Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector

Work to upgrade the performing arts infrastructure, national theater, and Riyadh theater district will be undertaken, and funding will be provided to support local productions, the hosting of shows, and the financing of events and content. (Shutterstock)
Work to upgrade the performing arts infrastructure, national theater, and Riyadh theater district will be undertaken, and funding will be provided to support local productions, the hosting of shows, and the financing of events and content. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector

Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector
  • Authority will work to establish partnerships to create advanced theater industry that meets goals of Vision 2030

RIYADH: Saudi performing arts chiefs on Wednesday raised the curtain on an ambitious new strategy to create a thriving theater industry in the Kingdom.

The Theater and Performing Arts Authority has unveiled plans aimed at promoting Saudi talent, job opportunities, and standards of entertainment in the sector.

The authority’s chief executive officer, Sultan Al-Bazai, said: “Our main mission is to stimulate the development and growth of the theater and performing arts sector by empowering Saudi talents to build successful careers and create content that inspires audiences.”

Alongside an employee awareness campaign about the strategy, he pointed out that the authority would be working to establish partnerships in the sector to create an advanced Saudi theater industry that met the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Ministry of Culture.

The initiative, backed by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, was launched in the presence of Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, Al-Bazai, and other prominent figures.




Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez

Fayez said: “This strategy has been set, among its objectives, to provide support in different models, care for infrastructure, and societal and geographical access to each city, in addition to a comprehensive development of the sector with all its components, on top of which is the development of talents and capabilities that abound in the Kingdom.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us until we reach the establishment of a great theatrical industry that perpetuates our culture, documents our stories, expresses our concerns, our arts, and our ambitions.

“We also have a lot of challenges to overcome in providing empowerment opportunities for all fields that fall within the scope of theater and performing arts, in order to achieve the goals and outputs that everyone aspires to,” he added.

The strategy will cover all forms of performing arts including theater, dance, circus shows, stand-up comedy, street and motion performances, and opera. It will also encompass venues, content, production, and the prevalence of the culture of performing arts in the Kingdom.




Sultan Al-Bazai

The authority’s vision, according to its website, was “to create inspiring performances with exceptional talents on every stage.”

Its key aims were to enhance the quantity and diversity of content, increase the number and variety of local productions, improve access to the theater and performing arts sector, raise appreciation levels among members of the public and practitioners, and generate audience demand.

In meeting the objectives, the authority would be looking to create an effective theater space for Saudi talent, strengthen the sector’s contribution to economic growth, promote culture as a way of life, and boost levels of professionalism and creativity.

A total of 26 initiatives to develop the sector will be implemented in stages through to 2030. They will include talent development involving education, training, talent-spotting, school theater, traditional dance, cultural business incubators, theater academies, career development schemes, graduate recruitment, and sector awards.

Work to upgrade the country’s performing arts infrastructure, national theater, and Riyadh theater district will also be undertaken, and funding will be made available to help support local productions, the staging and hosting of shows, and the financing of events and content.

On modern technology, the strategy will introduce an innovation support program and multi-screen initiative. And to drive audience figures, the authority intends to subsidize ticket prices, carry out audience satisfaction surveys, promote critical reviews of theater performances, raise awareness of local and international works, and encourage community participation and cultural tourism.

Through the provision of educational and training courses, officials hope that around 4,500 graduate performers and 4,200 qualified trainees will emerge.


Jury for Saudi Arabia’s 2021 Ithra Art Prize announced

Jury for Saudi Arabia’s 2021 Ithra Art Prize announced
Winner of the 2020 Ithra Art Prize, “Rakhm” by Fahad Bin Naif. Supplied
Updated 02 August 2021

Jury for Saudi Arabia’s 2021 Ithra Art Prize announced

Jury for Saudi Arabia’s 2021 Ithra Art Prize announced

DUBAI: The jury for the 4th edition of the Ithra Art Prize has been revealed.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has announced a panel of seven international art experts as the jury for the prize.

