Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts interactive exhibit on environmental sustainability

Terra was first exhibited in New York City at Arcadia Earth, a next-generation art exhibition and extended reality experience designed to reignite the conversation around the most pressing environmental issues. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Terra was first exhibited in New York City at Arcadia Earth, a next-generation art exhibition and extended reality experience designed to reignite the conversation around the most pressing environmental issues. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts interactive exhibit on environmental sustainability
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Terra was first exhibited in New York City at Arcadia Earth, a next-generation art exhibition and extended reality experience designed to reignite the conversation around the most pressing environmental issues. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts interactive exhibit on environmental sustainability
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Terra parades impactful optical illusions and immersive and interactive technologies provided by META, an international experience product company. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts interactive exhibit on environmental sustainability

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts interactive exhibit on environmental sustainability
  • Terra, which means “fertile soil” in Arabic, aims to educate visitors on the perilous impact of humans on the planet and will be open until September
  • Exhibit debuted in New York City and then found its way to Ithra in Dhahran through the center’s collaboration with Arcadia Earth

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia is heading towards achieving an environmentally friendly and better future for the planet, many are inspired to promote sustainability such as the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).

The latest exhibit at the Ithra Museum, Terra, which means “fertile soil” in Arabic, aims to educate visitors on the perilous impact of humans on the planet as well as inspire conversations on the topic.

“This is not a political movement,” Farah Suhail Abushullaih, head of the Ithra Museum, told Arab News.

“It ignites curiosity and understanding for a world issue through creativity and art. It examines this relationship between humans and earth and allows visitors to reflect on their abilities to make positive impacts on the planet.”

From one’s surroundings occupied by compelling visual effects to walking through a tunnel made of mountains of plastic, the international artists of Terra take visitors on an eye-opening and immersive journey to rekindle their love for the planet.

The artists created with recycled materials and used different methods such as virtual and augmented realities.

“Through different installations and artworks, each artist brought his or her unique skills and ideas and implemented them differently to tackle these environmental challenges,” Abushullaih said.

“Some of the challenges that are presented include extensive consumption of plastic bags, the effect of climate change on planktons, the damaged coral reefs caused by overfishing, and even the challenge of water scarcity.”

Daniel Popper, a multidisciplinary artist known globally for his sculptures and public art installations, has an entrance piece that is a metaphor for guests entering the heart of nature.

“He planted a huge monument by the gate with an installation made of upcycled material. He did this to create a gate to knowledge and form an invitation to connect and understand nature,” Abushullaih said.

Another display is from Basia Goszczynks, who creates art with recycled materials she finds at the beach, on the streets, and at trash facilities. Goszczynks was behind the installation of a cave made up of 80,000 used plastic bags.

The piece is meant to incite visitors to visually experience half of a second of the world’s consumption of plastic bags.

“The idea is to create a shocking moment that empowers the visitor to adopt a new behavior with regards to dealing with single-use plastics,” Abushullaih said.

Terra parades impactful optical illusions and immersive and interactive technologies provided by META, an international experience product company, which combines intelligence, craft, and artistry with immersive technologies.

“META’s contribution is the Oxygen Oasis installation which tells the story of how oxygen is created on earth through the use of 3D projection mapping,” Abushullaih said.

Terra was first exhibited in New York City at Arcadia Earth, a next-generation art exhibition and extended reality experience designed to reignite the conversation around the most pressing environmental issues. Terra has now found its way to Ithra in Dhahran through the center’s collaboration with Arcadia Earth.

It was created by Valentino Vettori, who is an experiential artist with more than 20 years of experience dedicated to reimagining the way people interact and engage with the environment. Arcadia Earth is also the first multi-channel platform to provide an opportunity for individuals to experience the troubles facing our planet through different mediums of art and technology.

“It is a platform that allows sustainability artists to express their concerns with the public and provides a space for open-mindedness with their unique storytelling approach,” Abushullaih said.

Ithra has chosen a more practical way to promote Terra by taking it outside of the center’s building and onto the streets “because this is specifically about environmental sustainability, so we extended it outwards. Through working with our volunteer programs, we acted in different ways to practice sustainability like cleaning the streets or beaches to create positive and tangible impacts.”

A different aspect of Terra that makes it unique to other exhibits of sustainability is its holistic approach.

“It presents challenges as well as solutions through subtle suggestions, and little bits of knowledge for the visitor to take and possibly incorporate them in their daily practices to help improve the environment and reduce the harm,” Abushullaih said.

The head of the Ithra Museum added that art is a great tool to raise awareness on various issues.

“Artists, throughout history, have always shown interest in the environment in their work,” Abushullaih said.

“In the last century, a specialized approach to art has emerged to shed light on these threats. Art is a great means to provide knowledge and it is a powerful tool to reach the public and make difficult and harsh information easy to digest.”

