Six artists visually transform AlUla oasis for first art residency

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Updated 14 January 2022

Six artists visually transform AlUla oasis for first art residency

Six artists visually transform AlUla oasis for first art residency
  • After 11 weeks of artistic exploration, inaugural residency in Kingdom’s ancient region culminates with showcase of artists’ works
  • Artworks also to be displayed at AlUla Arts festival taking place from Feb. 13-26

DUBAI: In the ancient desert lands of AlUla, now one of Saudi Arabia’s top tourist attractions, six artists have spent the last three months creating works as part of the area’s first art residency program.

Under the theme “The Oasis Reborn,” the cohort hailing from the Kingdom, Syria, the UAE, France, and Algeria, has, since the start of November, been immersed in AlUla’s ancient sites, natural oasis, and varied landscapes of lush valleys, sandstone mountains, red-rock cliffs, canyons, and velvety sand dunes.

Their mission has been to create art that marries the rich cultural heritage of the area with its bountiful natural environment.




Muhannad Shono, On This Sacred Day, 2022, Mabiti AlUla, The Oasis Reborn Art residency 1. (Supplied)

They have been working in collaboration with technical, scientific, and archaeological experts developing the natural oasis into a 50-square-kilometer hospitality, heritage, and cultural venture. The artists also linked up with local community artisans and cultural practitioners to learn about AlUla’s rich heritage.

The residency initiative was the brainchild of officials from the Royal Commission for AlUla, and the French Agency for AlUla Development, and was operated by Manifesto, a French creative agency set up to help companies with artistic projects.

Laure Confavreux-Colliex, executive director at Manifesto, told Arab News: “The goal of this residency program was to work with the six artists chosen from different backgrounds and practices to be involved through art in the development and regeneration of AlUla.




Laura Sellies, Peuplé de feuilles qui bougent (“Populated by Moving Leaves”), 2022, Mabiti AlUla, The Oasis Reborn Art residency 4. (Supplied)

“The theme dedicated to ‘The Oasis Reborn’ means we are digging into those issues of what is in the oasis, what has been in the oasis, and how to bring to light the history and heritage of the oasis so that AlUla can be regenerated.

“Our goal at Manifesto was to create those links between the artists and the local AlUla community.”

The first edition took place in Mabiti AlUla, a palm grove and guest house in the heart of AlUla’s oasis. The next edition will be held at Madrasat AdDeera, an arts and design center set to become a key space in the future Arts District of AlUla, a cluster of education and art programs aimed at providing an active and vibrant destination for communities, students, artists, and visitors.

The first cohort of artists-in-residence began collaborations with local artisans through the programs held at Madrasat AdDeera.




Sara Favriau, Ruban de Möbius (“Möbius Strip”), 2022, Mabiti AlUla, The Oasis Reborn Art residency 1. (Supplied)

Suspended over a pool of water and positioned in between a grove of palm trees, Saudi artist Rashed Al-Shashai’s installation, “Thuraya,” draws links between modern science and the ancient past.

Created using natural materials from the oasis, it is colored red with golden lanterns on either side that at night cast reflections on the water and illuminate the area.

Al-Shashai told Arab News that his piece had been inspired by the importance of the stars to the lives of farmers.

He said: “My grandfather used to take me with him to perform the Fajr prayer. I remember the path we used to walk together. When he was talking to me, he was always looking at the sky, at the star, at the Thuraya and its position in the sky. Farmers have always been guided by its location in the sky to start planting or harvesting. It was the start of my inspiration for my installation.”




The artists spent the last three months creating works as part of the area’s first art residency program. (Supplied)

The cycle of death and renewal in the oasis was the focus of Muhannad Shono’s work, “On This Sacred Day,” with the smoke rising from the installation representing the stories of comings and goings, loss, and remembrance.

He said: “It is a ceremonial piece that transcribes the journey of plant, ash, smoke, and sky, in other words, a cycle of death and renewal unfolding inside a living oasis. It also questions purposeful change, transformation, and impacts to guard against fires that may seek to reduce the world to ash.”

French artist Sara Favriau’s artwork, titled “The Oasis is a Wadi Raised to the Sky,” takes three forms and three distinct steps corresponding to three related moments: Small sculptures called “Trifles and Trinkets,” a filmed performance titled “A Never-Ending Day,” and an installation named “Mobius Strip.” The artist created the trio of forms to question the notion of a garden of the desert and, more specifically, of the oasis, envisioning the planet as an expansive garden with the human and animal realms united as one.




