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.”

‘Oussekine’: An immensely sad story of racist brutality

‘Oussekine’: An immensely sad story of racist brutality
Updated 39 sec ago

‘Oussekine’: An immensely sad story of racist brutality

‘Oussekine’: An immensely sad story of racist brutality

CHENNAI: Antoine Chevrollier’s four-part miniseries, “Oussekine,” is a dramatization of a ghastly event that happened one night in the center of Paris.

Malik Oussekine, barely into his twenties, meets a terrible end when policemen on motorcycles chase him into a building and brutally beat him to death. He had no criminal record, no political affiliations or sympathies. But he was an Algerian Muslim.

The series follows the Oussekine family, of a mother and her five children, who had left Algeria and made France their home, soon becoming citizens. They are proud and happy to be French, but are never allowed to forget that they are from another country.

The series follows the Oussekine family, of a mother and her five children. Supplied

The first episode of “Oussekine” begins on the evening of Dec. 5, 1986. While students are demonstrating on the streets of Paris against the Devaquet law, Malik Oussekine (Sayyid El Alami) is watching a concert by Nina Simone in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. He is excited about it, and before leaving home gently refuses to have the potato wedges his mother, Aicha (Hiam Abbass), has made. He says he would be late for the event and rushes out.

Post-concert, he is walking back home, happy about the entire evening, when he finds himself chased by police officers on motorcycles. He runs away and takes refuge inside a building, but a couple of men in uniform get inside and brutally beat him. Later as the episodes unfold, we learn all about the disillusionment, frustration and anger that are rampant in the force. And Malik was an unfortunate victim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Hiam Abbass portrays the student's mother. Supplied

The death is revealed in layers over the episodes, each about 60 minutes. Chevrollier packs in enough surprises to keep us glued to our TV sets, but the series does have its weak moments, giving us a feeling that it is not flowing as easily as it ought to be with some flashbacks appearing a bit confusing. The courtroom scenes are often listless, the only dramatic high coming from Malik’s sister, Sarah (Mouna Soualem), who at one point tells the two accused police officers not to dare look her in the eye. Some of the retorts made by the lawyer for the Oussekine family, Georges Kiejman (Kad Merad), are pointed and damning. Is this country not founded on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, he asks.

While Malik’s other siblings, Mohamed, Benamar and Fatna, make little or no impression, it is Sarah who is unforgiving. “Why are the accused not in handcuffs?” she questions the lawyer. Closest to her brother, she is as devastated as her mother, and the two actresses brilliantly convey a sense of immense sadness and helplessness.

Yet, the series does not moralize. Rather, it reminds us that life must continue. Acceptance is perhaps the greatest balm.

British-Moroccan model Nora Attal is Tiffany & Co.’s newest campaign star

British-Moroccan model Nora Attal is Tiffany & Co.’s newest campaign star
Updated 16 May 2022

British-Moroccan model Nora Attal is Tiffany & Co.’s newest campaign star

British-Moroccan model Nora Attal is Tiffany & Co.’s newest campaign star

DUBAI: Luxury jewelry house Tiffany & Co. teamed up with British-Moroccan model Nora Attal for its striking Elsa Peretti Bean Designs collection lensed by fashion photographer Sharif Hamza. In charge of creative direction was Ruba Abu-Nimah.

In the campaign video and photos, Attal is seen wearing dramatic statement pieces from the luxury jewelry brand’s latest offering designed by the late Italian jewelry designer whose creations for Tiffany & Co. are showcased in the collections of several art institutions, including the 20th century collection of the British Museum.

Attal dons hand-carved green jade and 18k gold necklaces and bean-shaped pendants adorned with silk cords, nets and tassels handwoven by artisans in Japan.

Peretti, who died in 2021, created her famous Bean design for Tiffany & Co. in 1974 during her first few years with the house. The jeweler saw the bean, a seed, as a symbol of life’s origins. Over the years, the bean motif has been reimagined at Tiffany & Co., from pendants and clutches to earrings, bracelets and other accessories. 

Speaking about the collection, Alexandre Arnault, executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany & Co., said “Elsa Peretti’s legacy in the world of design and fashion cannot be overstated. The reintroduction of Peretti’s ‘Bean’ designs allows us to honor her creative influence using the same materials and forms that you see throughout her design vocabulary to expand on one of her most celebrated collections.”

Meanwhile, the campaigns just keep on rolling in for the London-born beauty.

Attal has had a busy 2022 so far, adding a number of advertorials to her ever-growing portfolio.

The 22-year-old fashion star recently fronted US fashion label Ralph Lauren’s adverts for Eid Al-Fitr alongside her family.

In the campaign video, the model appeared with her fiancé, cinematographer Victor Bastidas, her parents Charlie and Bouchra Attal, and her two siblings. 

She also starred in the campaign for H&M’s spring 2022 collection.

More recently, the model walked for Chanel’s grand prix-inspired cruise 2023 collection in front of a star-studded front row in Monaco earlier this month.

She appeared on the catwalk wearing a flowing monochrome dress printed with checkered racing flags and matched with a black, waist-cinching belt and a crossbody bag.

