DUBAI: The International Prize for Arabic Fiction has announced the 16 longlisted authors competing to receive a $50,000 award when the winner is revealed in May.
Among the authors in contention for the 2022 award are Emirati author Reem Alkamali, Egyptian novelist Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, Eritrean writer Hajji Jabir, Nizar Aghri from Syria, Algerian novelist Boumediene Belkebir, Syrian author Yaa’rab Al-Eissa and Egyptian writer Tarek Imam.
Also competing for the prize are authors Bushra Khalfan from Oman, Morocco’s Mohsine Loukili, Khaled Nasrallah from Kuwait, Mohammed Al-Nu’as from Libya and Algerian Rouchdi Redouane.
Rounding out the longlist is Kuwaiti author Mona Al-Shammari, Syrian novelist Dima Al-Shukr and Egyptian writers Mohamed Tawfik and Belal Fadl.
Five judges, which include Tunisian novelist and previous IPAF winner Shukri Mabkhout and Libyan doctor, poet and translator Ashur Etwebi, chose the list from among 122 entries from nine countries across the Arab world.
Out of the 16 novels, six will be shortlisted with the titles revealed in March. All six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000 each.
Jordanian writer Jalal Barjas won the prize last year for his work “Notebooks of the Bookseller,” announced at an online ceremony in May. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the author also received funding toward securing an English translation of his novel.
Supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio, Naomi Campbell shine at Saudi event in Cannes
Updated 22 May 2022
DUBAI: From models to actresses, Arab designers are putting on a show at the 75th Cannes Film Festival by dressing some of the brightest stars on the red carpet — including at the Women in Cinema event hosted by the Red Sea International Film Festival.
Alessandra Ambrosio cut a striking figure as she arrived at the event on Saturday at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc during the annual film festival in France this weekend. The Brazilian supermodel wore a sweeping fairytale-worthy nude mesh gown adorned with organza bougainvillea and silver embellished straps from pioneering Lebanese couturier Elie Saab as she walked the black carpet.
The floral-embellished creation was plucked from Saab’s most recent spring 2022 couture collection, which he showcased in Paris in January at his first physical show in two-years.
The 55-look offering was an ode to the Mediterranean and featured full-skirted silhouettes in luxe fabrics like taffeta and tulle bedecked with feathers, rhinestones, beads and sequins.
The former Victoria’s Secret angel elevated the look with minimal jewelry in the form of sparkling diamond earrings and a ring.
British supermodel Naomi Campbell was also in attendance at the event, which was hosted by the CEO of the Red Sea International Film Festival Mohammed Al-Turki. For her part, Campbell opted for a hot pink gown from Valentino’s Fall-Winter 2022 collection.
After Cannes was cancelled in 2020 and held with strict health protocols in 2021, the red carpet returned in all its glamour last week for the opening ceremony.
As usual, Arab couturiers are making their mark on the red carpet as a spectrum of A-listers descend upon La Croisette wearing jaw-dropping creations from designers from the Middle East.
Memorably, US actress Larsen Thompson stepped out at the red carpet premiere of “Triangle of Sadness” wearing an elegant black gown from Saudi label Ashi Studio. The off-the-shoulder creation boasted an asymmetric train and a small slit at the front. She paired it with matching black pumps and delicate jewelry.
Arab designers aren’t the only ones shining brightly at the film festival. Regional creatives, including Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi, Lebanese television presenter Diala Makki and Lebanese reality television star Alice Abdelaziz, are once again stealing the spotlight on the French Riviera with stunning looks.
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Cannes filmmakers urge France to face colonial past in Algeria, Africa
Updated 22 May 2022
CANNES: Film-makers are holding up a mirror to France over its colonial past at the Cannes festival, helped by star power and a growing French readiness to face up to injustices committed notably in Africa.
The colonization of Algeria and the horrors of the Algerian war of independence (1954-1962) deeply scarred both nations and continues to mar relations, but was hardly discussed in France in public for decades.
Although President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged crimes committed — including a massacre by police of Algerians in Paris in 1961 which he called “inexcusable” — his government has ruled out “presenting an apology” for France’s colonial past.
“I think you could say that I’m obsessed by the Algerian war,” French director Philippe Faucon told AFP at the Cannes festival.
His film “Les Harkis” tells the story of Algerians who fought alongside French troops against the independence movement, only to be left behind for the most part when France pulled out of Algeria, and facing the vengeance of the victorious Algerians.
The movie places the responsibility for this “criminal betrayal” and the subsequent massacres of Harkis firmly at the doorstep of then-president Charles de Gaulle.
“It is necessary to recall this story and look the truth in the eyes,” said Algerian-born Faucon, although historical “complexities” make easy judgments impossible.
Fellow director Mathieu Vadepied also warned against facile conclusions about France’s forced recruitment of Senegalese soldiers for its World War I war effort, the subject of his film “Tirailleurs” (“Father and Soldier”).
