Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon

Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon
Despite Lebanon’s troubles, the Institut Français du Liban pressed ahead with the 1st edition of the comic strip festival. (Provided)
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Updated 16 October 2021

Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon

Comic book festival draws laughs in Lebanon
  • Drawing, music, illustration and masterclasses on offer as 40 artists from 14 nationalities display their work
  • ‘A country going through troubled times needs artists more than ever,’ says event’s organizer

BEIRUT: Hard-hit Lebanese might be struggling with soaring prices, food shortages and power cuts, but that did not stop the French Institute of Lebanon from pressing ahead with the country’s first comic book festival.

Forty artists representing 14 nationalities came together to show their work, some combining music and drawing. Exhibits in French, Arabic and English were displayed at 20 locations across the capital, including the Sursock Palace and Dagher Villa.

The big names in comics gave master classes to aspiring young talent. (Supplied)

Mathieu Diez, literary director at the institute and a former director of the Lyon comic book festival, said that the Beirut event had to be held “because a country that is going through troubled times needs artists more than ever.”

He added: “Lebanese artists that we reached out to have overwhelmingly responded. It is also an act of resistance.”

Diez said that the positive reaction to the four-day festival, which ended on Oct. 10, has been overwhelming.

“It was founded on a common ground between Western and Arab authors and audiences, and this merger met our greatest hopes.”

The event was held in three languages: French, Arabic and English. (Supplied)

Leading names in the comic world gave masterclasses to emerging talents. Guests included Penelope Bagieu; Charles Berberian, father of the famous “Henriette” series; Fabien Toulme; Mathieu Sapin; and Michele Standjofski, illustrator and head of the illustration section of the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts.

According to Standjofski, the festival gave students the chance to meet and learn from professionals in the sector.

During the opening concert held at the Sursock Palace, Lebanese illustrator Raphaelle Macaron signed the festival poster, and also completed drawings while accompanied by the Acid Arab band, a French group that plays electro-oriental music popular in the Maghreb, Europe and the Middle East.

Macaron said that the festival offered a chance to boost people’s spirits amid the  turmoil in Lebanon.

40 artists from 14 different nationalities are exhibiting their work and experiences. (Supplied)

“I am motivated by certain projects, either because they are liberating for me or because they contribute to the country’s progress. To me, the illuminated lighthouse in the poster represents hope at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Among many subjects tackled during the festival, the themes that captured most attention were the status of women — an issue that also affects the comic world — and the Lebanese revolution.

The exhibition held in Dar El-Nimer arts center — organized by the Mu’taz and Rada Sawaf Arab Comics Initiative of the American University of Beirut, and managed by illustrator Lina Ghaibeh — allowed the public to explore the new Arab comic book scene through original boards, dozens of magazine copies and individual or collective albums.

Designers from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia were featured in the display.

A number of topics were discussed during the festival (Supplied)

“Arab comics are over a 100 years old, but today’s young illustrators relate their everyday lives,” Ghaibeh said.

“The street is at the center of their creations, because they invaded it during the Arab Spring. They first met through graffiti and social media, then started collaborating. They have revealed themselves, affirmed their identity and managed to make their voices heard.”

For Tunisian illustrator Othman Selmi, the festival offered a chance to “review the problems and challenges to be met,” while Egyptian painter Migo said that the Dar El-Nimer exhibition “allows us to know where we are and what we can reach.”

All agreed the festival was the ideal antidote to the prevailing gloom in the country.

This story was originally published in French on Arab News en Français


International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award
Out of the 16 novels, six will be shortlisted with the titles revealed in March. File/Getty
Updated 27 January 2022

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award

International Prize for Arabic Fiction announces longlist for 2022 award

DUBAI: The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has announced the 16 longlisted authors competing to receive a $50,000 award when the winner is revealed in May.

Among the authors in contention for the 2022 award are Emirati author Reem Alkamali, Egyptian novelist Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, Eritrean writer Hajji Jabir, Nizar Aghri from Syria, Algerian novelist Boumediene Belkebir, Syrian author Yaa’rab Al-Eissa and Egyptian writer Tarek Imam.

Also competing for the prize are authors Bushra Khalfan from Oman, Morocco’s Mohsine Loukili, Khaled Nasrallah from Kuwait, Mohammed Al-Nu’as from Libya and Algerian Rouchdi Redouane.

Rounding out the longlist is Kuwaiti author Mona Al-Shammari, Syrian novelist Dima Al-Shukr and Egyptian writers Mohamed Tawfik and Belal Fadl.

Five judges, which include Tunisian novelist and previous IPAF winner Shukri Mabkhout and Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, chose the list from among 122 entries from nine countries across the Arab world.

Out of the 16 novels, six will be shortlisted with the titles revealed in March. All six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000 each.

