Inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale announces participating artists

Inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale announces participating artists
The event will be held from Dec. 11 through March 11, 2022. Supplied
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Updated 13 October 2021

Inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale announces participating artists

Inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale announces participating artists

DUBAI: The artists participating a the inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale have been announced this week. More than 60 artists, hailing from all points of the globe, are set to showcase their work at the event, which will be held from Dec. 11 through March 11, 2022, in the Jax district of Diriyah.

Developed by a team of international curators led by Philip Tinari, director and chief executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, China, the Biennale will unfold in six sections, with works from national and international artists examining the theme “Feeling the Stones” and engaging visitors in a dialogue around contemporary art.

The selected artists include Omar Abduljawad (Saudi Arabia, 1989), Sarah Abu Abdallah (Saudi Arabia, 1990), Hmoud Al Attawi (Saudi Arabia, 1986), Manal AlDowayan (Saudi Arabia, 1973), Fahad Al Hejailan (Saudi Arabia, 1957-2018), Lulwah Al-Homoud (Saudi Arabia, 1967) and many more.

 “As the Foundation prepares to open the first contemporary art biennale organized, conceived and hosted in Saudi Arabia, the selection of artists is emblematic of our commitment - to showcase Saudi artists in dialogue with leading artists from around the world,” said Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, about the selection of the artists. “We see the development of cultural exchange and international dialogue in contemporary art as a crucial element in enhancing the cultural infrastructure in this country and look forward to welcoming artists and audiences alike to Diriyah,” she added.

Echoing on Al-Bakree’s statement, Tinari said:  “The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale presents an unprecedented opportunity for the wide audiences in Saudi Arabia to experience global contemporary art.”

Tinari revealed that the four-month-long event will also include 30 site-specific commissions.

The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale was established in 2020 with the support of the Saudi Ministry of Culture. It will be the Kingdom’s first international contemporary art biennale.

The full list of participating artists includes:

Omar Abduljawad (Saudi Arabia, 1989)

Sarah Abu Abdallah (Saudi Arabia, 1990)

Hmoud Al Attawi (Saudi Arabia, 1986)

Manal AlDowayan (Saudi Arabia, 1973)

Fahad Al Hejailan (Saudi Arabia, 1957-2018)

Lulwah Al-Homoud (Saudi Arabia, 1967)

Mahdi Al Jeraibi (Saudi Arabia, 1969)

Abdullah AlOthman (Saudi Arabia, 1985)

Monira Al Qadiri (Kuwait, 1983)

Daniah Al Saleh (Saudi Arabia, 1970)

Mohammed Al Saleem (Saudi Arabia, 1939-1997)

Shadia Alem (Saudi Arabia, 1960)

Zahrah Al Ghamdi (Saudi Arabia, 1977)

Marwah AlMugait (Saudi Arabia, 1981)

Jowhara AlSaud (Saudi Arabia, 1978)

Rashed AlShashai (Saudi Arabia, 1977)

Dana Awartani (Saudi Arabia - Palestine, 1987)

Larry Bell (United States, 1939)

Sultan Bin Fahad (Saudi Arabia, 1971)

Birdhead (China, est 2004)

Sarah Brahim (Saudi Arabia, 1992)

Colin Chinnery (United Kingdom, 1971)

Ayman Yossri Daydban (Palestine - Jordan, 1966)

Simon Denny (New Zealand, 1982)

Ibrahim El Dessouki (Egypt, 1969)

Osama Esid (Syria, 1970)

Morris Foit (Kenya, 1940)

John Gerrard (Ireland, 1974)

Abdullah Hammas (Saudi Arabia, 1953)

Huang Rui (China, 1952)

William Kentridge (South Africa, 1955)

Wolfgang Laib (Germany, 1950)

Lei Lei & Chai Mi (China, 1985)

Lawrence Lek (Germany, 1982)

Richard Long (United Kingdom, 1945)

Maha Malluh (Saudi Arabia, 1959)

Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia, 1979)

Mohamed Melehi (Morocco, 1936-2020)

Han Mengyun (China, 1989)

Sarah Morris (United States, 1967)

Munira Mosli (Saudi Arabia, 1954 - 2019)

Peter Mulindwa (Uganda, 1943)

Nabuqi (China, 1984)

Filwa Nazer (Saudi Arabia, 1972)