French superstar Omar Sy — who has won a huge international following with his roles in “Untouchable” and the Netflix smash hit “Lupin” — plays the lead in the story about a father and a son who are both forced into the trenches.
“My idea is to put things into question,” Vadepied told AFP. “Question France’s historical relationship with its former colonies, what do we have to say about that today, do we even know what we did?”
While rejecting any “frontally political” approach, he said that “if we deny the facts we can never move on, we need to tell these stories, everybody needs to know them.”
The idea was however “not to guilt-trip people, but to recognize the painful history and free ourselves.”
Sy, the France-born son of west African immigrants, told the audience at the film’s opening night: “We have the same story, but we don’t have the same memories.”
The second Cannes week will see the screening of “Nos Frangins” (“Our Brothers”) by French director Rachid Bouchareb who in 2006 sparked a nationwide debate with “Indigenes” (“Days of Glory”), a film about the contribution of North African soldiers to the French Free Forces during World War II.
In his latest movie, he tells the story of Malik Oussekine, a student killed in 1986 and whose name resonates deeply among French minorities.
On the night of December 6, 1986, two police officers beat to death the 22-year-old French-Algerian on the sidelines of a student protest in Paris.
He had not been involved in the demonstration, and his killing became a turning point — triggering weeks of unrest and leading to the unprecedented conviction of the officers involved.
It took 35 years for the death of Malik Oussekine to be recounted on-screen.
An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music and more. They are bought and sold online, usually with cryptocurrency.
Hadid told her 52.1 million followers that each NFT features “different and unique 3D scans of me, thought up with you in mind, that will be utilized around the world; designed to encourage travel, community, growth, fantasy and human interactions.”
The model said that in the coming months, the project will allow collectors to go to real locations and events around the world, where they can meet her.
Sustainable label Glossy Lounge takes cues from loungewear trend
Updated 21 May 2022
DUBAI: Loungewear has become a wardrobe staple, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is something British entrepreneur Natasha Zaki is looking to capitalize on with her chic new range of comfortable clothing.
Post-pandemic life acted as a creative catalyst for the Dubai-based businesswoman who took advantage of the explosion in loungewear’s popularity to launch her own brand, Glossy Lounge, which is available in Saudi Arabia.
The clothing label, which she launched earlier this year, is Zaki’s second business venture. She also has an eco-friendly beauty brand, Glossy Makeup, which is available at 50 retail stores globally.
Glossy Lounge offers hoodies, jackets, jumpers, T-shirts, leggings, shorts, sweatpants, bodysuits and underwear in an array of different colors for men, women and children.
Her label has so far received the likes of regional it-girls including Kuwaiti social media star Fouz Al-Fahad, Egyptian actress Asallah Kamel and Lebanese fashion influencer Mayada Sleiman, to name a few.
According to her website, Zaki works with sustainable fabrics such as “organic cotton, bamboo and recycled polyester.”
Contrary to what one might think, the founder said that creating eco-friendly products is not “very challenging.”
“A lot of factories offer sustainable fabrics and solutions,” she said. “We source sustainable fabric and biodegradable trims pretty easily. Sourcing the best fabrics for our customers’ comfort while taking care of our environment is one of my top priorities with Glossy Lounge.”
Just last month, Glossy Lounge partnered with Dubai’s non-profit organization Emirates Nature-WWF. Every purchase from the loungewear brand will support mangrove and conservation efforts in the UAE, according to the fashion and beauty enthusiast.
“I personally wanted to give back to the Emirates, and as a nature lover we decided to partner with Emirates Nature,” Zaki said. “The pandemic was a time of self-reflection for many of us, reminding us of the importance of giving back and preserving our dear planet.”
Why Beirut Museum of Art project is a beacon of hope in crisis-plagued Lebanon
New York-based architects WORKac were approached in 2018 to design Beirut’s new art museum
BeMA will stand on what was once the “green line” dividing the Lebanese capital during the civil war
Updated 21 May 2022
DUBAI: For many Lebanese, the past can be a painful subject. A civil war destroyed large swaths of the country between 1975 and 1990. The postwar period has been marked by sectarian strife and government dysfunction.
But in spite of the traumas of recent decades, Lebanon remains a land of immense cultural wealth, with a rich history reflected in its architectural, cultural and anthropological heritage.
This is why the Beirut Museum of Art, or BeMA, which is due to open in 2026, has been billed as a “beacon of hope” in a country beset by political paralysis, economic decline and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
When Sandra Abou Nader and Rita Nammour launched the museum project, their goal was to showcase the wide diversity of Lebanese art and provide facilities for education, digitization, restoration, storage and artist-in-residency programs.
“They realized that there was, in fact, very little visibility for the Lebanese artistic scene, within the country and abroad, and for Lebanese artists, whether modern or contemporary,” BeMA’s art consultant, Juliana Khalaf, told Arab News.
