A Timeless Journey, which opens on Wednesday at the National Museum of Riyadh and runs until Aug. 21, is a good place for newcomers to the art form to start, or for those who are already familiar with it to learn more about its history, from its origins right up the present day.
• Organized by the Culture Ministry, the exhibition runs until Aug. 21.
• The 1,500-square-meter exhibition highlights the development of the Arabic script from its very beginnings.
• It includes one of the oldest surviving pages of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the second century AH/8th century AD.
Organized by the Ministry of Culture to showcase the history of Arabic calligraphy, the 1,500-square-meter exhibition highlights the development of the Arabic script from its very beginnings, along with the relationship between calligraphy, contemporary art and artificial intelligence (AI).
This exceptional journey through history features input from Saudi and international master calligraphers, contemporary artists and designers. It begins with the advent of written communication on the Arabian Peninsula nearly 1,700 years ago and traces the development of scripts engraved on stone and included in linear paintings, manuscripts and other objects across the Islamic world.
The exhibition brings the story right up to date by considering the most modern applications of Arabic calligraphy, for example in fashion, design and even AI. Alongside the classic artworks on display, visitors will find an AI machine, developed by Egyptian artist and designer Haytham Nawar, that allows them to produce a new pictographic language on a video screen.
At the other end of the timeline of Arabic calligraphy, the exhibition includes one of the oldest surviving pages of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the second century AH/8th century AD. There is also a selection of Qur’an manuscripts, including the renowned Blue Qur’an and Mushaf Al-Madinah, and a specially designed manuscript presented by Obvious, a collective of French AI researchers and artists.
Abdelrahman El-Shahed, a calligrapher and contemporary artist involved in the exhibition, said such events are important because they enhance the communication between professional Arab calligraphists and enthusiasts, who view the preservation of the art form as an important way to show pride in their religion and nations. They also help bring calligraphists together to continue to develop an ancient art, he added.
“We are glad that the Mohammed bin Salman Global Center for Arabic Calligraphy has been launched,” said El-Shahed. “It will definitely help in promoting and preserving Arabic calligraphy around the world, and giving it the appreciation it deserves.”
Saudi authorities announced in April last year that the Dar Al-Qalam Center in Madinah would be developed to become a global platform for calligraphers from all over the world and was renamed in honor of the crown prince. Arabic calligraphy in the region also receives great support from the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who last year launched the Year of Arabic Calligraphy initiative to raise awareness and interest in the art form.
‘The Arsonists’ City’ by Hala Alyan spans the world to tell a complicated tale
Updated 14 June 2021
CHICAGO: From California by way of Beirut, Lebanon, Hala Alyan introduces readers to the Nasr family in “The Arsonists’ City” — a family of five whose multi-faceted members create worlds within worlds to cope with their complicated lives. Alyan places her characters together in Beirut, where they’ve all laughed and loved and where some secrets come to flourish and others die.
Alyan’s story transitions between past and present, where both spiral around one another until they clash. Idris and Mazna convince their American children to travel to Beirut for the summer before Idris sells his father’s home, a decision no one takes lightly. Despite the fact that they are spread out across the globe, their grandfather’s home is their base, where their roots have taken to the Earth, where their memories come alive and where the façade of perfection holds no value against the past and the truth.
Life flourishes despite the civil war that raged in Lebanon during Idris and Mazna’s youth and the present Syrian conflict that now prevents Mazna from returning to her native Damascus. Their children, despite growing up in American, still hold dear their grandparents’ home, a short walk from the Corniche that was built two centuries ago. They remember the events of their childhood, the people and circumstances that shaped them into the adults they have become. And no matter how far from their roots they travel, how far from their grounded reality they venture, they always come back because they are connected to one another and to their past.
Alyan’s novel brims with life as the Nasr family’s secrets are revealed, pushing past into present. Spanning across the globe, from Palestine to Lebanon and from Syria to America, each character is housed in pockets of social and identity politics, exile, civil war, and everything in between. But Beirut means something different to everyone, and going back makes them all face their predicaments head-on. There is no more glossing over devastation and past tragedies here. They must relive their lives, where love rushes to the fore as quickly as heartbreak.