Geof Oppenheimer (United States, 1973)

Miguel Angel Payano Jr. (United States, 1980)

Faisal Samra (Saudi Arabia, 1956)

Shao Fan (China, 1964)

Muhannad Shono (Saudi Arabia, 1977)

Timur Si-Qin (Germany, 1984)

Tavares Strachan (Bahamas, 1979)

Superstudio (Italy, est 1966)

Koki Tanaka (Japan, 1975)

Wang Luyan (China, 1956)

Wang Sishun (China,1979)

Wang Yuping (China, 1962)

Andro Wekua (Georgia, 1977)

Xu Bing (China, 1955)

Yukinori Yanagi (Japan, 1959)

Ayman Zedani (Saudi Arabia, 1984)

Zhang Peili (China, 1957)

Zheng Yuan (China, 1988)

Zou Zhao (Singapore, 1989)

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival
Updated 15 October 2021

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival

Migrant movie opens Rome Film Festival
  • Moving film tells the story of the Catalan activist who went to the aid of migrants trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos
  • Festival auditorium hosts a photo exhibition dedicated to the situation of the women in Afghanistan today

ROME: The tragedies of migrants risking their lives trying to reach Europe from North Africa and Syria was the focus of the inaugural day at the 16th Rome Film Fest, the annual film review that was opened on Thursday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

One of the opening films at the festival was “Mediterraneo,” by Spanish director Marcel Barrena, about the rescue of migrants at sea by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms.

The movie, starring Eduard Fernández, tells the story of the Spanish lifeguard Oscar Camps, the founder of Open Arms.

Moved by the indignation he felt at the photograph of the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose was washed up on a beach in Turkey, Camps decided to rescue immigrants from the sea, operating from the Greek island of Lesbos, a popular tourist destination that hosted a refugee camp where thousands of people lived in unsanitary conditions, subjected to inclement weather and constant anguish.

In 2015 alone, more than 450,000 people passed through Lesbos, an island of just 85,000 inhabitants.

In 2016 Pope Francis visited in Lesbos the refugee camp of Moria, which was later destroyed by a fire. He called on the international community to help “those who risk their lives to find a better future and to escape from war.”

Vatican sources told Arab News that the Pope may go back again to Lesbos “in the near future.” A new refugees camp is being built on the island, completely financed by the European Union.

Barrena told a festival press conference that his film, which has heartbreaking images of the thousands of people risking their lives to escape the war in Syria, is “a cry of protest and pain against Europe’s indifference to the drama of the immigration.”

The 39-year-old director spoke about the challenges of the conditions, filming in the open sea, with real refugees and thousands of extras speaking different languages.

The discovery of hundreds of people floating on the sea, one of the biggest dramas in recent European history, is among the most shocking scenes.

The director explained that his is “not a political film.” “It is about love for human beings. You can’t make a choice between leaving a person to die in the water or saving them. I can’t understand how it is possible that there are people who are not moved by this.”

The main foyeur of the auditorium is hosting “Afghana,” an exhibition of photos shot in the Emergency NGO’s maternity center in Anabah, in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.

The pictures by photographer Laura Salvinelli tell the story of the doctors, nurses and patients in this medical facility. There is the smiling face of Zarghona who gave birth to the first son; Kemeya struggling with her fifth caesarean; the Kuchi nomad women during one of their seasonal passages through the Valley; and Asuda who, thanks to the Maternity Center, was able study and train to become a midwife.


Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony

Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony
Updated 15 October 2021

Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony

Stars put on a show at El-Gouna Film Festival’s opening ceremony

EL-GOUNA: The fifth edition of El-Gouna Film Festival (GFF) in Egypt kicked off on Thursday, bringing together international filmmakers, producers, actors, industry insiders and cinema enthusiasts who all flocked to the Egyptian resort town for a lavish opening ceremony.

Despite the fire that broke out in the site’s main hall on Wednesday, just a day before the event was scheduled to begin, the show still went on. Organizers managed to reconstruct and repaint the structure that was engulfed in flames in 24-hours.  

Egyptian actress Shereen Reda descended upon the red carpet wearing a luxurious gown from Maison Yeya. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

Celebrities, including Egyptian actress Shereen Reda and Lebanese singer Maya Diab, descended upon the red carpet wearing luxurious, eye-catching evening gowns to the event that has quicky become one of the most important film festivals in the MENA region.

