Digital project to help Arab communities evolve, thrive using design, NFTs

The First Arabs. (Supplied)
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The First Arabs. (Supplied)
Digital project to help Arab communities evolve, thrive using design, NFTs
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The First Arabs. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 April 2022

Digital project to help Arab communities evolve, thrive using design, NFTs

The First Arabs. (Supplied)
  • ‘The collection features the 22 Arab countries stenciled on the borders of each NFT in traditional kufic script, the oldest calligraphic form of the Arabic language’

JEDDAH: Non-fungible tokens, better known as NFTs, have become all the rage. Last month, the Diriyah Biennale and fine arts company Sotheby’s hosted the Middle East’s first digital art forum, in Riyadh.

Around the same time, a group of likeminded Arabs came together to create The First Arabs, a digital community set up to explore Arab culture through NFTs — but with a twist.

In addition to creating and celebrating 10,000 Arab-centric, hand-drawn characters as NFTs, The First Arabs aims to help support high-impact non-governmental organizations as a fundamental part of its mission.




Arab News scoop: the Woman 1 design has not been revealed publicly. This rare piece is one of only 10 Ai characters out of the 10,000 designs. (Supplied)

The group’s members have vowed to tackle underfunded issues in their communities and build partnerships with global and local NGOs to advise them on their crypto fundraising initiatives, as well as use a large share of their NFT sales and future royalties in perpetuity to support important Arab causes.

Think of them as philanthropic “phygital” — physical and digital — nomads looking to create “an authentic Arab community at the cutting edge of blockchain technology,” working to do good in the Arab world.

They are now stealthily launching in the metaverse and Arabverse. Similar to the culture of NFTs and crypto bros, they choose to remain pseudonymous in order for the focus to be on the community rather than individuals.

One Saudi member of the The First Arabs team told Arab News: “The First Arabs is about the community and not the team. We aim to create a truly inclusive community from across the Arab world, a community that transcends national differences.

“We do not want to influence direction based on our own nationalities or perspectives, and the goal is for the community to manage and vote on key decisions, such as which NGOs to support, and other topics as we grow.”




Arab News scoop: the Man 1 design has not been revealed publicly. This rare piece is one of only 10 Ai characters out of the 10,000 designs. (Supplied)

Physical money is fungible, meaning it can be traded or exchanged for equal amounts: $1 equals $1. NFTs involves trading two things that are not equal.

“NFTs are essentially kind of derived somewhat, you could say, from cryptocurrencies; cryptocurrencies popped up after the financial recession in 2008. Since then, it’s gone through trials, tribulations, tests, and ups and downs, and continues to push forward, and the industry is now very heavily invested in that direction.

“It used to be just small circles, early adopters, and then it moved to retail investors and now, the biggest companies, the biggest funds in the world are investing in cryptocurrencies and are talking about it — countries are adopting it,” The First Arabs member said.

The initiative is unique in the sense that it is Arab-focused and Arab-run, and it aims to help Arab communities evolve and thrive using design and NFTs.

“Each character design features authentic, cultural wardrobe and items from across the Arab world — carefully drawn and designed to reflect our rich cultures. The collection features the 22 Arab countries stenciled on the borders of each NFT in traditional kufic script, the oldest calligraphic form of the Arabic language, to keep our message of pan-Arab community central to the art.

“And, in addition to being the gateway to The First Arabs, TFA holders will own the full commercial rights to their NFT.”

The First Arabs describe the metaverse as “the collective consciousness online.” People, essentially, can be whoever they want to be. At a time when finding fame as a social media influencer may seem desirable to some, others are rethinking how they are identified on the internet, perhaps wanting to share less. By using NFTs, users will be able to curate who they are — and what they are — in the metaverse.

Despite being a world shrouded in anonymity, owning an NFT, even if the person chooses to be anonymous, can still be a status symbol. Owners of Bored Ape NFTs, for example, are in the elite category of that world. Last year, a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT sold for $2.8 million, equal to 116.9 Ethereum.

A cryptocurrency wallet is required to purchase and store an NFT and the Ethereum blockchain is the host of the BAYC, so buyers need to download that in order to activate their crypto wallet. The First Arabs will probably be working on creating an Arab-centric version of that.

