Pop-culture highlights from across the region

Pop-culture highlights from across the region
The French-Tunisian artist unveiled his latest large-scale calligraffiti project last month. (Instagram)
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Updated 12 November 2021

Pop-culture highlights from across the region

Pop-culture highlights from across the region
  • From a new calligraffiti masterpiece and an electro-pop rant to an Egyptian-German double album

eL Seed

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by eL Seed (@elseed)

‘Like Her’

The French-Tunisian artist unveiled his latest large-scale calligraffiti project last month. It was created in the small village of Giranchour, Nepal — one of many settlements in the country that was devastated by the April 2015 earthquake that left hundreds of thousands of Nepalese homeless. In Giranchour, the artist explained on Instagram, “some women got trained in construction work, while others learned how to produce their own earthquake-resistant bricks.” In the village, eL Seed worked with a team of 12 women “who helped me create a giant art installation that spread all around the village connecting each house to another, linking each women’s story to the other.”

His work is a rendering of the words, “There is nothing between us, nothing at all. Your eyes have tears, just like my own” — a quote from the late Nepalese activist Yogmaya Neupane, “a modern icon in the contemporary fight for gender equality and social justice,” he explained.

“I believe artists have a social responsibility to inspire, ignite and implement change,” eL Seed continued. “‘Like Her’ intends to raise up the women in this remote community and bring to light issues facing (them), and women all over the world, while sharing their beautiful stories of wisdom, strength and resilience.”

LUMI

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lumi (@lumi_lumi__)

‘Our Tale’

The influential Lebanese duo’s latest video, directed by Sarah Huneidi, is for a track taken from their recently released EP “Eternity.” “Our Tale,” LUMI explained on Instagram, was written after the horrific Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020. It reflects “anger, irony, some dignity and the longing for something better, for some grandness, goodness inside us to take over.”

The accomplished new release is built on discordant electronica over which vocalist Mayaline Hage half-speaks, half-sings lyrics bemoaning the state of Lebanon: “I live in this country/Oh, we made such a mess/The darkest of lords/Are still enjoying their fest/Tell me my brothers/Where did we bury our memory?/ What poison made us forget our truth on this journey?”

81 Designs x Nada Debs

‘On Belonging’

This collaboration between Lebanese designer Nada Debs and UAE-based social enterprise 81 Designs is the result of a six-month project inspired by Palestinian artist Nabil Anani’s “In Pursuit of Utopia” — which Anani described as a vision of his homeland as “a prosperous, thriving place free from occupation; a land that takes pride in its nature and parades it jubilantly; a dream worth pursuing.” The collection consists of seven crafted pebble chairs and straw lamps designed by Debs and created by artisans in 81 Designs’ workshop in Lebanon’s Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp. “My work is about identity, restoring and elevating traditional craft and instilling a sense of belonging,” Debs says in a press release. “By revisiting roots and working with refugee artisans, this project was an infusion of identities and a heartfelt dialogue conveyed via craft, relaying messages of hope and freedom, dignity and identity.”

Naheli

‘Chemistry & Reevaluation’

This Egyptian-German duo — vocalist and pianist Lina Farah and percussionist and “electronics” player Till Menzer — have released an ambitious new record that blends Middle Eastern influences and Western sounds. The decision to release a double album was fueled, in part, by a desire to honor their past in prog-rock outfit Kassiopeia while also focusing on their newer, more pop-focused direction. “But we still have songs that have a very progressive vibe and I was wondering how to combine both sides,” Farah explains in a press release. So, “‘Chemistry’ has a more rounded pop sound and represents feelings and emotions. ‘Reevaluation’ is about thoughts and has a more progressive sound,” while the track “Morning” acts as “a bridge between the two.”

“At first, I was skeptical,” Farah says in the release. “But I realized that both sides of the album represent two sides of the same coin and some songs complement each other and have small parts of the other side.”