French star Omar Sy gives magical touch to season two of ‘Lupin’ on Netflix
Updated 12 June 2021
CHENNAI: The second season of Netflix’s “Lupin” is exhilarating, high on style and full of swagger. Its lead star Omar Sy, who plays protagonist Assane Diop, is a classy master of disguise and disappearance, modelled on the “gentleman burglar” Arsene Lupin, a fictional character created in 1905 by French novelist and short-story writer Maurice Leblanc. Loved to bits by international viewers — the French show’s first season entered Netflix’s Top 10 in most countries around the globe in 2021 — Lupin seems a good contemporary counter to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
Season one, which premiered in January, had all the excitement to banish pandemic lockdown blues, beginning with a daring heist in the Louvre in Paris, going on to narrate the ups and downs of a Senegalese immigrant, who dies in prison after being falsely accused of a crime he never committed.
His son, Assane, swears to clear his father’s name and take vengeance on the rich and nefarious aristocrat, Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre), responsible for the tragedy. Director Louis Leterrier and creator George Kay left the season on a nail-biting cliff-hanger centering on Assane’s son, Raoul (Etan Simon), and his ex-partner Claire (Ludivine Sagnier).
The five-episode second season, with screenplay by François Uzan, takes off from where it left off, with whirlwind chases and a touching love story between Assane and his childhood sweetheart Juliette (Clotilde Hesme) on the banks of the Seine, and his emotional bonding with Raoul.
The narrative is tightly edited and the episodes are knitted together seamlessly, taking us back and forth between Assane’s boyhood and adulthood. Mamadou Haidara, who plays Assane in his schooldays, is delightfully mischievous, and carries all the attributes of the adult “gentleman burglar.” A scene where he “borrows” an expensive violin to help a very young Juliette is moving. In fact, the one big difference between the two seasons is that the second is high on emotions, which makes it even more appealing.
Shot in Paris, the city becomes a character itself. Warmly glowing during the day and twinkling brightly at night, it has irresistible romanticism. The grand finale leaves us craving a third season, and more of the brilliant lead character so wonderfully portrayed by Sy.
Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million
Updated 12 June 2021
JEDDAH: A Saudi artist is making a name for himself in Hollywood after his paintings were selected to adorn the walls of some of the famous Los Angeles neighborhood’s most luxurious properties.
Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million.
Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an “amazing opportunity” to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company, a breakthrough that has helped to provide a shopwindow for his paintings.
And his American success story does end there: A Los Angeles-based real estate magazine has published one of his works on its front cover, and Vogue Arabia ran an article about Hamdi accompanied by a picture of another of his paintings.
His artistic talents were first spotted by his kindergarten teachers but at elementary school he said students paid more attention to football and his tutors often frowned on his drawings.
Now living in Los Angeles, Hamdi, who gained a master’s degree in law, told Arab News that he had been obsessed with fine art from an early age.
“At the time, my kindergarten peers were waiting for the physical education class, while I was counting hours for the arts class to begin. I used to save up money (to buy painting tools) from the amounts I received from my relatives on Eid occasions.”
Abstractionism slowly began to capture his interest and he started displaying his artwork on social media platforms, such as Instagram, with the hope of one day becoming a professional artist.
“I consider abstract art, with its broad scope, as an interesting art. Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it,” he said.
• At first, Hamdi felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.
• Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.
However, in late 2014, Hamdi was involved in a traffic accident that completely changed his outlook on life.
“I was locked up in memories and pains. I even failed to express my feelings in words. I became completely destroyed. I then realized that drawing was the only way to take me out of my sufferings.
“When the unpleasant event was over, colors began to mean something else to me, and I began to deal with them differently,” he added.
At first, he felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.
Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.
A collection of works of female writers of Arab heritage sets out to ‘win hearts, change minds’
A spirited new anthology of poems and stories by Arab women down the ages overturns common expectations of gender
‘We Wrote in Symbols’ celebrates the literary works of 75 female writers of Arab heritage spanning five millenia
Updated 12 June 2021
DUBAI: British-Palestinian author Selma Dabbagh hopes a new book featuring 75 stories of love and desire penned by Arab women will help pave the way for more female authors to emerge from the Middle East region.
The English-language anthology “We Wrote in Symbols,” edited by Dabbagh, was published in April this year, marking a literary first in showcasing the works of women from the region on subjects many might consider bold.
Spanning several millennia, the volume includes the works of classical poets, award-winning contemporary authors and emerging writers.
“It brings together a diverse range of voices who are writers in English, French and Arabic, coming from all of the three main monotheistic religions, as well as those that are not religious at all,” Dabbagh told Arab News.
The idea arose after Dabbagh stumbled on an anthology called “Classical Poems by Arab Women,” which contained writings from the pre-Islamic period up to the fall of Andalusia in 1492.
The collection left a lasting impression. “Some were what you would expect. There were poems lamenting the loss of a brother in battle,” Dabbagh said.
