Pieces of art: Lebanese entrepreneur hopes puzzles can help promote regional artists

Pieces of art: Lebanese entrepreneur hopes puzzles can help promote regional artists
Pazel’s first round of games will feature natural, geometric and figurative works by Lebanese artists Bibi Zogbé (1890-1973) and Nabil Nahas (b. 1949), along with Anas Albraehe (b. 1991) from Syria. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 November 2021

Pieces of art: Lebanese entrepreneur hopes puzzles can help promote regional artists

Pieces of art: Lebanese entrepreneur hopes puzzles can help promote regional artists
  • Camille Saade’s Pazel jigsaws feature works from three acclaimed Levantine painters

DUBAI: Jigsaw puzzles depicting works by great artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, and Hokusai, are commonplace nowadays. But one Lebanese entrepreneur is changing the game, so to speak, by introducing Arab artists to the mix.

Camille Saade is launching Pazel — named after the phonetic transcription of the word ‘puzzle’ — that pays tribute to three multi-generational artists from Lebanon and Syria. 

It’s a cultural project that stems from Saade’s side interest in art. “Every time I visited museums and exhibitions, I loved the boutiques and shops they had and the things they sold. I used to buy the puzzles, whenever I could,” she tells Arab News from Beirut. “On October 17, 2019, when the demonstrations started in Beirut, we were locked at home and I was actually doing one of the puzzles. My sister was sitting with me and I told her: ‘You know, we don’t have such fun and educational games for our art, our culture.’ So, this was how the idea came to me. I hope it will be something new and fresh, and people will enjoy it.”




Pazel pays tribute to three multi-generational artists from Lebanon and Syria. (Supplied)

She hopes to raise awareness of talented regional artists, who might not be as well-known as their foreign counterparts. “If I mention Picasso or Damien Hirst to my friends who are not into art, they would know who they are. But they wouldn’t know, for example, Abdul Rahman Katanani. They would ask me: ‘Who’s that?’ So it’s also a way to create cultural awareness and educate people,” Saade says. 

The young entrepreneur will also donate a percentage of the profits from Pazel to the Beirut Heritage Initiative, which was launched last year with the aim of restoring Beirut’s architectural and cultural heritage.

To help put the pieces of her idea together, Saade approached the longtime Lebanese art dealer and gallerist Saleh Barakat, who introduced her to a few artists and their artworks. “He was very enthusiastic from the beginning. He would support any project that promotes art,” she says. “We tried to find artists that were easygoing and willing to play along.”




Each colorful Pazel box comes with 500 puzzle pieces. (Supplied) 

Pazel’s first round of games will feature natural, geometric and figurative works by Lebanese artists Bibi Zogbé (1890-1973) and Nabil Nahas (b. 1949), along with Anas Albraehe (b. 1991) from Syria. “They have something in common, because all three of them left their country,” Saade says. “Bibi, who was ahead of her time as a female artist, left Lebanon for Argentina. Nabil Nahas left (to study abroad in 1968), and Anas had to flee Syria. They succeeded outside their countries.”

During the COVID-19 lockdown, puzzles and other boardgames proved increasingly popular. While it is a fun pastime for youngsters, puzzles can have some cognitive benefits as well, according to Saade’s research. “A puzzle can have many benefits. First, it engages your problem-solving abilities, spatial recognition, and it’s very much detail-oriented. It helps the memory and solving puzzles is encouraged to help fight Alzheimer’s Disease. At the same time, children with autism enjoy playing puzzles,” she says. “From my personal experience, it’s like meditation. It’s an anti-stress activity, where your brain is literally slowing down and you’re thinking of nothing and just focusing on this artwork that is in front of you. We are so stuck on our screens, I think this is a diversion.”




Camille Saade is launching Pazel — named after the phonetic transcription of the word ‘puzzle.’ (Supplied)

Each colorful Pazel box comes with 500 puzzle pieces, a little poster listing details of the featured artwork, and a biography of the artist on the backside of the box to make it more educational. What was most important for Saade was the painting itself. “I wanted the artwork to be the centerpiece of the packaging,” she notes. 

Pazel was designed in Beirut, but Saade would like to see it engage Arab art enthusiasts in Paris and Dubai. At a time when Lebanese start-ups and young entrepreneurs face uncertainty as the country’s economy remains unstable, Saade’s story of staying behind in Lebanon and starting something new goes against the grain. 

“At some points, I was reluctant and I hesitated because of the fluctuation of the currency,” she says. “I thought maybe it wasn’t the right time and I needed to wait. But then again, I thought: ‘Wait for what?’ I don’t think things will change any time soon. So, I just jumped and I took the risk.” 


Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows

Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows
Updated 50 min 48 sec ago

Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows

Elton John positive for COVID-19, postpones Dallas shows
  • "I'm so sorry to anyone who's been inconvenienced by this but I want to keep myself and my team safe," said John
  • The concerts, part of John's "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour, were scheduled for January 25 and January 26

NEW YOTK: Pop megastar Elton John on Tuesday postponed two concerts in Dallas — part of what is expected to be a lengthy farewell tour — after testing positive for Covid-19.
“It’s always a massive disappointment to move shows and I’m so sorry to anyone who’s been inconvenienced by this but I want to keep myself and my team safe,” said the British musician, 74, in a statement on social media.
“Fortunately, I’m fully vaccinated and boosted and my symptoms are mild.”
The concerts, part of John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour, were scheduled for January 25 and January 26. Both John and the American Airlines Center, where the shows were to take place, said they will be rescheduled and fans should keep their tickets.
John said he expected to be healthy enough to play his show on January 29 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The tour, which is anticipated to be Sir Elton’s last, has run into pandemic-era cancelations and postponements, like many other performing arts events.
The pop legend also recently had a hip operation that forced him to push back several dates.
Last year, John released an album entitled “The Lockdown Sessions,” which was recorded entirely under Covid-19 restrictions.


Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban
Updated 25 January 2022

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban
  • Afghanistan's rich musical culture is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year
  • "Right now we don't have music in Afghanistan," says Homayoun Sakhi

LONDON: Homayoun Sakhi closes his eyes and runs his fingers along the long neck of his wooden instrument encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
“I feel like I have my Afghanistan in my hand,” says Sakhi, one of the world’s most renowned performers on the country’s national instrument, the rubab.
He is jet-lagged after flying in from California to perform at London’s Barbican concert hall to raise funds for emergency medicine and education in his homeland.
Along with the growing humanitarian crisis, Afghanistan’s rich musical culture is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year.
Widely shared videos have shown them smashing and burning instruments. Musicians have fled the country.
“Right now we don’t have music in Afghanistan,” says Sakhi.
“It’s really difficult because there are no concerts, there’s no music, and (for musicians) it’s very difficult to be without any money and without a job.
“That’s why they’re trying to go somewhere to play.”
The Taliban clampdown is a repeat of the hard-liners’ previous time in power between 1996 and 2001, when they banned music as sinful, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The rubab dates back thousands of years and has enjoyed a revival thanks to Sakhi, who is known as a musical innovator and has developed a more modern playing style.
BBC Music Magazine called him “one of the greatest performers” on the instrument.
Born in Kabul, he left Afghanistan with his family in 1992, in the chaotic aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal, moving to Pakistan.
He later settled in Fremont, California, which is known for its large Afghan community, and has launched an academy teaching the rubab.
“Each time I’m playing, I’m home, I feel like I’m in Afghanistan,” he says.
Music including pop was allowed a free rein during the past two decades in Afghanistan, with local television even showing a “Pop Idol” talent contest equivalent.
But following the Taliban’s return to power, traditional Afghan music now relies on devotees overseas.
The “Songs of Hope” concert at the Barbican last Saturday was organized by Afghanistan International TV.
The London-based channel was set up by Volant media company, which also runs a Persian-language channel for Iranians.
It will screen a documentary about the concert in March.
In the first half, Sakhi plays classical Afghan pieces, followed by folk music that gets the audience clapping along.
He performs with UK-based virtuoso Shahbaz Hussain on tabla and Iranian musician Adib Rostami on the kamancheh, a bowed string instrument.
“I had the idea to do the concert — that was the only thing I can do as a musician,” said Rostami, one of the event’s organizers.
“As we know, now the music is banned in Afghanistan — they cannot ban this from the people around the world.”
“We have to try as musicians, as music lovers, to find a way to keep this cultural heritage for the future.”
The current situation for musicians under the Taliban is “back in the 1990s,” he says.
“Again, you cannot be a musician in Afghanistan.
“As far as I know, most of the musicians... are trying to get out of the country.”
A group of students and teachers from a national music school in Kabul arrived as refugees in Portugal in December, after the Taliban’s takeover earlier last year.
Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra, Zohra, set up in 2016 and named after a Persian goddess of music, has moved to Qatar.


Review: Now on Netflix, WWII spy drama ‘Munich – The Edge of War’ is a mixed bag

Review: Now on Netflix, WWII spy drama ‘Munich – The Edge of War’ is a mixed bag
Updated 25 January 2022

Review: Now on Netflix, WWII spy drama ‘Munich – The Edge of War’ is a mixed bag

Review: Now on Netflix, WWII spy drama ‘Munich – The Edge of War’ is a mixed bag

CHENNAI: After innumerable World War II-focused movies, Christian Schwochow’s “Munich – The Edge of War” is somewhat of a welcome relief worth savoring. The work, based on Robert Harris's novel “Munich,” begins in a delightfully happy atmospheric mood in 1932 with Oxford students celebrating graduation with music and mirth. As the camera zooms in on three close friends – Hugh Legat (George MacKay), Paul Von Hartman (Janis Niewohner) and Lenya (Liv Lisa Fries) – we sense a whiff of what is come, the dark days of Adolf Hitler's (played here by a nasty looking Ulrich Matthes) expansionist plans to take over all of Europe. 

