Somali artist Abdiaziz Osman paints the heart of his country

Somali artist Abdiaziz Osman paints the heart of his country
His talent won him a scholarship in 1968 to study architecture at the University of Florence. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 June 2021

Somali artist Abdiaziz Osman paints the heart of his country

Somali artist Abdiaziz Osman paints the heart of his country

LONDON: Mogadishu, Florence, Tuscany, Sardinia, Minneapolis. Somali artist Abdiaziz (Aziz) Osman has called all these places home. In terms of the mastery and execution of his art it is his years spent in Italy, he says, that proved most influential, while in terms of subject matter it is his homeland of Somalia.

When he spoke to Arab News from his home in Minneapolis, a warmth and animation came into his voice when he talked about memories from his Somali childhood which he has captured often in his work.

Asked about his painting depicting an elderly couple sitting together in the early evening light, he said: “I remember how my grandparents would always move outside when the heat of the day subsided around 5 p.m. They would sit and chatter to each other in the cool of the early evening.”

Osman credits his Italian teachers at his school in Mogadishu with nurturing his love of art. His talent won him a scholarship in 1968 to study architecture at the University of Florence. He also enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, earning a second degree in 1978.




Osman lived in Italy for more than two decades, in Tuscany and Sardinia. (Supplied)

He recalled the overwhelming experience of the first time he saw the works of great artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Verrocchio.

“It was amazing for me when I first saw the Renaissance paintings,” he said. “I could not believe such works were possible.” He added that he was also inspired by the 19th-century group of artists known as the Macchiaioli.

Osman lived in Italy for more than two decades, in Tuscany and Sardinia. He found it was his paintings of Somalia that Italians were interested in, as they offered something different. Throughout his time in Italy he would travel back to Somalia every two years to visit family.

His father, Dahir Haji Osman, was one of the 13 founding members of the Somali Youth League (SYL) which played a key role in Somalia’s struggle for independence from colonial rule.




Osman credits his Italian teachers at his school in Mogadishu with nurturing his love of art. (Supplied)

He recalled how his father, who served as governor of the Galkayo region in the 1950s and later as a provincial governor of Kismayo, would take his family on month-long visits to their homeland.

“I will never forget what I saw when I was young. The people would get up very early in the morning, clean everything and gather up their livestock — sheep and camels,” he said. “I appreciated the nomadic life, although it is very difficult — not like city life. That way of life is impacted by the ongoing conflicts. But time will teach everyone.”

He also recalled wonderful moments of celebration such as Eid Al-Fitr, when hundreds of people would gather to celebrate the end of Ramadan and participate in traditional dances. The exuberance, joy and energy of these occasions are captured in his painting “Jandheer Dance.”




Osman also works with sculpture and ceramics. (Supplied)

In 1988, Osman felt the tug of his roots and decided to return to Somalia. At first, all went well and he established a successful studio overlooking the Indian Ocean in the affluent Lido area of Mogadishu. But in December 1990 that idyllic life was shattered by the vicious civil war in which he was nearly killed by gunmen who invaded his house. His father had always rejected tribalism but ancient clan feuds and prejudices came to the fore with the war, leading to many vendetta killings. With his family, Osman joined a desperate exodus and finally — after a harrowing month-long ordeal — managed to make it across the border to Kenya.

At that time his wife was living in Boston, so he made for America where he had to start again from scratch. Today he is settled in Minneapolis where the couple subsequently moved. His family is scattered — two brothers and a sister settled in London and another sister in Ottawa, Canada.

Osman, who also works with sculpture and ceramics, has put his talent to good use in Minneapolis, where he devotes a lot of his energy to educating young people about Somalia’s rich traditions and nurturing young African artists. His murals can be seen in public spaces there, and his art is on show in the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Somali Museum of Minnesota.




He also enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, earning a second degree in 1978. (Supplied)

Alongside his wonderful, lyrical depictions of Somali life are his abstract works. One, titled “Exodus,” is influenced by the terrible scenes of violence he witnessed during the war — sometimes involving children.

“It was,” he said, “the most horrific thing to paint.”

Osman wants Somali children to know that their country offers far more than such brutality. He finds when he goes into schools that some of the students become very emotional when he shows them his paintings, because they are seeing their country in a beautiful light rather than through the prism of violence and struggle.

