Red Sea Souk to promote work by Arab and African filmmakers

Three cash prizes will be offered to featured projects by the Red Sea Fund. (Red Sea Souk photo)
Three cash prizes will be offered to featured projects by the Red Sea Fund. (Red Sea Souk photo)
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Updated 01 October 2021

Red Sea Souk to promote work by Arab and African filmmakers

Red Sea Souk to promote work by Arab and African filmmakers
  • Jurors include film producer/director Annemarie Jacir; Saudi Film Festival founder Ahmed Al-Mulla, Fespaco film festival head Alex Moussa Sawadogo, and producer Thanassis Karathanos

JEDDAH: The Red Sea International Film Festival announced on Thursday that the Red Sea Souk — “an initiative designed to discover and connect Arab and African filmmakers from the region” — will host its first edition in Jeddah from Dec. 8-11 as part of the festival.  

The Red Sea Souk will, according to a press release, “comprise a Project Market, screenings of films in-progress, an exhibition space hosting the main players of the region, high-level panels and industry talks and many networking opportunities with more than 350 industry professionals and decision-makers from around the world.”

“In creating the Red Sea Souk, (we are) continuing to show our dedication to championing new talent that will showcase the diversity of unfamiliar stories and open the doors for industry-backed professional development and networking support,” RSFF artistic director Edouard Waintrop said in the release.

“The selected projects for the first edition stand out as bold and compelling narratives that will allow us to better understand the region and beyond. I’m excited to see these projects eventually reach audiences around the world,” he said.

Three cash prizes will be offered to featured projects by the Red Sea Fund. The Project Market jury will award $25,000 for development and $100,000 for production, and the Films in Progress jury will grant $30,000 for post-production.

Jurors include Palestinian director, writer, and producer of “Wajib,” “When I Saw You,” and “Salt of the Sea,” Annemarie Jacir; poet, scriptwriter, and founder of the Saudi Film Festival, Ahmed Al-Mulla; the general director of Burkina Faso-based film festival Fespaco, Alex Moussa Sawadogo; and producer of “The Gravedigger’s Wife,” “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” and “It Must be Heaven,” Thanassis Karathanos. Other jury members will be announced in the near future.

RSFF managing director Shivani Pandya Malhotra said in the press release: “Our aim is to create an established, vibrant film ecosystem that both supports and attracts exciting confirmed and emerging Arab and African talents to develop their projects within an international space, while also retaining what is unique and diverse about our burgeoning film industry. There is huge potential in the region and the Red Sea Souk is the perfect platform to discover, develop and fund new and exciting writers, directors and producers to further build their presence within the industry and on the global stage.”

The first edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival will take place in Jeddah from December 6 - 15.


Selected films in post-production for the Red Sea Souk Films in Progress workshop

  • “Contra” by Lotfy Nathan (Tunisia, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany)
  • “Fragments From Heaven” by Adnane Baraka (Morocco, France, Qatar)
  • “Abdelinho” by Hicham Ayouch (Morocco, France)
  • “Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous” by Wissam Charaf (France, Lebanon, Italy)
  • “The Cemetery of Cinema” by Thierno Souleymane Diallo (Guinea, France, Senegal)

Selected projects for the Red Sea Souk Project Market

  • “Coura + Ouleye” by Iman Djionne (Senegal)
  • “Akashinga” by Naishe Nyamubaya (Zimbabwe, France, Germany, South Africa)
  • “Passing Dreams” by Rashid Masharawi (Palestine, United Kingdom, Sweden)         
  • “Zaïria” by Machérie Ekwa (Congo)    
  • “Carnaval” by Mohamed Siam (Egypt, Kuwait, France)         
  • “Montreal” by Ameen Nayfeh (Jordan)
  • “Birthday” by Lara Zeidan (Lebanon, France)
  • “Last Trip” by Ziad Kalthoum (Syria, Germany, Poland)
  • “The Seasons of Jannet” by Mehdi Hmili (Tunisia)
  • “Carnamal” by Ali Kalthami (Saudi Arabia)
  • “Aïcha” by Mehdi M. Barsaoui (Tunisia, France)

‘Jews of the East’ Paris exhibition traces group’s centuries-long presence in Arab world

A Jewish wedding party on the street next to the synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, Beirut, June 2 1957. (João Luis Koifman)
A Jewish wedding party on the street next to the synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, Beirut, June 2 1957. (João Luis Koifman)
Updated 02 December 2021

‘Jews of the East’ Paris exhibition traces group’s centuries-long presence in Arab world

A Jewish wedding party on the street next to the synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, Beirut, June 2 1957. (João Luis Koifman)

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron recently attended the opening of an exhibition in Paris that traces Jewish presence in the Arab world.