Nuhayr Zein

‘Seeds’

The Egyptian designer is showing her ottoman/table and bag from her “Seeds” series as part of Dubai-based art facility Tashkeel’s Tanween design program during Dubai Design Week. Zein’s recent work has been focused on developing a plant-based leather alternative for use in furniture and fashion. According to her bio on Tashkeel’s website, Zein’s practice “is rooted in identity, responding to cultural, social and environmental contexts while celebrating the transformational qualities of spaces and materials within the passage of time.”


US-Iraqi beauty mogul Mona Kattan gets engaged

Mona Kattan is the founder of the Kayali fragrance empire. (File/ Getty Images)
Mona Kattan is the founder of the Kayali fragrance empire. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 04 December 2021

US-Iraqi beauty mogul Mona Kattan gets engaged

Mona Kattan is the founder of the Kayali fragrance empire. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: Friends and fans flooded US-Iraqi beauty mogul Mona Kattan’s Instagram account on Saturday, after the Huda Beauty global president announced her engagement to Dubai-based businessman Hassan El-Amin.

“Forever Ever,” Kattan captioned a carousel of images posted late on Friday night, showing the Kayali fragrance founder posing with a diamond ring on her finger and alongside her soon-to-be husband.

Influencers, beauty entrepreneurs and celebrities took to Kattan’s comments section to send their well wishes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Mona Kattan (@monakattan“Congrats baby, (you) deserve the world,” doctor and influencer Sarah Al-Madani commented, while Faryal Makhdoom, wife of British boxing star Amir Khan, wrote “congrats cutie.”

According to El-Amin’s LinkedIn account, he is the head of facultative at Middle East and Africa at Aon Reinsurance Solutions and relocated to Dubai after studying at Cass Business School in London and graduating with a Masters of Science.

It seems Kattan’s new fiancé is as family-focused as she is — he even runs an Instagram account together with his two siblings called @the.elamins.

The siblings feature heavily in the carousel of images shared by Kattan, with snaps including both Sally and Ahmed El-Amin.

With a background in graphic design and illustrating, Sally boasts a portfolio of clients that includes  Huda Beauty, leading some to speculate that she could be the link between the loved-up couple.

The good news tops off a busy year for Kattan, who, alongside her sister Huda, announced a number of new investments and initiatives in 2021.

In the summer, the sister duo announced Ketish as the first brand to be launched by Huda Beauty Angels — which falls under HB Investments, their venture capital firm. Ketish, a feminine care label, is spearheaded by Eman Abbass, a former Huda Beauty product developer.

Since then, Mona has focused heavily on the sisters’ fragrance range, Kayali, of which she is the founder and creative head.

The latest Kayali product was launched this week and is called Eden Juicy Apple — a “playful, vibrant and super juicy” scent that is based on “crisp and juicy red apples, sweet berries and fresh floral notes,” according to the brand.

In October, Kayali won the coveted Niche Product of the Year prize at the Beautyworld Middle East Awards for its Sweet Diamond Pink Pepper fragrance.


What We Are Reading Today: The Government of Emergency

What We Are Reading Today: The Government of Emergency
Updated 04 December 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Government of Emergency

What We Are Reading Today: The Government of Emergency

Authors: Stephen J. Collier & Andrew Lakoff

From pandemic disease, to the disasters associated with global warming, to cyberattacks, today we face an increasing array of catastrophic threats. It is striking that, despite the diversity of these threats, experts and officials approach them in common terms — as future events that threaten to disrupt the vital, vulnerable systems upon which modern life depends.
The Government of Emergency tells the story of how this now taken-for-granted way of understanding and managing emergencies arose. Amid the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, an array of experts and officials working in obscure government offices developed a new understanding of the nation as a complex of vital, vulnerable systems. They invented technical and administrative devices to mitigate the nation’s vulnerability, and organized a distinctive form of emergency government that would make it possible to prepare for and manage potentially catastrophic events.


Misk Art Week showcases artists from Saudi Arabia and international community

Afra Aldhaheri’s “End of A School Braid” (2021), part of the Misk Art Grant exhibition “Under Construction” at Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)
Afra Aldhaheri’s “End of A School Braid” (2021), part of the Misk Art Grant exhibition “Under Construction” at Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)
Updated 03 December 2021

Misk Art Week showcases artists from Saudi Arabia and international community

Afra Aldhaheri’s “End of A School Braid” (2021), part of the Misk Art Grant exhibition “Under Construction” at Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)
  • For its fifth year, Misk Art Institute’s annual event features several exhibitions exploring the nature of identity

RIYADH: Inside Riyadh’s Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall, multimedia artworks are displayed across the venue’s two floors on the theme of Takween, which means “form” in Arabic, and its relation to one’s identity.