“Now my goal is to pass my work and knowledge to the next generation of Somali youth,” he concluded.


Famed opera star Andrea Bocelli among line-up slated for Expo 2020 opening ceremony

Famed opera star Andrea Bocelli is among the line-up slated for Expo 2020 opening ceremony. (AFP)
Famed opera star Andrea Bocelli is among the line-up slated for Expo 2020 opening ceremony. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2021

Famed opera star Andrea Bocelli among line-up slated for Expo 2020 opening ceremony

Famed opera star Andrea Bocelli is among the line-up slated for Expo 2020 opening ceremony. (AFP)

DUBAI: A stellar lineup of regional talent is set to perform at Expo 2020’s Opening Ceremony on Sept. 30, organizers have announced.

Among those slated to perform are world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli; Grammy-nominated, Golden Globe-winning actress, singer and songwriter Andra Day; platinum selling British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding; famed pianist Lang Lang; and four-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo.

From the region, Saudi singing sensation Mohamed Abdo, as well as Emirati stars Ahlam Alshamsi and Hussain Al-Jassmi, will perform. Grammy-nominated Lebanese-American singer Mayssa Karaa will also hit the stage, among other talents. 

Tareq Ghosheh, Chief Event and Entertainment Officer of Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “As the global spotlight shines on the UAE, this incredible, unforgettable evening will celebrate the collaborative, creative and optimistic spirit of Expo 2020, demonstrating our commitment to hosting a mega-event that will delight the world.

“Combining some of the most sought-after names in the world of music, live events and entertainment with the awe-inspiring, world-first technologies of the iconic Al Wasl Plaza, this is the ‘big bang’ that sets the scene for 182 days of visually striking and emotionally inspiring experiences, as we invite visitors from across the planet to join the making of a new world.”

 


Middle East Film & Comic Con heads to Abu Dhabi for 2022 edition

Cosplayers attend the Middle East Film & Comic Con on April 6 , 2018, in Dubai. (AFP)
Cosplayers attend the Middle East Film & Comic Con on April 6 , 2018, in Dubai. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2021

Middle East Film & Comic Con heads to Abu Dhabi for 2022 edition

Cosplayers attend the Middle East Film & Comic Con on April 6 , 2018, in Dubai. (AFP)

DUBAI: The organizers behind the Middle East Film & Comic Con have announced that the popular event is set to take place Abu Dhabi for the first time in March 2022.

The festival, which is dedicated toward film, comic book and video game fans, will run from March 3-5 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, as opposed to its traditional location in Dubai’s World Trace Center complex.

Now in its 10th year, the event will feature workshops, a theatre experience, an Artists' Alley and the ever popular cosplay competition.

“The event will no doubt provide awesome excitement to the well-established and loyal fan base, and will prove to be a great addition to Abu Dhabi’s ever-expanding line-up of exciting events for 2022," said Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.


Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi hits the runway at London Fashion Week

The model has walked the runway for a number of international fashion houses. File/ Getty Images
The model has walked the runway for a number of international fashion houses. File/ Getty Images
Updated 19 September 2021

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi hits the runway at London Fashion Week

The model has walked the runway for a number of international fashion houses. File/ Getty Images

DUBAI: Designer-to-the-stars David Koma tapped Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi to showcase his latest collection during London Fashion Week on Friday, and the Spring/Summer 2022 line did not disappoint.

Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, Koma studied Fine Art in St. Petersburg before moving to London in 2003 to take up a place at Central Saint Martins’ College of Art and Design, graduating with an MA Fashion in April 2009.

He launched his eponymous label soon after and has gone on to reach astronomical success, having recently caught the eye of a number of celebrities — including Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, and Beyoncé — who have all shown off his creations on the red carpet.

On Friday, the designer showcased his latest ready-to-wear collection at the London Aquatics Centre, which was designed by the late architect Dame Zaha Hadid.

The lineup began with a fresh take on traditional one-piece swimsuits that soon turned into the designer’s immediately identifiable partywear, complete with cutouts galore and a strong color palette. The showcase ended with a series of ultra-glam gowns, featuring glitz, feathers and neon shades aplenty.