“But other women were talking about sexuality in a way that was very self-assured. Some were being a bit provocative, but others were just content with that aspect of their life. The voices were surprising, but they also felt fresh, contemporary and spirited.”
Dabbagh began to notice similar themes in the work of contemporary female authors discussing issues of love and desire — in some cases dealing with the disconnection between the two in relationships, which were portrayed with remarkable sensitivity.
As a fiction writer, Dabbagh had always found this a difficult topic to handle, partly due to self-censorship stemming from her own notions of shame.
“There is a universal insistence on associating the actions of a character with the behavior of an author, which we need to be freed from,” she said.
“To be a writer who is able to depict those delicate shifts in mood and connections between people takes an enormous amount of skill and imagination. So, the collection is basically a combination of the older, classical poets and the newer voices looking at this difficult terrain.
“A lot of them are very funny, some are quite daring and explicit, and it’s just a different way for women identified with the region to have their writing viewed — through matters of the heart and the body.”
Dabbagh said there is an expectation among English readers that most Arab fiction is slightly depressing, political or downbeat. In the words of Nathalie Handal, one of the poets featured in the anthology, “people think Arabs don’t love with a beating heart.” The book aims to challenge this misconception.
“It tries to bring that sense of emotional excitement and tenderness to a vast, diverse and varied region through the writing of women,” Dabbagh said.
Indeed, there is much to celebrate about women in Arab literature, which actually predates anything published by a female author in the English language. One of the earliest poems included in the anthology dates back almost 5,000 years.
“You have this tradition, mainly in poetry, of writing and letter writing by Arab women before women started writing in Europe,” Dabbagh said. “I really wanted to show that, because it’s not something that is associated with the Arab world in terms of having higher levels of advancement in female literacy.”
For Dabbagh, whose debut novel “Out of It” was nominated as a Guardian book of the year in 2011-12, navigating the affairs of the heart is not something that necessarily becomes easier with age.
Although she read the works of Hanan Al-Shaykh and Ahdaf Soueif avidly in her 20s, she wishes there had been more Arab women writers in her youth. “Sadly, I only read fluently in English,” she said.
“It was really radically life-changing for me to read accounts by women of a similar background. I grew up between the Gulf and Europe mainly, and I always found it such a difficult subject matter for me to find my voice.”
Reading their stories made Dabbagh more articulate about her own feelings.
“It just gives you a set of tools with which to negotiate this tricky emotional terrain,” she said. “I think (my book) might help to provide a level of self-knowledge because there are so many different characters in it that readers should be able to relate to.”
Having read the works of critically acclaimed American writers, whose brash depiction of the hook-up culture she found dulling, her interest returned to the writings of women of Arab heritage to see how their interpretations of romance, sentimentality, vulnerability and desire affected her.
In these works, she found creativity, humor and craft. “We’re always being told to see these two worlds I come from (the West/Europe and the Arab world) as almost antithetical to one another,” Dabbagh said.
“But with the language of love and looking at the Mediterranean as a kind of sea of stories, we can see how there’s been influence over time between Europe and the Arab world.
“In the 19th century, you had a lot of writers and explorers who came to the Arab world because it was a place of freer sensuality. It seemed to be less restrictive than the puritanical backgrounds these writers came from.
“Now that pattern has, to some extent, been reversed.”
During the Abbasid period, the topic was written about and seen almost as a scientific study. “You could have a book which dealt with astrology and physics as well as expounding on sensuality, because sensuality and getting that harmony right between a couple was something that was indicative of how you can have harmony in the society as a whole,” Dabbagh said.
“So, it was a way of ensuring that the community was in balance and that, to me, is such a beautiful idea. But it’s something that is rarely associated with the religion anymore.”
Nowadays, any associations between religion, women and sexuality appears to be overwhelmingly negative. “I wanted to show that range, to try to break up that stereotype,” she said.
And although one book is unlikely to change opinions overnight, Dabbagh believes women’s voices are gradually subverting traditional methods of censorship.
“The region has been engulfed with images, films and TV for the past 70 years, and most of it was state-run,” she said. “But now with Netflix and online streaming, we have a lot more content coming in and it’s hugely influential.”
Nevertheless, the depiction of Arabs and the Islamic world in Hollywood has improved little in the past century. “There is a kind of mass absorption of negative images of the region from outside, which is going to influence behavior,” Dabbagh said.
“We need to find ways of writing stories which are connected to regional history, cultures, which are exciting, dramatic, sleek and sexy. It’s just about being trained up, opting into it and starting to influence the way these stories are told.”