“Jews of the East, a Multi-Millennial History,” hosted by the Arab World Institute (IMA), has been billed as a “cultural event of international significance.” It includes displays of archaeological remains, liturgical objects, jewelry, costumes, ancient manuscripts, paintings, and photographs, along with music and audiovisual installations.

For Macron, the show provides a “great lesson” about “coexistence, mutual enrichment and exchanges between monotheisms.” He said: “Identity is always more complex than we think and feeds of other identities.”

A Jewish girls school in Baghdad around 1900. (Photothèque de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle (Paris), n° 165, Collection Liliane Alazraki)

The exhibition, which runs until March 13, contains works from collections in France, the US, Spain, the UK, Belgium, Brazil, and Morocco, and highlights the ancestral cohabitation between Jewish and Muslim communities. It focuses on periods of rich artistic and intellectual creativity as well as erratic violence.

Of particular interest to Saudi visitors will be three photographs of the Khaybar Oasis — located on a major caravan route in the Hejaz. In ancient times, it was home to Jewish tribes. “Today, there is a French team of archaeologists undertaking research on the spot to better understand this complex history of Jews and Muslims in this historic place, with the consent of the Saudi authorities,” IMA president Jack Lang told Arab News.

The curator of the exhibition, Benjamin Stora, is a university professor and historian specializing in the Arab Maghreb. He explained that Jews were present in North Africa before the arrival of Christianity. “The Jewish community in the Arab Maghreb spoke only in Arabic, except in certain regions where they either spoke Berber or a mixture of Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic,” he said.

This intersection of the three languages reflects the cohabitation of communities which included expatriate rabbis from Andalusia who settled in Tlemcen, Constantine, and other cities in the Maghreb. 

Jewish people, he said, left an “undeniable imprint” on the culture of the region, especially when it came to craftsmanship. “My ancestors, originally from Constantine, were jewelers and made snake-shaped objects that women wore at parties and weddings,” he explained.

The Jewish Bride of Rabat-Salé, Salé (Morocco), 1934-1939. (IMA: Jean Bescancenot)

Discussing political and religious tensions between the two communities, he said: “The period of French colonization and the Cremieux Decree of 1870 (granting French citizenship to Algerian Jews but not to Muslims) marked the separation of these two native groups, Muslim and Jewish.” That separation was exacerbated by Algeria’s war of independence, he added, which saw many Jews side with France.

The subject of a Jewish presence in the Arab world is, of course, an emotional and thorny topic for many, and Lang stressed that “the exhibition absolutely does not address the political questions of today.” But Stora, who has spent more than 40 years researching the contemporary history of the Maghreb region, stressed the need to preserve cultural history. “We cannot reduce this to the Palestinian issue, to colonization, or to the departure of the Jews. It is also a question of preserving memories, which cannot wait for all political questions to be resolved.”

His sentiments were echoed by Lang, who said: “This institute can only truly fulfil its vocation if it is open to all the spiritual and intellectual heritages that have marked the history of the Arab world.”

A postcard from 1910 showing the inside of the Grand Synagogue in Aleppo. (Gross Family Collection trust)

Denis Charbit, a professor of political science at the Open University of Israel and a specialist in 20th-century Jewish history, said the exhibition had an important role to play in the fight against ignorance and pointed out that the Jewish presence alongside Arab and Berber populations dated back 2,000 years, adding that it was “necessary” to integrate the exile of Jews from Arab countries into the exhibition and to ensure that the region’s cultural history is passed on to future generations.

“It is not a question of a single history, a single religion, a single culture, but a plurality of interventions, cultures, civilizations of languages, as well as a passage of populations,” he said.

