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
Short Url
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.


Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby nominated for international Emmy 

Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby nominated for international Emmy 
Updated 23 September 2021

Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby nominated for international Emmy 

Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby nominated for international Emmy 

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Menna Shalaby has been nominated for an international Emmy.

She is competing in the “Best Performance by an Actor” category for her role in the crime show “Fe Kol Esboa’ Youm Gomaa,” which is Arabic for “Every Week Has A Friday.”

The 10-episode series premiered on MBC’s streaming service Shahid in 2020.

It tells the story of Layla, who is forced to live with a man suffering from a mental illness. As the story unfolds, the pair commit violent crimes every Friday.

It was directed by Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Shaker and also stars Asser Yassin, Sawsan Badr, Arfa Abdel Rassoul, and Ahmed Khaled Saleh.

Another Arab production that has made the cut is the Lebanese series “Beirut 6:07.”

It comprises 15 short films that look at last year’s tragic explosion in Beirut and highlights the stories of the victims as well as the survivors.

It is competing in the “Short-Form Series” category.

Winners will be announced at an in-person ceremony on Nov. 22 in New York.


Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign

Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign
Updated 23 September 2021

Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign

Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign

DUBAI: Hollywood duo Zac Efron and Jessica Alba have returned with another Dubai Tourism campaign. 

Released on Wednesday, the actors’ fourth promotional video, called “Dubai Presents: A Captivating Saga,” takes a close look at the UAE’s traditional activities and attractions. 

Alba stars as a young pilot who explores the country’s deserts.  

Over recent months, Dubai Tourism has released three videos, directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie, ahead of the long-awaited Expo 2020 Dubai event. 

The first ad was a spoof of an action film featuring Alba and Efron fighting off enemies at well-known landmarks across the city, such as the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa and the Museum of the Future. 

In the second video, the stars appeared as tourists visiting the city. Upon their arrival at their hotels, they discover that they’ve got each other’s bags.

The Hollywood celebrities travel across the city on various adventures to meet and collect their identical luggage.  

In the third advert, Efron plays two characters, his younger self and an older version of himself who comes from the future to teach him life lessons.

The two characters go on a journey in the country’s souks and the surrounding deserts. They also go skydiving. 

The films present some of Dubai’s most-admired attractions, including the city’s dunes, Sheikh Zayed Road that runs through the heart of Dubai and historical sites — such as Dubai Creek and Al-Fahidi area. 


Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series

Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series
Updated 13 min ago

Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series

Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series

DUBAI: In honor of the 91st Saudi National Day, celebrated on Sept. 23, food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat has partnered with Dubai-based social media couple Ali Almeshaal and his wife Jacquelyn to cook some of the Kingdom’s most-loved dishes.

In the five-episode series, available on YouTube, the couple, who have over 750,000 subscribers on the site, shared their personal take on traditional meals like the shrimp biryani, saleeg and laham margoog.

The show was not the Canadian wife’s first time cooking Saudi food since the pair got married a year-and-a-half ago.

In an interview with Arab News, Almeshaal, who is from the Kingdom, said that when they tied the knot, his wife surprised him by cooking Kabsa, a hearty rice dish made with lamb, chicken, fish or seafood. “It was a very, very nice Kabsa,” he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

“It was a healthy Kabsa kind of recipe,” Jacquelyn explained. “It’s our spin, because there is not a right or wrong way to make any dish, but attune it to how your family or your friends or how you like it.”

Her video of the famous dish, which is their favorite, got over 600,000 views on Twitter, Almeshaal said, and fans demanded more tutorials.

The couple said they enjoyed shooting the Fatafeat series together. “Ali isn’t usually in the kitchen with me helping me too much, so it was nice to actually have him in the kitchen conversing with him and having him help me out,” she said.

This is Almeshaal’s second time shooting for Fatafeat. “This year was way nicer than last year, taking into consideration that my beautiful wife was with me. I really enjoyed it.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

“We cooked some of my favorite dishes and we were celebrating one of the nicest days for me as a Saudi, which is the National Day,” he added.

Before the pair tied the knot, Jacquelyn said she did not know much about the Arab world.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

“I never really grew up knowing anything about Arab or Muslim culture,” she said.

But when she met her husband, she started to “attune” to the culture, which she now “loves.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

Her first time visiting Saudi Arabia was in 2019.

“I think that the media in the west portrays the Middle Eastern culture in a very strict and rigid way. There are a lot of misconceptions,” said the 29-year-old, who is expecting a baby girl. “I would just suggest anybody who has ever been afraid or curious or ever wanted to explore the Middle East but was afraid of anything they heard in the media that it’s wrong.”

