Meet Ghizlane Agzenaï, the Moroccan artist famed for her colorful ‘totems’

Meet Ghizlane Agzenaï, the Moroccan artist famed for her colorful ‘totems’
Portrait of Ghizlane Agzenaï by Lamia Lahbadi. Supplied
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Updated 29 July 2021

Meet Ghizlane Agzenaï, the Moroccan artist famed for her colorful ‘totems’

Meet Ghizlane Agzenaï, the Moroccan artist famed for her colorful ‘totems’

CASABLANCA: Born in Tangier in 1988, Ghizlane Agzenaï is a visual and street artist famed for her colourful and monumental ‘totems.’ She lives and works in Casablanca but also travels the world to create her brightly coloured art. 

Her geometrically-shaped pieces draw new perspectives along abstract lines. She is a self-taught artist whose totems are inspired by an inquisitive and generous spirit and available as paintings, paper collages and puzzles. 

Agzenaï uses a unique assembly process for her totems. Spray-painted, laser-cut and carefully sanded, they are then shaped by a cabinetmaker. Her works include murals and paintings in numerous urban art festivals and exhibitions — in Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, Casablanca, Rabat, and beyond. 




Her works include murals and paintings in numerous urban art festivals and exhibitions. Supplied

In recent years, she has brightened up the Vigo Ciudad de Color wall in Spain, the US Barcelona street-art festival, the Mural Harbor in Linz, Austria, and the famed Oberkampf wall in Paris. During Rabat’s Jidar festival in 2019, one could admire her colorful geometric shapes on the walls of the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Q: How would you define yourself as an artist?

A: I am more of an urban and contemporary artist. My passion for urban art has naturally dragged me to the streets. Then, gallery work came to gradually complete my urban interventions. Today, I wander between these two. Both are extremely enriching for me.

Tell us more about your passion for colors. 

Colors have always been at the core of my work. They invigorate my art. I never stick to one color in my totems. I also like to use a wide range of colors for each artwork to create harmony and give positive energy.




The artist travels the world to create her brightly coloured totems. Supplied

Why do you call your works ‘totems’ and how are they produced?

My artworks are all called “Totem …” because the word can be defined as an object that represents a kind spirit. For me, the word totem was in perfect harmony with my vision and what I wanted to express through my art. So I use it to reinforce my message. A totem can take form through hand-drawing or a paper collage. Then I transfer one or the other to my computer to be able to pick a color palette and play with shapes. As soon as I’m satisfied with the result, I choose the totem support: wood, canvas, wall or plexiglass. 

Do the titles of your works have any great meaning for you? 

The majority of my works have titles, but they don’t necessarily give any indication as to the nature of the artwork. At first, I would use numbers. Then I started using the names of stars and planets, because I’m particularly fond of science-fiction. And sometimes I just use the name of the city where the totem was created. 




Her work has been displayed both at the 193 Gallery in Paris and the galerie 38 in Casablanca. Supplied

Your work has attracted international attention and has recently been displayed both at the 193 Gallery in Paris and the galerie 38 in Casablanca. How did your collaboration with the 193 Gallery come about?

They contacted me in early 2021 and asked me to join “Colors of Abstraction 2,” a collective exhibition. Fouzia Marouf, the curator, invited me, and I immediately found the gallery’s vision extremely interesting. What we have in common is curiosity, but also openness to the world. After some discussion, I agreed to be part of the exhibition along with Ivorian sculptor and designer Jean Servais Somian and visual artist Valentina Canseco.

Which painters and which art forms have most inspired you?

I am deeply inspired by (minimalist, abstract US painter) Frank Stella and (op-art pioneer) Victor Vasarely for their unique aesthetics, and by (contemporary Argentine-Spanish artist) Felipe Pantone for his vision and energy. (Environmental art luminary) Christo is also a great source of inspiration with his monumental and poetic installations. Last but not least, I draw inspiration from futurism, the Bauhaus movement and brutalism.


