Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage

Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
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For Florian Gaité, Algeria is a country scared by troubles from one generation to another. (Supplied)
Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
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The project was set up before the Hirak took shape, in February 2019, the artist explained. (Supplied)
Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
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Works of Mounir Gouri on the Harragas. (Supplied)
Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
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In the premises of the Maison des arts de Malakoff, there are also works by Mounir Gouri. This artist from Annaba won the Friends of the IMA (Arab World Institute) Prize. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 October 2021

Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage

Silence speaks volumes as Algerian artists explore cultural heritage
  • Paris exhibition ranges from poignant paintings of migrants to works based on urban archaeology
  • ‘Algeria is a country that is as familiar as it is unknown,’ says curator

PARIS: “Somewhere between silence and words” revives memories of a journey to Algeria made by Florian Gaite, philosopher, art critic and curator of the exhibition taking place until Nov. 28, 2021 at the Maison des Arts Malakoff center in Paris.

The exhibition “seeks to make heard the voices and the silence that characterize Algeria so well,” Gaite told Arab News in France

“It’s a listening ear beyond the Mediterranean. Algeria is a country that is as familiar as it is unknown, and whose complexity — social, political and historical — is equivalent to the cultural diversity expressed there.”

Gaite said that he set up the project before the Hirak movement and widespread protests in Algeria in early 2019.

“That upset my vision of the Algerian scene, a country that I did not know, and about which I had prejudices and preconceived ideas from an exclusively Western reading,” he added.

 

 

“When I arrived in Algeria, I realized that the sensitive and sensory experience felt there was made of two extremes. On the one hand, it is an extremely talkative country, where multiple languages are spoken, a sort of linguistic tinkering. The same language is not spoken from one city to the next or between generations.

“The older generation speaks Amazigh, their children speak French and Arabic, and the younger generation is more oriented toward Arabic and English. This stratification of languages ​​seemed crazy to me because in Algeria, there is also a lot of silence. It is a country where people whisper, where there is modesty,” he said.

Gaite said that Algeria is a country “marked by many traumas and by a form of detention” because the same wounds are not discussed between generations.

“There are two pitfalls that I wanted to avoid: The first is placing myself as a Western critic coming to evoke the Algerian artistic scene, which I am not specialized in. The second consisted in choosing artists as simple mediators to bear witness to the Algerian artistic scene. In fact, they know their country better than I do and their testimonies are more accurate and more authentic.”

According to the exhibition’s organizer, colonization, Islamism and state authoritarianism are some of the multiple traumas of contemporary Algerian history.

“These are a series of causes, prohibitions, denials, repressions that hinder speech and often prevent it from being transcribed in the form of a story. The presence of the testimonial and documentary function in contemporary Algerian art thus answers this need to bear witness to the past as well as to the present — colonization, the war of liberation, socialism, black decade, the Bouteflika era, Hirak — and to propose rewritings, to exhume what has been erased or falsified, to give a voice to all that is forgotten,” he said.

“Somewhere between silence and words” brings together artists who were born, live or work in Algeria, including Louisa Babari, Adel Bentounsi, Walid Bouchouchi, Fatima Chafaa, Dalila Dalleas Bouzar, Mounir Gouri, Fatima Idiri, Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, Amina Menia and Sadek Rahim.

These Algerian or Franco-Algerian artists were selected by Gaite, who said that some are still poorly represented in French galleries.

“This exhibition, which includes more women than men, displays works made with various materials such as paper, charcoal or even fabric.”

While in Oran, birthplace of Gaite’s grandmother, the curator met Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, a Franco-Algerian director, who introduced him to her mother, Fatima Idiri.

Born in the Aures, in northeastern Algeria, Idiri lived in Nancy in a family that was part of the resistance networks of the National Liberation Front.

Returning to the country after its independence, she is a self-taught artist — from fashion design to painting on silk, mosaic to Berber embroidery — who is strongly influenced by impressionism and orientalism.

“Hirak’s fervor was a game-changer,” she said.

By choosing figurative drawing as an artistic identity, she strives to preserve the memory of one of the traditions of her native region, the Aures, said Gaite.

“By creating her masterpieces out of coffee grounds and acrylic, the artist pays tribute to free and liberated poets and singers who are the Azriat.”

Idiri studied colonial photography and sought to deconstruct the images in order to rediscover the spontaneity of avant-garde artists who were frowned upon, and even marginalized, during the colonial period.

The exhibition also includes works by Mounir Gouri, winner of the Friends of the IMA (Arab World Institute) Prize.

Based in France, Gouri produces moving paintings of “harraga,” or illegal immigrants, transforming their journey into a performance.

Gaite highlights a painting of a starry sky, painted with charcoal. “The message that the artist wishes to convey is that when the harraga are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in the dark night, the stars are their only source of light.”

Works by visual artist Amina Menia, who lives and works in Algeria, are also on display. Her art takes the form of an urban archaeology, focusing on places and architectural language.

Menia’s works have been shown in numerous museums, art centers and galleries, including the Pompidou Center in Paris, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Museum of African Design in Johannesburg, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseille and the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin.

