Lebanese illustrator Raphaelle Macaron: ‘Irony’s a big part of my life’

Lebanese illustrator Raphaelle Macaron: ‘Irony’s a big part of my life’
This image of the broken glass was the first one she made about the Beirut explosion, one month after it happened. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 16 July 2021

Lebanese illustrator Raphaelle Macaron: ‘Irony’s a big part of my life’

Lebanese illustrator Raphaelle Macaron: ‘Irony’s a big part of my life’
  • The acclaimed Lebanese illustrator discusses some of her favorite work

DUBAI: Lebanese comic-book artist and illustrator Raphaelle Macaron has become one of the most sought-after artists in the Arab diaspora. Her eye-catching work is reminiscent of the colorful, cartoonish Pop Art movement and vintage Egyptian movie posters. The Beirut-born, Paris-based artist’s inspirations range from current affairs to record sleeves of the Sixties and Seventies. Her illustrations have been commissioned by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Amnesty International and others.

Macaron’s love of illustration stretches back to her childhood and her mother’s collection of French comic books. Superhero comics and graphic novels from the US soon followed.




Macaron’s love of illustration stretches back to her childhood and her mother’s collection of French comic books. (Supplied)

“What I like about comics is mostly the fact that they unite two things I love the most — drawing and storytelling,” she told Arab News. Her work takes an often-ironic and humorous look at modern life, and champions influential Arab cultural figures. So, what does it take to create a good piece of illustration? “The term ‘illustrating’ is a precise one,” she explains. “You need to illustrate a thought, a feeling or a political message. A good illustration needs to have a message that is very efficient, very understandable, and creates empathy with the reader.”

Here, Macaron talks us through some of her favorite pieces.

‘Beirut Explosion’ (2020)

This image of the broken glass was the first one I made about the Beirut explosion, one month after it happened. L’Orient Le-Jour, the French-speaking newspaper in Lebanon, asked me to do the illustration. It was difficult, because I literally had no words and no thoughts. I felt I had no purpose and was completely confused. At the time, it was the only image I could come up with because I was not capable of having a punch line or a strong message. I just felt really broken. What was really difficult, being away from Beirut at the time, was trying to understand the gravity of the situation. What I missed the most was being in the streets and being able to have a mental map of the things that do and don’t exist anymore. In my head, it felt like everything was destroyed.

‘Anatomy of a Nightmare’ (2020)

I did this six or seven months after the explosion, after having lived with the thought of it for a longer time, which obviously comes with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was part of a project called “Micro-commissions” that was launched by the Beirut Art Center, where they asked five artists to make daily drawings of whichever cycle they were in. I was in the cycle called “I Draw The Line Here.” It’s obviously about the explosion, but I’m just realizing now that it’s not too far from the Edward Said image. It’s also about the inner violence that you can carry along with you in your normal life. I feel like this is a recurring theme in my work: How alive, in both enriching and heavy ways, the inner landscape can be.

Edward Said (2021)

This drawing was initially commissioned by a magazine three weeks before the events in Palestine began. There was an angle in the article that I found very moving, which is the feeling of always going on with your life with that violence and heaviness inside of you. As an expat I really related to that. The article talked about how Said was always conflicted between his academic life in the United States and how he wanted to have a pragmatic view on things. He wanted to talk about the Palestinian cause in terms that the American people would understand. By definition, these terms were flawed and didn’t depict the exact reality. They were depicting him as this person who was torn his whole life. I felt it was interesting to show this contrast; showing him alone with a very violent inner struggle. I regularly use colors to contrast a message and, in this case, Said being in cold, calm colors and having something very bright and intense in his head felt right.

‘Nancy Jazz Pulsations’ (2021)

This was a dream project. I’m a huge music fan and a compulsive record collector. I was asked to create the whole identity of this year’s edition of this music festival in France. It’s a series of five posters, but this is the main one. They all follow the same principle, which is basically a portrait with projections on the face. I wanted to use this opportunity to talk all about my musical references as well. Who can we see? There’s Umm Kulthum, David Bowie, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Moondog, Lauryn Hill, and Kurt Cobain, who was my teenage sweetheart. When I draw posters, typography is one of the most important parts of an illustration; I draw all the fonts that I use.

‘Visit Beirut’ (2018)

I’ve grown a bit tired of this image because it’s been seen so many times, but I wanted to include it. I made it almost four years ago as part of a personal exhibition, which had fake ads for Beirut. They were, for me, so obviously ironic. The point of the exhibition was to basically take the orientalist view of Beirut as being this ‘perfect city’ between the East and the West. It ended up being one of my best-selling prints. It resonated with a lot of people. I feel like this print really represents the tone of my work; there’s a lot of irony and humor. Irony is not just a big part of my work, it’s a big part of my life.