“A lot of the discussions now ask, are the majority of nonprofits crypto native or crypto? They’re not. What will it take for them to be? Is that a deal breaker? Because at the end of the day, what is the goal? The goal is to help the people in need that need these funds.

“So, are we going to say that, no, they only get the funds if they come through crypto? Because eventually, what they need to do ultimately is convert that crypto to the form of payment that they’re going to use.

“The next step is identifying NGOs and nonprofits that focus on Arab initiatives and social work. But the main question remains: Do those places we would like to donate to have digital wallets, and can they accept digital payments? The next question is vital: Will they?” The First Arabs member added.

During the last few decades, Saudi Arabia has morphed from having residents who barely used dial-up to a tech-savvy population, most with smartphones.

Traditionally, many Arabs were part of nomadic groups that collectively belonged to the same tribe or community in the region, and The First Arabs is perhaps the next iteration of that — in the metaverse frontier.


Google Doodle celebrates female Emirati poet Ousha Al Suwaidi

Google Doodle celebrates female Emirati poet Ousha Al Suwaidi
Updated 40 sec ago

Google Doodle celebrates female Emirati poet Ousha Al Suwaidi

Google Doodle celebrates female Emirati poet Ousha Al Suwaidi

DUBAI: Google Doodle celebrated on Monday Emirati poet Ousha Al Suwaidi, who inspired female poets across the region, with an illustration featuring her in traditional attire, including a face covering. 

Nicknamed ‘Fatat Al Khaleej’ (The Girl of the Gulf), Al Suwaidi was known for writing Nabati poems, or traditional poetry originating within the nomadic Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula. 

Al Suwaidi was born on Jan. 1, 1920 in Al Ain. When she was 15, she rose to fame nationally in what was commonly a male-dominated field of literature.

Many of her poems were inspired by the Arabian Gulf and desert landscapes, as well as her own experiences in the UAE, touching on themes such as love, wisdom, patriotism, and nostalgia.

She is regarded as one of the finest Arabic Nabati poets with many of her poems sung by popular Emirati and Arab artists.

On this day in 2011, a prestigious event recognized her contributions to literature and many of Al Suwaidi’s poetry and poems written in her honor were recited at the venue.  

The poetry community in the UAE also established an annual award for female Emirati poets in Ousha Al Suwaidi’s name in 2011. A library at the Emirates International School, and a section of the Women's Museum in Dubai, was also dedicated in her honor, according to a website citing her biography.  

Al Suwaidi died in 2018, she was 98.


BBC says Chinese police assaulted journalist covering protest

BBC says Chinese police assaulted journalist covering protest
Updated 28 November 2022

BBC says Chinese police assaulted journalist covering protest

BBC says Chinese police assaulted journalist covering protest
  • The BBC said it had not been given a credible official explanation for its journalist’s detention

LONDON: The BBC said on Sunday that Chinese police assaulted and detained one of its journalists covering a protest in Shanghai, before later releasing him after several hours.
“The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai,” a spokesperson for the British public service broadcaster said in a statement.
“He was held for several hours before being released. During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist,” the spokesperson added.
The BBC said it had not been given a credible official explanation for its journalist’s detention.

 


Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high

Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high
Updated 27 November 2022

Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high

Elon Musk: Twitter user signups at all-time high
  • Signups were averaging over two million per day in the last seven days as of Nov. 16
  • Buying Twitter speeds up Elon Musk’s ambition to create an ‘everything app’ called X