As part of Misk Art Week’s fifth outing, taking place until Dec. 5, artists from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, North Africa and the wider international community present art that questions identity — specifically how an individual’s social, historical and cultural origins influence their past, present and future.

From video works produced with AI to paintings, textile-based art and installations, the art on show aims, according to the Misk Art Institute, to offer a “critical platform for the creative community,” fostering cultural dialogue and intellectual exchange.

As visitors enter the hall, they are confronted by two dark figures by Saudi artist Filwa Nazer, made of black polyethylene industrial netting and titled The Other is Another Body (2021). The figures seem to guard the vibrantly colored wool-weave tapestry work hanging on a wall between them, titled Palm (1985), by American artist Sheila Hicks.

The works are part of Here, Now, the third in a series of the Misk Art Institute’s annual flagship exhibition, curated this time by British writer and curator Sacha Craddock alongside Misk’s assistant curators, Nora Algosaibi and Alia Ahmad Al-Saud.

The show, which features a mix of emerging and established artists and runs until Jan. 30, 2022, is the first in the Saudi capital to present works by both Saudi and international artists, including ones by well-known Saudi artists such as Manal Al-Dowayan’s abstract black and white work, I am Here (2016), Ayman Yossri Daydban’s Tree House (2019), and Sami Ali AlHossein’s colorful abstract figurative works on canvas. There is also a painting by renowned Sudanese painter Salah Elmur titled The Angry Singer (2015) and delicate floral drawings by Korean artist Young In Hong dating to 2009.

While without an overarching narrative, the show prompts the spectator to question, like the exhibition’s title, “why here and why now?” It encourages the visitor to reflect on the artworks and the nature of identity in a reflective, personal and subjective manner.

Upstairs is Under Construction, an exhibition of Misk Art Grant recipients who hail this year from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Algeria. The grant funds up to SR1 million ($266,632) and has been distributed among the nine participating artists and collectives.

Basma Al-Shathry, lead curator at Misk Art Institute, said: “This year’s Misk Art Grant exhibition, ‘Under Construction,’ explores how identity is perceived as an emblem of growth, continuity and endless iterations of cultural representation throughout history. It has been a delight to bring together artists and designers from both the Middle East and North Africa to address the theme as a process of development, repetition, distortion and incompleteness in a time of synthesis, understanding and promise for the future.”

Mira AlMazrooei and Jawaher AlMutairi’s “Glass Libary” (2021). Part of the Misk Art Grant exhibition titled  “Under construction” at Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)

The works on show also respond to the theme of identity while focusing on how identity can be perceived as a method for growth and renewal, as well as social and historical continuity, via the incorporation of cultural representations throughout history.

One of the most poignant works is by Emirati artist and designer Latifa Saeed’s Sand Room (2021), which presents an assembly of sand-encased glass panels in the form of a cube that one can enter to observe the desert sand sediments that she collected from construction sites around Dubai.

Latifa Saeed’s “Sand room” (2021). Part of the Misk Art Grant exhibition titled “Under Construction” at Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)

“My research and work is always about transformation, whether it be of a city or of one’s mentality,” Saeed told Arab News. “I began by building an archive of sand from Dubai because the sites from where I collected the sand we cannot visit anymore because they are now construction sites.

Saeed visited development sites in Dubai, and before the construction started she would collect sand from the area and label it accordingly. She now has more than 200 different types of sand from these areas.

“I am archiving, preserving and documenting the Dubai landscape, topography and the material itself,” she said.

Near to Saeed’s mesmerizing room of sand specimens is Emirati artist Afra Al-Dhaheri’s End of a School Braid (2021) — a large installation of twisted and backcombed off-white colored rope that hangs from the ceiling. In this piece Al-Dhaheri examines how hair can be seen as the keeper of memories, preserving not only time but cultural norms and heritage.

