Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others
Boxes containing recovered looted artifacts sit temporarily at the foreign ministry before being transferred to the Iraq Museum, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 03 August 2021

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others
  • The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi
  • Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD: Over 17,000 looted ancient artifacts recovered from the United States and other countries were handed over to Iraq’s Culture Ministry on Tuesday, a restitution described by the government as the largest in the country’s history.
The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Other pieces were also returned from Japan, Netherlands and Italy, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said in a joint press conference with Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim.
Nadhim said the recovery was “the largest in the history of Iraq” and the product of months of effort between the government and Iraq’s Embassy in Washington.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead in this matter. There are still thousands of Iraqi artifacts smuggled outside the country,” he said. “The United Nations resolutions are supporting us in the international community and the laws of other countries in which these artifacts are smuggled to are on our side.”
“The smugglers are being trapped day after day by these laws and forced to hand over these artifacts,” he added.
The artifacts were handed over to the Culture Ministry in large wooden crates. A few were displayed but the ministry said the most significant pieces will be examined and later displayed to the public in Iraq’s National Museum.
Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected owing to lack of funds.
At least five shipments of antiquities and documents have been returned to Iraq’s museum since 2016, according to the Foreign Ministry.


Jeddah exhibition celebrates late calligrapher Mohammad Bajnaid

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 18 September 2021

Jeddah exhibition celebrates late calligrapher Mohammad Bajnaid

Photo/Supplied
  • Saudi artist and calligrapher Mohammad Salem Bajnaid contributed to the design and embroidery of the Kiswah — the cloth that is draped over the Kaaba in Makkah on the day that pilgrims leave for Mount Arafat during the Hajj

JEDDAH: Sharbatly House Museum in Historic Jeddah is currently hosting an exhibition celebrating the work of the renowned Saudi artist and calligrapher Mohammad Salem Bajnaid.

The show is part of Saudi Arabia’s Year of Arabic Calligraphy, launched by the Ministry of Culture with the support of the Quality of Life Program.


Bajnaid, who died in October 2019, was widely recognized as one of the most talented calligraphers in the Arab and Islamic world. He contributed to the design and embroidery of the Kiswah — the cloth that is draped over the Kaaba in Makkah on the day that pilgrims leave for Mount Arafat during the Hajj — and was also the creator of the Kingdom’s gift to the United Nations for its headquarters in New York in 1982.

HIGHLIGHT

The new exhibition in Jeddah runs until December and features 21 works from throughout Bajnaid’s career, some of which are Quranic verses and prophetic hadiths. The show is split into four main areas: The Ancient House, Family bonds, Knowledge, and Patience.

The new exhibition in Jeddah runs until December and features 21 works from throughout Bajnaid’s career, some of which are Quranic verses and prophetic hadiths. The show is split into four main areas: The Ancient House, Family bonds, Knowledge, and Patience. It has been curated by the artist’s grandson, Salem Fouzi Bajnaid, who told Arab News: “The credit behind all the efforts in setting up this event goes to (the artist’s) family and friends, in cooperation with the ministry of culture. We’ve witnessed such an amazing response on the first few days, with art admirers from everywhere coming to appreciate the work being displayed here.”

Salem led visitors on a tour of the exhibition, explaining that calligraphy is an integral part of Arab culture, and adding that he hopes this show will help preserve it and pass it on to future generations.

Dutch artist Al-Jawhara told Arab News she had visited the exhibition on its opening day. “I have never seen any of his work before,” she said. “I was surprised by the intricacy and detail of his exquisite calligraphic work. One just cannot move on to the next piece without praising the previous one.”

Saleh Bogari, former chairman of the House of Artists, expressed his admiration for the “amazing and wonderful” pieces on display, noting that Bajnaid used Thuluth — widely considered to be the most challenging of Islamic calligraphy’s traditional scripts — for his work, but managed to establish his own “unique style.” “It is really a wonderfully fine (exhibition),” he said.