The opening ceremony, which started at around 10 p.m., featured speeches by Samih Sawiris, founder of GFF, Amr Hanafy, governor of the Red Sea Governorate and Egyptian icon Youssra, who is also a member of GFF’s International Advisory Board.

Lebanese singer Maya Diab wore an eye-catching dress with a giant red hat from Jean-Louis Sabaji. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

During the ceremony, Egyptian actor Sayed Ragab presented a video that paid tribute to the works of stars and filmmakers who passed away earlier this year, including Samir Ghanem, Dalal Abdel Aziz, Wahid Hamed, Ezzat El-Alaili, Ramses Marzouk, Moufida Tlatli and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Later on in the evening, Tunisian-Egyptian award-winning actress Hend Sabri introduced GFF’s Career Achievement Award, which was presented to Egyptian actor Ahmed El-Saka, who made a special red carpet appearance with his family.

Egyptian actor Ahmed El-Saka made a special red carpet appearance with his family. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)

The opening day came to a triumphant close with a live performance from Egyptian singer and actor Mohamed Ramadan, who took to the stage to perform his new song “Gaw El Banat,” alongside Moroccan-Swedish record producer RedOne and Amsterdam-born singer Nouamane BelAiachi.  

Also at the star-studded event was Canadian-Lebanese musician Massari, Chilean-Palestinian singer Elyana and Lebanese-Canadian entrepreneur Wassim Slaiby, who manages The Weeknd and founded the record label XO. 

This year, the festival, which launched in 2017, will screen films from countries around the world including France, Germany, Russia, Finland, Australia and more. 

The festival will also show a selection of award-winning Arabic movies from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia and others. 

Here we have rounded up some of our favorite gowns from the opening night.

Yasmine Sabri wearing Rami Kadi. (AFP)
Mona Zaki wearing Maison Yeya. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Dorra Zarrouk wearing Georges Chakra. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Yousra wearing Georges Hobeika. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Bushra Rozza wearing Michael Cinco. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Hend Sabri wearing Fouad Sarkis. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Amina Khalil wearing Salma Osman. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)
Laila Elwi. (Arab News/ Hams Saleh)


Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious
Tbilisi is also a good starting point for day trips around the rest of Georgia. Getty Images
Updated 15 October 2021

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious
  • The Georgian capital and its surrounds offer rich history, stunning views, and hearty food at bargain prices

DUBAI: If you are on the lookout for a city vacation that won’t break the bank, but also won’t force you to compromise on quality, then the Georgian capital of Tbilisi — an urban sprawl nestled in a series of mountains following the route of the Kura River — is well worth a visit.

Its architecture reflects the country’s varied past and its geographical location where East (nearly) meets West. The influence of the latter is as clearly apparent as that of the Russian Empire and the Soviet era with its imposing apartment blocks.

Tbilisi is not a huge city, but you can easily fill a week walking the streets, visiting the various tourist attractions and absorbing its busy, vibrant atmosphere.

The old city of Tblisi. Getty Images

The airport is a short drive from the city center, but beware; there are people, mostly men, wearing black tabard’s emblazoned with the words “Airport taxi.” Make sure you agree a price before starting your ride, otherwise you might find you’re paying up to three times the actual fare.

Despite the airport taxis, though, Tbilisi is highly affordable. Georgia has embraced the European Union but not the Euro and as such remains a place where your wallet will be less strained than in many European countries.

You can stay in one of the many 4-star hotels in the heart of the old city for as little as $300 for four nights — although you can certainly spend more if you want to — and you can eat a hearty meal with beverages for as little as $20. 

View from Zedazeni Mountain. Shutterstock

The concierge at most hotels will help you come up with an itinerary, but be sure to include the Zedazeni Monastery. Located at the top of the Zedazeni mountain, it is one of the country’s oldest and boasts a vast metal cross as well as panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

It’s also worth investing in bus tour of the city. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, and the tour takes in all major tourist attractions.  

A walk around the old town is a must — the narrow streets are lined with historic buildings, first floor balconies overlooking the tree-filled streets; it’s like a scene from an old French market town. Overlooking this idyll is the Mother of Georgia statue. It’s a short-but-steep walk to this monument, and the reward is spectacular views across the city.


