History is made in Giza: Contemporary art in dialogue with Egyptian pyramids

History is made in Giza: Contemporary art in dialogue with Egyptian pyramids
Joao Trevisan's 'Body That Rises.' Supplied/Hesham Al-Saifi
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Updated 31 October 2021

History is made in Giza: Contemporary art in dialogue with Egyptian pyramids

History is made in Giza: Contemporary art in dialogue with Egyptian pyramids

CAIRO: The ancient Egyptians saw death as a temporary interruption rather than the cessation of life. Death was simply part of the journey, toward an individual’s immortality and experience of the afterlife. The pyramids of Giza are not only breathtaking for their monumental stature — to this day a feat of human ingenuity — but also awe-inspiring because of their spiritual significance and their resistance against time.

Giza’s pyramids were given new life earlier this week when the multidisciplinary arts entity Art D’Egypte opened “Forever is Now” on Oct. 21. The title of the exhibition, which will run until Nov. 7, is apt considering the pyramids’ history and, now, their new role in the first-ever contemporary art exhibition staged amidst their stately presence in 4,500 years. The exhibition, curated by independent arts advisor Simon Watson, features works by 10 contemporary artists, including Sultan bin Fahad, Alexander Ponomarev, Gisela Colon, Joao Trevisan, Lorenzo Quinn, JR, Moataz Nasr, Sherin Guirguis, Shuster + Moseley and Stephen Cox.




“Eternity Now” by Gisela Colon. Supplied/Hesham Al-Saifi

Held under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the patronage of UNESCO, the exhibition is the fourth staged by Art D’Egypte since its establishment in 2016. These have included shows of contemporary Egyptian and international art at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Manial Palace Museum and on Al-Muizz Street in historic Cairo.

American artist Colon’s “Eternity Now” (2021) demonstrates how the art of today can dialogue with the UNESCO heritage site. It features a 30-foot-long golden elliptical dome that could pass for something from outer space. The dome’s formal geometric aspects embody the mythical shape of the Egyptian sun god Ra’s glowing orb, “the venerable chroma of gold being omnipresent in Egyptian symbolism and ritualism,” as Colon explains. Visitors can catch a magical glimpse of their own reflection and that of their surroundings, which include Giza and its pyramids, by looking into its glossy exterior. The artwork thus allows the spectator, the artwork, and the ancient pyramids to become one for a brief second.

“The exhibition was historic, in the sense that it placed contemporary artworks within the backdrop of ancient history,” Colon told Arab News.




“Greetings From Giza” by JR. Supplied/Ammar Abd Rabbo

Staging 10 contemporary art installations by Middle Eastern and international artists was no easy feat, but Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, founder and director of Art D’Egypte, did not give up.

“I think if I knew how difficult it would be to stage this show, I might have shied away from it,” Abdel Ghaffar told Arab News. “Our archaeologists are not usually taken by the idea of contemporary art, so it took a lot of time to convince them to stage this show at the pyramids. Placing art here made a statement to the world, as the pyramids are not only Egyptian heritage but world heritage. The pyramids are one of the only ancient wonders still standing. Until now, there has never been a contemporary art exhibition at the pyramids of Giza.”

A powerful curatorial tactic involved placing each work within the perspective of the pyramids themselves so that their silhouettes and inherent features played with the forms of the ancient structures.

Egyptian LA-based artist Guirguis’ work, “Here I Have Returned” (2021) — a title inspired by a poem from the great Doria Shafik — features an elegant abstracted curved form with two steel disks dangling from two ropes that chime in a window. Guirguis’ installation perfectly frames the three Giza pyramids as if it were made for this very location. It is also scented with jasmine harvested by Egyptian women. According to Guirguis, the piece is meant to honor Egyptian women of the ancient past and those of the 1950s who fought for their freedom.




“R III” (2021), Sultan bin Fahad. Supplied/Hesham Al-Saifi

In Saudi artist Fahad’s “R III” (2021), a maze of stacked white cubes presents hieroglyphic inscriptions belonging to King Ramses III. The inscriptions were discovered by Saudi archaeologists in the northern part of the Kingdom. Fahad’s cubes, framed by the powerful forms of the nearby pyramids, shimmer when seen under the moonlight. The work investigates the historic roots between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian artist Nasr’s powerful piece “Barzakh” (2021) presents a series of oars joined together to form a triangular corridor. Inspired by the solar boat of the Egyptians, made to carry the souls of the pharaohs to the heavens, the work allows spectators to get a glimpse of the pyramids in the distance — perfectly framed by the triangular shape created in Nasr’s installation.

One of the most popular and perhaps moving installations is artist Quinn’s “Together” (2021), which shows two hands joined together in what appears to be a prayer. It is positioned so that the tips of the pyramids can be seen from just inside the hands.