They are Abdullah K. Al-Turki, board member of the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation; Dr. Ridha Moumni, historian of art and archaeology; Brahim Alaoui, former director of the museum of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and  Salwa Mikdadi, Director of Al-Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art (NYUAD).

They will be joined by Amal Khalaf, curator, artist and Director of Programs at Cubitt and Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries in London; Clare Davies, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Farah Abushullaih, Head of Museums and Exhibits at Ithra.

The jury are responsible for evaluating submissions for the contemporary art prize, which is open to artists from or based in the 22 Arab League countries, with the winner receiving a financial grant of up to $100,000 in commission of a singular work of art. 

Individual artists and collectives are invited to submit a proposal for the Ithra Art Prize by Aug. 13, 2021, with the winner being announced on Aug. 30, 2021.

Meanwhile, the winning piece will be unveiled at Ad-Diriyah Biennale, the Kingdom’s first biennale, scheduled to be held between Dec. 7 and March 7, 2022.

The winner will join the likes of UAE-based Saudi artist Ayman Zeidani, whose project “Meem” won the inaugural edition of the Ithra Art Prize in 2018, 2019 winner, Dania Al-Saleh and Fahad Bin Naif, who won the 2020 prize for his artwork “Rakhm.”


Model Josephine Skriver champions Dubai-based label in Hollywood

Model Josephine Skriver champions Dubai-based label in Hollywood
Model Josephine Skriver has walked the runway for a variety of high-end labels. Instagram
Updated 02 August 2021

Model Josephine Skriver champions Dubai-based label in Hollywood

Model Josephine Skriver champions Dubai-based label in Hollywood

DUBAI: Victoria’s Secret model Josephine Skriver is the latest celebrity to be spotted toting a design by Dubai-based accessories label L’Afshar.

Each of L’Afshar’s covetable box bags and clutches are meticulously handcrafted by Esmod graduate Lilian L’Afshar in her Dubai-based studio. 

The label’s handmade lucite clutches are instantly recognizable by their unique, structured designs and use of marbled resin and intricate mirror-work.

The brand’s clutches have been sported by everyone from Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid to Beyonce and Alicia Keys.

The British-born Iranian designer founded her eponymous label in 2014.

She discovered her flair for bag design accidentally while making a last-minute black and red, transparent acrylic clutch for her graduation collection while studying at Esmod.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by L'AFSHAR (@lilianafshar)

Today, her mini-bags are a constant on international red carpets.

Skriver, 28, attended the 2021 Sports Illustrated issue release celebration at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, and for the occasion wore a metallic feather-trimmed mini dress, which she paired with L’Afshar’s Elle bag in silver mirror.

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Danish model.

Shortly after the Sports Illustrated issue release event, Skriver touched down in Croatia with fellow models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio, Lais Ribiero, Romee Strijd and Taylor Hill to celebrate close friend Jasmine Tookes’ upcoming marriage with Snapchat’s Juan David Borrero.

The stylish friend group attended the future bride’s bachelorette party this week in Hvar, an idyllic island in Croatia. 

Tookes and Borrero got engaged in September 2020 and are set to get married in Borrero’s home country of Ecuador, but due to COVID-19 the exact wedding date is yet to be announced.  

Tookes is set to tie the knot in a wedding gown by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jasmine Tookes (@jastookes)

The model originally teased the news following Murad’s Fall 2021 couture show in Paris, where she was sat front row. “Ten years ago, I used to walk his couture shows and now I wear his dresses on almost every red carpet. Something even more special is coming very soon,” she wrote on Instagram.

More recently, the model revealed via Instagram that she got to “see and try on my finished wedding dress. It is beyond everything I ever imagined.” 

The Raas Balbek-born couturier simply commented with three red heart emojis.


