Saudi artists present new work at Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Saudi artists present new work at Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
Dana Awartani, Standing on the Ruins of Aleppo, 2021. (Supplied)
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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.”


US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 September 2022

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ latest TV series to be filmed in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: A thriller set during an environmental collapse has joined a growing list of US television shows shot in Abu Dhabi with the support of its film commission.

“Last Light,” a five-episode series streaming on Shahid VP in the Middle East, was filmed in multiple locations in the emirate, with the capital doubling as the program’s fictitious city of Luzrah. 

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured ‘Last Light,’ as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert. (Supplied)

The show stars Emmy-nominated Matthew Fox, best known for his role in “Lost,” and Joanne Froggatt of “Downton Abbey,” as well as Amber Rose and Hakeem Jomah. The program also features Paris and London as locations.

The action and drama series is directed by award-winning director Dennie Gordon, who has worked on over 100 hours of network television, including the critically acclaimed American superhero television series ‘Legion’.

“Finding a desert like this, unobstructed dunes as far as the eye can see, is such a privilege,” said Gordon in a statement. 

‘Last Light’ star Matthew Fox shooting a scene in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured, as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert.

Scenes were also filmed at the Arkan Cement Factory, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Al Danah, Mussafah and a military base.

The series, an adaptation of Alex Scarrow’s best-selling novel about a world without oil, is the latest to join the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s extensive roster of supported foreign productions.

The series received location support and a 30 percent rebate on production costs from the ADFC. It was produced by a crew of 145 people, 90 of whom were locals.


 


Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’

Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’
Updated 26 September 2022

Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’

Egypt’s 19th century gift to France inspires new children’s book ‘Grace the Giraffe’
  • Egypt's Muhammad Ali Pasha gave female giraffe from Nubia to King Charles X
  • Paris-based couple Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee took inspiration from the historical story for their children's tale

DUBAI: In 1827, the people of Paris saw the rarest of sights. The ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, sent an unusual diplomacy gift to King Charles X of France: A female giraffe from Nubia, dubbed “la belle africaine,” that caused a sensation and set trends in French society.

This real-life and little-known story inspired Paris-based couple Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee to create their third and latest children’s book, “Grace the Giraffe,” which will be released in October.

Paris-based couple Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee created their third and latest children’s book, ‘Grace the Giraffe.’ (Supplied)

It captures a light-hearted aspect of this historical event. “A few books have been written about the giraffe, but they’re quite dry,” Oliver, an Australian, and host of The Earful Tower podcast, told Arab News.

“We thought the fun part of the story was just as much this reaction from Parisians,” he continued. “It’s a fashion story of people going crazy, where women had their hair looking like the horns or ears of the giraffe.”

Originally from southern Sudan, the giraffe was transported via the Nile and crossed the Mediterranean, landing in Marseille. “She was in a boat with a hole so her head could stick out, which is amazing,” noted Oliver.

The giraffe endured a long and arduous journey as she was walked from Marseille to Paris for weeks. She grew physically along the way, accompanied by a procession of cows that provided milk. “By the time that she was in Marseille, a giraffe hadn’t been in Europe for 300 years,” said Oliver. “So today, it would be like an alien is here.”

In Paris, the giraffe lived in a zoo for under two decades until her death. “Everybody went to see her,” said Oliver. “Even in the small cities, half the population came to see her go past. It was insane.” She achieved her own kind of celebrity, as the elegant creature appeared on fans and ceramics. Luckily, the giraffe’s body has been preserved over the years and is currently on display at a museum in La Rochelle, France.

“Grace the Giraffe” was written by Oliver and illustrated by his wife, Lina. Told in rhyming couplets with little twists in the narrative, the charming piece of work features colorful spreads of Grace’s boat journey, extraordinary procession, and whirlwind arrival in the French capital.

The news of the book’s publication has been well-received online, sparking interest from readers of all ages. “From a history perspective,” said Oliver, “it’s cool to know that children and adults will be learning about a fascinating story.” 


Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid

Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid
Tala Bashmi is the chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2022

Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid

Bahraini culinary star Tala Bashmi celebrates The Best Chef Awards ranking in Madrid
  • ‘I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,’ Bashmi previously told Arab News

DUBAI: Bahraini chef Tala Bashmi appeared in Madrid over the weekend to celebrate her ranking among the top 100 chefs in the world.

The culinary star ranked 93rd and is the only Arab on this year’s Best Chef Awards list, as well as one of just 18 women.

The gala dinner was held at the Crystal Gallery of the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid and saw Spain’s Dabiz Muñoz named the best chef in the world for the second consecutive year.

“I do not feel like the best chef in the world, far from it. But I believe I have the best team in the world,” he said accepting the prize on the stage.

Chef patronne at Fusions by Tala in the Gulf Hotel, Manama, Tala Bashmi hit the red carpet at the event.