The exhibit is open to all age groups and will run until the end of September. It accommodates both Arabic and English speakers. For more information, visit the website https://www.ithra.com


US actress Yara Shahidi to guide young filmmakers in new role with Ghetto Film School

Actress Yara Shahidi has been announced as the Ghetto Film School’s Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. (File/ Getty Images)
Actress Yara Shahidi has been announced as the Ghetto Film School’s Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 17 October 2021

US actress Yara Shahidi to guide young filmmakers in new role with Ghetto Film School

Actress Yara Shahidi has been announced as the Ghetto Film School’s Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: Actress Yara Shahidi has announced that she is joining hands with the US-based Ghetto Film School as the organization’s new international thesis advisor.

The 21-year-old star of hit TV show “Grown-ish,” who is also a student at Harvard University, will be on hand to guide students who are based in New York, Los Angeles, and London through the educational program.

During the 30-month program, students will research the cinematography and culture of a specific country and will complete a script based on their findings.

Shahidi, whose father is US-Iranian, shared the announcement via a previously recorded video message that was aired during the nonprofit’s fall benefit, which was held in Los Angeles late last week.

“When I think of the impact of Ghetto Film School, I reflect on my own career. Here I sit before you, not only as an actress but as a producer, as a director, an advocate, an entrepreneur and so much more,” she said in a pre-recorded message.

“And the reason why I know all of this is possible is precisely because of one thing, which is opportunity. The opportunities that have been given to me by people within my support network who actively believed in me, who invested in me and were ready to see me to my next step and my next evolution.

“It is surreal at the age of 21 to be able to partake in any work that is seen as helping to (make) this industry more equitable,” she said in a statement reported by People magazine. “I know the stories of our Brown and Black filmmakers are stories that are necessary on screen, and not just from an artistic standpoint, but from a point of being cultural disruptors who are guiding us to new futures.”

The star went on to explain a little bit about her role as the Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. There will be roughly 30 fellows in each location and Shahidi will be on hand for advice as they write, shoot, and edit their project.

“Being an international thesis advisor basically means that I’m helping in this process, giving my expertise where possible, being of service where possible,” she said, according to Yahoo News.

In April, Shahidi announced she is developing a new television series via her production company, 7th Sun Productions. The part-Middle Eastern star is set to executive produce and develop an on-screen adaptation of Cole Brown’s critically-acclaimed debut book “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World,” alongside her mother and business partner Keri Shahidi and Brown for ABC Signature.


Architect sheds light on Expo 2020 Dubai’s ‘monument to the living’

The monument is located at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Jubilee Park. (Supplied)
The monument is located at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Jubilee Park. (Supplied)
Updated 17 October 2021

Architect sheds light on Expo 2020 Dubai’s ‘monument to the living’

The monument is located at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Jubilee Park. (Supplied)

DUBAI: It took more than 200,000 workers and 240 million hours of combined labor to bring the vast Expo 2020 Dubai site to life.

Now, to express thanks to the workforce, a colonnade of 38 columns has been installed at the site’s Jubilee Park, with individual worker’s names carved in stone.

Reem Al-Hashimi, Expo 2020 Dubai’s director-general, had the idea for the Workers’ Monument and asked London-based architect Asif Khan to design the project.

“It’s such a powerful form of recognition, positive energy and kindness. It’s a very human statement, and a reminder that human beings are at the heart of what has been achieved,” Khan told Arab News.

The monument is located at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Jubilee Park. (Supplied)


 “In general, the people who build all these projects that transform the world and our culture are rarely thanked or, if they are, it’s in an impersonal, general way,” he said.

“What we forget when people are working on projects is that their family and friends are part of the process. They make sacrifices.”

Khan, who also designed the Expo’s massive entry portals, met many of the workers on site during the past five years.

“They are from every corner of the world, especially South Asia, and they all got on together,” he recalled.

However, detailing the tribute was no easy task, with spreadsheets that listed hundreds of names — a challenge that Khan saw as a “fascinating anthropological study.”

Duplicate names, alternative spellings, and names that ranged between one and five words were all honored in the final structure. Each circular, two-meter-high column, made of Omani limestone, is like “a book in a library,” where individual workers can find their name.

“When I first visited the site, it was desert. Through the works of these people — brick by brick, centimeter by centimeter — this site was transformed,” Khan said.

“They are like magicians who changed the state of matter.”

The celebratory Dubai tribute is believed to be the first of its kind, with similar monuments traditionally associated with solemnity and loss.

“It’s a monument to the living. In our research, we found no monument of this scale which names every worker individually,” Khan said. “I hope it’s the beginning of being thankful, globally.”

Expo may last for only six months, but the overall site and Workers’ Monument are here to stay, according to Khan, “making sure that future generations knew who made it.” 

