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.”


Recently discovered pharaonic coffin arrives at Expo Dubai 2020

Recently discovered pharaonic coffin arrives at Expo Dubai 2020
Updated 24 September 2021

Recently discovered pharaonic coffin arrives at Expo Dubai 2020

Recently discovered pharaonic coffin arrives at Expo Dubai 2020
  • The wooden coffin of ancient Egyptian priest Psamtik was discovered in the country’s Saqqara Antiquities Area
  • Earlier, the pavilion received a collection of replicas of King Tutankhamun

DUBAI: An archeological Egyptian coffin has arrived in Egypt’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai and will be displayed for the six-month period of the event, Emirates News Agency WAM reported.

The wooden coffin of ancient Egyptian priest Psamtik was discovered in the country’s Saqqara Antiquities Area, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said.

It is decorated with a floral collar and two falcon heads.

A drawing of sky goddess Nut also appears on the coffin where she spreads her wings and holds a feather in each hand as a symbol of right and justice. 

The coffin is also inscribed with offerings and speeches surrounded by two rows of gods. 

Earlier, the pavilion received a collection of replicas of King Tutankhamun, including his golden mask, sarcophagus, the special festive chair, and the golden king's throne.


Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day

Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day
Updated 23 September 2021

Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day

Google flies the flag for Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day

RIYADH: Search giant Google updated its logo with a doodle to mark Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day on Thursday.
The change featured a fluttering Saudi flag encased in a domed sky.
The mostly green design includes the company name in a slightly italicized font.
Google, the most popular search engine in the world, often changes its distinctive logo to commemorate special occasions.
Last year’s edition of the national day logo was similar in many respects, but there were minor tweaks.
The color of the flagpole went from last year’s gold to black, and the clouds now also have a more clearer outline. The typography was also different a year before, with the site name in a bolder font and without italicization.
This year Arab News is celebrating the Kingdom’s national day with Diriyah Gate Development Authority, and has produced a comprehensive deep dive into one of the most culturally significant landmarks of Saudi Arabia’s past and future.


Did she know? Lebanese diva ignites Twitter storm by posing with Israeli make up artist

A photograph of Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim apparently posing with an Israeli make-up artist in the UAE sparked a social media storm over the weekend. (Screenshot)
Updated 20 September 2021

Did she know? Lebanese diva ignites Twitter storm by posing with Israeli make up artist

A photograph of Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim apparently posing with an Israeli make-up artist in the UAE sparked a social media storm over the weekend. (Screenshot)
  • Some critics predicted the former Miss Lebanon would say she did not know he was from Israel, but others said what difference does it make if he is
  • Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel; the countries have no official ties and Lebanese citizens are forbidden from traveling there

LONDON: A photograph of Lebanese actress Nadine Njeim apparently posing with an Israeli make-up artist in the UAE sparked a social media storm over the weekend.

“Lebanese model and actress Nadine Njeim is pictured with an Israeli make-up artist in UAE. Likely his customer. Is this another case of ‘Oh, I didn’t know’!?” Twitter user Lebanon News and Updates (@LebUpdate) wrote in a message posted on Twitter on Saturday alongside the photograph.

In a subsequent Tweet, he said: “It is confirmed that she was his customer, according to his TikTok video. It is obvious that famous people do not simply choose random makeup artists without some background research on his/her work and experience.”

The messages provoked a number of shocked and angry responses on Twitter.

“Nadine Njeim they are asking for models in Tel Aviv,” a user called Mimo wrote.

Another, called Adam, simply tweeted three puking-face emojis, as others chimed in. Some critics predicted that Njeim, a former beauty queen who was crowned Miss Lebanon in 2004, would say she did not know the makeup artist was from Israel. But other people said so what if he is?

“I am so tired of this backward mentality and these people,” a Twitter user called Romy wrote. “When they’re not destroying Lebanon with their foreign allegiance and ideology they spend their time online on their iPhones stalking people to see if an Israeli breathed near them, and then bully them or get them in trouble.”

Another, 961Iceberg, wrote: “Every time you walk into a hairdresser salon or makeup artist studio, make sure you ask them for a full-blown bio including birth certificate, passports, visas issued and associations with other humans on earth.”

Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel. The countries have no official ties and Lebanese citizens are forbidden from traveling there. In March, a Lebanese social-media activist who had served 10 months of a three-year prison sentence for “collaborating” with Israel was granted bail and released after appealing the verdict.

In 1993, just three years after the end of the Lebanese Civil War, and with Israel still occupying the south of a country, a photograph of Lebanese beauty queen Ghada Turk smiling alongside 17-year-old Tamara Porat, Miss Israel, caused public outrage in Lebanon and much criticism in the local media.

In 2015, a selfie taken during a Miss Universe pageant and posted by Miss Israel that included Miss Lebanon, Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia cause a “you do not represent Lebanon” hashtag to go viral. Two years later, Miss Lebanon Amanda Hanna, a dual citizen of Sweden and Lebanon, was stripped of her title a week after winning when it emerged she had previously visited Israel using her Swedish passport.