“They are some of the most amazing, nice, humble, welcoming people I have ever met in my entire life,” added Jacquelyn, who — besides her social media presence — currently works in real estate.

Almeshaal was a former TV presenter at MBC Group. He now owns a communications firm in Dubai, where he is based. He has been creating content on social media for the past 11 years.

Diriyah, past, present and future
On Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the birthplace of the Kingdom continues to make history
Enter
keywords

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go
Updated 11 min 57 sec ago

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go

RIYADH: Celebrations for 91st Saudi National Day will kick off on Wednesday with plenty to entertain revellers across the Kingdom well into the weekend.

Access to all events will only be granted with a green pass on the Tawakalna app.

National Day Horse Jumping competition — Riyadh 

Guests can purchase their 50 SAR tickets online. (Shutterstock)

Hosted in the Almortajaz Equestrian center in Riyadh, the two-day competition will celebrate National Day with show jumping event. Guests can purchase their 50 SAR tickets online through Riyadh Platinum or through Enjoy Saudi via the General entertainment Authority. The event will take place between Sept. 22-Sept. 24 from 4:00pm-12:00am.

Saudi Hawks Air Show — Khobar, Jeddah and Riyadh

The show can be viewed from the Khobar Corniche, Um Ajlan Park in Riyadh, and Jeddah Corniche. (Shutterstock)

Organized by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, the Saudi Hawks show is expected to be a spectacular air show with jetfighter and civil aircraft taking part in what is billed as the largest air show in the Kingdoms’ history. The show can be viewed from the Khobar Corniche, Um Ajlan Park in Riyadh, and Jeddah Corniche. Admission is free and the air show will be held from on Sept. 24 and 25. The show will take place from 04:15pm to 05:30pm (Khobar)  and 4:00pm to 5:15pm (Riyadh).

Culture and Heritage Program — Ithra, Dhahra

Visitors will learn more about traditional coffee farming practices, the diversity of culture and fashion in the Kingdom, and experience traditional performances of grain pounding. (Shutterstock)

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) will be holding a special National Day cultural and heritage program for the public to enjoy. Visitors will learn more about traditional coffee farming practices, the diversity of culture and fashion in the Kingdom, and experience traditional performances of grain pounding.

The program will run from Sept. 22-25, from 04:00pm-07:30pm and 8:00pm-12:00am. Tickets cost 50 SAR.

National Day 91 Fireworks — Hail, Tabuk, Albaha, Buraidah, Abha, Madinah, Jazan and Jeddah

The fireworks will take place in Hail, Tabuk, Albaha, Buraidah, Abha, Madinah, Jazan and Jeddah. (Shutterstock)

●     The National Day Firework Show in Hail will be held in Al-Salam Park from 9:25pm-9:30pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Albaha will be held in  King Abdulaziz Cultural Center from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Tabuk will be held on University Bridge from 9:00pm-9:05pm. 

●     The National Day Firework Show in BuraidahKing will take place on Fahad Road from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Abha will be held in Alqser Place from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Madinah will be held in Al-Hadiqah from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Jazan will be held at Corniche Jazan from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Jeddah will be held at the Red Sea Mall from 9:00pm-9:07pm. 

Abadi Al-Johar and Huda Al-Fahad in Concert — Riyadh

Abadi Al-Joharn will perform on Sept. 23. (Supplied)

A concert will be held on Sept. 23 in Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in the Conference Center from 10:00pm -1:00am in Riyadh. Children are not allowed during this event and guests can purchase their tickets through the Enjoy Saudi website.

Diriyah, past, present and future
On Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the birthplace of the Kingdom continues to make history
Enter
keywords

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
Updated 23 September 2021

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
  • The Lebanese filmmaker discusses her powerful and damning documentary, ‘ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour’

DUBAI: Before the catastrophic explosion at Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, Daizy Gedeon was making a film called “The Dream is Everything.” The Lebanese filmmaker had been working on it for years, interviewing the top political figures in Lebanon, centering it around a message of hope, of building a better Lebanon in the long recovery from the country’s civil war. 

“When I started digging in, it became a very hard story. People were suffering. But when I was asking politicians about their solutions — between 2017 and 2019 — I still believed that there may have been some truth in what they were saying; that they were trying to fix the country and make things better for people. But when August 4 hit, the shock turned to sadness, and the sadness to anger,” Gedeon tells Arab News.