US-Palestinian YouTuber Anwar Jibawi: Cooking up a storm

US-Palestinian YouTuber Anwar Jibawi: Cooking up a storm
Updated 17 September 2021

US-Palestinian YouTuber Anwar Jibawi: Cooking up a storm

US-Palestinian YouTuber Anwar Jibawi: Cooking up a storm
  • The Palestinian-American social-media star talks ‘influencers,’ collaborations, and working with his mom

LOS ANGELES: “I didn’t want to be just a generic YouTuber who opened up a restaurant,” says

Arab social-media star, Anwar Jibawi, owner of Anwar’s Kitchen. Jibawi has branched out from the world of digital media, opening his own restaurant in Los Angeles — with a second location in the works. 

Anwar’s Kitchen is a Middle Eastern fusion restaurant that serves dishes based on recipes first shared with Anwar by his partner in the restaurant business — his mother Amal.

“It’s been my dream to have a restaurant with my mom, so we did that in the middle of a pandemic,” Jibawi tells Arab News. “My mom does all the traditional homemade stuff. I love doing the fusion stuff — and that's our biggest seller. I’m always teasing my mom about that.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Anwar Jibawi (@anwar)

The Palestinian-American influencer had millions of followers on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok before launching his restaurant. He began his online career in 2013 on the short-form video app Vine, and was eventually named one of the 100 most-famous personalities on that platform.

“My first video blew up. That’s why I took it seriously,” he says. “I would’ve probably continued doing it for fun, but once that (happened), I just treated it like a job from the get-go.”

Jibawi started out with comedy sketches filmed at home with his brothers. “I would do a magic trick where I’d disappear from the restroom and appear on the freeway on the toilet,” he says. “And there was no editing or VFX.”

Despite his quick rise to fame, the idea of “influencer” being a profitable career was still in its infancy at that time.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Anwar Jibawi (@anwar)

“Nobody understood it,” Jibawi says. “You’re trying to convince people, like, ‘Trust me. This is the future. You can make money.’ Then you go years without making money.” 

At one point, he says, his mother “tried kicking me out of the house.” Thankfully — for both of them, and their many fans — that didn’t happen. Instead, Amal would quickly gain first-hand experience of her son’s digital fanbase, and become one of the main guest stars in his videos.

“I put her in the story once and everyone was saying ‘Put her in all your videos!’ I never knew how funny my mom was until I started putting her in the videos,” Jibawi says. “And then I was like, ‘Oh… this is where I get it from.’”

Amal remained a mainstay of her son’s content as he migrated off of Vine during its gradual discontinuation from 2016 and eventual closure in 2019. The pair began making a series of cooking videos on YouTube, which served as the inspiration for Anwar’s Kitchen.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Anwar Jibawi (@anwar)

In December 2020, Jibawi announced the opening of the restaurant in a video that has racked up more than 1 million views. But he is aware that there are plenty of skeptics. 

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, this YouTuber’s trying to open up a restaurant. Let’s see what this is about.’ You see a lot of YouTubers open up ghost kitchens,” he says, referring to kitchens that prepare food for delivery or takeout meals, sometimes for multiple brands, without a customer-facing, retail location. “They sell random stuff. I'm not about that. I’m about the quality of the food first and the experience second.”

It seems Jibawi puts the same effort and attention-to-detail into his restaurant as he does into his social-media content. Adam Waheed — Jibawi’s friend, fellow influencer and co-owner of LA eatery Dough Pizzeria — tells Arab News that Anwar’s Kitchen is “one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.”

Still, it's clear to most, including Jibawi himself, that Amal is the true perfectionist.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Anwar Jibawi (@anwar)

“She’ll take hours on one order,” he says. “Someone could come in and order 40 things on the menu, and my mom'll be, like, ‘Oh no! This is wrong.’ We had to get the chef in and get them on the same page.”

Collaboration has been central to Jibawi’s success, whether with family, fellow content creators or celebrities (he has worked with Mariah Carey, Marlon Wayans, and DJ Khaled, among others). Perhaps his most-famous collab so far, though, has been when he was given the opportunity to direct the former boxing champion Mike Tyson.

“I was scared,” Jibawi admits. “But he’s so cool. Directing him was not as intimidating as it sounds. He's just a super-genuine dude. To me it’s all about the chemistry.” 

Jibawi currently works primarily with mobile-first media company Shots Studios for his online content.

In December 2020, Jibawi announced the opening of the restaurant in a video that has racked up more than 1 million views. (Supplied)

“It’s awesome to be one of a handful of Middle Easterners to blow up on the Internet,” he says. He’s keeping that pride in his heritage going in his restaurant by sharing what he calls “a little taste of home” with the people of Los Angeles. 

