Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine

Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine
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Inspired by her grandmother’s earliest memories of her house in Jerusalem when she was a child, Dalya Moumina created a vivid oil painting of the Dome of the Rock within Al-Aqsa Mosque and called it ‘Rise Again.’ (Social media)
Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine
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Updated 07 June 2021

Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine

Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine
  • Using colors to tell the story of Palestinians and their unending fight for survival

JEDDAH: People around the world are using art to talk about the latest events in East Jerusalem and Gaza, with artists using their creativity to express solidarity with the oppressed and stand against injustice.

These conversations are taking place across borders, language and cultures, and artists are launching individual or collective initiatives to keep this dialogue going.

Madinah-based Lujain Ibrahim (@llujaiin) is an up-and-coming artist who is experimenting with embroidery, stitching together vivid scenes from the past few weeks.

One of her pieces depicts Nabil al-Kurd, a 70-year-old Jerusalem resident. He is standing by graffiti on the wall of his home that reads “We will not leave” in Arabic, a statement of his refusal to vacate his home in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah district.

“I'd rather feel an emotion than speak about something as difficult as what's happening today,” Ibrahim told Arab News. “In my opinion, this has a longer-lasting effect. When I look at my work, I revive a feeling, and it's a deep one that is felt on a deeper level every time and, once I share that post, I'd like others to look at it in the same light and feel rather than speak.”

This year’s anniversary of the Palestinian Naksa comes as families like Al-Kurd’s live under the threat of imminent eviction by an Israeli court in favor of right-wing settlers.

Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem after its victory in the Six-Day War of June 1967 and formally, though illegally, annexed it in 1980. Since then, subsequent decisions by Israeli courts have paved the way for the army and police to evict Palestinian families from their homes, regardless of international condemnation.

Artist Nasser Almulhim (@nasajm) wrote a love letter for Palestine and its people that features watermelons, which have been a symbol of Palestinian resistance since 1967 when Israel prohibited the display of the Palestinian flag and its colors in the West Bank and Gaza.

I’d rather feel an emotion than speak about something as difficult as what’s happening today.

Lujain Ibrahim

Watermelons, like the Palestinian flag, are red, black, white and green. Although there are different versions of the story behind the watermelon as a symbol, Israeli forces see any manifestation of Palestinian nationalism in occupied territories as a threat. In Sheikh Jarrah, graffiti was erased, balloons pierced, and flags were removed.

While Almulhim did not need to overcome the restrictions imposed by Israeli forces, he still needed to trick the Instagram algorithms that have been criticized for censoring pro-Palestinian content.

With the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and the Palestine Liberation Organization being recognized as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, Palestinian flags showed up again. But the watermelon remains a symbol of resistance and has been revived across social media.

With hundreds of images coming out of Palestine, it is hard to see what is hidden between alleyways and behind closed doors. Children peeking through the laundry hanging from balconies, women cooking in kitchens, and men pushing vegetable carts on the street while navigating their way through the rubble of a bombed building.

Images of violence are splashed across all visual spheres. Still, it is hard to understand and imagine what it is like to live in a land so isolated, so disconnected from the world.

To show such true and on-the-ground images, Saudi photographer Iman Al-Dabbagh (@photosbyiman) took over the @womenphotograph Instagram account.

Jeddah-based Al-Dabbagh curated a virtual exhibition that focused on images from female Palestinian photographers.

Works by Samar Abu Elouf, Fatima Shbair, Rehaf Bataniji, Samar Hazboun, Rula Halawani, Lara Abu Ramadan, Kholood Eid and Eman Mohammed are able to show the true nature of the land as seen from the eye of a Palestinian.

“The Palestinian voice isn’t really heard by the people that should hear it," Al-Dabbagh told Arab News. “We (in the region) see the matter differently, and I felt the way I could support it is through my community, photographers.”

Al-Dabbagh wanted the audience to sense a human connection and to perhaps change their mind once they realized that Palestinians were ordinary people like them, with normal daily activities, dreams, responsibilities, pains, and laughs.

“Showing images that are different from the typical images that we see from Palestine will get people to want to know who the people of the land are. When you see images of art, music and culture, people from the West identify with it more. I took over this project because I wanted to support the Palestinian women photographers, who are aplenty, show their work to the world and amplify their voice.”

Artist Dalya Moumina (@design.by.dalya) is a granddaughter of a Palestinian refugee. Her grandmother was one of the thousands who were expelled from their home during the 1948 Nakba, and was forced to flee to Jeddah.

