Waiting to fly: Palestinian artists Nisreen, Nermeen Abudail on their ‘nostalgia for unlived moments’

Waiting to fly: Palestinian artists Nisreen, Nermeen Abudail on their ‘nostalgia for unlived moments’
Wa Mashat, 2020. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 October 2021

Waiting to fly: Palestinian artists Nisreen, Nermeen Abudail on their ‘nostalgia for unlived moments’

Waiting to fly: Palestinian artists Nisreen, Nermeen Abudail on their ‘nostalgia for unlived moments’

LONDON: A woman strides purposefully through a field of golden wheat. She exudes confidence and joy. Her richly embroidered gown and distinctive Smadeh (headpiece) identify her as coming from Gaza, Palestine. She carries a basket of gifts including the famed grapes from her region.

Who is she and where is she going? Those are the first questions that come to mind when viewing “Wa Mashat” by artists and sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abudail, co-founders of Naqsh Collective.

“She is supposed to be going from Gaza to Amman, Jordan,” Nisreen tells Arab News. “The trip should take no more than a couple of hours walking. But with what is happening right now in Gaza with the sanctions and all the difficulties that Gazan people are experiencing, the trip is impossible.  It is impossible even to think about crossing borders from Gaza to Amman. Living in Gaza is agony because of the situation.”




Sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abudail are the co-founders of Naqsh Collective. (Supplied)

The sisters say that, as second-generation refugees from Palestine, they sometimes see themselves in the image of the Gazan woman.

“We embody this lady from time to time through our Naqsh journey. This journey is peaceful, joyful and full of determination and pride. She is determined to push though all the obstacles, carrying her basket of goods on her head out of the Gazan siege, to share them with the world,” says Nermeen.

Nermeen indicates the little bird perched in the bottom-right of the image.




“The Bride’s Carpet” is currently on show as part of the Naqsh Collective’s “Unlived Moments” exhibition at the Gazelli Art House in London. (Supplied)

“The sunbird — which is the national bird of Palestine — is symbolic of waiting and hope; it is an icon of freedom. It is not flying, but sitting and waiting for the woman,” she explains.

Nisreen studied architecture at Jordan University of Science and Technology. After working for a time in the US, she is now based in Jordan. Her younger sister, Nermeen, currently based in Dubai, studied graphics.

They are particularly inspired by the intricate embroidery (tatreez), which, for many Palestinian women over the centuries, has been a powerful way of communicating important information about themselves — including their hometown and their marital or financial status. Passed from mother to daughter, this silent language stitched meticulously on their garments speaks volumes.




“Unit and Diaspora” is an open-air, 180-piece exhibit. (Supplied)

Nisreen and Nermeen have taken the delicate silk threads and reimagined them in unexpected, contemporary forms using wood, metals, stone and marble.

The intricate work “The Bride’s Carpet,” currently on show as part of the Naqsh Collective’s “Unlived Moments” exhibition at the Gazelli Art House in London, is a good example.

It tells the fictional story of a mother who gifted her daughter a hand-woven carpet for her wedding. Fearing that Israeli forces would break into her house and steal the precious gift, the mother buried it in her garden.

The story of hurriedly burying precious family treasures would be familiar to many of the 700,000 Palestinian Arabs forced to flee their homes in 1948 when Israeli forces stormed through their towns and villages. Echoes of this traumatic past came vividly alive for Nisreen and Nermeen when they discovered a carpet buried in a garden.

“The Bride’s Carpet,” made up of hundreds of pieces of volcanic basalt stone, is engraved with stitch patterns from all over Palestine and presented as partly buried under shavings of upcycled brass. Details in the work include the bride as the moon and the scene where she faces her mother-in-law, represented by two peacocks.

“We wanted to shed light on stories from our heritage and people suffering from the occupation,” explains Nermeen. “Many families buried their belongings next to a well, or a fig or olive tree, intending to retrieve them upon their return.”

The main theme of “Unlived Moments” is a thread that runs through their work. You see it in pieces such as “Akka,” which shows Palestinian youths standing at the edge of Akka’s famous wall in the old harbour preparing to leap into the Mediterranean waters below — a rite of passage marking the transition from boyhood to manhood. For the young Palestinian boys of the diaspora this is a moment they only get to live through stories told by their grandfathers.

“We are nostalgic about living unlived moments that we have never experienced,” Nermeen says. “We are celebrating at the same time as shedding light on the challenging and even unliveable circumstances experienced by the people of Gaza on an everyday basis.”

Another powerful story is told through their installation “Unit and Diaspora” (WihdehWaShatat). This open-air, 180-piece exhibit captures the relationship of the Palestine people with the passage of time.




