Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibition explores new forms of calligraphy

Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibition explores new forms of calligraphy
The event is presented as part of "Abstraction and Calligraphy − Towards a Universal Language,” which runs until June 12. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 June 2021

Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibition explores new forms of calligraphy

Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibition explores new forms of calligraphy
  • ‘Abstraction and Calligraphy — Towards a Universal Language’ shows how technology is moving an ancient art form forwards

DUBAI: Five years ago, Michael Ang and the Palestinian calligraffiti artist Hamza Abu Ayyash created a tool for live projecting calligraphy onto urban spaces. Called the Infl3ctor, it took the act of writing on paper and projected it onto the sides of buildings, creating ‘digital calligraffiti.’

Originally created for a project organized by the Berlin-based Public Art Lab, the Infl3ctor successfully merged calligraffiti and media art. “I was brought in to help solve this problem of how to come up with something where people can write calligraphy across buildings in real time,” says Ang, a Canadian artist and engineer best known for his light objects and interactive installations. “And we came up with this idea of creating a writing table, where whatever you write in black gets projected in white. So, as you make a stroke with a pen, or you splash the page with ink, it goes straight up onto the wall.”

The Infl3ctor has since travelled the world and was at the heart of a recent activation at Louvre Abu Dhabi, where visitors’ Eid messages were projected onto the walls of the museum and shared with family and friends. According to Alia Al-Shamsi, acting manager of cultural programming at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the event — presented as part of "Abstraction and Calligraphy − Towards a Universal Language,” which runs until June 12 — represented a “different way for people to experience the art form” and to “see how calligraffiti has evolved from traditional calligraphy.”




Originally created for a project organized by the Berlin-based Public Art Lab, the Infl3ctor successfully merged calligraffiti and media art. (Supplied)

Perhaps more importantly, however, it revealed one of the many ways in which calligraphy has adapted to the modern age. Rather than remain caged by tradition, certain practitioners have sought to free calligraphy from the constraints of pen and paper. For Ang, that has meant using the Infl3ctor to create temporary spatial interventions that not only embody the beauty of calligraphy, but enable viewers to be present in the moment.

“Part of my practice is about using current technology in ways that connect us more with the present moment, with our surroundings and with each other,” says Ang, an assistant professor of interactive media at NYU Abu Dhabi. “So this process of drawing with the pen on paper is almost like a respite, or a refuge, in this super-stimulating digital realm.”

This focus on the present is of paramount importance for Ang. Although his artistic practice is tethered to the technological world, which tends to “dissociate us from ourselves and from our surroundings,” at the heart of his work is the desire to expand the possibilities of human expression and connection.




Sharing the stage with Ang at Louvre Abu Dhabi was the calligrapher, muralist and live-art performer Diaa Allam. (Supplied)

“When you’re writing characters by hand in a calligraphy style, you can’t help but create your own unique expression,” he says. “And there’s this very present idea in Chinese calligraphy that you can measure a person’s character through the expression of their calligraphy, because every part of your being gets expressed through the motion of writing. And I think that’s part of why people respond so strongly to the projected calligraphy.”

Sharing the stage with Ang at Louvre Abu Dhabi was the calligrapher, muralist and live-art performer Diaa Allam, who worked as an urban planner before becoming a full-time artist in 2017. Like Ang, he has developed his own style, using his own interpretation of Arabic letters and specializing in a calligraphic style that has a three-dimensional quality. “I think this comes from my experience as an urban planner,” explains Allam, who has been involved in live-art calligraphy for six years. “I was able to construct something that is different and has this architectural feeling.”

“When I first got into calligraphy I loved the feeling of Arabic letters,” he adds. “I loved how they were strong and flexible at the same time, and how you can manipulate them to make shapes, to make faces, to make animals, to make anything you want. The possibilities are limitless. And this is what I adapted when I started. I wanted to deliver the beauty of Arabic calligraphy to the world with my style.”




The Infl3ctor has travelled the world and was at the heart of a recent activation at Louvre Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

Interestingly, prior to the creation of the Infl3ctor, Ang had no previous experience of calligraphy. He had studied computer engineering at university in Canada before moving to the US and working for multiple startups in Silicon Valley, building software that was used by millions of people. “It was really amazing just to build things that were used by a lot of people,” he admits. “Building things that you really felt were on the edge of these big changes that were happening, in the sense of how important all of this software and networking was going to become for everyone.

“But after doing that I was, like, ‘OK, it’s fun building big things, but what else can we use the technology for? Can we use it for more human-centered applications? Can we use it in ways that don’t disconnect us from where we are right now, but actually connect us?’”

