UAE’s gift to Pope Francis immortalized as an NFT, set for charity sale

UAE’s gift to Pope Francis immortalized as an NFT, set for charity sale
80% of proceeds will go towards the Afghan weavers who created the carpet and their families.Supplied
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Updated 14 November 2021

UAE’s gift to Pope Francis immortalized as an NFT, set for charity sale

UAE’s gift to Pope Francis immortalized as an NFT, set for charity sale

DUBAI: The UAE’s gift to Pope Francis has been rendered as a non-fungible token (NFT) that will be available for purchase for $150,000 at Abu Dhabi Art this week.

Set to be unveiled on Monday, the iconic Pontifex Carpet was turned into an NFT and will be displayed in an ornate gold frame on a 65-inch digital canvas.

According to the Fatima bint Mohamed bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI), which spearheaded the project, 80% of proceeds will go towards the Afghan weavers who created the carpet and their families.

The carpet was originally gifted by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to Pope Francis on a visit to the Vatican in September 2016 where the two leaders met to discuss strengthening existing diplomatic links and promoting inter-religious harmony.

The only existing version of the Pontifex Carpet, which is 272x183cm, remains in Pope Francis' possession, but in order to immortalise the artwork, an NFT was created from the original by the Morrow Collective. The weavers have also created a replica of the carpet measuring 185 x125cm, to be gifted to the buyer of the NFT.

Maywand Jabarkhyl, the CEO FBMI, said: “The process of turning one of our most iconic carpets into an NFT is a crucial step forward for our initiative. Not only does it give us the chance to bring our designs to a global audience but it opens up a new stream of revenue, which will be invaluable to our artisans in Afghanistan particularly in light of the latest crisis. With the harsh winter months fast approaching the funds raised will go towards providing core relief items to those most vulnerable in Afghanistan.”

“One of the best things about NFTs is that they give sovereignty back to artists, whilst at the same time allowing us to reach more people around the world as NFTs are not bound by geographical or physical restrictions,” Jen Stelco, Head of Design at the MORROW collective, said, before adding: “Working with FBMI designs has allowed MORROW to make NFTs from carpets designed by women in Afghanistan, who are also benefiting from blockchain technology, which is capable of bringing real and lasting change to their lives.”

The NFT will be available to buy on https://opensea.io/collection/zuleya-by-fbmi.


A farwa offers a ‘warm embrace’ for Saudis on cold winter nights

A farwa offers a ‘warm embrace’ for Saudis on cold winter nights
Updated 20 January 2022

A farwa offers a ‘warm embrace’ for Saudis on cold winter nights

A farwa offers a ‘warm embrace’ for Saudis on cold winter nights

RIYADH: Winter has well and truly arrived and so the people of Saudi Arabia are adding a layer or two to their outfits to help them cope the colder temperatures.

A particularly popular item found in Saudi winter wardrobes is a traditional Bedouin overcoat known as the farwa, versions of which have for hundreds of years been keeping people in the region warm during long, harsh winter nights in the cold, unforgiving desert.

The long, oversize coat, made from thick, cozy material, is especially common in northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula, where temperatures can drop surprisingly low. Its lining is usually made of sheepskin or fur and its cut is similar to that of the traditional Arab cloak known as a bisht.

This new, trendy age of the farwa began with homegrown boutiques and businesses that flourished by putting a modern, stylish spin on a traditional Arab garment. (Hedra)

In the old days the farwa was a garment for men, worn by tribesmen and royalty alike, but the styles, cuts and fur linings varied depending on social class and status.

Nowadays, it is worn by both men and women and is considered by many an essential part of their wardrobes. In the modern era it is also become a fashion item among some Saudis as part of a creative winter ensemble. As a result, the farwa can now be found in myriad modern designs and bright colors, sometimes adorned with cultural patterns and embroidery.

This new, trendy age of the farwa began with homegrown boutiques and businesses that flourished by putting a modern, stylish spin on a traditional Arab garment.