Sofiane Si Merabet (The Confused Artist), It’s Not Early Anymore, 2022, Mabiti AlUla, The Oasis Reborn Art residency 1. (Supplied)

French-Algerian artist Sofiane si Merabet looked at the oasis as a “motherly environment” that had nurtured humans throughout time.

Titled “It’s Not Early Anymore,” his work reflects on the recent development of the oasis of AlUla and the excitement surrounding wedding celebrations. Located in a small, one-story building on an oasis farm, he has produced a multimedia installation capturing the Saudi traditions of the Tagagat, or female wedding singers, and regional elements documenting urban signs and shops referring to weddings.

Si Merabet told Arab News that AlUla was also known as the “bride of the mountains.”

He said: “Working closely with Nujood, the only Tagaga of AlUla, is a very powerful way of documenting the sociology of the oasis, the current dynamic of change, and how both are linked to spaces.




Talin Hazbar, Earth Readings, 2022, Mabiti AlUla, The Oasis Reborn Art residency 1. (Supplied)

“The oasis as a motherly space, nourishing, full of greenery, and the desert, it reminds me of the dichotomy that you can find during weddings: A mirror of how interactions between genders or different social groups occur.

“This work searches for the permanence of local traditions and questions the meaning of preservation and authenticity and how they can be reinvented,” he added.

Talin Hazbar, an artist born in Syria and based in the UAE, created “Earth Readings,” a piece exploring the myriad of relationships between the past and the present, the imperceptible and the material. The work delves into the meaning of the land through “mark-making and map-making narratives.”

She said: “I worked with a living material which can be reshaped, remolded, reconstructed, and that constantly adapts, and evolves. It becomes a trace of its lifetime and of its space while also becoming a key to understand AlUla in its own elements, stories, and practices.”

In a powerful nod to the expansive and varied landscape of the AlUla oasis, French artist Laura Sellies’ “Populated by Moving Leaves” showcases an installation made up of sculptures, sounds, and texts. She said it invoked a “palace of memories” whereby metal structures invite visitors to listen to the voices of the oasis — both real and fictional —including women, men, birds, camels, winds, water, rocks, and sand.

The artists’ works were presented to the public over three days of open studios in January and will be on display during AlUla Arts festival taking place from Feb. 13 to 26.


Actors Mona Zaki, Aseel Omran jet to Cannes for festival closing 

Actors Mona Zaki, Aseel Omran jet to Cannes for festival closing 
Updated 28 May 2022

Actors Mona Zaki, Aseel Omran jet to Cannes for festival closing 

Actors Mona Zaki, Aseel Omran jet to Cannes for festival closing 

DUBAI: A handful of Arab celebrities have been spotted at the 75th Cannes Film Festival since organizers rolled out the red carpet on May 17. 

As the festival comes to an end, the red carpet played host to two more stars from the region: Egyptian actress Mona Zaki and Saudi singer, TV presenter and actress Aseel Omran.

The stars attended the screening of French screenwriter Leonor Serraille’s second feature, “Mother And Son (Un Petit Frere),” championing celebrity-loved Arab designers. 

Zaki stepped out wearing a form-fitting black gown from Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika’s fall/winter 2022-2023 collection. The dress, with a low back, featured geometric crystal detailing. 

Omran, the Khobar-born star, opted for a fully embroidered dress from US superstar Jennifer Lopez’s favorite designer Zuhair Murad.  

The blue floor-length flowing dress is off-the-shoulder and featured feather-detailing.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Aseel | أسيل (@aseel)

The stars are both brand ambassadors for the cosmetics company L’Oreal Paris, which they were representing at the film festival. 

“So excited to be @festivaldecannes with @lorealparis,” wrote Zaki to her 7.4 million followers. 

In March, Omran was named as the first Middle East ambassador for French luxury label Dior. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Aseel | أسيل (@aseel)

The songstress, known for her roles in TV shows including Netflix’s “Black Crows,” “Qabel Lil Kaser” and “Harun Al-Rashid,” rose to fame following her participation in reality TV shows “Gulf Stars” and “Hiya wa Huwa.”

The 32-year-old musician and fashion star has also partnered with other international brands including Italian luxury fashion house Bulgari.

Meanwhile, Zaki, 45, is a renowned Egyptian actress who started her career at the age of 16. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Aseel | أسيل (@aseel)

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One of her most recent films is the action-thriller “The Spider,” which is currently in theaters in the Middle East. She stars alongside Egyptian actor Ahmed El-Sakka. 

The actress also starred in the Arabic remake of the hit Italian feature “Perfect Strangers,” which was released on Netflix in January. 