So he made the Inverse Parasol in 2005, which explored how light changes our perception of space and how we communicate with each other. It was to be the beginning of an artistic career that would utilize existing technology to create human-centered experiences.




Michael Ang created a tool for live projecting calligraphy onto urban spaces. (Supplied)

“A lot of people say I have that kind of hacker’s aesthetic, in the old-school sense of trying to understand a technology so that you can repurpose it for something clever,” Ang says. “I mean, the Infl3ctor, it’s actually super-simple, right? We’re just taking what you write and projecting it. We’re making it bigger. But everything about it is really tuned to amplifying, or enhancing, human expression through the pen.”

It is this human expression that Allam is keen to explore further, both through abstraction and an examination of his own artistic struggle. “It’s not easy to be accepted in this field (calligraphy),” he says. “They like to stick to the rules — and that was a really hard struggle for me. In the first four years, everywhere I submitted my work I was rejected. So I took the decision to stop applying anywhere and to only work on improving myself and to only use social media to reach out to the audience. That was my decision for many years and it actually paid off.”

Now he is experimenting with the abstract. “It’s more about the movement of your hand,” he says. “Using the skills you have built up over a very long time to simplify the movement and to create shapes — not necessarily letters — gives you the feeling of uniqueness. There is uniqueness because you cannot repeat the shape exactly the same again.”


US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana
The Dolce & Gabbana x Khaled collaboration. Instagram
Updated 40 min 22 sec ago

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

US-Palestinian DJ Khaled drops second collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana

DUBAI: Back in March, US-Palestinian producer DJ Khaled unveiled his first collection with Italian luxury maison Dolce & Gabbana – a Miami-inspired capsule of  beachwear and ready-to-wear unisex pieces, including tracksuits, hoodies, shorts and accessories.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

Now, the award-winning hitmaker is launching his second collaboration with the Italian fashion house just in time for summer.

Inspired by music, the wilderness and the Mediterranean, the new offering features designs for men, women, children as well as babies. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)

The collection, which is available online and in select Dolce & Gabbana stores, is punctuated with flamingo and butterfly motifs, floral and animal print and a harmonic purple, blue and yellow colorway. 

A special edition box includes DJ Khaled's latest album, where he dons D&G on the cover.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled)


London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection
Qasimi Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear. Instagram
Updated 13 June 2021

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

London Fashion Week: Qasimi celebrates Emirati heritage in Spring 2022 collection

DUBAI: Day one of London Fashion Week kicked off on June 12 with a striking digital presentation from London-based Emirati menswear label Qasimi titled “Between Ashes and Roses” – inspired by Syrian poet Adunis’s 2004 book of the same name.

Hoor Al-Qasimi, the creative director, presented the brand’s Spring 2022 ready-to-wear collection via an eight-minute runway film staged at St. Ann’s Court, a country estate in Surrey. 

Male and female models snaked down a spiral staircase and stomped through the white-washed estate wearing bright, bold colors reminiscent of the bougainvillea and magnolias growing against the backdrop.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

The collection opened with vivid pink trousers worn with a matching cape with a built-in bucket hat, which set the tone for the fringed skirts, boxy shirts with laser-cut designs, jacquard button-ups, bomber jackets and graphic T-shirts and hoodies that spelled the words “Longing” and “Belonging” in Arabic and English, that followed. 

Some of the models carried fringed bags made using the traditional Emirati craft of palm frond weaving known as safeefah.

Al-Qasimi weaved her heritage into the new offering by collaborating with the Sharjah-based  Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council – a platform that empowers women artisans and preserves the skills and rich cultural heritage of the UAE.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

She also tasked Lahore-based jeweler Zohra Rahman with creating a round, multi-functional embellishment that functioned as a brooch, a pendant and an earring in the show.

Meanwhile, tarboushas – the tassels that hang from the Emirati gutra – swung from the front pockets of tailored jackets, the bottoms of small bags and the necks of shirt dresses.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by QASIMI (@qasimi_official)

The new collection is Al-Qasimi’s fourth for the London-based brand since taking over the reins after her twin brother Khalid Al-Qasimi’s passing in 2019.

Qasimi, which was founded in 2015, focuses on crafting understated garments that reflect its multicultural origins.


Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale
Jamil is one of the judges on the HBO Max competition series. File/AFP
Updated 13 June 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

Actress Jameela Jamil champions Moroccan label in ‘Legendary’ finale

DUBAI: Jameela Jamil has a well-known penchant for Arab designers. The British-Pakistani-Indian actress and activist has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Rami Kadi and Georges Chakra, to name a few.

This week, the actress, who is known for her role as Tahani on NBC’s “The Good Life,” was spotted wearing a ballgown by Moroccan-Dutch couturier Benchellal  in the finale episode of “Legendary.”