Mother of Georgia statue. Getty Images

Outside of the old town, the roads are busier and traffic is heavy. It’s not the most pedestrian-friendly place — sidewalks often come to an abrupt end, leaving you with the choice of a quick dash into the road or a sharp U-turn to find a better route.

Another great location for spectacular views is Mtatsminda Park, which can be reached via the Tbilisi Funicular ropeway railway connecting Chonkadze street with the summit, 727 meters above sea level. 

It gets hot in Georgia in the summer and the city’s galleries and museums offer a welcome escape. The National Gallery, on Rustaveli Avenue, is small, but provides an interesting insight into Georgian history. A short distance away is the Georgian Museum of Fine Art, which — apart from its three floors of artworks — also boasts a tremendous café.  

National Art Gallery. Shutterstock

If markets are your thing, set aside some time for the flea market next to the Dry Bridge. It has a wide selection of arts and crafts and is a nice place for a stroll, even if you have no intention of buying anything. Who knows? You might just find that bronze bust of Stalin to add the finishing touch to your guest room.

Tbilisi is also a good starting point for day trips around the rest of Georgia. The country’s third city, Kutaisi, is around three hours away by car, up in the mountains, surrounded by impressive scenery. It’s a far slower-paced city than the capital, with a broad selection of restaurants and cafés in which to while away the time.

Kutaisi. Shutterstock

Georgia is a beautiful country, and a popular destination because it is also remarkably cheap. Remember though, people are paid relative to that level of cost — so be sure to tip generously when eating out. You’ll be able to afford it, and it will make your waiter’s day.

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in ‘Spencer.’ Supplied
Updated 15 October 2021

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype

‘Spencer’ — compelling portrait of Princess Diana lives up to the hype

LONDON: A lot was riding on the UK premiere of “Spencer” at the BFI London Film Festival this month. After all, this was the film’s ‘homecoming,’ as the festival organizers dubbed it. As the film’s credits began to roll, a roaring three-minute-long applause rightfully thundered across the theatre.

“Spencer,” directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight, is set over a three-day holiday at the British Royal family’s vacation home in the early Nineties and puts Princess Diana’s mental health at the forefront of the film from start to end. 

“Spencer” was directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight. Supplied

Throughout, the camera stalks Diana and offers a look into the troubled mind of the princess and her dealings with the highly-secretive, ultra-traditional royal family. Beautifully shot and, at times, overwhelmingly dark, the film pulls no punches in its depiction of Diana’s struggles — her bulimia, loneliness, acceptance of her husband’s affair, and above all, smiling through it all for the cameras.

Larrain and cinematographer Claire Mathon make excellent use of camera movement and scene setting to showcase what the paparazzi lurking about the grounds are trying so hard to capture (and what Prince Charles and the rest of the royal family are equally trying to hide, even going as far as sewing up Diana’s bedroom curtains). 

Kristen Stewart is excellent in the lead role, stealing every scene. It was a brave move for an American actress to take on such an iconic British personality, but Stewart is pitch-perfect — from Diana’s flirtatiously innocent head tilt to her reluctant-yet-assertive tone of voice, she nails it at every turn.

The films pace shifts confidently between overwhelming emotion and minutiae-focused tedium — surely an accurate portrayal of a Royal holiday — and the supporting cast, including Diana’s confidante and Royal Dresser Maggie (Sally Hawkins), Equerry Major Alistair Gregory (Timothy Spall), Royal Head Chef Darren McGrady (Sean Harris) and Princes William and Harry (Jack Nielen and Freddy Spry) all play wonderfully off Stewart’s Diana. 

“Spencer” is a compelling portrayal of the princess’ plunge into mental-health difficulties in the lead up to her untimely death, and a still-too-relevant reminder of the pressure placed on young women in the public eye. 

How Expo 2020 Dubai is helping nations discover cultural connections

How Expo 2020 Dubai is helping nations discover cultural connections
The Al Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai. Instagram
Updated 15 October 2021

How Expo 2020 Dubai is helping nations discover cultural connections

How Expo 2020 Dubai is helping nations discover cultural connections

Alyazia Bint Nahyan Al Nahyan is an ambassador for Culture for ALECSO

DUBAI: When we talk about sustainability, we must reference culture because identity and sustainability both depend on accumulative communal practices. The pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai express these links and values.