“I see myself nerding out over foodie stuff. I go to these events and conventions, and that’s a new thing for me,” he says. 

He plans to continue to expand, but says he will likely keep all locations in the Los Angeles area to ensure that the quality of the food is maintained. So far, the only complaints he recalls is that customers turning up for a meal of Shawarma tacos and Anwar-style fries don’t get to meet the man himself.

“They always miss me!” Jibawi says with a chuckle. “I’m here, I would say, for probably an hour a day.” 

So, whether you’re a follower of Jibawi’s content or a foodie looking to try a Palestinian family recipe with a fusion twist, there’s a reason to visit Anwar’s Kitchen.


Highlights from Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis

Highlights from Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis
Updated 17 September 2021

Highlights from Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis

Highlights from Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis
  • Highlights from Farah Al-Qasimi’s ‘Everywhere there is splendor,’ which runs until Feb. 13 at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis

‘Pink Soap in Pink Bathroom’

The acclaimed Emirati artist’s latest show is a newly commissioned, photo-based installation that focuses, according to press material “on her personal family history through a lens of intimacy and interiority.” It includes many shots taken in her family home during a period of quarantine earlier this year.

‘Goat Farm Majlis’

“Mining her family photo albums for inspiration, she explores her family’s emigration from Lebanon to the US in the 1950s and expands on the experience of cultural hybridity—people living between and amidst multiple cultures,” the exhibition press release states. This image is typical of Al-Qasimi’s colorful, humorous work.

‘Kimball Hotel’

Al-Qasimi’s grandmother worked in the Kimball Hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts and this image includes a postcard from there pinned onto blue fabric. “The work alludes to the hotel’s glamor and the guests’ enjoyment — luxuries provided by immigrant workers, mostly from Lebanon,” according to the press release. 


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.


The language of movement: 3 practitioners examine the state of contemporary dance in the Mideast

The language of movement: 3 practitioners examine the state of contemporary dance in the Mideast
Updated 16 September 2021

The language of movement: 3 practitioners examine the state of contemporary dance in the Mideast

The language of movement: 3 practitioners examine the state of contemporary dance in the Mideast

LONDON: A little over a year ago, Mira Majzoub was approached by the videographer Mansour Rachid. He had an idea. He wanted to produce a film of her dancing to a particular piece of music in a certain location. That location would be the Old Silk Factory in Damour, Lebanon. The music would be Ibrahim Maalouf’s “Overture II — Alf Leila Wa Leila.”

“We were discussing whether it would be choreographed or whether it would be improvised and I decided to do it as an improv because it was an evolving process, so I wanted it to be very genuine when we were there,” explains Majzoub. “We actually took no more than two or three shots of the whole thing, just for it to be genuine and for me to portray where I was at at that moment in time. To make it sincere.”

The end result was a mesmerizing translation of the music’s complex cultural identity. Majzoub, who recently enrolled at ACTS/Ecole de danse contemporaine de Paris and is a relatively new member of Beirut Contemporary Ballet, has an intense yet joyful fluidity to her movement. Maybe that’s why the performance helped to open a rare public window into the world of contemporary dance — a world that is as much misunderstood as it is underappreciated. 

Mira Majzoub has an intense yet joyful fluidity to her movement. (Supplied)

For Majzoub, contemporary dance, with its focus on improvisation and versatility, has allowed her to dig deeper into herself, to uncover meaning, and to cope with extreme circumstances. “Sometimes I spend more than an hour just repeating the same move or repeating the same concept again and again because I discover more feelings, I discover how my body moves in a certain way, and this process is not just happiness, it’s not just joy; it kind of takes me from one place to another,” she says. “It’s like taking another step, digging inside how my body and how my brain connect with each other to create.”

Dance has also helped her adapt to the turmoil that has engulfed Lebanon. The day after the explosion at Beirut Port last year, she went to her room, closed the door, and began to move her arms up and down in a certain way. There was no music, just this articulated movement and an irregular form of breathing. 