The 35-year-old posted a series of snaps on Instagram of herself on set dressed in an extravagant royal blue dress with  long sleeves and voluminous shoulders. She paired the look with sparkling fishnet boots from Jimmy Choo.

Mo Benchellal launched his namesake couture womenswear label in 2007 and has since made a name for himself with his elegant and classic eveningwear, which has also been worn by popstar Camilla Cabello and supermodel Helena Christensen, to name a few.


Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal
British-Moroccan model Nora Attal celebrated her birthday Saturday. Getty Images
Updated 13 June 2021

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

Birthday wishes pour in for model Nora Attal

DUBAI:  Saturday marked British-Moroccan model Nora Attal’s birthday — and she certainly has a lot to celebrate. Though Attal just turned 22, she has already achieved many career milestones that most models can only dream of. 

Attal, who was born to Moroccan parents in London, was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, founder of the J.W. Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014 before she had even taken her first steps down a runway.

She would go on to become a runway fixture after making her catwalk debut in 2017. 

Based in London and signed to Viva Model Management, Attal has worked with a number of renowned designers and stylists and walked the runway for major fashion houses, including Dior, Fendi, Burberry and Valentino to name a few. 

She also strutted her stuff on a runway in the south of France for Chanel’s resort 2022 show last month.

On Instagram, birthday wishes poured in from Attal’s loved ones. Instagram

When she’s not turning heads on the catwalk, Attal can be found gracing the pages of prestigious magazines such as the American, Arab and British editions of Vogue, in addition to fronting campaigns for renowned fashion brands such as Loewe, Chanel and Alexander McQueen. 

The newly-minted 22-year-old also uses her massive platform for good, often taking to Instagram to voice her support for important social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and countering violence against the Asian community in the US and UK. 

“Happy birthday,” wrote fellow model Luna Bijl, alongside a backstage shot of her and Attal.

“Happiest birthday,” wrote model Camille Hurel. Instagram

Runway model Camille Hurel posted a throwback of Attal from 2019 and wrote: “Happiest birthday,” alongside a blue heart emoji.

Attal spent her 22nd birthday with her fiancé, cinematographer Victor Bastidas, in Paris.

The couple announced their engagement in October 2020.

Captioning a series of images of the proposal on Instagram, the model told her 48,000 followers: “Forever my life partner... @sictor.”

The proposal took place on a beach in Formentera, an island in Spain. Among the pictures the bride-to-be shared, Attal showed off her engagement ring — a round-cut solitaire.


Plans for movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
Updated 12 June 2021

Plans for movie on New Zealand mosque attacks draw criticism

Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne (L) was set to play Ardern, with New Zealander Andrew Niccol (R) writing and directing. (AP/File Photos)
  • The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques

WELLINGTON: Tentative plans for a movie that recounts the response of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to a gunman's slaughter of Muslim worshippers drew criticism in New Zealand on Friday for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.
Hollywood news outlet Deadline reported that Australian actor Rose Byrne was set to play Ardern in the movie “They Are Us,” which was being shopped by New York-based FilmNation Entertainment to international buyers.
The movie would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.
Deadline said the movie would follow Ardern's response to the attacks and how people rallied behind her message of compassion and unity, and her successful call to ban the deadliest types of semiautomatic weapons.
The title of the movie comes from the words Ardern spoke in a landmark address soon after the attacks. At the time, Ardern was praised around the world for her response.
But many in New Zealand are raising concerns about the movie plans.
Aya Al-Umari, whose older brother Hussein was killed in the attacks, wrote on Twitter simply “Yeah nah,” a New Zealand phrase meaning “No.”
Abdigani Ali, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, said the community recognized the story of the attacks needed to be told “but we would want to ensure that it’s done in an appropriate, authentic, and sensitive matter.”
Tina Ngata, an author and advocate, was more blunt, tweeting that the slaughter of Muslims should not be the backdrop for a film about "white woman strength. COME ON.”
Ardern’s office said in a brief statement that the prime minister and her government have no involvement with the movie.
Deadline reported that New Zealander Andrew Niccol would write and direct the project and that the script was developed in consultation with several members of the mosques affected by the tragedy.
Niccol said the film wasn't so much about the attacks but more the response.
“The film addresses our common humanity, which is why I think it will speak to people around the world," Niccol told Deadline. "It is an example of how we should respond when there’s an attack on our fellow human beings.”
Byrne's agents and FilmNation did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The report said the project would be filmed in New Zealand but did not say when.
Niccol is known for writing and directing “Gattaca” and writing “The Terminal" and “The Truman Show,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar.
Byrne is known for roles in “Spy” and “Bridesmaids.”