Works by Sadek Rahim, a multidisciplinary artist who has lived in Syria and Jordan, and studied at the Beirut School of Fine Arts, are also being shown.

“Somewhere between silence and words” runs until Nov. 28, 2021 at the Maison des arts of Malakoff, in the Hauts-de-Seine, in Paris.

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

 


Jack Lang launches an Exhibition on Eastern Jews to ‘fix ignorance’

The show exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space. (ANFR Photo/Anne Ilcinkas)
The show exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space. (ANFR Photo/Anne Ilcinkas)
Updated 27 November 2021

Jack Lang launches an Exhibition on Eastern Jews to ‘fix ignorance’

The show exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space. (ANFR Photo/Anne Ilcinkas)
  • The Parisian institution exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world, in an area larger than 1,000 sq. m.
  • ‘This event is a response by reason, by culture, by knowledge, a response by history,’ says Arab World Institute president 

PARIS: After exhibitions titled “Hajj, the pilgrimage in Makkah” in 2014 and the “Christians of the East, 2,000 years of history” in 2017, the Arab World Institute in Paris is continuing its trilogy dedicated to monotheistic religions with “Jews of the East, a multi-millennial history.”

It exhibits 280 works of art that bear witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world in a 1,000-square-meter space.

“This institute would only truly find its vocation if it were open to all the spiritual and intellectual heritages that have marked the history of the Arab world,” IMA President Jack Lang said in a speech to the press a few days before the exhibition’s inauguration. It is set to take place from Nov. 24 to March 13, 2022.

The Parisian institution exhibits “exceptional and unpublished” work, which were made available by 35 lenders — institutions or individuals — bearing witness to 15 centuries of Jewish cohabitation in the Arab world, from the Atlas plateaus to the banks of the Euphrates.

“Was it normal that the Jews, their culture and the Jewish religion did not have their full place here?” IMA’s president asked.

He began to handle the issue two years ago, “shortly before the appearance of these movements, that are in reality very old but reappear regularly in France, of negationism, of hatred, of racism, of denouncing the truth, of confusion.”

He continued: “This event is a response by reason, by culture, by knowledge, a response by history.”

For French President Emmanuel Macron, this is a “great lesson” about “coexistence, mutual enrichment and exchanges between monotheisms.” 

He said: “Identity is always more complex than we think and rubs against other identities to feed on it,” while also denouncing the “obscurantisms” of recent times.

For the first time, Arab News en Francais has partnered up with the IMA for this exhibition. “We are very happy to work with you,” Lang rejoiced in an interview, evoking his “immense admiration for the work accomplished today in the Kingdom by Saudi authorities in general and by Prince Badr in particular.”

“People around the world have absolutely no idea how far a real cultural revolution is taking place in Saudi Arabia, in all fields such as art, cinema, theater, literature, painting, sculpture, music…,” continued the president, who will fly in a few days to Jeddah on the occasion of the Red Sea Film Festival, which promises to be a “huge event.”

He added: “I told Prince Badr, whom I met with 10 days ago: You are not broadcasting enough the magnitude of the cultural changes taking place in the Kingdom today.”

Among these Saudi sites “which one day will be more known” is the Khaybar oasis, represented by three photographs by Humberto da Silveira at the beginning of the exhibition “Jews of the East,” which retraces in a chronological and thematic journey, 15 centuries of Jewish presence in now Arab countries. The Khaybar oasis, located on a major caravan route in the Hejaz, was indeed occupied by Jewish tribes in ancient times, before the Prophet Muhammad made it the “land of Islam.”

“Today, there is a French team of archaeologists undertaking research on the spot to better understand this complex history of the Jews and the Muslims in this historic place, Khaybar, with the consent of Saudi authorities,” added the IMA president.

One of the pieces of the exhibition that most impressed Lang also comes from the Arabian Peninsula. 

He admitted having great difficulty in choosing just one, given the richness of the works exhibited: “Jewish women of Yemeni origin, who have now become Israeli citizens, have created a fabulous music group that travels the world. This relationship is extraordinary, because these Jewish Yemeni women sing in Arabic.” The three Haim sisters (Tair, Liron, and Tagel) with their group A-WA, have enjoyed phenomenal success on YouTube with their song “Habib Galbi,” which mixes traditional Yemeni songs with hip-hop beats.

The public will rediscover the “Hana Mash Hu Al-Yaman” clip at the conclusion of the exhibition, the last stage in a history spanning more than 2,000 years. It shows the history of Jewish communities in the Arab world, of the first links forged between the Jewish tribes of the Kingdom and Prophet Muhammad up to the final exile, the emergence of great scholars, such as Saadia Gaon, Maimonides or Joseph Caro, during the medieval caliphates in Baghdad, Fez, Cairo and Cordoba, and the rise of Jewish urban centers in the Maghreb and the Ottoman Empire.

“Never before has the history of the Jews been told in these countries which have become Arab countries today. It had never been told on a millennial scale, from ancient times until today,” said Lang, adding: “It is a way of repairing ignorance, of showing that the Arab world is rich in successive religions and cultures, which fashioned its originality.”

Asked about the apprehensions that this exhibition could arouse on the Palestinian side, the Lang explained that “the exhibition absolutely does not address the political questions of today.” 

