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


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.


Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day

Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day
Updated 29 November 2021

Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day

Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day

DUBAI: Italian brand Loro Piana has unveiled an artistic collaboration with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej in celebration of the UAE’s 50th National Day.

The partnership features 50 limited-edition Loro Piana cashmere plaids, each signed and numbered by the painter.

The brand hosted a gala dinner on Tuesday at Dubai’s Etihad Museum. (Supplied)

For the collaboration, Bin Lahej reimagined the UAE National Anthem using his own Arabic font, Mattar.

He also created a 3.5-meter-tall, stainless-steel sculpture, “Constitution,” that was unveiled during a gala dinner on Tuesday at Dubai’s Etihad Museum.

Bin Lahej created a 5.5-meter-tall, stainless-steel sculpture. (Supplied)

Speaking at the event, Loro Piana’s chief executive officer, Damien Bertrand, said: “The plaid is, for Loro Piana, very precious and unique. It perfectly embodies the memorable touch of Loro Piana, which is at the core of the brand. A unique touch which is a result of a unique craftsmanship.”

Bertrand also announced that the fashion label was partnering with the Emirates Red Crescent to supply winter clothing for Syrian refugees in the charity’s Jordan camp.

The event featured performances by Laura Marzadori, first violinist of the Teatro alla Scala, joined by the string section of the National Symphony Orchestra. (Supplied)

In her address to dinner guests, Emirates Red Crescent marketing director, Reef Al-Khajeh, said: “The UAE has been known as a generous and caring nation. This collaboration is a demonstration of how deep rooted the culture of giving is embedded.

“The Emirates Red Crescent is constantly acting and reacting to the urgent needs of people affected by misfortune all around the world, and our partnership with Loro Piana will complement the efforts we make to provide relief to those forced into shelters and facing extreme conditions due to disasters and emergencies,” she added. 

The event featured performances by Laura Marzadori, first violinist of the Teatro alla Scala, joined by the string section of the National Symphony Orchestra. The dinner was made by Italian Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito, who joined forces with Emirati pastry chef Sahar Parham Al-Awadhi to serve a culinary ode to Italy and the seven Emirates.


Alicia Keys to perform at Dubai’s Expo 2020

Alicia Keys to perform at Dubai’s Expo 2020
Updated 26 November 2021

Alicia Keys to perform at Dubai’s Expo 2020

Alicia Keys to perform at Dubai’s Expo 2020

DUBAI: US hitmaker Alicia Keys will be the first international artist to perform as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Infinite Nights series on Dec. 10, organizers announced on Friday.

The 15-time Grammy Award-winner will give fans a glimpse of her new double album, “Keys.”

“Performing in Expo 2020 Dubai’s Infinite Nights series is going to be such an incredible experience,” said Keys in a released statement. “I’m so excited to share such a beautifully unique and special performance on the eve of the release of my new album ‘Keys’ with the world.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys)

“‘Keys’ is all about letting go of anything that holds you back and breaking through the invisible ceilings above us! It perfectly reflects Expo’s values. I cannot wait to unlock this new universe with you,” she said.

The show will be live-streamed for supporters around the world on www.virtualexpodubai.com, and available to watch across multiple channels, including Expo TV on YouTube and Facebook.

Lubna Haroun, vice president of Expo 2020’s headline talent guest group owner Moment-Makers, said in a statement: “After the incredible success of our Arab artists in October and November, we are excited to bring Alicia Keys to Expo 2020 to headline our Infinite Nights series.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys)

“Expo 2020 and Alicia share the belief that people’s creativity and diversity should be celebrated, that everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and shine. We are looking forward to a show that inspires and delights our audiences,” she added.

Infinite Nights is a series of events taking place until March 31, welcoming visitors to celebrate human creativity, innovation, progress and culture.

Arab celebrities that performed so far include Iraqi singer Kadim Al-Saher and Lebanese stars Nancy Ajram and Ragheb Alama.