The movie follows three close friends – Hugh Legat (George MacKay), Paul Von Hartman (Janis Niewohner) and Lenya (Liv Lisa Fries). Supplied

After taking the audience to a dread-filled London six years later, Schwochow’s film then veers into the thriller genre, focusing on how Paul and Hugh, now working in government offices in Germany and England respectively, try their best to stop a war that eventually led, as we all know, to catastrophic consequences. Mainly about the 1938 Munich conference and its thwarted peace agreement between the two countries, Munich – The Edge of War beyond this is a fictional account of how the two friends turn spies. Once a passionate advocate of Hitler and his Nazi party with Paul arguing at Oxford how the Germans badly needed an identity that the Fuhrer promised, the young man is later disillusioned by and angry at the way things are turning out. At his brief meeting with Chamberlain, Paul says that it will be a mistake to sign a peace treaty with Hitler, who is nothing but a monster.

The work is based on Robert Harris's novel “Munich.” Supplied

A handsome spy story, it is set in plush offices and pretty gardens (with gorgeous production design by Tim Pannen) where the friends have their rendezvous, often exchanging information and highly classified documents. 

The movie has some tense moments, particularly when Hugh tries to pass off vital information to his prime minister, but on the flip side, “Munich – The Edge of War” can be a little too academic, a trifle too contrived. There is not much to talk about the two lead players — MacKay and Niewohner — who seem more caricatured than real, although Fries is sparkling in the initial sequences conveying a carefree mood that permeated Britain's campuses in the early 1930s. 


US singer-designer Pharrell slammed over accessory’s similarities to Mughal antiques

US singer-designer Pharrell slammed over accessory’s similarities to Mughal antiques
Updated 25 January 2022

US singer-designer Pharrell slammed over accessory’s similarities to Mughal antiques

US singer-designer Pharrell slammed over accessory’s similarities to Mughal antiques

DUBAI: US singer Pharrell Wiliams attended Kenzo’s Spring 2022 show during Paris Fashion Week and simultaneously teased his new partnership with fine jewelry house Tiffany & Co.

The N.E.R.D singer sat front row, next to Kenzo’s new creative director Nigo, donning a pair of diamond-embellished sunglasses that got everyone talking — but not for the right reasons.

Users on social media, including online fashion watchdog Diet Prada, took to the photo-sharing platform to point out the striking similarities between Pharrell’s custom sunglasses and historical Mughal antiques.  

The antiques in question are two pairs of frames dating back to the 17th century that were put up for auction last year by Sotheby’s.

Belonging to the Mughal royals that ruled the Indian subcontinent, the extremely rare Islamic antiques feature emerald-cut lenses and were created to aid a wearer in reaching enlightenment and heal and ward off evil, according to the Sotheby’s website.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Diet Prad (@diet_prada)

Legend has it that following the death of Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal, in whose honor the Taj Mahal was built, the emperor is said to have cried so many tears that he needed to cure his ailing eyes with emerald stones.

“These extraordinary curiosities bring together myriad threads – from the technical mastery of the cutter and the genius of craftsmanship to the vision of a patron who chose to fashion two pairs of eyeglasses quite unlike anything ever seen before,” said Edward Gibbs, chair, Sotheby’s Middle East & India, ahead of the London auction last year.

The Mughal bejeweled spectacles were commissioned by an unknown prince and fashioned by an artist, who shaped a 200-carat diamond and a brilliant Colombian emerald, weighing at least three hundred carats, into two frames.

Now, social media users are slamming the US singer-designer for the similar shades, although Pharrell has yet to respond to the backlash.


Saudi Arabia’s NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood
Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM advert among nominees for Art Directors Guild Awards in Hollywood

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s “NEOM: ‘Made to Change’” advert is nominated for the 26th Art Directors Guild Awards, organizers announced on Monday. 

The live in-person event, scheduled to be held on March 5 in Los Angeles, honors production design in theatrical motion pictures, music videos, animated feature films, television shows and commercials.

The 90-second video shows how the $500 billion smart city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia will accelerate the human drive for progress through technology, energy, sustainability, mobility and more. 

The commercial’s production designer is François Audouy.

Among the nominees for the commercials category is “Gucci: ‘Aria,’” “Apple Music: ‘Billie Eilish — Happier Than Ever,’” “Apple: Introducing iPhone 13 Pro” and more. 

“Dune,” the science-fiction epic shot in Abu Dhabi, earned recognition in the fantasy feature film category, alongside “Cruella,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “The Green Knight.”