“The farwa is our way of preserving our cultural identity, while offering people something new and exciting, something they can play around with by mixing and matching different clothing items and accessories,” said Manal Al-Harbi, a Saudi entrepreneur and owner of Gabba, a boutique in Riyadh.

She said the farwas sold in her store are all handmade and that most of those on the market these days are made of synthetic materials. The average price is about $370 she added, but some can sell for as much as $2,600.

Gabba, a boutique in Riyadh, sells handmade farwas at its boutique. (Gabba)

“It depends on the materials you use,” said Al-Harbi. “Real fur sourced from animals will be much more expensive, as the process from raw material to final product is lengthy, labor-intensive and very costly.”

Real fur must first undergo extensive treatment to remove the animal’s scent, she explained, then it is dyed and processed further to obtain the soft, inviting texture customers enjoy.

Individual designers and fashion houses put their own spins on the farwa. Al-Harbi, for example, focuses on farwas for women with minimalist designs that can suit any occasion, though she is also happy to accept custom orders.

“Previously women in Saudi would wear jackets over their abayas but nowadays the farwa is the abaya because it looks like it and also serves two purposes: keeping them warm while looking more stylish,” she said.

The trend toward more stylish farwas began about 10 or 12 years ago and picked up pace in the past few years, according to Al-Harbi. Almost every household in the Kingdom’s central and northern cities will own a few to wear during the cold season, she said.

Jeddah-born Hussain Abedi, 25, told Arab News that he thought he was done with chilly weather when he returned to Saudi Arabia after living in the UK. But after moving to Riyadh and experiencing its cold winters, he realized he had some shopping to do.

“I go farwa hunting with my friends, sometimes,” he said. “It’s just something I enjoy wearing and buying different designs of. It can be difficult to settle on a color or specific design pattern but, overall, wearing a farwa feels like a warm embrace.”

They also make good gifts, Abedi added, and can make a fashion statement among friends, especially when the farwa is made with real fur.


Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration
Updated 20 January 2022

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration

Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna joins Spotify program with new collaboration

DUBAI: Palestinian-Chilean singer and songwriter Elyanna has joined Spotify’s fourth Radar installment in the Middle East, the music streaming platform announced on Thursday.

Radar is an emerging-artist program spotlighting rising talent from around the globe. Some of the program’s most popular collaborations include “Is It On” by K-pop sensation AleXa and Kuwaiti-Saudi-based artist Bader Al-Shuaibi, and “Hadal Ahbek” by viral A-pop star Issam Alnajjar, featuring Canadian DJ duo Loud Luxury and Iraqi-Canadian singer and songwriter Ali Gatie.

The new collaboration sees the 19-year-old upcoming star team up with veteran Tunisian rapper and composer Balti on a single titled “Ghareeb Alay” (“A Stranger to Me”). The track, which fuses urban pop with reggae, will drop on Jan. 21.

In a statement, Elyanna said: “While ‘Ghareeb Alay’ characterizes the story of a love song, it’s much deeper than that. It reflects change, both around us and within.

“For me, it is about being an immigrant, an artist, and a young female at the beginning of my journey. Everything and everyone feels new and strange.”

On Tuesday, the singer teased 16-seconds of the song on her Instagram and wrote to her 440,000 followers, “who’s readyyyyyy?”

On his excitement about the collaboration, Tunisia’s rap pioneer said: “‘Ghareeb Alay’ is one of my all-time favorites. Together with Elyanna, we’ve managed to bring forward a new style of Arabic urban pop backed by Spotify’s vision for local talents.”


Cardi B offers to pay funeral costs of Muslim Bronx fire victims

Cardi B offers to pay funeral costs of Muslim Bronx fire victims
Updated 22 min 29 sec ago

Cardi B offers to pay funeral costs of Muslim Bronx fire victims

Cardi B offers to pay funeral costs of Muslim Bronx fire victims

DUBAI: US rapper Cardi B has offered to pay for the funeral and burial costs for the 17 victims, most of whom were Muslim, who lost their lives in the Bronx fire that ripped through a New York city high-rise tower on Jan. 9.

Victims ranged in age from just two years old to 50.