“Unit and Diaspora” captures the relationship of the Palestine people with the passage of time. (Supplied)

In it, a series of sundials indicate eight key locations of the Palestinian diaspora; Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, the UK, the US, Chile, Libya and Kuwait.  The dials are made of limestone and the gnomons (the part of a sundial that casts a shadow) of brass.

“The sundials are made of local stone which is strong but can get chipped or eroded if moved from one place to another,” Nisreen says. “It can get distorted and damaged, just like refugees who can be scarred forever when they are relocated. The brass piece, which incorporates elements of Palestinian embroidery, symbolizes cultural heritage; brass represents durability, richness and an everlasting effect that won’t fade but grows deeper and richer with time.

“The minute the sun hits the gnomon we get the reflection on the stone,” she continues. “This reflection adds value to the place where the sundial is located, which is exactly the effect Palestinian refugees have on the places they move to. They add value to everywhere by reflecting their culture.”

The installation will be placed on the roof of the new Naqsh studio opening next year just over the border from Palestine, the sisters say.

“The new location will be called Naqsh Experience. People can come and visit the studio and see thobes and art, and connect to nature and with the whole aura of the Palestinian story,” Nermeen says.

The sisters say they want their exiled and trapped compatriots to spread their wings and “fly free,” like the bird patiently waiting in the field of golden Gazan wheat.

“We are always waiting for a solution to go back to our land — waiting for stability and better life chances,” Nisreen says. “I remember my grandparents used to wait for the news around 8 p.m. every day to update themselves about the political situation — the peace treaties, the conferences. They are still waiting to go back. Until now Palestinians all over the world are still waiting.”


Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai

Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai
Updated 17 January 2022

Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai

Record-breaking 555.55 carat black diamond unveiled at Sotheby’s Dubai

DUBAI: Gemstone collectors now have the chance to own the largest cut diamond in the world. Titled the “The Enigma,” the Guinness World Record-breaking rare black diamond made its public debut at Sotheby’s Dubai on Jan. 17, where it will remain on show until Jan. 20. Weighing in at a whopping 555.55 carats, the unique jewel will be on view at the Dubai Diamond Exchange, before making its way to Los Angeles and London, where it will be opened to bidding online from Feb. 3-9.

The carbonado black diamond is an extremely rare natural occurrence. Dating back to 2.6 to 3.8 billion years ago, they are said to have been formed from a meteoric impact or from a diamond-bearing asteroid that collided with Earth. It contains traces of nitrogen and hydrogen abundant in space, as well as osbornite, a mineral uniquely present in meteors.

In addition to its record-breaking size, the jewel is imbued with numerical significance. It’s shape is inspired by the Middle Eastern palm-shaped symbol, the Hamsa – a symbol of protection from the “evil eye.” The Hamsa is associated with the number five, and the diamond is not only 555.55 carats in size, but it also contains exactly 55 facets.

“We are honored that Dubai has been chosen as the first stop for this exceptional rarity and are thrilled to play a part in its journey, which began so many millions of years ago,” said Katia Nounou Boueiz, Head of Sotheby’s UAE, in a released statement.

The diamond will be available to purchase with cryptocurrency, a first in the UAE.

“This is the first time we are introducing our cryptocurrency offering in the UAE, a move that is in line with the government’s own commitment to exploring new digital, technological and scientific advances. Unveiling this one-of-a-kind stone - both in our DIFC gallery and at the unparalleled Dubai Diamond Exchange - is a clear continuation of our dedication to showcasing the best of the best in the UAE,” added Boueiz.

“The Enigma” is previously unseen on the market and has never been exhibited to the public before.


A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?
Updated 17 January 2022

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

DUBAI: Entrepreneurs and husband and wife duo Luma Makhlouf and Haider Al-Assam are the founders of Dubai’s hugely popular Maiz Tacos and Good Burger. Here, Makhlouf pens her thoughts on the food trends we can expect to see in the region in 2022.

Coming off the back of a challenging year largely centered around the pandemic, we are declaring 2022 the year of health and rebuilding.  Looking forward, food trends will incorporate a return to local produce, entertaining and sustainable food practices.

 Luma Makhlouf. Supplied 

Homegrown produce

More than ever before, consumers are focusing on their health and are looking to strengthen their immune system, making fresh local produce their preferred choice. What used to be an industry that knew no borders, the pandemic meant importing food became more expensive and less timely. Returning to basics, consumers will choose organic, local produce and clean ingredients. Post pandemic, some of the most successful brands are the homegrown ones that built up their resilience under tough conditions. Local suppliers offering authentic “farm to fork” produce will resonate with consumers seeking to focus on their health.