For her part, El-Maslouhi showed off a number of looks, including a form-fitting gown in fluorescent pink complete with thin spaghetti straps and a heavily feathered bodice. A hip-high slit finished off the daring look.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

Next up, the model showed off a black oversized hooded sweatshirt and matching leggings, both adorned with large reflective sequins.

When it came to the models’ beauty looks, Koma opted for shimmery makeup and heavily gelled locks, which made his cohort of catwalkers seem as though they had just stepped out of a swimming pool in a fitting nod to the show’s location.

“London calling! @davidkomalondon thank you for having me (and) congrats on the show,” El-Maslouhi wrote on Instagram after the show.

The model is hot off a series of runway showcases at New York Fashion Week, where she walked for the likes of Ulla Johnson, Prabal Gurung and Peter Dundas’s collaboration with online retailer Revolve.  

The breakout star has been taking the industry by storm since making her modelling debut when she was 18-years-old.

In addition to gracing the runways of storied fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Jacquemus, among others, the fashion star has also appeared in international campaigns for the likes of Off-White, Lanvin, Calvin Klein Swim and Zadig & Voltaire.

 


Australian model Miranda Kerr shows off Arab gown in Ecuador

Miranda Kerr is an Australian model and the founder of beauty brand Kora Organics. (Getty Images)
Miranda Kerr is an Australian model and the founder of beauty brand Kora Organics. (Getty Images)
Updated 18 September 2021

Australian model Miranda Kerr shows off Arab gown in Ecuador

Miranda Kerr is an Australian model and the founder of beauty brand Kora Organics. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: Australian model Miranda Kerr showed off a sleek dress by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran on Instagram on Friday, giving fans a sneak peek of the outfit she wore to celebrate model Jasmine Tookes’s wedding earlier this month.

Earlier in September, Victoria’s Secret model Tookes married Snapchat’s Juan David Borrero in his home country of Ecuador in the presence of family and friends, including co-founder and CEO of Snap Inc. Evan Spiegel and his wife, Kerr.

For the occasion, Kerr, 38, wore a silky, rouched dress by Jebran. Chosen by celebrity stylist Jessica Paster, the beige, form-fitting gown boasted a thigh-high slit and an off-the-shoulder neckline. Kerr finished off the look with glittering Jimmy Choo heels and a gem encrusted clutch. When it came to her beauty look, Kerr opted for natural makeup and loose hair, styled in beach waves.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Miranda (@mirandakerr)

And she wasn’t the only one to choose a Lebanese design. The most important dress of the evening came courtesy of Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad.

Tookes showed off a custom wedding gown by Murad that featured an illusion, lace-embroidered neckline, a fitted bodice and a voluminous skirt with a train. She paired the exquisite wedding dress with a sheer, floor-trailing veil. With its long sleeves and its high mandarin neck, the gown was equal parts chic and conservative.

The 30-year-old, who got engaged to the current Vice President of Ecuador’s son last year in Utah, first hinted at wearing a Zuhair Murad creation on her big day during the designer’s Fall 2021 couture show in Paris in July. 

In a social media post, she wrote: “Such a pleasure to be in Paris and watch my favorite designer @zuhairmuradofficial. Ten years ago, I used to walk his couture shows and now I wear his dresses on almost every red carpet. Something even more special is coming very soon.”

The couple tied the knot in the presence of family and friends-slash-bridesmaids, which included fellow Victoria’s Secret models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio and Lais Ribiero, in the Church of San Francisco in the city of Quito on Sept. 5, after putting their plans on hold due to the pandemic.

 


Causing a stir: A generational shift in Saudi relationship with coffee

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2021

Causing a stir: A generational shift in Saudi relationship with coffee

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • Specialty flavors are fueling billion-dollar cafe growth as the ancient brew gets a modern makeover

JEDDAH: Tea or Arabic coffee? For growing numbers of Saudis, the choice is more likely to be a latte, cappuccino, frappe or macchiato served in one of the many cafes that have popped up around the Kingdom in recent years.

In every region of Saudi Arabia today, coffee is replacing traditional beverages as a central part of the modern lifestyle.
Grabbing an early morning and lunchtime coffee has become a part of office workers’ daily routine, while others visit a cafe to enjoy their favorite cup while sitting and chatting.

FASTFACTS

• Amid growing demand for new cafes and restaurants, official statistics show that investment in the sector has reached SR221 billion ($58.9 billion), with growth rates of about 8 percent expected by the end of the year.