I tried to convey my voice as an Arab artist who believes that this is a just cause and is aware of its existence.

Fatimah Al-Nemer

Inspired by her grandmother’s earliest memories of her house in Jerusalem when she was a child, Moumina created a vivid oil painting of the Dome of the Rock within Al-Aqsa Mosque and called it “Rise Again” to depict her grandmother’s childhood view in Palestine.

Moumina has put her painting up for sale in an online auction to raise money for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund to help families in need. It is also a dedication to her grandmother and her homeland.

Saudi artist, sculptor and photographer Dia Aziz Dia (@diaaziz) shared his work with his fans on Instagram with the caption “Israeli Barbarism,” which he created during different periods of the Palestinian struggle.

His work is meant to be received as powerful and self-explanatory. They express deep pain and grief, but also determination and resilience.

“Once the artist has the skill to express his own imagination, and as long as he is aware of the events that affect his own life and the lives of his local and regional community, then I think that he must share his opinions and views, and express his feelings toward what is happening,” Dia told Arab News. “The artist holds an influential means of expression. It is one of the most powerful means of expression.”




Dia Aziz’s artworks express deep pain and grief, but also determination and resilience. (Social media)

There can be no conversation about Palestine without mention of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Saudi artist Taghreed Al-Bagshi (@tagreedbagshi) created a piece of art to express his solidarity and captioned it with lines from Darwish’s poetry: “We have on this earth what makes life worth living, on this earth stands the mistress of the earth, mother of beginnings, mother of endings, known as Palestine, and became Palestine.”

Al-Bagshi said the work was driven by the overwhelming emotions she experienced while watching the news and her heartfelt wishes for peace and love to Palestinian children.  

“I am a peace advocate myself,” Al-Bagshi told Arab News. “Seeing children and families living under threat of losing their homes, hope, lives and their moments of peace at any given second gives me great distress. Ordinary children do not understand what sadness as a word means, but Palestinian children have experienced it at a very young age and are growing up with it. I painted life in the mother, peace in the white pigeons, hope in the open sky, and the call for the stolen childhood to be returned back in children's eyes.”

Darwish also inspired the artwork of Fatimah Al-Nemer (@artistfatimahalnemer). She drew on his poem “Put it on record - I am an Arab” to reflect the resilience and pride of the Arab and the Palestinian living under occupation.

“I tried to convey my voice as an Arab artist who believes that this is a just cause and is aware of its existence,” she told Arab News. “As artists we support Palestinians with our colors and paintings. I believe that an artist without a purpose and a call is not a true artist. Art is an honest practice above all. It has to be honest to speak to the inner hearts of others.”


Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”


UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles
Updated 28 July 2021

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles
  • Sitting alongside Charles, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to control his umbrella at an official engagement on Wednesday as it was blown inside-out by the wind, to the amusement of heir to the throne Prince Charles.
Sitting alongside Charles, the son of Queen Elizabeth, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella, then offered it to interior minister Priti Patel before blustery conditions turned the umbrella inside-out, prompting chuckling among the three of them.
Johnson was in central England attending the unveiling of a memorial to police officers who have died in the line of duty.


Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
Updated 28 July 2021

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
  • ERT television ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris following comments he made
  • He said ‘their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball’

ATHENS: A sports commentator in Greece who made an on-air remark about a South Korean athlete at the Tokyo Olympics that the station called racist has been fired, the country’s state-run broadcaster said Tuesday.
ERT television said it had ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris as a guest commentator following comments he made after Jeoung Young-sik beat Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in men’s table tennis.
Asked about the skill of South Korean table tennis players, Karmiris said “their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.”
Several hours later, ERT posted a statement on its website.
“Racist comments have no place on public television,” ERT said in the statement. “The collaboration between ERT and Dimosthenis Karmiris was terminated today, immediately after the morning show.”
Jeoung beat Gionis 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 14-12.


Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE
Updated 26 July 2021

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE
  • Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty

DUBAI: Until a few months ago, 32-year-old Michelle Chaaya was a human resources professional at a multinational firm in Lebanon. Now she works as a bartender in Dubai, sending cash to her family back home where a financial crisis has left many destitute.
The United Arab Emirates has long been a destination for Lebanese businesses and professionals, propelled by instability in their tiny country.
Those who like Chaaya came to the UAE in the past year are leaving behind a Lebanon that was already in dire straits before a huge chemical blast tore through Beirut in August, exacerbating a financial meltdown that has seen the currency collapse and jobs vanish.
“After the explosion we felt like we were hopeless. So the first opportunity to travel outside Lebanon, I took it,” Chaaya said.
Fadi Iskanderani, one of Lebanon’s few paediatric surgeons who this month moved to Dubai, said the plummeting currency meant his wages had fallen by around 95 percent for the same workload.
Having trained overseas, he moved back to help rebuild his country after years of civil war. The decision to leave was heart-wrenching.
Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty, locked depositors out of bank accounts and worsened shortages of basic goods.
The country’s prized education and medical sectors have seen talent leave in droves: around 1,200 doctors are estimated to have left Lebanon.
Psychiatrist Joseph Khoury, who moved to Dubai this year with his family, said Lebanese doctors are filling entire departments at hospitals in the Gulf state.
“The pace of doctors coming from Lebanon is astonishing, ” Khoury said.
The UAE is stepping up efforts to attract and retain skilled workers as competition for talent heats up in the Gulf Arab region where countries are moving to diversify economies away from oil revenues.
The UAE, where visas for non-citizens are typically tied to employment, is offering certain investors and skilled professionals new long-term 5- or 10-year renewable residency visas — and even potential citizenship.
Abed Mahfouz, a Lebanese bridal couture designer, said he had been told he could apply for the so-called ‘golden visa’.
After the Beirut blast destroyed his business, Mahfouz re-opened this month in a luxury mall in Dubai, a tourism and trade hub that attracts the high-end customers he caters to.
“Dubai has taken the place of Beirut. What I have seen here (this mall) for the past week or 10 days is what I used to see in Lebanon 4-5 years ago: Customers, people shopping,” he said.
But unlike Lebanon’s professional elite, many younger people are struggling to land jobs in the UAE.
Soha, 28, came to Dubai to look for work after the bookshop cafe where she was employed in Beirut was damaged in the port explosion.
“You come from this tiny pool in Lebanon, so my CV looks like nothing, even though I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot,” said Soha, who declined to give her surname. She is rallying herself for more jobseeking in Dubai, a city that could give her the sense of safety she longs for.
“I just wanted to be sitting in a place where I have that peace of mind that something isn’t going to blow up at any minute.”


As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Updated 26 July 2021

As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
  • Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized
  • Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations

LONDON: Empty supermarket shelves, hours-long queues for gasoline, and resorting to sleeping on the balcony to endure no electricity for fans or air-conditioning in the summer - such has become the routine for the everyday Lebanese.

“These scenes of humiliation, people should not bear,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last month, waving his finger as he lambasted the long fuel lines in recent weeks.

“Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people’s voices and look with pain at the cars queueing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication,” Nasrallah said as he urged his supporters to be patient and to sacrifice.

Indeed, Lebanese people of all backgrounds should not have to bear with the consequences of years of government corruption and a financial meltdown - and yet, it appears that Nasrallah’s former representatives in government, nor his party allies’ current parliamentarians do not fall into that category.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan and former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili both walked their elegantly-dressed daughters through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week - not two weeks after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down from attempting to form a government after 10 months.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized, prompting Sahili to issue an apology online - claiming that it had not been on purpose.

“Hezbollah is proving yet again how aloof it is to the suffering of Lebanese people. This video of the lavish wedding of their MP Nawar Sahili's daughter, going viral in #Lebanon. No empathy whatsoever,” Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center Research Fellow Mohanad Hage Ali tweeted.

 

 

The photos and videos were promoted across the well-followed Instagram page “Thawramap” - a page created in the heat of the October 17 nationwide protests - that has become an online watchdog targeting politicians and their lifestyles.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

“It shows once more that the political establishment is disconnected from the people. Nawwar Sahili posted an apology to the party’s partisans on Twitter, as if he needed the backlash to understand the weight of its actions,” one of the individuals behind the page told Arab News, speaking anonymously due to fear of repercussions for the critical content posted.

Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations; showcasing an extreme contrast between the everyday lives of politicians and citizens.

A family in Lebanon sleeps on the balcony to cool down in the summer due to lack of electricity for fans or air conditioning. (Facebook/Zakaria Jaber)

Earlier this year, photos of the country’s political leaders wearing luxury watches worth thousands of dollars did the rounds on Twitter while the Lebanese pound’s value deteriorated heavily against the US dollar.

At the time of writing, $1 is equivalent to 22,500 Lebanese pounds (LBP) compared to 1 USD to 1,500 LBP in 2019.