“Never before has the history of the Jews in these countries, which have become Arab countries today, been told on a millennial scale,” Lang said. “It is a way of repairing ignorance, of showing that the Arab world has a rich religious and cultural history, which fashioned its originalit


Jeddah’s new Hayy Jameel arts hub is on a bridge building mission

The center’s opening exhibition opens December 6 in collaboration with London’s Delfina Foundation. “Staple: What’s on your plate?’ examines the thought-provoking complexities of food culture. (Supplied)
The center’s opening exhibition opens December 6 in collaboration with London’s Delfina Foundation. “Staple: What’s on your plate?’ examines the thought-provoking complexities of food culture. (Supplied)
Updated 02 December 2021

Jeddah’s new Hayy Jameel arts hub is on a bridge building mission

The center’s opening exhibition opens December 6 in collaboration with London’s Delfina Foundation. “Staple: What’s on your plate?’ examines the thought-provoking complexities of food culture. (Supplied)

JEDDAH: As a Saudi arts professional, Sara Al-Omran has first-hand experience of the booming artistic scene in her home country. Since the establishment of its Ministry of Culture in 2018, Saudi Arabia has launched an international film festival, hosted concerts by internationally renowned musicians, and is creating the world’s largest open-air museum at the ancient Nabatean site of AlUla. 

“The last five or six years have seen a transformation,” Al-Omran tells Arab News. “It’s been really exciting for all of us involved in this scene to see this growth in cultural production and the establishment of new institutions and initiatives.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hayy Jameel (@hayyjameel)

Al-Omran describes the port city of Jeddah as Saudi Arabia’s ‘capital of art.’ Like everywhere else in the Kingdom, it is undergoing some major changes, but it also has its own unique modern cultural history. Back in the 1970s, the late mayor of Jeddah, Mohammed Said Farsi, decided to turn it into a ‘city of sculpture.’ Jeddah’s streets, squares, corniches and fountains were lined with around 600 works by renowned artists including Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, and Julio Lafuente. Jeddah is also the headquarters of the Saudi Art Council and is home to a number of contemporary art galleries, including Hafez and Athr.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hayy Jameel (@hayyjameel)

And now there’s a new kid on the block. Hayy Jameel has the ambitious aim of becoming Jeddah’s home for the arts. The 17,000-square-metre, pearly white complex is an offshoot of the Art Jameel organization, set up independently by the Jameel family to support the arts in the region and to collaborate with foreign cultural institutions. In recent years, Art Jameel has opened the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai and Atelier Cairo, which provides artisanship workshops and preserves traditional arts in the Egyptian capital. 

Visual and performing artists, filmmakers, photographers, designers, entrepreneurs and art enthusiasts are all welcome to join the Hayy Jameel community, its organizers say. With its state-of-the-art facilities and wide scope of interests, this creative hub is a first for the country.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hayy Jameel (@hayyjameel)

In Arabic, the term ‘hayy’ means neighborhood. It’s a fitting name, as the new center will be located in an accessible residential area, Al Muhammadiyah, which contains a number of other smaller cultural venues. 

“We’re trying to build bridges with everybody that’s here,” says Al-Omran, who is the center’s deputy director. “There are two wide sets of stairs that take you inside Hayy Jameel. There are no gates. Everybody is encouraged to come into the building and just wander around, any time of day.” 

Designed by the Tokyo and Dubai-based architectural firm waiwai, Hayy Jameel is wrapped around an airy main courtyard — called Saha — that is dotted with trees. “The way it’s built takes inspiration from traditional Levantine houses in Syria and Lebanon, where you have a central courtyard and everything surrounds it. That is really exciting for us, because it allows us to share audiences,” explains Al-Omran. Four different spaces surround the courtyard: Hayy Arts, Hayy Cinema, Hayy Learning, and Hayy Studios. There is also an integral focus on championing Saudi-based entrepreneurs — those who’ve started a baking institute, or a comedy club, or a concept store selling handmade goods, for example — who can become partner-tenants at the center.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hayy Jameel (@hayyjameel)

Hayy Arts will host temporary exhibitions as well as works from Art Jameel’s collection, while Hayy Learning is dedicated to research and in-person virtual education. Hayy Studios will provide bespoke spaces for makers selected for participation in the center’s residency program, which will begin in 2022. Hayy Cinema is a game-changer, billing itself as the Kingdom’s first independent cinema. It houses a 200-seat theater and a screening room. 