Bahraini artist Noor Alwan’s Sacred Spaces (2021), a series of hanging textile-based tapestry works, similarly seeks to preserve personal and collective memories. Growing up, she would watch her grandfather ritually draw hundreds of patterns on paper — a tradition that stemmed from his childhood and that immersed him in a meditative process of repetition. Alwan recalls his trance-like process of art creation and likens it to a shared Arab collective practice — with elements mirroring the mesmerizing geometric forms of Islamic art.

Nour Alwan’s “Sacred Spaces,” (2021). Part of the Misk Art Grant exhibition titled “Under Construction” at Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)

Moving into the rapidly developing digital landscape is an engaging work by Saudi artist Obaid Alsafi, titled Beyond Language (2021), in which a poem by the late revered Saudi poet Muhammad Al-Thubaiti Poetry (1952-2011), titled Salutation to the Master of the Arid Land, is transformed into a video work with sound via artificial intelligence. For the work, which captivates the viewer through its colorful abstract images — some seem like palm trees while others appear to be figures — Alsafi trained the AI through data collection and machine learning to understand poetry and produce visual representations of each verse with accompanying machine-made sound.

“The first form of art in the region and the way we connected with each other was through poetry,” Alsafi, an artist who studied computer science, told Arab News. “Al-Thubaiti, one of Saudi’s pioneer poets, changed the way that poetry was written and read. Everyone sees AI as robotic, but my vision, I want to see how we can make the machine more human so that it understands language, learn and develop artwork depending on the vision of the artist. I believe artists can use AI as a tool to develop their work.”

Lastly, there is the second iteration of works created in the Masaha residency program, located in the basement of the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall.

The program, part of Misk Art Institute’s mission to support Saudi and international practitioners across the artistic disciplines in the research and production of new works via mentorship opportunities, can be viewed on the ground floor. Titled HOME: Being and Belonging, the works by 10 visual artists from the UK, Guatemala, Morocco, India, South Korea, and from across Saudi Arabia, examine questions of how an individual and collective sense of belonging and nostalgia for one’s culture and heritage stems from one’s socio-cultural and ethnic background. The works on show explore how our sense of belonging changes and transforms with time.

The residency offers international artists the opportunity to create work on site at Masaha over a three-month cycle. Many of the participating artists are showing their work for the first time in the Kingdom — demonstrating once again Misk Art Institute’s broader aims to expand Saudi Arabia’s cultural landscape through international creative dialogue.

Hana Almilli’s “Through The Earth I Come Back Home” (2021). Part of the Masaha Residency showcase during Misk Art Week 2021. (Omar Al-Tamimi)

 


UAE-founded sustainable brand The Giving Movement gets charitable

Since its inception, the sustainable label has quickly gone on to become a staple in the wardrobes of social media influencers across the region. (thegivingmovement.com)
Since its inception, the sustainable label has quickly gone on to become a staple in the wardrobes of social media influencers across the region. (thegivingmovement.com)
Updated 03 December 2021

UAE-founded sustainable brand The Giving Movement gets charitable

Since its inception, the sustainable label has quickly gone on to become a staple in the wardrobes of social media influencers across the region. (thegivingmovement.com)

DUBAI: In the regional fashion industry, a handful of brands and organizations have been putting forth new initiatives that aim to give back to the community. Notably, The Giving Movement, an athleisure brand founded by Dominic Nowell-Barnes in Dubai in 2020, donates $4 of each sale to charity.

Since its inception, the sustainable label has quickly gone on to become a staple in the wardrobes of social media influencers across the region and was picked up by several e-retailers such as Ounass and Sivvi. But perhaps, its biggest accomplishment to date is raising over $1,000,000 in donations for local charities Dubai Cares and Harmony House India.

“The most important thing when I set out to do this project was just around feeling like we’ve done something good for the world,” Nowell-Barnes told Arab News.

“So when I started The Giving Movement, it was all about trying to find fulfillment and to feel that maybe in five, 10 years, when I looked back at where I’ve put my time and energy, it’s had a positive impact.”