Bashmi grew up in Bahrain, and began her career at the Gulf Hotel, before heading to Switzerland to train at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and the Michelin-starred Prisma. 

She returned to Bahrain in 2014 and worked her way up through the ranks at the Gulf Hotel to eventually head Fusions by Tala, where she’s determined to reinvent Gulf cuisine. She was recently named Best Female Chef in the Middle East and North Africa by 50 Best.

“I always saw a gap for a different version of Middle Eastern and Khaleeji cuisine,” Bashmi told Arab News earlier this year. “I want to compete on a global scale by elevating our cuisine technically, visually, and flavor-wise,” she said. 


Actress Sofia Carson shows off Zuhair Murad look in New York

Sofia Carson showed off an ensemble by Zuhair Murad in New York. (Getty Images)
Updated 26 September 2022

Actress Sofia Carson shows off Zuhair Murad look in New York

Sofia Carson showed off an ensemble by Zuhair Murad in New York. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US singer and actress Sofia Carson was spotted in New York wearing an ensemble by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad this week.

Carson attended the Global Citizen Festival in a coordinating look from Murad’s resort 2023 collection. The outfit featured an embellished crop top and mini skirt set with matching thigh-high leather boots.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Carson (@sofiacarson)

The actress was dressed by celebrity stylist Nicolas Bru.

Metallica and Mariah Carey led an A-list of musicians at the event on Saturday, and President Joe Biden made a surprise video appearance, as the Global Citizen Festival sought to mobilize action against poverty and climate change.

Marking its 10th year, the six-hour festival brought thousands to New York’s Central Park and featured a sister show in Ghana's capital Accra, where performers included American R&B great Usher and British grime icon Stormzy, AFP reported.

Global Citizen awards tickets to fans in exchange for their commitment to take action to eradicate extreme poverty — such as contacting elected representatives to encourage foreign aid — and coincides with the annual UN General Assembly in hopes of raising pressure on world leaders.

Other performers included Maneskin, the new-generation Italian glam rockers who put on an energetic set, Spanish pop star Rosalia, and the Jonas Brothers, with Nick Jonas' wife, Indian screen star Priyanka Chopra, serving as master of ceremonies.

It is not the first time Carson has attended a high profile event wearing an ensemble from the Middle East.  

In July, she hit the red carpet at the premiere of Netflix movie “Purple Hearts” in a deep purple gown by Lebanese couturier Elie Saab.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Carson (@sofiacarson)

The actress, who stars in the film, attended the premiere at The Bay Theater in Pacific Palisades, California, wearing a gown from Saab’s Fall 2022 collection.

The dress boasted a tightly pleated purple skirt, along with a floral-embellished bodice with a statement high collar in black.

The 68-look ready-to-wear collection from which the gown hails was unveiled in Paris in March and was “about strong women, strong characters, a little rock ‘n’ roll,” the designer told Vogue US at the time.

It’s only fitting then that the dress was shown off by singer and actress Carson, who is signed to Hollywood Records and has a number of singles under her belt.

The multi-hyphenate most recently starred in “Purple Hearts,” which tells the story of an aspiring singer-songwriter and a soldier who fall in love against all odds.


UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France
Updated 25 September 2022

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France

UAE artists set to exhibit at the 16th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in France
  • Wonderful talent showcase, says Noura bint Mohammad Al-Kaabi, minister of culture and youth
  • Hashel Al-Lamki, Mohammed Kazem, Chafa Ghaddar will work under event’s theme ‘Manifesto of Fragility’

DUBAI: Three artists from the UAE are set to represent the country at the 16th edition of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, which will run from Sept. 14 to Dec. 31, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

Multi-disciplinary creator Hashel Al-Lamki, conceptual creative Mohammed Kazem and mural artist Chafa Ghaddar will present their work at the biennale, which is being held under the theme “Manifesto of Fragility.”

Mural artist Chafa Ghaddar will present their work at the Biennale. (Supplied)

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the UAE to showcase its talent at such a prestigious platform. We have immense respect for the Lyon Biennale, which is marking its 16th edition this year. The UAE is making its presence felt at global art events and this is one of its significant participations,” said UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura bint Mohammed Al-Kaabi in a statement.

“The UAE artists exhibiting at this event are known names in the contemporary art world and they will be presenting distinctive works enriched by Middle Eastern and Arab influences. I look forward to seeing their participation in the biennale, wish them a very successful exhibition and I look forward to seeing the fruitful results of the collaboration between these artists come to life.”

Featuring 230 works by 34 artists and more than 300 archival documents from nearly 40 collections worldwide, the exhibition will showcase new creations by living artists alongside historical pieces from museums in the French city.

It will also present loaned collections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (also known as the Met), the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and from many of Lyon’s leading cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, the Lugdunum Museum and Roman theaters, and the Musées Gadagne.