 


World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet
Updated 16 October 2021

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet

World’s oldest ghost image found on British Museum Babylon tablet
  • Artefact, nearly 3,500 years old, never exhibited as male and female figures so faint
  • Curator: ‘It is a Guinness Book of Records object, because how could anybody have a drawing of a ghost which was older?’

LONDON: The oldest depiction of a ghost recorded in human history has been discovered at the British Museum.

The image, on an ancient Babylonian clay tablet nearly 3,500 years old — acquired in the 19th century — shows a bearded man being led to the afterlife by a woman, with his hands held out before him, tied together.

Dr. Irving Finkel, curator of the Middle East department at the museum, said the tablet — which has cuneiform text accompanying the image, and which has never been on public display — was meant to help the living remove unwanted spirits by aiding them to settle unfinished business.

The nature of the tablet, Finkel said, had been missed for years because the image of the ghosts is so faint and only visible under certain light, while it is also significantly damaged. 

“You’d probably never give it a second thought because the area where the drawings are looks like it’s got no writing,” he told The Guardian.

“But when you examine it and hold it under a lamp, those figures leap out at you across time in the most startling way. It is a Guinness Book of Records object, because how could anybody have a drawing of a ghost which was older?”


Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage

Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
Updated 16 October 2021

Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage

Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
  • Paris exhibition ranges from poignant paintings of migrants to works based on urban archaeology
  • ‘Algeria is a country that is as familiar as it is unknown,’ says curator

PARIS: “Somewhere between silence and words” revives memories of a journey to Algeria made by Florian Gaite, philosopher, art critic and curator of the exhibition taking place until Nov. 28, 2021 at the Maison des Arts Malakoff center in Paris.

The exhibition “seeks to make heard the voices and the silence that characterize Algeria so well,” Gaite told Arab News in France

“It’s a listening ear beyond the Mediterranean. Algeria is a country that is as familiar as it is unknown, and whose complexity — social, political and historical — is equivalent to the cultural diversity expressed there.”

Gaite said that he set up the project before the Hirak movement and widespread protests in Algeria in early 2019.

“That upset my vision of the Algerian scene, a country that I did not know, and about which I had prejudices and preconceived ideas from an exclusively Western reading,” he added.

 

 

“When I arrived in Algeria, I realized that the sensitive and sensory experience felt there was made of two extremes. On the one hand, it is an extremely talkative country, where multiple languages are spoken, a sort of linguistic tinkering. The same language is not spoken from one city to the next or between generations.

“The older generation speaks Amazigh, their children speak French and Arabic, and the younger generation is more oriented toward Arabic and English. This stratification of languages ​​seemed crazy to me because in Algeria, there is also a lot of silence. It is a country where people whisper, where there is modesty,” he said.

Gaite said that Algeria is a country “marked by many traumas and by a form of detention” because the same wounds are not discussed between generations.

“There are two pitfalls that I wanted to avoid: The first is placing myself as a Western critic coming to evoke the Algerian artistic scene, which I am not specialized in. The second consisted in choosing artists as simple mediators to bear witness to the Algerian artistic scene. In fact, they know their country better than I do and their testimonies are more accurate and more authentic.”

According to the exhibition’s organizer, colonization, Islamism and state authoritarianism are some of the multiple traumas of contemporary Algerian history.

“These are a series of causes, prohibitions, denials, repressions that hinder speech and often prevent it from being transcribed in the form of a story. The presence of the testimonial and documentary function in contemporary Algerian art thus answers this need to bear witness to the past as well as to the present — colonization, the war of liberation, socialism, black decade, the Bouteflika era, Hirak — and to propose rewritings, to exhume what has been erased or falsified, to give a voice to all that is forgotten,” he said.

“Somewhere between silence and words” brings together artists who were born, live or work in Algeria, including Louisa Babari, Adel Bentounsi, Walid Bouchouchi, Fatima Chafaa, Dalila Dalleas Bouzar, Mounir Gouri, Fatima Idiri, Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, Amina Menia and Sadek Rahim.

These Algerian or Franco-Algerian artists were selected by Gaite, who said that some are still poorly represented in French galleries.

“This exhibition, which includes more women than men, displays works made with various materials such as paper, charcoal or even fabric.”

While in Oran, birthplace of Gaite’s grandmother, the curator met Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, a Franco-Algerian director, who introduced him to her mother, Fatima Idiri.

Born in the Aures, in northeastern Algeria, Idiri lived in Nancy in a family that was part of the resistance networks of the National Liberation Front.

Returning to the country after its independence, she is a self-taught artist — from fashion design to painting on silk, mosaic to Berber embroidery — who is strongly influenced by impressionism and orientalism.

“Hirak’s fervor was a game-changer,” she said.