The designer’s goal was to partner with charities that look after the basic needs of the less-fortunate, which is why he chose to partner with Dubai Cares and Harmony House India.

“Dubai Cares is predominantly focused on education, so the idea is that if you can educate people then they have the ability to get jobs and make a better future for themselves, as opposed to maybe just giving them a meal here or there. And then with Harmony House, they focus on the kind of immediate needs of providing food and shelter, and then ultimately education,” explains the designer.

The concept of giving back is very important and personal to Nowell-Barnes.

“Growing up in the north of England, I got to see very different types of lives. You can be walking down one street and there will be a guy driving a Ferrari, and the next minute you can be walking down a street where there’s people living on the sidewalk. This was my earliest recollection of feeling like life can be unfair to people,” he reflects.

“Therefore, I chose these charities because there are people who have just been dealt a bad hand so I want to spend the rest of my life supporting these people,” he added.

Harmony House currently looks after 700 disadvantaged children. The money raised by The Giving Movement will help provide food and shelter for these kids, in addition to providing the materials required to educate children with Dubai Cares.

Nowell-Barnes launched his genderless label in April 2020, after slowly losing interest in his 9-5 e-commerce job.

Despite launching in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic — during the lockdown in Dubai when residents needed a police permit to leave their homes to go grocery shopping or run errands — the made-in-UAE brand was met with immediate success, which Nowell-Barnes attributes to people wearing activewear and loungewear more than ever as they were going out less and spending more time indoors.

In addition to its charitable aspect, the brand is sustainable too.

The Giving Movement only utilizes fabric that is either certified recycled or organic as well as low-impact dyes. Eventually, the brand wants to move into circularity by launching some sort of initiative to collect garments from customers once they have used them and rather than them throwing them away, the brand can send them to be recycled or reused.

“I want to make sure that what I am doing is not only good for other people, but also good for the planet,” concludes Nowell-Barnes.

 


Review: Halle Berry’s ‘Bruised’ walks to a familiar beat

The Oscar-winning star directs and stars in this gritty sports drama. (Supplied)
The Oscar-winning star directs and stars in this gritty sports drama. (Supplied)
Updated 03 December 2021

Review: Halle Berry’s ‘Bruised’ walks to a familiar beat

The Oscar-winning star directs and stars in this gritty sports drama. (Supplied)

LONDON: For her directorial debut, Oscar winner Halle Berry throws herself wholeheartedly into the role of Jackie ‘Pretty Bull’ Justice — a former UFC fighter who left the sport in disgrace and now scratches a living as a cleaner in ramshackle Newark, careening from one drink to the next and arguing with her manager-turned-boyfriend Desi who wants her to get back in the ring.

When Desi tricks Jackie into attending an underground fight night, she catches the eye of local promoter Immaculate, who offers her a comeback fight and sets her up with his head trainer, Buddhakan. Oh, and on the way home, Jackie’s estranged mother shows up with Manny, the son Jackie left when he was an infant, now returned to her after his father was killed in a shooting. As the pressure at home ratchets up, Jackie throws herself into training, battling not only her opponents in the ring but, it turns out, her inner demons too.

(Supplied)

It’s a metaphor, see? And it’s not the only time that Berry’s movie is a little heavy handed with its use of tried-and-tested symbolism. “Bruised” is, in fact, the latest movie in the “Rocky” franchise in everything but name. Seemingly unaware that audiences may have seen other fighting films, Berry shamelessly mines the genre for every bloody cliché and underdog trope going, mashing them all together into a movie that is perfectly serviceable — it’s competently directed, and nobody can doubt Berry’s commitment to the role — if extremely familiar. 

(Supplied)

Berry’s co-stars — Shamier Anderson, Adan Canto and British actor Sheila Atim — all get the time to flex their creative muscles and there is some enjoyment to be found in this female-led story of hard-won redemption. But the film is dominated by such a feeling of déjà vu that it becomes overpowering. Every story beat is predictable, and even the brutal climax feels a little by-the-numbers. “Bruised” is a decent movie, but it’s a decent movie the audience will almost certainly have seen before.