“I realized something,” she says. “That even in good times or bad times, even after an explosion or at a wedding, I’d be moving. This is the first thing I would go to. The first thing my body would go to. For the first time my mind was at ease when I did that small thing in my room. Dance is a tool for me to adapt, dance is a tool for me to be mentally stable, and I’m glad I have learned how to navigate this. How to use this thing that I have.”

Hamza Damrais is originally a breakdancer. (Supplied)

The same is almost certainly true for the movement artist, performer and choreographer Sarah Brahim, whose work covers themes including loss, identity, race and migration. Identity is a big one, largely because of her own complex background — a combination of US and Saudi cultures. 

“From a young age I was always confronted with questions of misunderstanding — ‘Where are you from?’ being the most standard and then the questions moving on from there,” she says. “It came from both cultures I belong to. So many people have transcultural experiences and stories. So to make work about this feels like I’m able to create a space where those of us who feel like we don’t belong or have a place that is ‘home’ can exist and are welcome.”

For Brahim, bringing a project to life begins with a personal sense of urgency — a feeling or an idea that “overwhelms my mind and body.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by sarah brahim (@sahrab)

“It starts with a core, always something I think feels important, unseen, and should be amplified,” she explains. Some projects, such as “Roofless,” were developed from ongoing research into the relationship between the human body and architecture. Others, such as “Body Land/Back to Dust,” involved nine months of moving, researching and writing about how her body held pain and grief. The latter, produced during a residency at Performance Works NorthWest, dealt specifically with the hands and became the seed of her current work.

“I use structured improvisation constantly as a tool because it allows me to develop grounded material, but also to surprise myself and experiment at the same time,” says Brahim, who studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in 2016. “I use this approach with the many mediums I work with because I care about capturing a specific feeling or experience and having it resonate in others. Being open to the medium that works to communicate and being open enough to listen deeply to where things are coming from keeps me grounded in what I do, no matter the subject or presentation.”

Brahim, who is currently working on a number of projects, including a performance commission and a few exhibitions, is keen to combine her textile practice with performance. That will mean creating sculptures and installations that exist on their own but are also integral to experimentation and performance. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by sarah brahim (@sahrab)

The reasons why she dances, however, have been redefined since the beginning of the pandemic. Like many others, she found it important to look at everything in her life and to reassess what was truly important. “Art and movement saved me and so many others throughout this difficult time and it was not just the practices or media,” she says. “I looked around at the communities in my life and the beautiful ways they were coming together and offering time, conversations, free classes, holding space, and I realized how incredible the people in my life were, all of which had blossomed from pursuing a career in creative work. 

“For me, it is about the people, but also what we are doing is questioning and pushing our experiences further with each project and I find this fascinating. There is not anything else I would rather be doing. When I watch a great performance, hear or see something that resonates with me, that feeling of light and interconnection is irreplaceable.”

This is equally true for Hamza Damra, who grew up in Balata on the outskirts of Nablus. Originally a breakdancer, for him dance was, and still is, a way to react to the feelings generated by the environment he grew up in. “Dance taught me the meaning of those feelings,” he says simply.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hamza (@hamza_damra)

Last year he received funding from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) for “Me and I,” a project centered on his experience of living between Palestine and France. Still a work in progress, he has chosen angry, sharp movements to represent his time in France (in contrast to the peace and freedom he experiences there), and more fluid movements for Palestine, “despite the harsh situation, the unstable emotions, the uncertainty.”

“I have created a language of movement that has been extracted from my own circumstances,” he explains. “Circumstances that I have been through and I’m still going through.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Mira (@miramajzoub)

Despite its vitality and relevance — and the myriad benefits experienced by its practitioners — contemporary dance remains misunderstood in the region, sometimes deeply so. The likes of AFAC and Sharjah Art Foundation may support performance, but it is often regarded as inaccessible or even elitist. And that perception is unlikely to change without greater emphasis being placed upon its cultural value. 

“I think contemporary performance as a whole can be undervalued all over the world,” says Brahim. “Therefore also less engaged, documented, and publicized. Performance is quite difficult to commodify or (monetize) compared to other creative fields, which is exactly what makes it special, alive, temporal, but also probably why there is less interest in it. My work specifically has found homes inside industries like music, design, film, and contemporary art. Moving forward, hopefully there is space for all forms of expression to be less rigid in definition and more integrated in form.”