‘Warda’ (2020)

I was asked by Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris to create merchandise for their “Divas Arabes” exhibition. It was a dream for me because I had to make concert posters of three strong women: Umm Kulthum, Fayrouz, and Warda. I remember watching Warda’s concerts and was struck by her outfits and her record covers. She had so many crazy hairstyles. I didn’t know which one to choose. She just looked so awesome all the time. The main focus was trying to fit all her hairstyles into one composition. I had a lot of fun doing it. The typography looks like it comes from a sci-fi movie with the 3D effect.

‘Society Magazine’ (2020)

This was the first cover I did for Society Magazine. It’s close to my heart because I did it during the first lockdown. It was meant to be the first issue after lockdown in France, so it was an important moment for me and for everyone. I put a lot of thought into how I could create a single moment in a scene that captures exactly how we feel about proximity. I was scared of going out, because I didn’t know what the world would be like now. We had to wear masks at that point, which was a crazy thing back then, but now it’s very normal. It was almost cathartic to work on this. Some people thought it was a dramatic drawing. But for me, it was really funny.


Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021
Updated 06 December 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

DUBAI: E! Entertainment Television announced on Monday that Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun has been voted by the public as the Middle Eastern Social Media Star of 2021 at this year’s People’s Choice Awards.

This is the first time the awards show has dedicated a category to the Arab world. 

Maskoun is recognized by the People’s Choice Awards alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names including the entrepreneur, fashion and beauty mogul Kim Kardashian, who will receive “The Fashion Icon” award; entertainment powerhouse Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who will be honored with “The People’s Champion” award, and Academy Award-winning actress, director and producer Halle Berry who will take home “The People’s Icon” award. 

On receiving his award, the social media star said in a released statement: “Throughout my life, all external factors, especially during my period of asylum, made me feel that I didn’t have much worth and that I was inferior to others. I think that this award is proof that with passion and dedication, there is nothing that can stop you from dreaming.”

The 23-year-old social media star and architecture graduate was born in Aleppo, Syria, and rose to fame when his comedic videos and sketches began to go viral on the internet. 

He is best known for playing the character of “Umm Suzan,” a persona that he created. 

From being a Syrian refugee in Turkey and France, to now becoming one of the most famous social media influencers in the Arab world, Maskoun has reached over three and half million followers on Instagram and almost four million subscribers on YouTube in just seven years. 



The other nominees in the Middle Eastern Social Media Star of 2021 category included Kuwaiti style icon and fashion influencer Ascia, Saudi Arabian fashion and style influencer Fozaza, Lebanese fashion guru and lifestyle influencer Karen Wazen; Emirati storyteller Khalid Al-Ameri, Egyptian Instagram sensation and beauty influencer Logina Salah, Iraqi YouTube sensation Noor Stars and Bahraini filmmaker Omar Farooq.

The 2021 People’s Choice Awards will be broadcast on Dec. 8, starting with 2021 People’s Choice Awards: Live From E! at 3:00 a.m. and the ceremony at 5:00 a.m. (Saudi time). 

The red carpet and ceremony will air again later that same day at 3:30 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. 


Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival

Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival
Updated 06 December 2021

Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival

Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival

DUBAI: Mexican director Joaquin del Paso’s film “The Hole in the Fence” won The Golden Pyramid Award for Best Film at the 43rd edition of the Cairo Film Festival on Sunday.  

The movie, which premiered in at the Venice Film Festival, takes place at a secluded exclusive summer camp in the Mexican countryside. It tells the story of some boys from a prestigious private school who receive physical, moral and religious training to turn them into tomorrow’s elite. 

The discovery of a hole in the perimeter fence triggers a chain of increasingly disturbing events.

The film is Del Paso’s second work after “Panamerican Machinery,” which made headlines after its release in 2016.

The Best Actress Award went to a German-born actress Swamy Rotolo for her performance in the Italian-language drama  “A Chiara,” directed by Jonas Carpignano.

The event, which took place at the Cairo Opera House, also honored Egyptian star Mohamed Mamdouh with the Best Actor Award for his role in the Nadine Khan- directed film “Abu Saddam” that premiered at the festival. 

The event awarded a number of renowned filmmakers, including Egyptian actors Nelly, Karim Abdel-Aziz and Indian film composer A.R. Rahman.

The festival, which took place from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, screened over 111 films from 63 countries.


Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli
Updated 06 December 2021

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

DUBAI: Sotheby’s Dubai is set to exhibit the renowned Italian renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli’s artwork “The Man of Sorrows” from Dec. 12-14.  

It will be on view to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. before it returns to New York for Sotheby’s annual Masters Week sales series in January 2022, where it will be offered with an estimate in excess of $40 million.

Executed in the late 15th/early 16th century, the painting is one of the last masterpieces remaining in private hands by Botticelli. 

The artwork puts a spotlight on the artist’s spirituality, which greatly influenced his later period of work and life.