By choosing figurative drawing as an artistic identity, she strives to preserve the memory of one of the traditions of her native region, the Aures, said Gaite.

“By creating her masterpieces out of coffee grounds and acrylic, the artist pays tribute to free and liberated poets and singers who are the Azriat.”

Idiri studied colonial photography and sought to deconstruct the images in order to rediscover the spontaneity of avant-garde artists who were frowned upon, and even marginalized, during the colonial period.

The exhibition also includes works by Mounir Gouri, winner of the Friends of the IMA (Arab World Institute) Prize.

Based in France, Gouri produces moving paintings of “harraga,” or illegal immigrants, transforming their journey into a performance.

Gaite highlights a painting of a starry sky, painted with charcoal. “The message that the artist wishes to convey is that when the harraga are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in the dark night, the stars are their only source of light.”

Works by visual artist Amina Menia, who lives and works in Algeria, are also on display. Her art takes the form of an urban archaeology, focusing on places and architectural language.

Menia’s works have been shown in numerous museums, art centers and galleries, including the Pompidou Center in Paris, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Museum of African Design in Johannesburg, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseille and the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin.

Works by Sadek Rahim, a multidisciplinary artist who has lived in Syria and Jordan, and studied at the Beirut School of Fine Arts, are also being shown.

“Somewhere between silence and words” runs until Nov. 28, 2021 at the Maison des arts of Malakoff, in the Hauts-de-Seine, in Paris.

This story was originally published in French on Arab News en Français

 


Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon

Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon
Updated 16 October 2021

Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon

Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon
  • Drawing, music, illustration and masterclasses on offer as 40 artists from 14 nationalities display their work
  • ‘A country going through troubled times needs artists more than ever,’ says event’s organizer

BEIRUT: Hard-hit Lebanese might be struggling with soaring prices, food shortages and power cuts, but that did not stop the French Institute of Lebanon from pressing ahead with the country’s first comic book festival.

Forty artists representing 14 nationalities came together to show their work, some combining music and drawing. Exhibits in French, Arabic and English were displayed at 20 locations across the capital, including the Sursock Palace and Dagher Villa.

The big names in comics gave master classes to aspiring young talent. (Supplied)

Mathieu Diez, literary director at the institute and a former director of the Lyon comic book festival, said that the Beirut event had to be held “because a country that is going through troubled times needs artists more than ever.”

He added: “Lebanese artists that we reached out to have overwhelmingly responded. It is also an act of resistance.”

Diez said that the positive reaction to the four-day festival, which ended on Oct. 10, has been overwhelming.

“It was founded on a common ground between Western and Arab authors and audiences, and this merger met our greatest hopes.”

The event was held in three languages: French, Arabic and English. (Supplied)

Leading names in the comic world gave masterclasses to emerging talents. Guests included Penelope Bagieu; Charles Berberian, father of the famous “Henriette” series; Fabien Toulme; Mathieu Sapin; and Michele Standjofski, illustrator and head of the illustration section of the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.

According to Standjofski, the festival gave students the chance to meet and learn from professionals in the sector.

During the opening concert held at the Sursock Palace, Lebanese illustrator Raphaelle Macaron signed the festival poster, and also completed drawings while accompanied by the Acid Arab band, a French group that plays electro-oriental music popular in the Maghreb, Europe and the Middle East.

Macaron said that the festival offered a chance to boost people’s spirits amid the  turmoil in Lebanon.

40 artists from 14 different nationalities are exhibiting their work and experiences. (Supplied)

“I am motivated by certain projects, either because they are liberating for me or because they contribute to the country’s progress. To me, the illuminated lighthouse in the poster represents hope at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Among many subjects tackled during the festival, the themes that captured most attention were the status of women — an issue that also affects the comic world — and the Lebanese revolution.

The exhibition held in Dar El-Nimer arts center — organized by the Mu’taz and Rada Sawaf Arab Comics Initiative of the American University of Beirut, and managed by illustrator Lina Ghaibeh — allowed the public to explore the new Arab comic book scene through original boards, dozens of magazine copies and individual or collective albums.

Designers from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia were featured in the display.

A number of topics were discussed during the festival (Supplied)

“Arab comics are over a 100 years old, but today’s young illustrators relate their everyday lives,” Ghaibeh said.

“The street is at the center of their creations, because they invaded it during the Arab Spring. They first met through graffiti and social media, then started collaborating. They have revealed themselves, affirmed their identity and managed to make their voices heard.”

For Tunisian illustrator Othman Selmi, the festival offered a chance to “review the problems and challenges to be met,” while Egyptian painter Migo said that the Dar El-Nimer exhibition “allows us to know where we are and what we can reach.”

All agreed the festival was the ideal antidote to the prevailing gloom in the country.

This story was originally published in French on Arab News en Français