“I will cherish forever this emotional moment in life,” Quinn told Arab News. “Exhibiting my art in front of one of the only standing wonders of the ancient world is beyond anything I had ever hoped for. My work, ‘Together,’ was made in honor of the pyramids and of Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, as well as the work of my father.” Quinn is the fifth son of actor Anthony Quinn.




‘Together,’ Lorenzo Quinn. Supplied/Hesham Al-Saifi

As for the fate of the artworks in the exhibition, Art d’Egypte’s plan is to have them remain in Egypt after the show concludes. In this sense, “Forever is Now” continues, like its name and the legacy of the pyramids, to live on both metaphorically and physically, carrying with it the memory of a short-lived contemporary art exhibition at the pyramids that surely will stand the test of time.

Not everyone in Egypt, however, was in favor of this exhibition. Most recently, Instagram account @Fartdegypte, with the line “Leave the pyramids alone” in its bio, quickly gathered 1,106 followers and has posted harsh criticism of the event, condemning it as an “Instagrammable Burning Man” show that makes a mockery of the ancient structures and offers access only to the few elite — many of whom have traveled to see the show from the farthest corners of the world.




Moataz Nasr, “Barzakh” (2021). Supplied/Hesham Al-Saifi

“Imagine a future where Pharrell, in Egypt, is surrounded by privileged Egyptians and white people all wearing symbols of the Ottoman Empire,” stated the most recent post. “A future where clout and culture are practically the same? You don’t have to wait too long my friends. This is happening. Right now. The future is now.”

Regardless of the criticism, the fact remains that staging contemporary artworks by such a riveting list of artists at the Giza Pyramids is no easy feat. Importantly, it is turned the world’s eyes once again to the wonders of Egypt, reminding people of the enduring beauty, knowledge and power still be to gained from dialogue with humanity’s ancient past.


Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris

Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris
Updated 34 min 10 sec ago

Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris

Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris
  • Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, described the new museum as the latest addition to the list of world’s most celebrated cultural landmarks
  • He was speaking during the 26th International Trade Show for Museums, a prestigious three-day event that took place at the Louvre Museum this week

PARIS: The UAE’s Museum of the Future has unveiled its bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow. It presented its ideas during the 26th International Trade Show for Museums, a three-day event at the Louvre Museum in Paris that attracted many of the world’s leading cultural institutions.

The delegation at the event, which concluded on Thursday, was led by Khalfan Belhoul, the CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, and also included Lath Carlson, the executive director of the Museum of the Future, and Majed Al-Mansoori, its deputy executive director.

The museum, which is located in Dubai’s Financial District and opened in February, was invited to attend the trade show to share its ideas for incubating a new generation of talent and helping to build a better future for humanity.

By embracing the latest breakthroughs in advanced technology, its team also aims to offer unparalleled visitor experiences and help to stimulate the cultural economy of Dubai.

“Our presence here in Paris represents a golden opportunity to engage with like-minded peers and establish deeper ties as we create pioneering experiences in a museum focused on making history by perceiving the future,” Belhoul said.

He described the Museum of the Future as the latest addition to the list of the world’s most celebrated cultural landmarks and added that it has set new benchmarks in the design and development of cultural landmarks.

“Today, it serves as an incubator for bright minds to accelerate big ideas that can strengthen Dubai’s position as a place to address some of the world’s most complex challenges,” he said.

By embracing cutting-edge technology and the pursuit of innovation to drive social, economic and environmental growth, Dubai is helping to unify global efforts to build a better future for humankind, added Belhoul.


What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh

What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh
Updated 01 July 2022

What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh

What We Are Playing Today: Akfosh
  • This Arabic card game is a great deal of fun to play with a large group

Akfosh is an Arabic game that contains 55 picture cards on various subjects, including Saudi cultural items, well-known locations across the country, and even fruit and vegetables.

The Saudi-specific fashion items include the shemagh (male headdress), burqa, madas (sandal), dallah (coffee pot), finjan (coffee cup), and miswak (twig to clean your teeth). The landmarks include Jeddah’s fountain and the Kingdom Center in Riyadh, while the other cards feature Arab-related icons such as tents and camels.

The game allows between two and eight players to participate. There are different styles of playing, with the most popular having every player with one card face down in front of them, and the rest of the deck placed in the middle. When the game starts, each player flips their card to see it and then tries to grab a matching one from the middle first. The player with the most cards wins.

Akfosh is one of my favorite Arabic card games and is a great deal of fun to play with a large group. It relies on your visual observation, and it gets everyone competitive because it is so fast-paced.

Carrying the small box is quite easy, it fits perfectly in my handbag. I always have my Akfosh cards with me if I know many people will be at a gathering or outing. It is a fun activity that brings people together.