“I said forget the dream. There’s no more dreams, baby.”

While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. (Supplied)

After that epiphany, Gedeon began radically reworking her old footage while manically adding new aspects, ultimately creating a very different film: “ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour.” Her new vision, centered around the perceived negligence that led to the tragic event and the suffering that it left in its wake, and serving as a call to action for substantive change, has already resonated in the international film community, winning the Movies That Matter Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, supported by the Better World Fund and Filmfestivals.com. 

“When we went back to the footage we had, we realized that I didn’t need to try to indict them, they indicted themselves with their own words. I didn’t need to take anything out of context. I just had to decide that I’m not going to make them look good anymore,” says Gedeon. “Before, I thought that they were part of the solution, so I didn't want to destroy them. I thought we needed them. That explosion was the worst thing that could have happened to Lebanon, but it was the best thing that could have happened to the film.” 

While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. In 1988, she covered the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as a soccer writer, jetting off to Europe for a holiday afterwards. While there, her mother implored her to go back to Beirut to visit her family, and after initial hesitation due to the ongoing conflict, she decided to go for two weeks.

“That was the beginning of my love affair with Lebanon. I called my editor in Australia and said, ‘Hey, the airport's closed, I can't come back’. Really, I wanted to learn more about it. It was fascinating because there was a war going on. Like, how close do you ever get to war? There was the green line and there were snipers right nearby. One of my cousins was in one of the militias and so he took me through the buildings,” says Gedeon.

Her new vision has already resonated in the international film community. (Supplied)

She had long been a fan of the Jason Bourne spy novels of Robert Ludlum, which used real-life convicted Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal as their main antagonist. 

“I loved those books, so Beirut in that era really did fit my interests. In Beirut, it was real life. Carlos the Jackal had a base in Beirut. This was James Bond stuff, and it fit into my imagination and my intrigue. But at the same time, there was something serious because I came from this place,” she says. “I started to feel a real affection and connection to people, and that brought me deeper into all of it in a way I wasn’t expecting.”

After that trip, Gedeon never lost her connection to Lebanon and the broader region, relocating to London and covering regional conflicts in the Middle East throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties, before returning to Lebanon to make her first documentary in 1993 — the critically acclaimed “Lebanon… Imprisoned Splendour,” released in 1996. It was a reflection of all she had learned from peeling back Lebanon’s layers and finding a warm and generous people that welcomed her even amidst the bloodshed. 

“With that film, I was trying to show the world that there is more to this place than what people had heard for the previous 20 years. The conflict was real, but that was only one piece of the puzzle. I wanted to fill in the gaps, delving into the history and the actual people there, the reality on the ground,” says Gedeon. 

While her journalism continued as she pursued other myriad projects, Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. She reveals with visible emotion to Arab News that this was due in part to a “stifling, oppressive” marriage — which ended officially in 2015 — to a person who had once been her closest friend and champion, a devolution that she found shocking and dispiriting. 

Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. (Supplied)

“You can’t be creative if you’re in a desperate situation. When it was officially over, my mind started to clear and the little voice in my head returned, louder, louder, and by 2016 it was screaming, screaming, in my head. I don't know how else to explain it. I said to myself, ‘Alright, I’ll do it. I’ll return to Lebanon.’”

Throughout the process of making “ENOUGH!,” Gedeon starkly changed as a filmmaker. While raising awareness broadly is still an important part of her work, she is no longer the person that she was when she arrived in 1988. The beautiful words written about her last film in the late Nineties in the West were no longer sufficient. 

Her gaze with her latest film, which is currently on the festival circuit and scheduled for a wide release in cinemas and on digital platforms in early 2022, is firmly set on the place that bore her, and the people like her in the Lebanese diaspora across the world, whom she hopes to bring back to the country to help fix it once and for all. 

“This is not just for film critics,” Gedeon says. “It’s got to inspire Lebanese people, everywhere. If the film does not agitate, provoke, or motivate people to take action, then it's failed. I want to channel their energy and their anger and their frustration to join the movement, change things to a free and fair Lebanon, which starts with the elections in 2022. I'm trying to create a movement. We've got to build this groundswell of people in Lebanon, as well as the diaspora everywhere. 

“There are 16 million outside Lebanon. My goal is to educate and inform those people, people who believe in justice and social change,” she continues. “We need more than just the Lebanese on the ground. We need more people to stand up for social justice everywhere, and for Lebanon to be one of the countries that they say ‘Yes, it's time.’”