“There are other occasions for the IMA to bring them up,” he said, referring to the upcoming publishing of a book titled “What Palestinians Bring to the World.”

Just like the general curator of the exhibition, historian Benjamin Stora, who said that “we would miss our target if we only spoke of the end, of the ‘why’ did the Jews depart,” Lang insists on showing that: “Above all, we want to show that the presence of Jews goes back a long way in history.”


The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival
Tara Emad posing on the red carpet at the event, running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek.AFP
Updated 27 November 2021

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

DUBAI: The 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) kicked off in style on Friday evening with a plethora of glamorous A-list Arab celebrities walking the red carpet at the annual opening ceremony in Egypt.

Running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek, the Arab world’s longest-running film festival brought together a host of stars, including actors Tara Emad, Dorra Zarrouk and Salma Abudeif in addition to 68-year-old film icon Fifi Abdou, who were all dressed to the nines in up-and-coming as well as established regional designers.

Check out our pick of the best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo International Film Festival below.

 

Tara Emad in Nicolas Jebran

Youssra in Rami Kadi

Bushra Rozza in Samah Mahran

Dorra Zarrouk in Zuhair Murad

Laila Eloui in Hany Elbehairy

Mona Zaki in Maram Bohran

Nelly Karim in Maison Yeya

Nour in Sandy Nour

Raya Abirached in Zuhair Murad

Salma Abu Deif in Rose Fabrics

Fifi Abdou


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. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Art
Updated 27 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: Challenges of the future and painful reminders of the past are among themes explored by three UAE-based artists in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat.

New commissions by Emirati artists Maitha Abdalla and Hashel Al-Lamki, along with American Christopher Benton, now based in Dubai, are included in “Beyond: Emerging Artists,” a section of the now-wrapped up Abu Dhabi Art fair.

Maitha Abdalla, Too Close to the Sun. Courtsey of Abu Dhabi Art

“Beyond: Emerging Artists” was curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath and is running beyond the end of the fair until Dec. 4, 2021.

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.

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

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.


 

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


“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.

Fair Director Dyala Nusseibeh told Arab News: “The work is amazing — from performances that revolve around notions of female wildness to sculptures and paintings that provoke discussion around what’s considered right and wrong behavior and thought in communities.”

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.

Meanwhile, Al-Lamki examines the rapid pace of change in the UAE, particularly evident in 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.


US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi

US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi
The artist will perform live on Dec. 3. File/AFP
Updated 27 November 2021

US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi

US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: US singer Nick Jonas is set to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi for a live performance on Dec. 3.

He will join a lineup including R&B singer Kehlani, who will perform at the three-day event taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) on Dec. 4.

The 29-year-old, who gained prominence as a member of the Jonas Brothers with his two older siblings, also has a fruitful solo career, giving us hits like “Jealous” and “Levels.”

VidCon Abu Dhabi was originally set to be held in March 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other big names set to appear include Egyptian TV show host and comedian Bassem Youssef, Emirati influencers Khalid Al-Ameri and Salama Mohamed, Saudi YouTuber Naz and travel blogger Iknani, among others.


UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon

UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon
Updated 27 November 2021

UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon

UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon

DUBAI: Karen Wazen Bakhazi has joined hands with the UN refugee agency, UNCHR, to support her native Lebanon.

The Dubai-based social media influencer was named as a High Profile Supporter of UNHCR last year for her dedication and commitment to raising awareness of the plight of refugees and displaced populations across the region over the past three years. The title was officially given to Wazen at a signing ceremony held at the UNHCR offices in International Humanitarian City, Dubai.

The style icon and entrepreneur, who launched her successful eyewear company in 2018,  has been on numerous field missions in support of the refugee cause over the past three years. Most recently, the humanitarian visited Beirut to meet with families who have been affected by the devastating Aug. 4 explosion.

“It is always a honor to work closely with the UNHCR and see first-hand the effort and work that is done towards vulnerable families in our communities,” wrote Wazen on Instagram, alongside a carousel of images.

“Yesterday I visited and engaged with a Lebanese family that was deeply affected by the Beirut blast and economic situation and it is so heartbreaking to hear of all the injustices that unfortunately are very present in our world,” she added.

“Many people think that the @unhcr_arabic only helps refugees. But in fact, UNHCR also provides a lot of support to host communities in Lebanon and to Lebanese families directly.

“It’s so painful to face the reality of some of the families suffering in Lebanon and in our region. I wish the world would come together to make a difference by raising awareness, listening out for each other and donating whenever possible.”

On Aug. 4, 2020, a massive explosion ripped through the port area of Beirut, killing at least 73 people and injuring thousands. The giant blast, which was felt 264 km away in Cyprus, sent shockwaves throughout the city, shattering windows and blowing off balconies on apartment buildings. The mushroom-like explosion caused widespread damage, destroying much of the capital.

Following the horrific blast, the Lebanese social media icon donated $10,000 via her eyewear company, Karen Wazen Eyewear, to the Beirut Eye & ENT Spec Hospital (BESH) to help the thousands of people who were injured during the explosion.