However, under President Michel Aoun the Lebanese government has engaged in border talks with the Israelis. And in 2020, Lebanon’s prosecutor general decided not to charge fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn over a visit to Israel in 2008.

It is unknown whether Njeim, who obtained a UAE 10-year Golden Visa in May, has any another citizenship or passport, or what consequences she might face should she return to Lebanon.

The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco signed agreements with Israel last year, dubbed the Abraham Accords, to normalize relations with Israel.


California high school celebrates date links to Middle East

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
Updated 19 September 2021

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East

California high school celebrates date links to Middle East
  • Coachella Valley High School rebranded it’s Arab mascot after concerns it promoted stereotypes

CALIFORNIA: One hundred years ago Coachella Valley High School adopted the “Arab” as its school mascot after a link was established between that area of California and the Middle East.

“The Department of Agriculture sent out plant explorers all over the world and they were trying to find crops that would be successful here in the US and one of the crops they found were the dates,” said Lissette Santiago, community engagement manager for the Coachella Valley Unified School District.

“That’s how we wanted to honor everything that we had gained from the date industry and obviously that Middle Eastern community.”

But in 2013, complaints that the mascot was promoting racial stereotypes prompted a redesign.

“With the onset of 9/11 in 2001 that might have prompted many people to view the Arab community in a negative way,” she told us. “It was appropriate for us to have this discussion and we were happy that the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee approached us and we were able to have those discussions.”

A year later, they debuted the new “Mighty Arab” mascot, designed in collaboration with and approved by the Arab community, strengthening that 100 year connection between the Coachella Valley and the Middle East.

“To celebrate the Arab world and the Arab community and every year we have a date festival,” Santiago said.

The festival has been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the students and staff are looking forward to next year when they can once again proudly and respectfully wear the symbol of the Mighty Arab and celebrate the date palms they provided.


Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League

Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League
Updated 18 September 2021

Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League

Bayan Galal: First Arab president of Yale student government, Ivy League

Bayan Galal said that she won the election to become the first Arab to serve as president of Yale’s student government by addressing important issues such as health and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), not by shying away from her Arab and Muslim identity.

The 19-year-old was elected as president of Yale College Council in May while her running mate and fellow female student Zoe Hsu was elected as vice president, the first time an Arab had led the YCC in its 320-year history.

Galal pointed out that her focus on health addressed student concerns about COVID-19 and the manner in which the pandemic had impacted teaching and study procedures at the school.

During an interview on Wednesday on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, Galal noted that her campaign slogan, “Building a Healthier Yale,” had resonated with Yale students.

 

 

“It definitely was not an easy task. We basically had one week to campaign. This election took place at the end of the last academic year, so in May of 2021,” Galal added.

“In this campaign, we had a platform of building a healthier Yale, that was our campaign slogan. Within that we had five central pillars of health that we broke our platform down into. And so, it was physical health, mental health, community health, academic health, and financial health.

“So, we broke it down into these different areas of health that we wanted to focus on to show that we would take a holistic approach to health at Yale and really address the wide range of issues that students were facing.”

Election results at Yale show that Galal won 56.4 percent of the vote with Hsu not far behind. The two had previously served on the YCC, Yale’s student government, with Galal previously serving as the health and COVID-19 chair.

Galal, whose parents are Muslim immigrants from Egypt, wears a hijab and believes that the key to success is educating and informing mainstream Americans about Arab culture and concerns.

She said her Arab and Muslim identity did surface in the election but was positive and did not hinder her election, contributing to her being embraced by the majority of student voters.

And she used her Arab identity to also connect with the concerns of students of color at Yale, demonstrating that she would fight for their rights as well as the rights of all students.

 

 

“My identity is something I have not shied away from at all. And I think that because I have been so open about it, and also simultaneously willing to answer the questions that people have; you know, discuss the misconceptions that people will have and things like that.

“I think being willing to consistently have that dialogue and engage with others and just be there as an accessible person to the student body has been an important part of that,” Galal said.

Double majoring in molecular biology and global affairs, and minoring in pre-med, Galal hoped that her tenure would be marked by using her experiences as an Arab Muslim and as a student concerned about the well-being of others to impact other schools that look toward Yale for guidance.

 

 

“I think that in this role, in this institution, Yale is a critical placed institution that has the ability to impact a lot of the decisions that are made, to impact the trajectory of a lot of other schools that look to it as an example.

“I think that when you have a student body president who is now finally Arab, it allows Yale to take this direction where it cannot only impact the trajectory of Yale but also hopefully impact other schools as well,” she added.

Galal said that Yale had a small Arab student population of “a couple of hundred … definitely a small community but also a close-knit one.”

In August last year, she founded the Muslim Affinity Network serving as its director to enhance the representation of Muslims on the YCC.