• Meanwhile, as coffee’s popularity soars in the Kingdom, the value of imports has risen to SR1.16 billion annually, or SR3.18 million per day, authorities say. Saudi Arabia imported about 80,000 tons of coffee in 2019-2020.

The global market is feeling the effects of this change in taste as well. According to Wail Olia, trainer and member of the Specialty Coffee Association, Saudi Arabia is among countries where consumers are developing a taste not only for robusta, the beans mainly used in instant coffee, but also the high-quality arabica bean.
Olia told Arab News that Saudi Arabia’s love of coffee goes back to the days of the Ottoman empire when coffee houses in Makkah were used as religious meeting places.
“Later, religious leaders thought that coffee was an intoxicating beverage, so the governor of Makkah ordered all cafes to close,” he said.
“Cafes are the fast-growing segment of the hospitality industry worldwide. Five years ago, in my city neighborhood in Jeddah, I could count the number of cafes on one hand. Now there are so many.”
Olia has studied and trained in Milan and Florence, and is now a certified instructor for the SCA, which allows him to teach young Saudis and share his insights into coffee — something he enjoys immensely.
As more Saudi women enter the private sector, some are deciding to work as baristas and waitresses in coffee shops.

Wail Olia has studied and trained in Milan and Florence, and is now a certified instructor for the SCA, which allows him to teach young Saudis and share his insights into coffee — something he enjoys immensely.

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh and is an authorized SCA trainer.
Coffee culture in the Kingdom is changing rapidly, she told Arab News. “Specialty coffee started only recently, but it is catching up surprisingly quickly. More coffee shops are opening. It’s at a high this year and is predicted to grow even more next year,” she said.
“As for me, specialty coffee is a product that follows quality standards at every stage of production.”
Al-Ali said that in Arab societies, coffee is part of an ancient cultural heritage.
“The big demand for coffee among all segments of our society is a healthy phenomenon and a reflection of what the Kingdom is witnessing in terms of development, prosperity and openness to different cultures,” she said.
Many Saudis are looking for innovative coffee flavors and new tastes to complement traditional styles. Al-Ali studied coffee-making in Canada after falling in love with the drink, then went to France to study further.
“It began as a habit, but after I returned to Saudi Arabia I decided to focus on coffee. The moment I made my first espresso, I realized that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Al-Ali said that she is happy to see many cafes become places for family gatherings, business deals, or to study and even surf the internet.
Meanwhile, the growing taste for coffee in the Kingdom is also highlighting a divide between the generations when it comes to their favorite brew.
According to tea-maker Saleh Al-Husaiki, 53, older people still view Saudi Arabia as a tea-drinking nation.

I can see that the new-style coffee shops have opened side by side across the town, and more young people go to specialty cafes. But lots of people still come to us and enjoy the old tea prepared on fire.

Saleh Al-Husaiki, Tea-maker

Al-Husaiki serves the famous Taifi tea (with mint) and normal dark tea on the street, all brewed on an open coal fire.
“I can see that the new-style coffee shops have opened side by side across the town, and more young people go to specialty cafes. But lots of people still come to us and enjoy the old tea prepared on fire,” he told Arab News.
The older generation is still loyal to traditional hot drinks such as tea, Turkish coffee or espresso, according to Al-Husaiki, who is also a government employee.
“I agree that Saudis’ attitudes to coffee has changed recently with a new generation, but for me and others who belong to the old school, things are still the same — we prefer the Saudi traditional coffee, the regular black tea and the Turkish coffee,” he said.
Mohammed bin Abdul Hakim Al-Saadi, a Saudi businessman and investor in restaurants and cafes, said that the sector has fully recovered from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, thanks to various support packages provided by the government, which mounted 150 initiatives for the private sector and its workers.
Amid growing demand for new cafes and restaurants, official statistics show that investment in the sector has reached SR221 billion ($58.9 billion), with growth rates of about 8 percent expected by the end of the year.
According to recent statistics, the Ministry of Commerce has received applications for 30,000 licenses to establish cafes in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, as coffee’s popularity soars in the Kingdom, the value of imports has risen to SR1.16 billion annually, or SR3.18 million per day, authorities say. Saudi Arabia imported about 80,000 tons of coffee in 2019-2020.