The Grammy-winning rapper teamed up with The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to offer financial support for victims of the fire in the Bronx, where she grew up, announced New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday.

Most of the victims killed in the fire were from the West African country of Gambia, and families of several of the victims planned to bury them in their homeland. Cardi B has offered to pay the repatriation expenses for the victims who will be buried in Gambia, the mayor’s office reported.

“I’m extremely proud to be from the Bronx and I have lots of family and friends who live and work there still. So, when I heard about the fire and all of the victims, I knew I needed to do something to help," Cardi B said in a statement to CNN. "I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish that the families of the victims are experiencing, but I hope that not having to worry about the costs associated with burying their loved ones will help as they move forward and heal. I send my prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this horrific tragedy,” she added.


Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun

Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun
Updated 20 January 2022

Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun

Review: ‘Archive 81’ is big, silly and a lot of fun

LONDON: In a world filled with new, genre-defying content, there is a tendency to dismiss simple, straightforward shows as being insufficiently innovative or ground-breaking — as if there is something wrong with doing the obvious.

“Archive 81”, Netflix’s new horror series based on a podcast of the same name, tells the story of Dan, a mild-mannered archivist (played by Mamoudou Athie) who is asked to restore a mysterious videotape from the 1990s.

In the videotape, Ph.D. student Melody Pendras, played by Riyadh-born actress Dina Shihabi, outlines her plan to chronicle the lives of the residents of a New York apartment building that will later mysteriously burn down.

It tells the story of Dan, a mild-mannered archivist who is asked to restore a mysterious videotape from the 1990s. Supplied

Dan takes the job and is transported to a remote facility in the Catskills where he must uncover what happened to Melody, and the building, by working his way through the found footage.

This might come as a surprise, but it turns out that not everyone or everything is as obvious as we are initially led to believe. As Dan watches on, Melody uncovers haunting music that drifts through the air vents, a bizarre club that meets in the basement, and a handful of other narrative devices that scream “red flag” to most viewers.

“Archive 81” is the kind of show that reveals its secrets at a leisurely pace across its eight-episode stretch. It also the kind of show that has an inordinately convoluted storyline, some rather gaping plot holes and is full of dead ends.

“Archive 81” is the kind of show that reveals its secrets at a leisurely pace across its eight-episode stretch. Supplied

But that should not count against it. For a series that pretends to be highly complex, it is wonderfully simple — there is a secret, and probably a conspiracy, but we do not know what it is yet. However, by the time the last episode rolls around, we will.

Sometimes, that is as much complexity as a production needs to be truly enjoyable. Sure, there are some hammed-up performances — though Athie and Shihabi are both highly watchable — some silly supernatural mumbo jumbo, and a few predictable jump scares. But it is also a lot of fun in its own self-aware way.


Saudi artists present new work at Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Saudi artists present new work at Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi artists present new work at Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Saudi artists present new work at Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
  • A selection of pieces specially commissioned for the Kingdom’s inaugural biennale, which runs until March 11 and includes work by Saudi and international artists

‘World Map’

Maha Malluh

The Jeddah-born artist’s piece is a continuation of one of her best-known series, “Food for Thought,” in which she uses found objects with a particular cultural resonance for Saudis to create images and/or words. Her “World Map” consists of 3,840 audio cassettes of religious readings, divided into 48 bread-baking trays. “Decades ago, people would gather to listen to these tapes, as if communing for a meal,” the show catalogue explains. “By incorporating cassettes, many works in this series also grapple with the shift in Arab society from the spoken word to a fast-paced, visual culture.” This particular piece, however, “alludes to new forms of global connectivity that emerged from the outbreak of COVID-19,” when — denied much of what constitutes our physical community — many of us found togetherness in the sharing of audiovisual media from across the world; from the streaming giants of Netflix and Amazon Prime to social media platforms such as Tik-Tok and YouTube.