The facility will not only support aspiring film directors from the region, but also highlights the deep-rooted changes happening in Saudi society. 

“In 2017, the ban was lifted on cinemas in Saudi and that allowed for the cinema industry to be established,” Al-Omran says. “So far, there has been a big focus on commercial cinema. We’re very excited to offer something slightly different — a space that really looks to support independent and more experimental film productions. It’s a space where filmmakers can meet their peers and research, learn, and develop their scripts.” 

The center’s opening exhibition opens December 6 in collaboration with London’s Delfina Foundation. “Staple: What’s on your plate?’ examines the thought-provoking complexities of food culture and its impact on the world’s communities. It features 21 artworks — including installations and sculptures — by artists from the Gulf, Europe, and South Asia, and delves into the entanglements of food, industry, trade, colonialism, and labor. It is in keeping with Hayy Jameel’s programming ethos of “having a conversation that is rooted locally, but contributes to a global conversation,” according to Al-Omran. The exhibition will be accompanied by food tours and a few culinary workshops, enlightening participants on, for example, Jeddah’s traditional cuisine. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hayy Jameel (@hayyjameel)

In addition, Hayy Jameel will host a special installation for three months, in which 11 Saudi artists, including Manal Al-Dowayan, Rashed Al-Shashai and Dana Awartani — will present large-scale light works. It is adapted from the recently launched “Noor Riyadh,” a festival of light that takes over the Saudi capital. 

While it is very much a part of the ambitious plan of cultural enhancement currently underway nationwide in Saudi Arabia, Hayy Jameel manages to be an intimate, contained space. But the purpose behind it and the ideas and activities it promotes are expansive. 

It’s specific but universal in its goal of providing a platform for creatives, enthusiasts and learners. And it serves the very necessary function of bringing art lovers together in a permanent single location. 

“One of the center’s main objectives is to establish a much-needed infrastructure to support the growth of different creative entities and enterprises,” says Al-Omran. Hayy Jameel works on a circular model: Inspiring and nurturing local talent and, ultimately, giving back to the community. Its slogan is telling, then: ‘From Jeddah to Jeddah.’


Saudi artist paints elderly back into the social picture

In a latest collection, titled ‘See In My Eyes,’ the beauty of a group of elderly subjects. (Supplied)
In a latest collection, titled ‘See In My Eyes,’ the beauty of a group of elderly subjects. (Supplied)
Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi artist paints elderly back into the social picture

In a latest collection, titled ‘See In My Eyes,’ the beauty of a group of elderly subjects. (Supplied)
  • Fawaz Binkolaib says remaining integrated in society is vital to the well-being of older people

JEDDAH: Art presents us with an opportunity to fight social stigmas and promote inclusion through the positive representation and empowerment of marginalized groups.

In a world where younger generations are celebrated and adulated, the elderly can sometimes feel like they have lost their place and succumb to loneliness due to social exclusion and ageist stigma. But according to a local artist, one way in which older people can remain full and active members of society is through art.
Ageism is a global phenomenon that affects senior citizens across all cultures. In the Saudi context, culture plays a vital role in socially including the elderly, where family solidarity equates to ensuring the well-being of senior members.

FASTFACT

In a world where younger generations are celebrated and adulated, the elderly can sometimes feel like they have lost their place and succumb to loneliness due to social exclusion and ageist stigma. But according to a local artist, one way in which older people can remain full and active members of society is through art.