About 700 works of art will be on display at the new venue, drawn from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture’s collection of more than 2,000 pieces, the bulk of which have been in storage for decades.
“We are going to be housing this very important collection,” said Khalaf. “We call it the national collection and it belongs to the public. It’s our role to make it, for the very first time, accessible. It’s never been seen before.”
The artworks, created by more than 200 artists and dating from the late-19th century to the present day, tell the story of this small Mediterranean country from its renaissance era and independence to the civil war period and beyond.
The collection includes pieces by Lebanese American writer, poet and visual artist Kahlil Gibran and his mentor, the influential late-Ottoman-era master Daoud Corm, who was renowned for his sophisticated portraiture and still-life painting.
Works by pioneers of Lebanese modernism, such as Helen Khal, Saloua Raouda Choucair and Saliba Douaihy, will also feature among the collection, as will several lesser-known 20th-century artists, including Esperance Ghorayeb, who created several rare, abstract compositions in the 1970s.
“The collection is a reminder of the beautiful heritage that we have,” said Khalaf. “It shows us our culture through the eyes of our artists.”
Among the priorities for the BeMA team, in partnership with the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, is the restoration of the collection, which includes several paintings and works on paper that have been damaged by war, neglect, improper storage or simply the passage of time.
Gathering information about the artists and their effects on Lebanon’s artistic heritage is another priority for the BeMA team, and is a task that has proved to be challenging given the dearth of published resources and the means to catalog them.
* International Museum Day, held annual on or around May 18, highlights a specific theme or issue facing museums internationally.
“What was surprising was how little research there is out there and how much we need to do on that front, like getting the right equipment that is not currently available in the country to properly archive books and photography,” said Khalaf.
In 2018, the BeMA team approached WORKac, an architectural firm based in New York, for ideas about the new venue. Co-founded by Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, a Lebanese-born architect and former dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, WORKac has designed museums in California, Texas, New York and Florida.
For Andraos, who left Lebanon at the age of three, the chance to design a home for Beirut’s artistic heritage is particularly special.
“I think it’s a very personal project for everyone involved,” she told Arab News. “Everybody put their heart and soul into this idea that Beirut really needed a museum to house the national collection.
“For me, personally, I have a great attachment to Beirut, to its history, as well as architecturally, artistically and intellectually.”
Given the country’s troubled past and complex identity, Andraos believes the museum’s collection will prove valuable in helping Lebanon rediscover its sense of self and recover from past traumas.
“It’s an archive that we need to go back to, to understand who we are and how we move forward,” she said.
After the project was approved by city authorities, the first stone was laid at the site of the new museum in February. The initial phase requires Andraos and her team to examine the site for archaeological remains.
When complete, the museum will feature three gallery floors that borrow aesthetic elements from local Art Deco urban design. It has been described as an “open museum” and a “vertical sculpture garden,” owing to its cubic facade which will be embellished with bursts of greenery from top to bottom.
Andraos admits she was initially skeptical about the project. Lebanon is in the throes of multiple crises, including a financial collapse. Beirut, the capital, is yet to recover from the devastating blast at the city’s port on Aug. 4, 2020, when a warehouse filled with highly explosive ammonium nitrate caught fire and detonated, leveling an entire district.
All of this, combined with the additional economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has caused thousands of young Lebanese to move abroad in search of work and respite from the seemingly endless litany of crises.
For some people in the country, though, it is precisely because of these issues that a museum celebrating Lebanon’s cultural achievements is needed, perhaps now more than ever.
“When I recently presented the museum to a member of the BeMA board, I said: ‘This is probably the worst time for a museum,’ and he said: ‘This is the most important time for a museum because we need culture, education and ideas,’” said Andraos.
“When people are hungry, it’s like art versus food — but art is also food, in some ways, for the spirit and the mind.
“Everyone involved in it sees it as a beacon of hope and the country needs to build its institutions. It’s almost like a resistance to collapse. We have a history that is worth valuing, rereading, and a culture that we need to preserve and build on.”
This is not to say that the project was welcomed by everyone at the beginning.
“There’s no large public attendance of museums; it’s something that really needs to be developed,” Khalaf said. “In that respect, people felt like it was an unnecessary project.
“But now that people actually see that it’s a serious project and is happening, the attitude has changed. People say there’s something to look forward to.”
To date, about 70 percent of funding for the project has been allocated and a public appeal will soon be launched to make up any shortfall. Entry to the museum will be free.
Located in the leafy, upmarket, residential Badaro district in the heart of Beirut, known for its early-20th-century, art deco-influenced buildings, the museum will stand on what was once the “green line” that separated the east and west of the capital during the civil war.
“What’s nice about it now is that it might become the ‘museum mile,’ because there’s the National Museum, BeMA, Mim Museum, and if you just go further down, you’ll actually get to the Sursock Museum,” said Khalaf.
“It changes the perspective from a war-torn Beirut to a culturally alive Beirut.”
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