The game suits all ages and can be found across the Kingdom at Virgin megastores, Jarir bookstores, and even through online platforms such as Noon, Lifestyley and Amazon.

 

 


‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears

‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears
Updated 30 June 2022

‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears

‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears

DUBAI: US-Iranian actor Sam Asghari has opened up about his marriage to pop superstar Britney Spears in his first interview since their June wedding.

The actor and dancer appeared on “Good Morning America” in a segment that aired Wednesday to promote his film, “Hot Seat.”

“The husband thing hasn’t hit me yet,” Asghari said, before discussing the wedding and saying, “It was way overdue for us. We imagined this thing being a fairytale, and it was. And we wanted to celebrate with, you know, our loved ones, our close people. We wanted to just celebrate, and that’s what we did.”

Until November 2021, Spears was under a conservatorship, which was handled by her estranged father Jamie Spears, and was unable to get married.

 

 

Following the termination of the conservatorship, the pair wed on June 9 in an intimate ceremony at their Los Angeles home. Guests included Madonna, Selena Gomez, Drew Barrymore, Paris Hilton, and Donatella Versace.

The up-and-coming actor is starring in the film “Hot Seat,” in which he plays a SWAT team officer alongside Shannen Doherty, Kevin Dillon, and Mel Gibson.

“My wife gave me, like, this amazing platform to work with,” he said. “So I’m always appreciative of that. And I’m always so grateful for that. I don’t take any opportunity that I have for granted, and I really try to stay positive with everything that’s happening.” 

They began dating in 2016 after meeting on the set of her “Slumber Party” music video.


Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih invited to join Academy of Motion Picture Arts

Famed composer Hesham Nazih. (Supplied)
Famed composer Hesham Nazih. (Supplied)
Updated 30 June 2022

Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih invited to join Academy of Motion Picture Arts

Famed composer Hesham Nazih. (Supplied)

DUBAI: Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih is among 397 individuals invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year.

The organization that puts on the Oscars said Tuesday that 44 percent of the 2022 class identifies as women, 50 percent come from outside of the US and 37 percent are from underrepresented ethnic and racial communities. If the invitees accept, which most do, they will have voting privileges at the 95th Academy Awards.

Nazih, the only Egyptian invited this year, joins Oscar winners Ariana DeBose, Troy Kotsur and Billie Eilish, as well as Iranian actor Amir Jadidi on the list.

Other actors invited this year include Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessie Buckley, Gaby Hoffman, “Belfast” co-stars Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe, as well as Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, both of “The Power of the Dog.” 

The 95th Academy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on March 12, 2023.

Across more than 40 films over an award-winning 20-year-span, Nazih has heightened each project he’s scored, from “Son of Rizk” to “Blue Elephant.” Now, the composer for Marvel’s TV show “Moon Knight,” Nazih has officially made the crossover that only a handful of true international greats, such as Ennio Morricone and A.R. Rahman, have pulled off before him.

“I knew this was huge step for me,” Nazih previously told Arab News. “Working with Marvel was a game changer for my career. I had countless thoughts in my head, and I had to fight a lot of them off.”


Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists

Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists
Updated 30 June 2022

Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists

Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists

DUBAI: The 9th edition of the 21,39 Jeddah Arts exhibition is travelling to Dhahran’s Ithra — or the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture — for the first time.

Inspired by Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu’s popular song “Al Amakin,” the exhibition opens at Ithra on June 30 and will run until Sept. 30.

Asma Bahmim “Wandering Walls.” (Supplied)

Leading art historian Venetia Porter curated the exhibition, which includes 28 regional and international artists who explore the notion of what “makan,” or place, means to them, demonstrating how their life experiences have shaped their relationship to different places, real and imagined.

“The notion of makan, or place, fell into sharp relief with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns around the world,” Porter said in a released statement. “That place where we live and perhaps took for granted became, for some of us, another country as we discovered familiar streets as though for the first time, observed in minute detail the changing of the seasons or listened to the birds. For others, our makan became a trap – a place to escape from that now caused us trauma and stress.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by #SAC #ساك (@sacsaudi)

Saudi artists Safeya Binzagr and Abdulhalim Radwi headline the show, which also features works by Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, a Sharqiyah-based Saudi modernist, as well as a bevy of other creative talents from Chile, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon and Palestine.

Badr Ali, notebooks and sketches. (Supplied)

“This exhibition is a source of inspiration, and will evoke emotions within each visitor; emotions they did not know were lying dormant at the back of their minds,” said Farah Abushullaih, head of the Ithra Museum, in a released statement.

This is the first 21,39 exhibition to travel beyond Jeddah.