Fawaz Binkolaib, a Jeddah-based artist with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Art Institute of Houston in Texas, said older members of society were all too often left on the sidelines.
“As we grow older, time leaves its marks on our skin, the stages of our lives telling stories of pain and laughter,” the 29-year-old told Arab News.
“We sometimes unintentionally exclude our seniors from daily social activities, treating them as unfit to take part.”
It was while studying in the US that Binkolaib realized how art could be used as a medium for conversation.
“My passion for art was sparked in a general education class I had to take in my first year called art appreciation,” he said. “My mind was woken by the subjective and various art forms and how that can provide different ways of communicating for us as a species.”
In his latest collection, titled “See In My Eyes,” Binkolaib showcases the beauty of a group of elderly subjects through the intricacies of every fold and wrinkle on their faces.
He said that creating the digital images, which he did using an electronic pen and pad, enabled him to really connect with his subjects.
“Speaking to the elderly was peaceful and easy,” he said. “They were excited to be voiced and heard. As we were speaking, other people passed by and joined the conversation, helping them to get across their stories.
“After talking with my senior muses, I became aware that a sense of community can enhance their overall psychological and emotional well-being,” he added.
“For that, I believe that promoting community-engaged art programs can empower and uplift senior citizens. I also think that their absence from social media has made it difficult for them to represent their image and how the younger generation perceives them.”
Binkolaib also said that facilitating and accommodating elderly people’s inclusion in community activities, like art, and familiarizing them with current trends was a good way to reintegrate them into society.
Art serves as a channel of untraditional communication for those unable to find the words to express their feelings, he added. Therefore, creating artistic outlets for senior citizens can help bridge the generation gap and energize their souls, providing solidarity and social cohesion.
Binkolaib says the elderly were us years before our time, leaving their thumbprint on all the places we are yet to experience for ourselves, carrying with them the wisdom of life gained through trials and tribulations.
“Because one day all we are going to have are the marks on our faces that relay our stories better than our words ever can,” he said.
Examples of the artist’s work can be found on his Instagram page, @Fawaz_designs.


Star-studded Indian film ‘83’ to have world premiere during Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah

Star-studded Indian film ‘83’ to have world premiere during Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah
The film will close out the festival’s inaugural edition on Dec. 15 ahead of its theatrical release on the 24th. Supplied
Updated 29 November 2021

Star-studded Indian film ‘83’ to have world premiere during Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah

Star-studded Indian film ‘83’ to have world premiere during Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah

DUBAI: “’83,” a film directed by Indian filmmaker Kabir Khan will have its world premiere at the upcoming Red Sea International Film Festival, set to take place from Dec. 16-15 in Jeddah.

The film will close out the festival’s inaugural edition on Dec. 15 ahead of its theatrical release on the 24th.

The premiere will be attended by cast and crew, including the director and Bollywood star Deepika Padukone, the captain of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, Kapil Dev, alongside Mohinder Amarnath, vice captain of the team and legendary cricketeer Kris Srikkanth.

“83” tells the true story of Indian athlete Kapil Dev (Singh) who led the country’s cricket team to its first-ever World Cup victory in 1983. Supplied

“I’m beyond excited to unveil “’83” at the Red Sea International Film Festival, the opening of cinemas in Saudi Arabia is a fantastic opportunity for filmmakers in India and across the world,” Khan said in a statement. “To go on this journey, and to bring the story to screen with legends, Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and cricket icon Kapil Dev was like winning the world cup for me.”

Starring Ranveer Singh, “83” tells the true story of Indian athlete Kapil Dev (Singh) who led the country’s cricket team to its first-ever World Cup victory in 1983 at the Lord’s Cricket Ground in London against the West Indies.  

According to a release, actors trained for months with the real cricketeers they were portraying in order to understand the nuances of the bat-and-ball game that originated in east England.

Edouard Waintrop, Artistic Director of the film festival said: “‘83 is such a monumental film that will capture the public imagination, in Jeddah and across the world. A true celebration of one of the greatest underdog stories in international sporting history, it continues to inspire generations of young people, and the incredible Hindi-language film is sure to do the same. We are thrilled to host the cast and crew, as well sporting icon Kapil Dev at the Red Sea International Film Festival for one of the most anticipated films of the year.”

 


Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display

Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display
“Beyond: Emerging Artists,” a section of the now-wrapped up Abu Dhabi Art fair features work by Hashel Al-Lamki.. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Art
Updated 28 November 2021

Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display

Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display

DUBAI: A woman dressed in black with a light blue colored sack over her head moves gracefully amidst a dark forest — she holds in either hand a branch with white feathers. The video work, executed in 2021 and titled “Too Close to the Sun,” is by Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla and it is on display in “Beyond: Emerging Artists,” which wraps up on Dec. 4 in Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat.

The exhibition kicked off as part of the wider Abu Dhabi Art fair that ended Nov. 21. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, “Beyond: Emerging Artists” explores the challenges of the future and painful reminders of the past while highlighting three UAE-based artists.