Return to entertaining

As people start to celebrate events they missed out on during the pandemic, catering demand is set to increase. Consumers are looking to create new, out of the box experiences and are therefore seeking tailored, personalized catering solutions. We are seeing increased corporate marketing budgets as demand for events such as product launches increase in line with the reduction of pandemic restrictions.

Sustainability

Photo: Getty Images

Consumers are increasingly choosing sustainable produce as they become more aware of their carbon footprint and the impact of their choices. As the population increases, so too will food production. Aquaculture and hydroponic farming are two aspects that will help the UAE in particular create a more sustainable food industry, and consumers will favor the health benefits of fresher, healthier produce. An increase in plant-based diets means consumers’ choices will be less taxing on the environment and they will be looking for ethical, sustainable ingredients that can help them achieve their health goals.

The increase in demand for healthy, nutritious and sustainably sourced foods will shape the food industry this year. Consumers will look for foods and catering options with nutritional benefits as healthy eating becomes mainstream and entertaining with our loved ones finally returns.


‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar

‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar
Sonia Ben Ammar was born in France to a Tunisian father and a Polish mother. Instagram
Updated 17 January 2022

‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar

‘I’m really happy to represent my roots,’ says French-Tunisian ‘Scream’ star Sonia Ben Ammar

DUBAI: French-Tunisian actress Sonia Ben Ammar is joining the ever-growing list of rising Arab stars working their way up the ladder in Hollywood, such as Ramy Youssef, Sofia Boutella, Dali Benssalah and Mena Messoud to name a few.

The 22-year-old recently made her Hollywood debut in the fifth instalment of the “Scream” franchise, which hit theaters on Jan. 14.

With French-Tunisian heritage, Ben Ammar is the first Arab main character in a “Scream” film, performing alongside the most diverse cast in the history of the franchise.

“I’m just really happy to be a part of it and represent my roots and I’m excited for people to watch it,” Ben Ammar told Arab News.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

“I’m really looking forward to films representing more of real life and the people and the places we live in so I am really stoked (about) that,” she added.

In her second film role and first Hollywood feature, the actress plays the part of Liv McKenzie, a teenager who is targeted by Ghostface, a mysterious masked killer on the loose. Starring alongside “Scream” veterans Courtney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell, Ben Ammar makes an impressive debut despite her aversion to horror films.

She said that “Scream” is a new experience for her because, unlike the film’s loyal fanbase, she does not like scary movies.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia Ammar (@itsnotsonia)

“Doing something that scares me and being a part of that was interesting,” she said, adding “But I think being part of the behind-the-scenes process of being in it really takes a lot of the scary elements out of it. When I saw the movie  (at) the screening for the first time, I was jumping up from my seat.”

Although “Scream” marks Ben Ammar’s first high-profile Hollywood gig as an actress, it is not the Paris-born actress’s first foray into the film industry.

Ben Ammar, who is the daughter of Tunisian film director Tarek Ben Ammar and Polish-born actress Beata, previously starred in Guillaume Canet’s French-language film “Jappeloup,” as well as the stage musical “1789: Les Amants de la Bastille.”

Before following in the footsteps of her parents, the multi-hyphenate made headway in the fashion world as a model, fronting campaigns for the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu and Chanel.


Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab
The Mexican actress wore a black Elie Saab jumpsuit to promote the new film. Instagram
Updated 16 January 2022

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

DUBAI: “Scream” will hit theaters in Saudi Arabia this week, more than 25 years after the late Wes Craven’s slasher classic thrilled fans. The new film is the fifth title in the cult series and is a direct sequel to 2011’s “Scream 4.” Directed by filmmakers Matt Bettinello-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Scream” sees franchise mainstays Courteney Cox and Neve Campbell reprise their roles, while newcomers include Sonia Ben Ammar, Melissa Barerra, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette and Jack Quaid.

“Scream” follows a new Ghostface-masked assailant who begins targeting teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town of Woodsboro’s past.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by laChambre (@lachambrehq)

Following the hotly-anticipated movie’s successful release in the US on Jan. 14, Barrera sat down with show host Kelly Clarkson to promote the new film and to discuss her role in the latest installment of the “Scream” franchise. For her appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” the rising Hollywood star decided to don one of the most versatile pieces in fashion — the jumpsuit.

The 31-year-old exuded casual glam wearing a black power jumpsuit from Lebanese couturier Elie Saab’s Resort 2022 collection, which was titled “Infinite Horizons.” The design featured short, layered sleeves, white stitching throughout and a delicate bow on the neckline. The loose track-suit style jumpsuit boasted a black stripe running down the side. The Mexican star paired the look, which was put together by stylist Penny Lovell, with open-toe pumps and a bedazzled Ghostface-shaped hairclip to secure her raven lengths.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lilly Keys (@lilly_keys)

The disco-era favorite that is undergoing a renaissance on the runways — it popped up on the Spring 2022 catwalks of Alberta Ferretti, Etro, Isabel Marant and Fendi — is slowly migrating to the red carpet and photo calls.