Jordanian writer Jalal Barjas won the prize last year for his work “Notebooks of the Bookseller,” announced at an online ceremony in May. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the author also received funding toward securing an English translation of his novel.


‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date
Updated 27 January 2022

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date

‘Say Yes to the Dress Arabia’ gets release date

DUBAI: The Middle Eastern version of “Say Yes to the Dress” is premiering on Feb. 11 on Starzplay, the streaming service announced on Wednesday. 

The Arab program, which is the 25th spin-off of the popular US series, will feature 20 brides from various cultural backgrounds, ranging in age from 23 to 50, all in search for their dream wedding dress.

The nine-episode show, which is a partnership with US media company Discovery, is hosted by Lebanese celebrity stylist Khalil Zein, who has dressed stars from across the region including Haifa Wehbe, Rahma Riad, Nancy Ajram, Maya Diab and Nadine Nassib Njeim. 

The nine-episode show is hosted by Lebanese celebrity stylist Khalil Zein. (Supplied)

Shot at the Hazar Haute Couture in Dubai, the bridal boutique houses a collection of dresses ranging from $615 to $14,000. 

During a virtual event held on Wednesday, the organizers shared a sneak peak of the show, revealing some of the brides who will be part of the show. 

Among the women spotted is a part-Saudi bride, Sabrin, who appears on the show with her family. 

The series will also feature Egyptian beauty influencer and vitiligo advocate Logina Salah, Dubai-based fitness blogger Amy Fox and Iraqi-Polish radio presenter Eve Jaso. 

Fox and Jaso, who attended the press event, shared some of their favorite highlights from the show. 

The series will also feature Iraqi-Polish radio presenter Eve Jaso. (Supplied)

“(It is) definitely definitely putting the dress that I chose on and just feeling like I can be myself in this dress. It just fitted my whole personality, my whole vibe. I didn’t feel restricted. I felt like I could move . . . It was just the best moment,” Fox said.

For Jaso, her favorite memory of the show was “finding everyone in tears,” she said. “You think that being on a TV show, there is not going to be emotion, there is not going to be feelings, but I walked away from that show feeling like everyone was just crying. It was a shock.”

During the event, Zein expressed his gratitude at being part of the Starzplay original series.

“As everyone knows, your wedding day is one of the most monumental days of your life. So being able to take part in making sure the brides feel their best on their big day really means a lot to me,” he said.  


‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez

‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez
Updated 27 January 2022

‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez

‘Dubai Hologram Universe’ launches with show dedicated to Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez

DUBAI: It is never too late to attend a concert by legendary Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez — thanks to hologram technology — and organizers are marking the launch of the “Dubai Hologram Universe” at the Al Habtoor City Theatre with a show dedicated toward the late artist on Jan. 30.

“Dubai Hologram Universe” is a joint venture by the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) in collaboration with New Dimension Productions (NDP) and will feature state-of-the-art hologram concerts by legendary singers and musicians twice a week at the Al Habtoor City venue.

The tribute concert, titled “Sawwah,” saw media guests enjoy a hologram of Hafez singing some of his most famous songs. (Supplied)

Arab News attended a press preview that took place earlier this week.  

The tribute concert, titled “Sawwah,” saw media guests enjoy a hologram of Hafez – who died in 1977 aged just 47 – singing some of his most famous songs. 

The 90-minute concert featured six backing vocalists who got a chance to sing alongside the star years after his passing. (Supplied)

With live musicians performing behind Hafez, the show kicked off with the star’s hit “Awel Marra,” which he sang in his 1957 movie “El-Wesada El-Khalya.” 

As ardent fans admired Hafez’s hologram figure, which replicated his body movements and facial expressions, a group of dancers joined the show for an immersive visual experience. 

With live musicians performing behind Hafez, the show kicked off with the star’s hit “Awel Marra.” (Supplied)

One song after the other, the eight performers wowed the audience with contemporary dance moves that hit every beat of Hafez’s music. 

The theater’s various special effects, ranging from water falls to haze, gave a modern twist to the music sensation’s show.  

The 90-minute concert featured six backing vocalists who got a chance to sing alongside the star years after his passing. 

One song after the other, the eight performers wowed the audience with contemporary dance moves that hit every beat of Hafez’s music. (Supplied)

Music fans also watched the celebrated singer, nicknamed the “Nightingale,” perform “Betlomooni Leh,” “Asmar Ya Asmarani,” “Balash Etab,” “Gana El-Hawa,” “Bahebek” and more. 

The show ended with a rendition of “Sawwah,” which he released in 1972.

The theater’s various special effects, ranging from water falls to haze, gave a modern twist to the music sensation’s show. (Supplied)

During his career, Hafez, who was also an actor, conductor, businessman, music teacher and movie producer, appeared in 15 films and produced more than 200 songs.