Artist Ibrahim Ahmed explores colonialism and identity in US solo exhibition

Artist Ibrahim Ahmed explores colonialism and identity in US solo exhibition
Ard El Ewa (2015/2016). Supplied
Updated 02 August 2021

Artist Ibrahim Ahmed explores colonialism and identity in US solo exhibition

Artist Ibrahim Ahmed explores colonialism and identity in US solo exhibition

DUBAI: Two large, brightly colored textile-based sculptures hang like gigantic carpets. The only thing distinguishing them from what could be a meticulously woven rug is that various textiles are sewn together and supported by structures, like sails. These artworks by Cairo-based Ibrahim Ahmed are some of the main features in his first solo US museum show “It Will Always Come Back to You” at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The show features a thematic selection of Ahmed’s work from 2013 to 2020, produced using a variety of media, including primarily textile-based sculpture, painting and photo collage exploring issues related to migration, colonialism and the Global South — regions outside of Europe and North America that have historically been politically and culturally marginalized.

Only Dreamers Leave (2016). Supplied

Two works of art are the most expansive in the show: “Only Dreamers Leave” (2016) and “Does Anybody Leave Heaven” (2019). Embroidered onto the conglomeration of diverse textiles are gold patterns that refer to baroque and arabesque iron gates, symbols of wealth and power in Egypt. Staged in opposite areas of the exhibition, the works are in dialogue with each other while also relaying Ahmed’s missive for the exhibition: to explore the myths surrounding migration to the Global North and contemporary representations of the nation-state.

The artist himself is a product of such migration. Born in Kuwait in 1984 and of Egyptian heritage, Ahmed spent his childhood between Bahrain and Egypt, before moving to the US with his family at the age of 13. In 2014, he moved back to Cairo, where he currently lives and works in the informal working-class neighborhood of Ard El Lewa. 

Does Anybody Leave Heaven” (2019). Supplied

The first work visitors see is the multimedia “Does Anybody Leave Heaven,” located in the foyer of the museum and comprising a textile-based piece, video, sound and a series of photographs. It was inspired by Ahmed’s return from the US to Egypt in 2014. The work, in the form of an assemblage tapestry (32x10 feet), is made with textile found in Egyptian streets, such as bags, clothing and other items, which have then been printed onto the “flag” in addition to other miscellaneous elements from the US.

In the Ard El Lewa neighborhood, Ahmed lives among Egyptians who have not been able to travel outside of Egypt. “When I tell them I chose to leave the US, they always ask me: ‘Does anybody leave heaven?’” he told Arab News. “The piece looks at the US as an empire and a cultural soft power, which is reflected in the objects accumulated over a period of time in Egypt that have US flags on them.”

Displayed outside the museum is the artist’s 2016 installation “Only Dreamers Leave,” an installation made of 30 sails, first displayed in Dakar, Senegal in 2018 during the Biennale of Contemporary African Art. Incorporated into the sails are 30 flags representing countries — the 28 EU members in addition to Canada and the US. Through this work, Ahmed demonstrates how the fantasies and dreams the countries evoke lure migrants away from their communal homes to other nations. The sails are made from porous and heavy materials associated with domestic and manual labor —jobs that migrants usually obtain as soon as they arrive in their new land.

Some Parts Seem Forgotten” (2020). Supplied

The exhibition also includes a specially commissioned work for VCU titled “Nobody Knows Anything About Them” (2019). The largest of the chandelier series to date, it is also constructed from found materials. A common practice in Cairo, says Ahmed, is to store unused materials on rooftops, a habit driven by the uncertainty of the future. “People have a tendency to conserve things that would otherwise have been discarded,” he explained.

In another room, works from Ahmed’s masculinity project can be found. These include “Some Parts Seem Forgotten” (2020) and “Quickly But Carefully Cross To The Other Side” (2020), works that move from the physicality of the artist’s body to incorporate social and historical frames of reference, largely through the use of archival family photos that span 50 years. The images, the majority of which were taken by Ahmed’s father, show cars, national monuments, military parades, and museums. The photographs date from the Nasser era and map the artist’s father’s trajectory from farm boy in the Nile Delta to banker in the US, Kuwait, Bahrain, and other locations throughout the north and south of Egypt that his many business trips took him to.