What We Are Playing Today: Hawajeer

What We Are Playing Today: Hawajeer
Updated 17 September 2021

What We Are Playing Today: Hawajeer

What We Are Playing Today: Hawajeer

If you enjoy clever and fun ways of learning about history and ancient cultures, check out Hawajeer, an educational card game that aims to teach people about the Thamodic alphabet used by residents of the Arabian Peninsula in ancient times.
It was created by Saudi graphic designer Rand Al-Dawood as her final graduation project at Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh.
Inspired by the ancient symbols and script used by Thamodic tribes, examples of which can be found carved on rocks in the mountains of AlUla, Hawajeer includes 24 interactive cards that reveal the Arabic and English translations of the 24 letters of the Thamodic alphabet.
Users simply scan the QR codes on the cards using their smart phones, and augmented-reality technology is used to display the translations and meanings of the ancient symbols on the screen in the form of interactive 3D models.
Hawajeer, which is suitable for users in the 16+ age group, would make a great gift or a souvenir for tourists, and playing with them is sure to be a fun family activity. Visit hawajeer.wixsite.com/hawajeer to find more about the cards.


Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis

Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis
Updated 16 September 2021

Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis

Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis
  • Reopening of Langkawi part of domestic tourism bubble strategy to restore Malaysia’s reeling visitor sector
  • Only fully vaccinated domestic travelers allowed to visit island resort as 30,000 tourists expected in next 2 weeks

KUALA LUMPUR:  The Malaysian holiday resort of Langkawi on Thursday welcomed its first visitors in months as part of a government pilot project to revive the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic-ravaged tourism sector.

Langkawi has been reopened as a domestic tourism bubble in the face of Malaysia’s ongoing battle against the virus.

The government strategy is aimed at giving a much-needed shot in the arm to the hospitality and tourism industry — one of the top contributors to the Malaysian economy — after months of local travel curbs and if successful it could lead to other holiday destinations following suit.

Tight restrictions have been put in place and only fully vaccinated domestic tourists will be allowed to visit the island resort off the country’s northwestern coast.

Malaysia has so far recorded more than 2 million COVID-19 cases among its population of 32 million — one the of highest per capita infection rates in Asia — and new daily case figures remain high at around 20,000.

The country’s director general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told Arab News the Langkawi Travel Bubble Task Force had divided the island into three zones to monitor developments. “All preparations have been made and we hope for the best,” he said.

A cabin of a cable car is seen on its way up to Sky Bridge in Langkawi, Malaysia on Sept. 16, 2021, as it reopens to domestic tourists. (REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

Local officials said they were ready to receive more than 30,000 tourists in Langkawi over the next two weeks.

Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, chief executive officer of the Langkawi Development Authority, said: “We have put in proper procedures so that there is no spread of the virus.

“Passengers will be screened at entry points. If they show any symptoms, they must isolate, and necessary steps will be taken. We have thought of all the scenarios.”

Authorities are banking on the full cooperation of visitors as the project’s success could be key to Malaysia’s return to normal.

Tourism Langkawi chairman, Pishol Ishak, said: “Everybody has a role to play. If everybody works together hand-in-hand, this measure will be very successful and can be replicated in other parts of Malaysia.”

For Langkawi business owners and travelers flying to the resort, famed for its white sandy beaches, the reopening represents a big first step toward a return to normality.

Sheba Gumis, a 33-year-old tourist from Kuala Lumpur, told Arab News: “We have been cooped up in Kuala Lumpur for over a year now. Life was put on hold for so long. The virus will continue to live with us.”

Ahmad Firdaus, a car rental company owner in Langkawi, said it was high time tourism reopened for the sake of the industry’s survival.

“We have to go on doing businesses in this new norm. We need tourist spots to be open to gain income. Even if the situation is bad, we must learn to live with it,” he added.


What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong
Updated 16 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

What We Are Reading Today: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Philippa K. Chong

Taking readers behind the scenes in the world of fiction reviewing, Inside the Critics’ Circle explores the ways critics evaluate books despite the inherent subjectivity involved and the uncertainties of reviewing when seemingly anyone can be a reviewer. Drawing on interviews with critics from such venues as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, Phillipa Chong delves into the complexities of the review-writing process, including the considerations, values, and cultural and personal anxieties that shape what critics do.