In 2019, fans of the singer were able to watch a similar light show in Jeddah.

Music fans also watched the celebrated singer perform “Betlomooni Leh,” “Asmar Ya Asmarani” and “Balash Etab.” (Supplied)

He is not the only late star who fans have been able to enjoy on stage. The late Egyptian songstress Umm Kulthum also appeared in 2019 at the Winter at Tantora festival and at the Dubai Opera in 2020. 

“Dubai Hologram Universe,” which, according to organizers is the world’s first regular hologram series to focus on immersive digital entertainment, will feature future concerts by holograms of Umm Kulthum, Warda Al-Jazairia and more.


Gig guide: Diriyah E-Prix 2022 entertainment preview

Gig guide: Diriyah E-Prix 2022 entertainment preview
Updated 27 January 2022

Gig guide: Diriyah E-Prix 2022 entertainment preview

Gig guide: Diriyah E-Prix 2022 entertainment preview
  • The lowdown on the lineup for this weekend’s post-race concerts

Craig David presents TS5

Who: Multi-talented British pop star from Southampton who rose to fame when he was still a teenager. His first album “Born to Do It,” released in 2000, was the fastest-selling debut album by a British male solo artist. His decline in popularity was equally swift — aided in part by becoming an object of ridicule on the TV show “Bo’ Selecta!” After a string of mediocre albums that sold increasingly poorly, it seemed like he was doomed to obscurity. However, now aged 40, David — a singer-songwriter, DJ, rapper and producer, has regained much of the credibility that he lost. TS5 is an alter-ego that David first revealed in 2012 when DJing at pre-parties he hosted in his Miami penthouse (TS5 is the apartment number). It has since developed into a project that combines several of his passions — DJing, rapping, singing and sometimes performing with a live band. He has a new album due out this year.

Genre: R&B, dance-pop.

Best known for: 1999’s “Re-Rewind,” a collaboration with the Artful Dodger which became one of the most recognized UK garage tracks and helped push garage music into the mainstream.

In his own words: “My songs are a time stamp for a lot of people’s lives.”

James Blunt

Who: English singer-songwriter beloved by people for whom Coldplay might be “a bit edgy.” The former soldier had a meteoric rise to fame with his debut album, 2004’s “Back to Bedlam,” which sold more than 11 million copies around the world. He became a divisive figure — ridiculed by many for what they saw as bland, wishy-washy music best suited for background noise at posh dinner parties, but championed by just as many for penning some easy-listening classics. He is now hugely popular on social media for his self-deprecating humor, which has forced many to re-evaluate their opinion of him. Expect to hear plenty of examples of his wit onstage in Diriyah.

Genre: Pop-rock.

Best known for: 2005’s “You’re Beautiful,” which seemed to be in constant rotation at radio stations around the world for the following 10 years.

In his own words: “Proof that one song is all you need.”

Wyclef Jean

Who: Haitian rapper, multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, actor and three-time Grammy winner who first gained attention as a member of the seminal US alt-hip-hop band Fugees (with his cousin Pras Michel and Lauryn Hill), whose second album, 1996’s “The Score” became one of the best-selling LPs of all time. When they split up, Jean went on to have a successful solo career, with 13 studio albums under his belt and some hugely popular collaborations with Mary J. Blige, Lil Wayne, Destiny’s Child and Shakira, among others. He also garnered headlines in 2010, when he announced his intention to run in the Haitian presidential elections. He was eventually ruled ineligible because he had not been a resident for the requisite amount of time.

Genre: Hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul.

Best known for: “Gone till November,” released in 1997, from his debut solo album “The Carnival.” This earworm had orchestral accompaniment provided by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In his own words: “I’d say music resonates if you base your stories on real events.”

Two Door Cinema Club

Who: The most left-field selection from this year’s Diriyah E-Prix lineup, this Irish trio — frontman Alex Trimble, lead guitarist Sam Halliday, and bassist and keyboardist Kevin Baird — are UK festival alumni who formed while still at high school (as Life Without Rory) and recorded their debut, self-recorded EP, in 2008. “Four Words to Stand On” gained an online following (it wasn’t officially released until 2018) and the band began to generate buzz through their live shows. Their debut studio album, “Tourist History,” demonstrated Two Door Cinema Club’s knack for blending catchy, angular indie-pop music with literary lyricism and earned comparisons with Editors, Bloc Party and Futureheads. After an acrimonious not-quite-split around 2014, when Trimble was, he has said, “depressed and stressed,” the band overcame their differences and have continued to perform together.

Genre: Indie-rock, post-punk.

Best known for: “What You Know,” which was released in 2011 — the fifth single from “Tourist History.” It didn’t sell particularly well, but was picked up by Microsoft for online ads for Outlook.