Quickly But Carefully Cross To The Other Side” (2020). Supplied

“These works, like the title, aim to show how these macro-politics exist because we are all carrying these legacies with us,” he tells Arab News. “My practice has been to look at myself closely to manifest the discourses that I come across through my art. I am looking at this idea of falsified borders, past and present, and how they negate the idea of division because, in the end, everything in the world is very much interconnected.”

“Ibrahim Ahmed: It Will Always Come Back to You” runs until Nov. 28, 2021.


Art can be a tool to heal and educate, say Saudi psychologists

Saudi mental health professionals are exploring creative ways to help people with mental health issues. (Shutterstock)
Saudi mental health professionals are exploring creative ways to help people with mental health issues. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 August 2021

Art can be a tool to heal and educate, say Saudi psychologists

Saudi mental health professionals are exploring creative ways to help people with mental health issues. (Shutterstock)
  • Art therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy where practitioners use the creative art process and output to help the client learn about themselves and to heal them

JEDDAH: Saudi mental health professionals are exploring creative ways to help people with mental health issues.
Art can be a calming activity that some take on as a hobby or make a living, while it can also be part of a therapeutic approach used by mental health professionals to heal and treat those in need.
The stigma of seeking professional help has declined in the past few years in the Kingdom and psychologists, specialized in their own distinct approaches in their therapy, are finding different ways to educate the public. Many are finding that art therapy is gaining popularity.
Art therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy where practitioners use the creative art process and output to help the client learn about themselves and to heal them.

Anybody who experiences art therapy can readily feel the effect of it, even as lightly as a stress relief technique or to treat more serious mental illnesses.

Rawan Bajsair, Art therapist

Rawan Bajsair, a registered and board-certified art therapist in Jeddah, described it as a playful, non-threatening and non-invasive approach to tap into someone’s psyche.
“Art therapy is super effective. It’s a field that’s very hard to explain in words how effective it is, but I think anybody who experiences art therapy can readily feel the effect of it, even as lightly as a stress relief technique or to treat more serious mental illnesses,” she told Arab News.
She spoke of two cases she helped to treat while in the US early in her career. One of her earliest clients in art therapy was a 55-year-old woman who was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.

HIGHLIGHT

Psychologists, specialized in their own distinct approaches in their therapy, are finding different ways to educate the public. Many are finding that art therapy is gaining popularity.

“She’d been hospitalized a number of times and went through different kinds of therapy until she landed on art therapy, which she continued practicing for 12 years. She truly showed me the therapeutic power of creativity and art through her work and experience with this form of therapy,” she said, adding that the success lay in how the client felt protected while having the freedom to express herself.
One of the most significant cases she worked on was with a 19-year-old male, who chose to be called Felix, who she treated in rehab.
She said clients that come to the clinic are usually defensive due to their court mandate. “When Felix first joined my art therapy group he was like most of the clients — none of them really wanted to make art, they thought it was childish.”
After offering some tools and explaining the process of experimenting without any expectation of the product, “some people would just play around with the tools and not actually make anything out of it, and that on its own is therapeutic.”
In the case of Felix, one of the things she offered him was a rubber stamp that printed out jars.
“I just demonstrated how he could use it and I noticed week by week he would place a print on more jars and he would experiment on different kinds of paper and it was really therapeutic at the time for him because when you think about printmaking, you really put the weight of your body into it, and there’s some kind of release that comes with painting that can be really healing, especially for past traumas.”
Felix printed jars that stayed empty for weeks and then would add something little inside the jar every week using different art materials.
“As the weeks went by, I looked at his artwork and I would see him putting his materials in these jars and he’d put some of his graffiti tag names onto them,” she said.
“Towards the end he looked at me and said: ‘So this is a safe space?’ He was talking about the jars and that’s when I got the idea of a whole book chapter that I wrote (Art Therapy Practices for Resilient Youth) about how clients can find safe spaces within these jars, whether its substance use patients or those who suffered trauma, a safe space is one of the biggest and most important component of psychotherapy.”
Educating the public through art is another aspect of using art as a medium.
Shahad Al-Sonare, 27, a clinical psychologist, believes that art is a tool to relay information and get your message across. “I usually draw to express my own feelings, so I decided to express the feelings of my patients. I convey their pain through my art to educate the world on these cases. I’ll be their medium,” she told Arab News.
Over the past two years she has drawn six pieces of art that embody her patients’ experiences, and said she will use the art as a means of education.
For issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and learning disabilities, she has found that by incorporating it into her work she is able to embody her patients struggles in a way that can be understood without the need for words.
In 2020 and 2021, Al-Sonare’s experience of teaching an autistic child in a classroom full of non-autistic children motivated her to raise awareness about autism.
“The school and other teachers didn’t understand his condition; he is actually very smart. It was sad to witness that I was the only one (teacher) who knew that there is nothing wrong with the child’s learning ability.”
“I was his eyes, ears and tongue. I was trying to educate all teachers, admins and principals on such cases. I experienced his pain through this experience and when I drew the autism piece, I wrote, ‘I’m not different, I’m just unique,’” Al-Sonare said.
“I feel like the best way someone could explain psychological cases is through pictures. Just like the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ it’s more descriptive and opens the viewer’s heart to the case,’ she said.