Chong explores how critics are paired with review assignments, why they accept these time-consuming projects, how they view their own qualifications for reviewing certain books, and the criteria they employ when making literary judgments. She discovers that while their readers are of concern to reviewers, they are especially worried about authors on the receiving end of reviews. As these are most likely peers who will be returning similar favors in the future, critics’ fears and frustrations factor into their willingness or reluctance to write negative reviews.

At a time when traditional review opportunities are dwindling, book reviewing  is being brought into question.


Rome hosts Palestinian cultural festival

Falastin, a festival in Rome dedicated to Palestinian culture, began on Thursday. (Screenshot)
Falastin, a festival in Rome dedicated to Palestinian culture, began on Thursday. (Screenshot)
Updated 16 September 2021

Rome hosts Palestinian cultural festival

Falastin, a festival in Rome dedicated to Palestinian culture, began on Thursday. (Screenshot)
  • Palestine has ‘rich cultural heritage,’ organizer tells press conference attended by Arab News
  • Event aims to help ‘make visible a people who are often invisible’

ROME: Falastin, a festival in Rome dedicated to Palestinian culture, began on Thursday.

The organizers said it aims to help “make visible a people who are often invisible. We’re an ancient people with a very strong cultural richness, and an identity that no one can deny.”

The festival is being held at Circolo ARCI Concetto Marchesi, a venue where years ago an olive tree was planted as a symbol of Palestine and of brotherhood and solidarity, and where a new Palestinian cultural center will soon be hosted.

The festival will continue until Sunday with a series of events on Palestinian culture, art and music.

At a press conference attended by Arab News, Rania Hammad, one of the organizers, described it as “a festival of inclusion, study and entertainment, with music, art, theater, poetry readings, cinema, dance, book presentations, roundtables, face painting, Arabic culture and language workshops, and a masterclass in traditional Palestinian cooking.”

She added: “We want to talk about Palestine as a country, as a nation, as a people that has a very strong culture and a rich cultural heritage.

“History and culture must be handed down to future generations. At the same time, we raise awareness of the human rights of Palestinians.

“As Italians of Palestinian origin, we’re interested in the rights of peoples, in the right of our people to live in peace on their land, as well as the rights of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.

“We all have basic human rights that must be protected against violations. We’ll talk about all this at the event.”

The main guests of this year’s edition include Palestinian director and screenwriter Mohammed Bakri, and actresses Sara El-Debuch, Hanin Tarabay and Dalal Suleiman.

Books on Palestine by Alae Al-Saedi, Beatrice Tauro and Isabella Camera d’Affitto will also be presented.

As part of the musical program, a concert will be held on Sunday by all-female group Pulkra.

A core event of Falastin will be “Freedom between the walls,” an exhibition of the work of award-winning photojournalist Jaafar Ashtiyeh.


Bella Hadid proves vaccination status for ‘concerned’ fans

Bella Hadid proves vaccination status for ‘concerned’ fans
Updated 16 September 2021

Bella Hadid proves vaccination status for ‘concerned’ fans

Bella Hadid proves vaccination status for ‘concerned’ fans

DUBAI: US-Palestinian model Bella Hadid this week confirmed to her fans that she had been vaccinated against COVID-19, following speculation on social media that she missed the 2021 Met Gala because of the event’s safety rules. 

The catwalk star shared a picture from her camera roll, which dated Aug. 6, on her Instagram story on Wednesday of a nurse giving the model an injection in her arm. “For anyone concerned,” wrote the 24-year-old supermodel.

Instagram/@bellahadid 

Hadid’s older sister, Gigi attended the highly anticipated event in New York, and for the occasion she opted for a monochrome look by Italian label Prada.

The regulations state that all Met visitors must provide proof that they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Guests were also required to wear masks inside the venue if they were not eating or drinking.