In their own words: “There’s a lot of very safe music out there. We wanted to have some fun and do something that was truly interesting.”

The Script

Who: Another Irish trio (lead vocalist Danny O’Donoghue, lead guitarist Mark Sheehan, and drummer Glen Power), The Script formed in 2007 and were quickly signed to Sony imprint Photogenic. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2008, spawned three successful singles and hit number one in both Ireland and the UK (as did their next three LPs). Their radio-friendly lighter-waving anthems have been featured in numerous TV shows and The Script have sold more than 20 million albums to date. Initially met with skepticism by rock fans (thanks in no small part to the fact that O’Donoghue and Sheehan were formerly part of a boy band called Mytown), they have since earned respect (perhaps grudgingly at first) for their undeniably catchy songwriting (they wrote for Britney Spears and Boyz II Men, among others, before becoming famous) and musicianship.

Genre: Pop-rock.

Best known for: Their second single, 2008’s anthemic stadium singalong “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.” Or maybe 2010’s anthemic stadium singalong “Breakeven,” their first US single, which sold more than 1 million copies in the States.

In their own words: “I think a lot of musicians would turn around and say, if you’re trying to (fit in), you’ve got it wrong. Personally, I think they’re idiots. If you’re not using the tools in order for you to make a great record that sits on radio, you’re not doing your job.” 


Washington exhibition showcases contemporary art from the UAE

Washington exhibition showcases contemporary art from the UAE
Updated 27 January 2022

Washington exhibition showcases contemporary art from the UAE

Washington exhibition showcases contemporary art from the UAE
  • Highlights from ‘Between the Sky and the Earth,’ a show to mark the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, which runs until March 31 at the Middle East Institute

Lamya Gargash — ‘The Court, The Indian Club’

“Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art from the UAE,” scheduled to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UAE, is curated by Munira Al-Sayegh and hosted by the Washington-based Middle East Institute in partnership with the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. It shows the work of 12 UAE-based artists and “challenges standard narratives about the Emirates through an intergenerational dialogue exploring their social, cultural and natural landscapes,” according to the MEI. Emirati photographer Lamya Gargash “documents the forgotten spaces in public and private realms in Emirati society.” This image is taken from her “Clubs” series. “Taking visual cues from interior decoration, theatre and museum exhibits, Gargash creates works that layer anxiety, nostalgia and restlessness,” her representatives The Third Line say of Gargash’s work.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein — ‘Island Making 2’

This shot is taken from Al-Ghoussein’s ongoing “Odysseus” series, which the Kuwaiti artist of Palestinian origin began in 2015. “One day I read an article explaining that the planning council was in the process of naming the 215 islands of Abu Dhabi. That was mind-blowing to me. I had no idea that Abu Dhabi had so many islands,” he told Arab News last year, talking about the series. “That article triggered my desire and imagination to go out and visit as many of (them) as I could in a spirit of discovery.”  In the series, according to the show catalogue, “Al-Ghoussein lingers on the traces of human presence, capturing images of places and objects that will soon cease to exist.”

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim — ‘Sapling’

Ibrahim — a founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society in 1980 — was born in the small city of Khorfakkan, an exclave of Sharjah, and much of his work has been inspired by his relationship with his hometown. “His deep connection to his local environment is reflected in his practice, whether through his installations, drawings or objects,” the show catalogue says. Sculptures such as this one — made of cardboard, stone, copper wire, papier-mâché, and linen — “reflect the natural formations of his domestic landscape.”

Mohammed Kazem — ‘Windows’

Kazem is a significant figure in the ‘Second Generation’ of contemporary UAE artists. He has used a range of mediums in his work. In his recent “Windows” series, from which this painting is taken, he focuses on the fleeting, often-mundane nature of daily life for many of the UAE’s inhabitants. “Invisible and intimate events in the landscape … are witnessed by shadowy, retreating figures, reduced to mere traces,” the catalogue states. In 2019, Kazem told Arab News: “All of my work is really about what I’m seeing and what I’m thinking. It’s playful work. But it’s also serious. And ironic.”

Shaikha Al-Mazrou — ‘Untitled (Blue Chevron)’ 

The acclaimed Emirati sculptor’s work are, according to the show catalogue, “articulations of tension and the interplay between form and content.” This particular piece, made from wet coated steel, it continues, “is an example of her irreverent use of material and its apparent contradictions.”

Augustine Paredes — ‘Am I Driving Safely?’

The Dubai-based Filipino artist and photographer uses the series from which this image is taken to examine Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed port, “capturing the transient lives of the truckers who transport goods to and from the port to destinations across the Arab world, providing a snapshot of the human face of globalization,” the show catalogue says.