Meanwhile, the Monterrey-born star is certainly one to watch. For the past few years, Barrera has split her time between Mexico and the US. After growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, she studied in New York at Tisch School of the Arts, then returned to Mexico to star in telenovela “Siempre tuya Acapulco.” The Clinique brand ambassador moved back to the US to film the TV drama series “Vida” and later to star as Vanessa in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s screen adaptation of the musical “In the Heights.”


Quirky Saudi vintage collector lays down a challenge to the fast-fashion world

Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
Updated 16 January 2022

Quirky Saudi vintage collector lays down a challenge to the fast-fashion world

Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
  • ‘Re-accessorize everything, borrow from your friends and lend them stuff. The perfect way to not buy for occasions’

JEDDAH: A young Saudi fashion enthusiast is trying to make people aware of vintage fashion and the footprint that fast fashion has on the world.

Alia Kurdi is a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast who collects, designs, and sells vintage clothes in Saudi Arabia. She has always felt that, growing up, the only way she could express herself was through her clothes,
“There weren’t many venues for self-expression, and because I am a bit of a radical person, I began showing my personality through my clothes, and that is when I began building this connection to different pieces.”
The appreciation of vintage clothes ran within the Kurdi family. She told Arab News that her grandfather collected Versace shirts that were often loud and bright, “He didn’t dress like the typical Arab man. I still wear some of his shirts today, and people compliment them and are often shocked to find out that they belong to my grandfather.”

I feel like I already have a connection with a piece; I feel called to a store, and immediately from a distance, I know the thing I am going to buy as if these pieces speak to me. Usually, they are extremely special, whether the texture or the pattern.

Alia Kurdi

People in Saudi Arabia have always recycled their used items through charity.
However, the situation has changed as conversations around resale and pre-owned pieces have evolved.
Kurdi said that she began shopping mindfully ever since she learned the footprint that fast fashion had on the globe; that is when she started venturing into vintage and second-hand shops. The collector said that once she had started, she never looked back, and 2022 marks her fast-fashion-free seventh year.
Kurdi advised people thinking of going into fast fashion to start with baby steps and set realistic goals, “One of the most negative things is buying for occasions because people think they cannot repeat. Re-accessorize everything, borrow from your friends and lend them stuff. That will be the perfect way to not buy for occasions.”
The collector said that she loves exploring different streets and shops to find her clothes; she described the process of selecting what to buy as “intuitive.”
“I feel like I already have a connection with a piece; I feel called to a store, and immediately from a distance, I know the thing I am going to buy as if these pieces speak to me. Usually, they are extremely special, whether the texture or the pattern,” she said.

Alia Kurdi has recycled these pants from a vintage skirt. (Supplied)

Kurdi also said that the pieces she selects turn out to be beautiful, and she has developed this compass to find hidden treasures.
She describes her style as an “Emo Unicorn,” someone who likes a lot of black but with loud colors, as well. Her emotions are reflected in the outfit she is wearing.
“I did get a lot of negative comments as I was growing up, and I was very triggered by it. However, now not only have I changed my approach, but people are celebrating it a lot more; they say things like it’s amazing that I have stayed true to myself,” she said.
“Still, a lot of people have said that I was much prettier a few years ago, and I recognize that at that time I was much more insecure.”
She said her favorite piece of clothing is a ‘Google Chrome’ jacket that she bought in Berlin: “It’s black with a lot of bright colors. I broke my spending limit rule for this one jacket because I actually had to have it. So many people have complimented me. I made a friend through it as well. I am so glad that it found me.”
She gave that name to the jacket because the colors looked like Google’s logo. If she were to sum up her style and personality in an item of clothing, this would be it: “It is rough in some spots and soft in some, it is all black but also colorful. Kind of like what I feel all the time.”
The collector has started her own brand where she connects people with pieces with stories, “Diskofrenzy was born because often I will find pieces that were very special but not my size, but I had to collect them and keep them with me. My goal for my brand is to make Diskofrenzy the ultimate go-to for vintage and up-cycled fashion.”
The name connects two very personal things for Kurdi: Disco, which is vintage but is now making a comeback, and she said that she feels a frenzy only when she is dancing or shopping. This is why she decided that the perfect name for her brand would be Diskofrenzy.
She said that people often come up to her and say that only she can pull off a certain style. However, in her opinion that is not true, “Anyone can pull off whatever they want. Just be quirky and weird and a little bit rebellious. Express yourself through what you wear.”