Alongside Abdalla's showcase are rooms featuring work by Emirati Hashel Al-Lamki and American Christopher Benton, who is based in Dubai.

A view of the room of Emirati artist Maitha Abdallah in Beyond: Emerging Artists, a section at this year's now concluded Abu Dhabi Art fair running until Dec. 4th. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Art
 

Bardaouil and Fellrath told Arab News that the three artists’ strong links with Abu Dhabi allowed them to examine the city’s history and diversity, as well as its challenges and opportunities.

“Throughout our curatorial practice we have always been closely connected to the art scene in the Gulf region, and to the UAE in particular,” Bardaouil and Fellrath told Arab News. “Each of the three artists are either from Abu Dhabi or have been based here for a very long time. It was important to us that there is a strong connection to the city the works are exhibited in, to its history and diversity, as well as to its challenges and opportunities.”

The artists rely on media ranging from painting to sculpture, soundscapes, video works, found objects and site-specific installations.

The core focus of the program is on mentorship. Its aims thus venture outside the traditional role of a curator. “We wanted to work with artists where we felt we could contribute to the development of their practice,” said Bardaouil and Fellrath. “It was important to us to give each artist their own distinct voice and offer them the freedom and support to develop a project that they already had on their mind. Each of the three artists pushed their initial ideas to create truly immersive installations that are made up of different individual components.”

Abdalla’s commissions are part of a series of works that “negotiates the wild nature of women that social forces have often attempted to tame,” according to the artist.

In her room, Abdalla recreated US psychoanalyst Pinkola’s “wild creature” through her immersive installation. The visitor walks into an immersive space with a window that looks outdoors where there is a video of a performance where the performer, Abdalla, is attempting different poses of Pinkola’s “wild woman.”

“In my work, I am interested in storytelling and folk tales, and for this exhibition I was inspired by the book ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves,’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an American psychoanalyst. She talks about how in every woman there is a wild creature and that this creature is powerful. She calls it wild woman and says this creature is an endangered species,” Abdalla said.

“Maitha’s work is amazing—from performances that revolve around notions of female wildness (characterized by a quasi-mythological woman, Sila) to sculptures and paintings that provoke thought and discussion around what’s considered right and wrong behavior and thought in communities,” Fair Director Dyala Nusseibeh told Arab News. “She reminds me in some ways of Paula Rego in the intensity of her paintings.”

Each room is conceived as an immersive space through which visitors can delve into each artist's work, practice and personal life. The walls and tiles of Abdalla’s room are painted pink, for example, to recall her childhood bathroom. As Nusseibeh says, “the ambitious claiming of each room” by the artists provides a unique portal into their world. 

 


 

Hashem Al-Lamki, Neptune. Courtsey of Abu Dhabi Art

 

Benton’s installation of a chained palm tree also fosters debate around labor economies and the appropriation of Middle Eastern culture in the US.

Christopher Joshua Benton, chained palm tree installation. Courtsey of Abu Dhabi Art

The artist’s film “The Kite Has Come” features archival images of Zanzibar from 1860-1910 — when the world’s last slave market operated in the city — and explores how slave histories in past centuries resonate in today’s world.

What profoundly resonates with the visitor even after they have left the room is how Benton’s work remembers the presence of the East African diaspora in the Gulf and the in-depth thought he has given to slave histories and how their stories over the last few centuries continue in today’s world.

Al-Lamki’s room on the other hand, entirely painted in a mystical soft blue, looks at the rapid pace of transformations shaping the UAE today, particularly evident in the building up of his hometown of Al-Ain.  

The artist, who founded the art group Bait 15 in a residential neighborhood in downtown Abu Dhabi, uses natural pigments collected from regional locations, referencing traditions that are under threat from new technologies and consumerism.

“The extravagance of the glitter and dyes in his paintings alongside the use of batteries, star stickers and popcorn in his sculpture, contribute to a sense of spectacle and futurism, but also a note of wistfulness for what is left behind,” Nusseibeh said.

What is so poignant about the works by each of the artists is that they go beyond of their formal, physical realm as art to tell the stories of their creators and the past and present histories of the world around them.

As an overall exhibition, the three rooms offer immersive solo shows covering each artist’s diverse practices within the context of their shared relationship to the UAE, its past and present histories and rapidly unfolding future.