The Cannes Film Festival was also attended by Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid, part-Saudi catwalk star Shanina Shaik, Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi and Tunisian-French model Sonia Ben Ammar, to name a few. 


US-Egyptian designer Jacquie Aiche talks new collection, working with Sofia Richie

US-Egyptian designer Jacquie Aiche talks new collection, working with Sofia Richie
Updated 28 May 2022

US-Egyptian designer Jacquie Aiche talks new collection, working with Sofia Richie

US-Egyptian designer Jacquie Aiche talks new collection, working with Sofia Richie

DUBAI: Celebrity-loved jewelry label Jacquie Aiche’s recently released collection, “Divine Rising,” is all about summer loving — and the part-Egyptian designer behind the brand spoke to Arab News about the inspiration behind the line. 

Inspired by “Mother Earth,” the designer, who was born to an Egyptian father and an Indigenous American mother, explained that the new release celebrates the creative energy drawn from new beginnings.

“It seems as if everything around us is going through an incredible period of rebirth and transformation, so I wanted to honor this sense of renewal, and the beautiful, wild nature it carries,” the designer said. 

For this collection, the jeweler tapped US model Sofia Richie to front her campaign.  

The 23-year-old It-girl posed in the brand’s diamond-encrusted body chains, bracelets, earrings and rings which were designed and handcrafted in Aiche’s studio.

“Sofia radiates such a natural, ethereal glow and was an absolute dream to work with,” said Aiche. “Her energy made the jewels shine even brighter.”

For Aiche, jewelry is “everything” — it is much more than just adornment. “It speaks to the soul. It is a form of self-expression, a way of deep healing and a talisman of personal meaning,” she explained. 

The designer’s main goal with her brand, she said, is to create pieces that carry “special, transformative energy” that brighten up her customers. I want to spread the love I feel daily,” she said. 

Aiche launched her eponymous label from her garage in 2008. 

When she first began making jewelry, she would design pieces anonymously and sell them in her boutique, she said.

“At that time, fine jewelry was so traditional but I wanted to create pieces that felt special, spiritual and personal,” she said. “I felt so connected to the healing power of precious stones and wanted to share that energy with the world. When I saw how women responded to my pieces, I knew I was on the right path since the brand has taken a life of its own.”

She has since amassed an impressive celebrity client list that includes Hailey Bieber, Usher, Rihanna, Jada Pinkett Smith and Blake Lively.

“I have such a strong, beautiful tribe, who have all sort of organically found and gravitated towards my designs. I love that about life, the unknown and the unexpected,” she said. 


Dig in: Fast food spots to try in Saudi Arabia

Dig in: Fast food spots to try in Saudi Arabia
Updated 28 May 2022

Dig in: Fast food spots to try in Saudi Arabia

Dig in: Fast food spots to try in Saudi Arabia

From international hotspots to homegrown eateries, these restaurants in Saudi Arabia are so much more than your basic fast food joints. 

Fatburger 

Besides their juicy burgers, foodies in Riyadh can dig into the signature fat and skinny fries alongside Fatburger’s beef that is freshly ground and grilled to perfection.

Hamburgini

Hamburgini has sharing packages at affordable prices that will make for a great after-pool meal with your family and friends this summer.

Century Burger

Hungry fans can choose from toppings galore at this burger joint. It is also known for its colored, flavored buns like the black garlic and pink spicy bread. 

Section-B

For all the vegans out there, Section-B has got you covered with their vegan patties and array of plant-based topping options. 

Johnny Rockets 

It’s popular for a reason — the well-known US eatery offers everything from angus beef burgers and tender chicken sandwiches to loaded hotdogs.

Buffalo’s Express 

Love chicken wings? This restaurant boasts traditional and boneless wings slathered in an array of sauces, from honey garlic to Asian sesame and fired up BBQ sauce. 

Jan Burger

Crispy tenders, curly fries, grilled burgers and delicious sauces – Jan Burger has it all. Whether you are on a health kick or in the mood for fried goodies, this spot has something for everyone. 