Many types of green innovations are featured at Expo 2020, with innovations on show that aim to solve global energy problems — such as the portable U-light — and examples of international corporations that are working to be more sustainable — L’Oréal’s perfume refill system for example. One of the more technologically advanced is Source, which makes clean water from air and sunlight by way of their innovative hydro panels.

The Morocco pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Instagram

The idea of sustaining identity and culture is exactly why, for the first time, the 192 participating countries at Expo 2020 Dubai all have separate spaces to freely showcase these concepts in their own way and why Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum promised that this would be the best expo held in 170 years. The pavilions of Poland and Morocco are two of the many countries that look to tradition for developing the future. Poland’s use of wood and timber in the design is extremely alluring, similar to Morocco’s use of earthen methods, the sandy exterior honors nature, as does Azerbaijan’s leaf design and Oman’s frankincense tree. Italy’s pavilion, co-designed by Carlo Ratti, is a Renaissance factory that connects with visitors through its beauty. Carmen Bueno, the deputy commissioner and director of the Spanish pavilion, explains other connections through the evolution of chess and common architectural heritage between the Arabs and Spanish in Andalusia. The question is not how we view the future, it is how we view ourselves and others in it.  

Recently Dr. Mohammed Ould Amar, director-general of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), presented me with the honor of a cultural ambassadorship. Their main aspiration is to enhance our Arab culture regionally and internationally. The sense of “ourselves” is a generational idea originating in set traditions over time. In Arabic, we say “bearers of a habit are unable to drop their habits” — cultural continuity, just like sustainability, is a natural way to progress individually and collectively. The calligraphy benches scattered around at Expo 2020 honor the Arabic language and calligraphy as an age-old tradition, inviting family-sized groups of loved ones to take in the splendor of their surroundings.

Al Wasl Plaza. Supplied

Al Wasl Plaza is the grand feature of the Expo 2020 site. Al Wasl means “the link,” a link between all people and ideas.

“The theater (Al Wasl Plaza) is going to be a permanent monument for residents and locals alike, to look back to as a proud memory,” said Nahla Al-Fahad, the woman behind the popular “wain sayreen” Expo 2020 commercial. The film director added: “Al Wasl Plaza will present lots of Arabic poetry in various shows. It is also a park, and the materials used on top give perfect shade, successfully reducing indoor temperatures by up to three degrees.”

An illuminating dome that emulates the Bronze Age ring found in the Saruq Al-Hadid archaeological site in Dubai, with its round shape and twenty orbiting spheres, symbolizes the event as if the countries are planets revolving around the center of this spectacle of dialogue.

Al Wasl Plaza. Instagram

Dunes are another splendid feature of Expo 2020 that creep into the design of various pavilions — a coffee scented trail in Italy’s pavilion, a red uphill entrance to the Swiss pavilion, the color of which will keep changing during the coming months. Then there is the steep, breathtaking ascent into Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage and renewed spirit, inaugurated by the Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Committee for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Pavilion Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri. The UAE’s pavilion, “A Story About the UAE’s Dream,” which Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed shared on Twitter, displayed actual audio and visual depictions of dunes. A few expressions of the desert theme are representative of social participation and similar views.

The UAE pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Supplied

Views of ourselves or others are developed by way of interaction. In the opening ceremony, while we were watching, my mother Sheikha Fakehra Bint Saeed turned our attention to the young star in a pink and golden Khaleeji gown, delightfully performed by model Mira Singh. Her movements on the stage, mixing one by one with the various groups and emphasizing cooperation as a universal value, neither dissolved the uniqueness of any of the groups nor erased the girl’s representation of Arabia’s past and present.

Another host of shows will take place in the Jubilee Park, where the Kapa Haka dancers from New Zealand, with their big smiles and decorative chin tattoos, will represent an old Maori spiritual tradition marking passages of life and a commitment to their ancestral identities. In the deserts of the Arab world, different and comparable to the Maoris during the early 20th century, simple tattoos were a beauty trait for the Bedouins — an example of age-old ideas springing from diverse mindsets. Nowadays meanings differ and methods change in the ways we all honor our past and still fulfill our futures. Societies depend on understanding our we-dentities, in turn, development is dependent on us valuing our cultural bonds and diversity.