‘Standing by the Ruins of Aleppo’

Dana Awartani

The Jeddah-born artist’s installation is typical of her focus on the destruction or erosion of cultural heritage. Its subject, the ancient Grand Mosque of Aleppo, was seriously damaged during the Syrian Civil War. Awartani has Syrian heritage (as well as Palestinian, Jordanian and Saudi) so the topic has a personal connection for her. She created a large-scale replica of the mosque’s courtyard using adobe bricks made from clay earth taken from across the Kingdom. She chose not to include a binding agent in the bricks, so her work will inevitably crack over time. “The work makes a lost piece of cultural heritage accessible again,” the catalogue states. “Meanwhile, Awartani’s use of adobe, a low-cost material suffused with meaning and collective memory through its role in vernacular architecture, suggests a note of hope and communal resilience.”

‘Birth of a Place’

Zahrah Al-Ghamdi

The Jeddah-based artist’s work “explores tensions between the country’s traditions and globalization, often through the lens of her hometown, Al-Baha,” according to the show catalogue. “She is inspired by the domestic architecture of the city as well as the natural beauty of the area, though her work also considers what is lost to the Kingdom as it undergoes breakneck urban development.” This particular piece, though, is based on the site of this biennial, Diriyah, and “serves as an elegy to the ancestral foundations of the town.” Al-Ghamdi spent time wandering the deserted clay houses in the area before creating the work, which consists of shapes that surely mimic the high-rise skylines typical of the rapid urban development witnessed in the Gulf in recent decades, and which Al-Ghamdi describes as “sky-high kicks of a fetus in a mother’s womb.”

‘Soft Machines/Far Away Engines’

Sarah Brahim

Brahim is a singer and dancer, and was commissioned to create this projection-mapped video performance — a “choreographic essay” — “to impart a sense of the transcendent.” The filmed performance consists of planned and improvised movements, and individual and group gestures. “As motion moves through the body to its border, there must be a point where it breaks through and becomes part of the social body, the transmission from individual to common territory,” the catalogue states. Brahim spoke to Arab News earlier this year about her use of “structured improvisation” in her work. “I use this approach because I care about capturing a specific feeling or experience and having it resonate in others,” she said. “Being open to the medium that works to communicate and being open enough to listen deeply to where things are coming from keeps me grounded.”

‘Manifesto: The Language & City’

Abdullah Al-Othman

Al-Othman is a poet as well as a multimedia artist. As such, he includes the written word in many of his artworks — often scripture from the Qur’an. “His work explores human struggles as he documents the people that inhabits the cities he visits,” the catalogue explains. This new piece is about his hometown, though — the Saudi capital city, Riyadh. Al-Othman used LED and neon lighting, lightboxes and found wooden signage from his city’s streets to create this fun, eye-catching large-scale installation in which he “condenses the city to its visual and architectural language. In this way, the work becomes an artistic manifesto of the city.”

‘This Sea Is Mine’ 

Marwah Al-Mugait

Al-Mugait’s work for the biennale is a video installation and performance-art piece that “uses vocals and movements to revive ancient practices and create a new form of transcultural solidarity in an era marked by geopolitical friction, mass migration, and diaspora.” The Riyadh-born artist uses traditional chants from three very different indigenous populations in this piece — one from the Far East, one from South Africa, and one from the Gulf. The latter — fijiri — is a traditional sea chant used as an “auspicious ritual” for sailors and pearl divers. “These disparate cultural forms come together to create unexpected human connections, highlighting the similarities between different cultures and proposing a metaphorical bond of solidarity between nations,” the catalogue states.

‘The Alphabet’

Lulwah Al-Homoud

Riyadh-born artist Al-Homoud presents a web of programmable LED neon strip lights which, when a visitor approaches, become brighter, beckoning them closer. The installation is, according to the catalogue “the culmination of Al-Homoud’s 20-year project investigating the relationship between geometry and the Arabic alphabet. Now a hallmark of her work, these patterns are made by deconstructing Arabic script and applying ancient mathematical principles to their forms, creating a new mode of expression within the revered tradition of calligraphy.” Al-Homoud has previously told Arab News that her calligraphy is not meant to be “read” in the straightforward traditional way: “It is not direct,” she said. “It will ask people to look more deeply to be able to figure out what is written.”