Johnny Depp lawyer urges jury to give him his ‘life back’

Johnny Depp lawyer urges jury to give him his ‘life back’
Updated 27 May 2022

Johnny Depp lawyer urges jury to give him his ‘life back’

Johnny Depp lawyer urges jury to give him his ‘life back’
  • "What is at stake in this trial is a man's good name," Camille Vasquez, an attorney for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star said
  • Lawyers for the two sides are making their closing arguments following six weeks of blistering mutual accusations of domestic violence

FAIRFAX, United States: A lawyer for actor Johnny Depp urged a jury on Friday to find his ex-wife Amber Heard guilty of defamation over domestic abuse allegations and give him his “life back.”
“What is at stake in this trial is a man’s good name,” Camille Vasquez, an attorney for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, said in closing arguments in Fairfax County Circuit Court near the US capital.
“We ask you to give Mr.Depp his life back, to tell the world that Mr.Depp is not the abuser Miss Heard said he is and to hold Miss Heard accountable for her lies,” Vasquez said.
“The evidence shown in this trial has shown that Miss Heard is the abuser,” she added. “She was violent, she was abusive and she was cruel.”
Lawyers for the two sides are making their closing arguments following six weeks of blistering mutual accusations of domestic violence between the couple.
Judge Penney Azcarate will give the case over to the seven-person jury Friday afternoon. The panel will be off over the weekend and on Monday, a public holiday, and resume deliberations on Tuesday.
The 58-year-old Depp filed a defamation suit against Heard in Virginia over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
The Texas-born Heard, who had a starring role in “Aquaman,” did not name Depp in the piece, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and is seeking $50 million in damages.
The 36-year-old Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming that she suffered “rampant physical violence and abuse” at his hands.
Dozens of witnesses testified during the trial, including bodyguards, Hollywood executives, agents, entertainment industry experts, psychiatrists, doctors, friends and relatives.
Depp and Heard each spent days on the witness stand during the televised trial which attracted hundreds of fans of the “Pirates” star daily.
Video and audio recordings of heated, profanity-laced arguments between the couple were played for the jury, which was also shown photographs of injuries allegedly suffered by Heard during their volatile relationship.
Hours of testimony featuring medical experts was devoted to a finger injury that Depp suffered while filming an installment of “Pirates” in Australia in March 2015.
Depp claimed the tip of the middle finger on his right hand was severed when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him. Heard said she did not know how the injury occurred.
Both agreed that Depp went on to scrawl messages on walls, lampshades and mirrors using the bloody digit.
Heard said Depp would become a physically and sexually abusive “monster” during alcohol- and drug-fueled binges and resisted her repeated efforts to curb his drinking and drug use.
Heard said Depp had promised to bring her “global humiliation” if she left him, and she has been the target of a vast #JusticeForJohnnyDepp social media campaign.
Depp testified that it has been “brutal” to listen to his ex-wife’s “outlandish” accusations of domestic abuse.
“No human being is perfect, certainly not, none of us, but I have never in my life committed sexual battery, physical abuse,” he said.
Heard, who was married to Depp from 2015 to 2017, obtained a restraining order against him in May 2016, citing domestic violence.
Depp, a three-time Oscar nominee, filed a libel suit in London against the British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater.” He lost that case in November 2020.
Both sides have claimed damage to their Hollywood careers.
Heard’s legal team presented an entertainment industry expert who estimated that the actress has suffered $45-50 million in lost film and TV roles and endorsements.
An industry expert hired by Depp’s side said the actor has lost millions because of the abuse accusations, including a potential $22.5 million payday for a sixth installment of “Pirates.”


Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s son cleared of drug charges

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s son cleared of drug charges
Updated 27 May 2022

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s son cleared of drug charges

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s son cleared of drug charges
  • Aryan Khan, 24, an aspiring actor and director, was arrested in October during a raid on the cruise ship off Mumbai
  • Evidence from an eight-month investigation didn't implicate Khan

NEW DELHI: Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s son was cleared on Friday in a drug case involving a party on a luxury cruise ship, with no evidence showing he possessed banned drugs or was involved in trafficking, India’s narcotics agency said.
Aryan Khan, 24, an aspiring actor and director, was arrested in October during a raid on the cruise ship off Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital. He was released on bail after three weeks.
India’s Narcotics Control Bureau said in a statement Friday that evidence from an eight-month investigation didn’t implicate Khan. However, it pressed charges against 14 other people.
After the raid on the ship, the narcotics agency had said it had evidence in the form of WhatsApp messages showing that Khan was involved in illicit drug dealing.
Mukul Rohatgi, Khan’s lawyer, told reporters Friday that the arrest was “arbitrary” and the agency did not conduct a medical examination to show his client had consumed drugs.
The case was widely covered in India, with fans of Aryan Khan insisting on his innocence while others called for a boycott of his father’s films.
Shah Rukh Khan, 56, is known as the king of Bollywood and is India’s most loved actor. He has starred in more than 105 movies over nearly three decades.
In September last year, the narcotics agency questioned some of Bollywood’s most prominent stars in connection with the death of famous actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Rajput died by suicide and doctors and police ruled out drugs.