Twitter chiefeExecutive Elon Musk says new user signups to the social media platform are at an “all-time high,” as he struggles with a mass exodus of advertisers and users fleeing to other platforms over concerns about verification and hate speech.
Signups were averaging over two million per day in the last seven days as of Nov. 16, up 66 percent compared to the same week in 2021, Musk said in a tweet late on Saturday.
He also said that user active minutes were at a record high, averaging nearly 8 billion active minutes per day in the last seven days as of Nov. 15, an increase of 30 percent in comparison to the same week last year.
Hate speech impersonations decreased as of Nov. 13 compared to October of last year.
Reported impersonations on the platform spiked earlier this month, before and in wake of the Twitter Blue launch, according to Musk.
Musk, who also runs rocket company SpaceX, brain-chip startup Neuralink and tunneling firm the Boring Company, has said that buying Twitter would speed up his ambition to create an “everything app” called X.
Musk’s “Twitter 2.0 The Everything App” will have features like encrypted direct messages (DMs), longform tweets and payments, according to the tweet.
In another tweet early on Sunday, Musk said he sees a “path to Twitter exceeding a billion monthly users in 12 to 18 months.”
Advertisers on Twitter, including big companies such as General Motors, Mondelez International, Volkswagen AG, have paused advertising on the platform, as they grapple with the new boss.
Musk has said that Twitter was experiencing a “massive drop in revenue” from the advertiser retreat, blaming a coalition of civil rights groups that has been pressing the platform’s top advertisers to take action if he did not protect content moderation.
Activists are urging Twitter’s advertisers to issue statements about pulling their ads off the social media platform after Musk lifted the ban on tweets by former US president Donald Trump.
Hundreds of Twitter employees are believed to have quit the beleaguered company, following an ultimatum by Musk that staffers sign up for “long hours at high intensity,” or leave.
The company earlier in November laid off half its workforce, with teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights and machine learning ethics being gutted, as well as some product and engineering teams.


Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack

Iran’s Fars news hit by cyberattack
  • Hacker group appears to have obtained staff personal information and government data

LONDON: Iran’s state media outlet Fars was hit by a cyberattack, the agency reported on Saturday.

The incident seems to be part of a larger operation aimed at discrediting the outlet, which is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and exposing sensitive government information.

Fars said that its website had been disrupted late on Friday by a “complex hacking and cyberattack operation.”

“Removing possible bugs may cause problems for some agency services for a few days,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

“Cyberattacks against Fars news agency are carried out almost daily from different countries, including the occupied territories (Israel),” it added.

Fars has been heavily criticized for what critics say is its distorted reporting of recent protests that have swept Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini in mid-September.

The 22-year-old was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women and died while in the custody of the country’s morality police.

Hackers appear to have targeted the Twitter account of one of Fars’ managers and published a video on his profile.

The hacker group Black Reward on Friday claimed to have breached the agency’s database, and said it had obtained confidential bulletins and directives sent by the news agency to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran has been targeted by several anonymous hacker groups in recent years.

In October, Black Reward published documents from Iran’s nuclear program after the government ignored hackers’ demands to release all political prisoners and protesters arrested during recent demonstrations.

In past weeks, the group has also hacked the emails of state-affiliated press and TV managers and employees, obtaining personal information.


Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
Updated 26 November 2022

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage

Israeli extremists harass France24 reporter during live coverage
  • Video shows Palestinian Laila Odeh surrounded by people chanting anti-Arab slogans

LONDON: France24 correspondent Laila Odeh was harassed and verbally attacked by Israeli extremists as she spoke Arabic during live coverage from West Jerusalem on Wednesday.
A video of the incident shows the Palestinian journalist being heckled while covering the recent bomb attacks that took place in West Jerusalem.
The reporter was broadcasting live from Givat Shaul, one of the blast sites, when about 30 people tried to interrupt the live coverage.
In the video, Odeh is seen exchanging some words with a group of young people before they start surrounding the crew, stepping in front of the camera to block the broadcast.
“Excuse me, we’re live,” she said, to which one of the people replied: “I don’t care.” Odeh added: “You’re annoying me. Move away from here.”

 

 

Then the video shows her engaging in a verbal exchange before people around her started chanting anti-Arab slogans, forcing Odeh to cut the broadcast.
Some people in the group shouted “Death to Arabs”, “Arabs go to Russia” and “This is an Arab explosion.”
According to reports published by France24 following the incident, after the live broadcast people shouted to Odeh to “go to Gaza,” continued their insults and increased their aggressive behavior. France24 also reported that some people punched its cameraman and broke the camera tripod.
This is not the first time Odeh has been targeted by Israeli extremists. She was hit on the head and verbally abused while covering the Israeli nationalist Flag March in Jerusalem in May.
On Wednesday, Israeli police said bombs were detonated at two bus stops in West Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul and Ramot junctions, killing one Israeli and injuring 14 people, three of them seriously.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, Israeli authorities imposed a broadcast ban on the investigation.