First photos of Lyna Khoudri in upcoming drama ‘Nos Frangins’ unveiled

First photos of Lyna Khoudri in upcoming drama ‘Nos Frangins’ unveiled
Updated 15 May 2022

First photos of Lyna Khoudri in upcoming drama ‘Nos Frangins’ unveiled

First photos of Lyna Khoudri in upcoming drama ‘Nos Frangins’ unveiled

DUBAI: French film distribution company Le Pacte has unveiled the first look at “Nos Frangins,” or “Our Brothers,” starring French-Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri, ahead of its global premiere at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

The hotly anticipated new film by three time Oscar-nominated director Rachid Bouchareb is launching in the Cannes Première section and tells the harrowing true story of French-Algerian student Malik Oussekine, who died in police custody in 1986, following several weeks of student protests against a university reform bill.

Khoudri stars in the film alongside a stellar cast that includes fellow French-Algerian actor Reda Kateb, Raphael Personnaz, Samir Guesmi and newcomer Adam Amara.

In the photos, the Algeria-born actress is pictured walking down the street alongside Kateb.

 The French-Algerian actress stars in ‘Nos Frangins.’ Supplied

It is not yet known what role the 29-year-old is playing.

It is not the first time that Oussekine’s tragic tale has been adapted for the big screen. The 1995 French film “La Haine,” starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui, was largely inspired by the case of the 22-year-old student protester who died after being badly beaten by riot police after a mass demonstration in 1986, which he did not take part in. 

The story is also being examined in “Oussekine,” a Disney+ series directed by Antoine Chevrollier that follows his family’s fight for justice.

Khoudri made her Cannes Film Festival debut last year during the premiere of Wes Anderson’s 2021 comedy “The French Dispatch” in July.

She is part of an ever-growing list of Arab stars working their way up the Hollywood ladder.


A post shared by lynakhoudri (@lynakhoudri)

The Venice Film Festival Orizzonti prize winner is set to star in French-Algerian director Mounia Meddour’s new drama “Houria,” and most recently appeared in the period drama “La Place D’Une Autre” and “Haute Couture.”

She is also set to appear in a new two-part adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic French novel “The Three Musketeers,” in which she will star opposite Francois Civil as his love interest Constance D’Artagnan, formerly Bonacieux. In addition, Khoudri is shooting “Novembre,” a Cedric Jimenez-directed thriller about the French anti-terrorism services during the hunt for suspects after the 2015 Paris attacks.

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost
Updated 15 May 2022

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost
  • Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms

TURIN, Italy: Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, as the embattled nation rides a wave of public support across Europe.
Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms from an energetic, breakdancing band.
“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” frontman Oleh Psiuk said in English from the stage, referring to the port city’s underground steelworks where Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded by Russian forces.
Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognizable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.
“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.
Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.
Ukraine beat out a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, which sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national health care while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.
“Only at Eurovision do people celebrate bananas, heartbreaks and wash their hands in one and the same show,” Swedish fan Martina Fries told AFP Saturday ahead of the finale.
“Eurovision is a way to show that different countries can celebrate peacefully together.”

The joy of Eurovision is in its camp and theatrics, although the nearly three-month war in Ukraine hung heavily over festivities.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbor.
“Stefania,” written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on obscure flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” have taken on outsized meaning as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.
President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the group for topping the contest.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom,” while European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine.”
Kalush Orchestra received special authorization from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.
Psiuk said he wasn’t exactly sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.
“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.”

Other contenders at Eurovision included Sweden’s break-up belt “Hold Me Closer” from Cornelia Jakobs, Greece’s somber “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord, and “Brividi” (Shivers), a gay-themed duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.
Italy won the competition last year with “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin, who performed their new single “Supermodel” during Saturday night’s finale.
Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.
After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.
Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.
Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant “Sentimentai.”
Meanwhile, Sheldon Riley of Australia — one of Eurovision’s few non-European entries — sang his self-affirmation ballad “Not the Same” through a sparkling face veil laden with crystals.
And since no Eurovision is complete without a smattering of gyrating and undulating bodies onstage, Spain’s Chanel came to the rescue with her energetic dancing and memorable “booty hypnotic” refrain.

Shows, events canceled in the UAE for mourning period

Shows, events canceled in the UAE for mourning period
Updated 14 May 2022

Shows, events canceled in the UAE for mourning period

Shows, events canceled in the UAE for mourning period

DUBAI: Multiple cultural shows and events in the UAE, including Culture Summit Abu Dhabi and Dubai Comedy Festival, have been postponed following the death of the country’s president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. 

On Friday, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced 40 days of mourning with flags at half-mast from Friday, with work suspended in the public and private sector for the first three days, starting Saturday. 

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi was scheduled to take place May 16-18 at Manarat Al-Saadiyat island. The Department of Culture and Tourism is yet to announce the new dates. 

Dubai Comedy Festival will reschedule its upcoming shows including Vir Das, Jo Koy, The Comedy Bizarre and The Laughter Factory till May 16. 


A post shared by Mohamed Hamaki (@hamaki)

Kuwait, along with several other countries, also announced three days of mourning. Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki canceled his concert in Kuwait, which was scheduled to take place on May 13, in honor of the late president.