Heidi Klum, Chrissy Teigen dazzle in Mideast gowns on Italian red carpet

Supermodel Heidi Klum opted for an ensemble by Elie Saab for a gala in Capri. (Getty Images)
Supermodel Heidi Klum opted for an ensemble by Elie Saab for a gala in Capri. (Getty Images)
Updated 01 August 2021

Heidi Klum, Chrissy Teigen dazzle in Mideast gowns on Italian red carpet

Supermodel Heidi Klum opted for an ensemble by Elie Saab for a gala in Capri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US social media star Chrissy Teigen and US-German supermodel Heidi Klum showed off gowns by Lebanon’s leading designers at the Luisaviaroma for UNICEF Gala in Italy on Saturday.

Held in Capri, celebrities from around the world dazzled on the red carpet at the glitzy event, with Teigen opting for a gown by Zuhair Murad and Klum showing off an ensemble by Elie Saab.

Teigen’s feather-fringed gown hailed from Murad’s Spring/ Summer 2021 Couture collection and featured a plunging neckline along with lashings of shimmering sequins on a blush colored background.

The collection was inspired by Lebanon’s iconic cedar tree, which is visible on the country’s flag.

“The inspiring collection celebrates the freshness of woods, featuring iridescent shades, light fabrics, and sensual textures, from tulle and silk muslin to gazar, lurex, and crêpe georgette. Outfits paint the reflection of a misty forest at the dawn of a summer day: Powdery skies, pink clouds, sandy shades of beige and gray, sheer aquatic green or deeper leaf greens, and of course, silver, lots of silver specks outlining the trunk, sap and dew of birch trees,” a statement on the luxury label’s website reads.

Teigen is a loyal fan of the Beirut-based fashion house and often looks to the designer to dress her for important events. 

Who can forget the 87th Academy Awards in 2015, when the model opted for a heavily-beaded gown that boasted a sleeved bodice and a skirt with a thigh-high split? 

Just weeks before that, Teigen attended the Golden Globe Awards ceremony wearing a blush pink dress by Zuhair Murad.

Meanwhile, supermodel Klum was equally stunning in a heavily beaded, one-shoulder Elie Saab number. The floor-grazing gown boasted a thigh-high slit, as well as a decadent bow on one shoulder and a slinky chain belt at the waist. Geometric beading across the length of the dress added sparkle, while Klum’s pared back hair and makeup let the show-stopping gown shine on the red carpet.

The gala took place on Saturday and marked high-end retailer Luisaviaroma’s third year of partnership with UNICEF, with proceeds from the fundraiser set to go to “all children in need,” according to a released statement.