Sandro Botticelli, “The Man of Sorrows.” (Supplied)

“The Man of Sorrows” was first recorded in the collection of Adelaide Kemble Sartoris (1814-1879), a famed English opera singer, and descended in the family to her great granddaughter, who sold it at auction in 1963 for $28,000. 

Since then, it has remained in the same private collection, unseen until its inclusion in the major exhibition devoted to the Florentine master at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt in 2009 to 2010.

The work came to auction following Sotheby’s sale of Botticelli’s “Young Man Holding a Roundel” in January 2021, which was also exhibited in Dubai. 

The painting sold for $92.2 million – making it one of the most valuable portraits of any era ever sold and one of the most valuable old master paintings ever sold at auction. 

Despite the landmark sale earlier this year, works by Botticelli – from any period – remain exceedingly rare at auction. His late works in particular very seldom appear on the market, with only three other works from this period (post 1492) known to be in private hands.


Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 
Updated 06 December 2021

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

DUBAI: Models Shanina Shaik and Sara Sampaio touched down in Jeddah just in time for the winter festivities — and they made sure to treat their combined 10 million Instagram followers to glimpses of the Kingdom. 

Shaik, who is of Saudi-Lithuanian-Pakistani-Australian decent, took to Instagram Stories to share snippets of her trip, which included spending time at the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 

“Off to the races,” she captioned a photo on her feed, in which she can be seen posing in front of a teal-colored Toyota FJ Cruiser. 

She attended the races as a guest of the Ministry of Sport, according to a pass she showed off on Instagram, and went on to share snaps of the crowded stands at the adrenaline-fueled event. 

The model also shared a short clip featuring Portuguese Victoria’s Secret star Sampaio, who made a cheeky appearance in Shaik’s video.

Earlier in the day, Sampaio shared her own clip alongside Red Sea International Film Festival Chairman Mohammed Al-Turki, who was no doubt gearing up for Jeddah’s inaugural movie festival that kicked off on Monday night. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sara Sampaio (@sarasampaio)

For her part, Shaik seems to be in the middle of a jet-setting period, having just informed her followers on Instagram that she was heading back to London, from her home Los Angeles, for the holiday season. 

The UK trip came just a couple of days after the model celebrated Thanksgiving in the US with her loved ones, including her partner, record label owner Matthew Adesuyan.

According to Shaik, her trip across the Atlantic will not be a brief one. 

“I won’t be back for a long time,” she captioned a picture of her suitcase on Instagram Stories, adding “I didn’t pack light.”

She also shared a snap of her two pet dogs, writing: “So sad! I don’t want to leave my boys.”

The former Victoria’s Secret model told her 2.5 million Instagram followers that it has been a while since she took a long flight.

“Ten-hour flight wow, it’s been a while since I’ve flown that long!” she wrote.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sara Sampaio (@sarasampaio)

Her most recent trips include going to Miami to celebrate the Michael Kors x 007 collection in October and to Ecuador to serve as a bridesmaid for her friend and fellow model Jasmine Tookes’s wedding in September. 

And now the model can add Saudi Arabia to her packed winter itinerary.


‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society
Updated 06 December 2021

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

CHICAGO: Shortlisted for the 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction is the novel “All the Women Inside Me” by award-winning novelist and journalist Jana ElHassan. The story is about the complex life of a woman and how she copes with her family, society, and the unhappiness that plagues her. Translated into English by Michelle Hartman, ElHassan’s novel is an intimate look at the many things that seem to be out of the young woman’s control and how she navigates a path to help her survive.

Sahar is 30 years old and lives in Tripoli, Lebanon. Her story does not have a linear timeline. Instead, it is told in vignettes of memories: of her leftist father who rejects love, religion, and relationships for the sake of keeping his political persona alive; of her mother who yearns for a love that always seems too distant for her to grasp; of her husband Sami whose love she must now escape from; and of Hala, a friend whose misery matches hers but who gives her the strength to go on.

Admitting as much, Sahar observes her life just like her readers. She is disconnected from reality, which is too harsh and loveless. She believes that those who submit to reality are the ones who are caged and that she is free in her imagination to love and be loved. Although she grows up in a large house, everything has always been closed-off and separated. Each room has always been meticulously kept, not to be lived in but to show a certain decorum, as ElHassan describes: “The place was like a gun with a silencer; there was always continuous pressure on the trigger. Shots were fired and penetrated deep.”

ElHassan seamlessly weaves Sahar’s story into the city of Tripoli and its society. Patriarchy runs deep in the world of her character and so ElHassan’s story is of a woman trying to understand her position in the world, to see where and if she belongs. She explores how society reacts to this woman and pushes to the forefront the choices people have in life. Some live according to their principles, some choose joy, some choose to be miserable and subservient and scoff at those who choose independence. As for Sahar, her choice is to escape.