Celebrating Arab-American artists’ contribution to culture

Celebrating Arab-American artists’ contribution to culture
Los Angeles-based Egyptian artist Sherin Guirguis’ artwork is inspired by forgotten stories of marginalized communities, particularly women. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 April 2022

Celebrating Arab-American artists’ contribution to culture

Celebrating Arab-American artists’ contribution to culture
  • April is Arab-American Heritage Month. Arab News highlights some of the community’s most significant contemporary artists

HELEN ZUGHAIB

On April 1, US President Joe Biden published an open letter sending the Arab-American community “warmest greetings” in honor of Arab-American Heritage Month. Such a gesture was welcomed by many, including the Lebanese-American artist Zughaib, who emigrated from Lebanon to the US during the civil war. “Finally, you feel proud and hopeful,” Zughaib told Arab News. She was commissioned by cosmetics giant Sephora to create a new artwork for its social media platforms celebrating this special occasion. The result is this joyful, colorful image of dabké dancers and musicians. Zughaib’s work is about finding beauty and hope in stories of personal and collective trauma. “I have a very strong desire to make something palatable that can attract your attention,” she explained.

RANIA MATAR 

Lebanese photographer Matar has lived in the US since 1984. Her intimate images explore themes related to adolescence and womanhood, capturing young women laying in the privacy of their bedrooms or immersed in the wilderness. In Matar’s ongoing series “Where Do I Go?” the viewer is confronted with women photographed in abandoned spaces in Beirut, such as this image of a theater lover named Rhea, sitting inside the once-prestigious Piccadilly Theater. “I saw graffiti on the wall that said in Arabic: ‘Where do I go?’ These women are at that crossroads. Where do they go? I was their age when I left Lebanon. Some are leaving; others cannot afford to go anywhere. I want to empower them and tell their story,” Matar wrote in a statement. 

SHERIN GUIRGUIS

Los Angeles-based Egyptian artist Guirguis’ artwork is inspired by forgotten stories of marginalized communities, particularly women. This work, “Here Have I Returned,” was a site-specific sculpture created for an exhibition at the Pyramids Plateau in Giza, Egypt last year. It is shaped like a sacred musical instrument played by Hathor, the ancient goddess of music and dance. Embellished with pharaonic-like symbols, the sculpture also pays tribute to the groundbreaking 20th-century Egyptian feminist, Doria Shafik, whose writings are featured. “Serving as both a remembrance of history and an invitation to connect these narratives to the present, the work sets out to make the invisible work of generations of under-recognized women visible once more,” Gurguis said in a statement. 

JOHN HALAKA

Egyptian-born Halaka is the son of Palestinian and Lebanese immigrants who made their way to America in 1970. “Until the COVID-pandemic, I’ve traveled to Palestine almost every year to work on various projects,” he told Arab News. In his evocative series, “Ghost of Presence/Bodies of Absence,” Halaka addresses the plight of exiled Palestinian people by placing ink and rubber-stamped text, sometimes appearing in the shape of a human face, on digital photographs of destroyed villages, creating a ghostly effect and mimicking, Halaka said, “the unrelenting tension between the physical absence of Palestinians who have been exiled from their homeland, and the psychological presence of millions of Palestinian refugees who continue the struggle to return to the lands that were stolen from them.”

JACQUELINE REEM SALLOUM

As a first-generation Arab-American, Salloum has devoted much of her time to challenging Arab stereotypes in Hollywood. But recently, the Syrian-Palestinian artist has been experimenting with lively, detailed collages, juxtaposing historical black-and-white pictures with vibrant drawings. “My current work explores more of the connections between personal, collective past, heritage and history through diasporic memory,” she told Arab News. “Remembering the Future,” this mixed-media work, merges the personal story of Sumaya Yousef, a displaced Palestinian woman, and key events that took place in the Sixties, including the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the 1964-65 World’s Fair — based on the theme of “Peace Through Understanding” — in New York City, Yousef’s future home. Salloum brings out the contradiction and irony of such events: Spectators looking into a utopian bubble of Palestinian refugee girls at school, the voice of Umm Kulthum drowning out the sound of Israeli war planes. 

JORDAN NASSAR

Inspired by Palestinian embroidery and working with Arab craftswomen, Nassar, an artist of Palestinian descent born in New York, is known for making patterned, vibrant pieces that reveal imagined landscapes of Palestinian lands. “I would talk to certain Palestinians who had never been there, I noticed they would talk about Palestine in a way that felt really dreamlike — imaginary; a fantasy,” he previously told Arab News. “It was always this perfect, beautiful place with hills, goats and olive trees. I was really moved by this notion that Palestine is this fantasy for so many people in the diaspora.” In this work, “Beyond the Boundaries,” Nassar revisits his reoccurring motif of the rolling hills.

JACKIE MILAD 

“I think of my pieces as a record of my decisions over time, a document of my history — my story according to me,” Baltimore-based Milad, who has Egyptian and Honduran origins, told Arab News. Works such as this one, 2021’s “Nada Que Decir” (Nothing to Say), are full of colors, words and symbols. “This work is an accumulation of many layers of collage and marks painted over two years,” she explained. “It includes world news, and quotes from lyrics and poetry. I also mix the languages in the works, reflecting my upbringing.” The title of the work is ironic; the artist expresses a lot of emotion, but has nothing to say in the face of the complexities of identity. 

SAMA ALSHAIBI

A woman dressed in a white robe carries a large water vessel over her head, while another woman in black attire carries eight pots stacked vertically. These are two of the powerful shots of Iraqi-born photographer Alshaibi, who said in a statement that she is interested in “the societal impact of unequal power relations between the West and the Middle East, and how that domination is articulated through photographs.” Alshaibi’s “Carry Over” series is a reminder of how Orientalist photographers portrayed women as “exotic” beings. “I aim to amplify the physical burden of their unjust representation by exaggerating the objects (they) carried,” Alshaibi added. 


Review: Netflix’s ‘Keep Breathing’ is a survivalist story that lacks drama

‘Keep Breathing’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
‘Keep Breathing’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)
Updated 43 min 48 sec ago

Review: Netflix’s ‘Keep Breathing’ is a survivalist story that lacks drama

‘Keep Breathing’ is now streaming on Netflix. (Supplied)

CHENNAI: “Keep Breathing,” a limited series on Netflix created by Martin Gero and Brendan Gall, is a survivalist drama that could have done with a little more drama. 

The six-episode show sees Liv (Melissa Barrera) board a small plane with pilot George (Mike Dopud) and his friend, Sam (Austin Stowell), after her routine flight to Inuvik in Canada is delayed. She is a hotshot, hotheaded Manhattan lawyer who bulldozes the two virtual strangers at the airport — even offering them a bribe — to take her to her destination on their private plane. 

But disaster strikes when the small Cessna aircraft crashes somewhere in the Canadian wilderness and Sam and George are killed. Bereft of survival skills or food, Liv’s efforts to get back to civilization form the premise of the series. Sadly, the show lacks tension or the kind of magnificent performance we saw in Tom Hanks’ “Cast Away.” Barrera hardly conveys the helplessness or urgency of her plight, and most of the time looks too made up for the mess she has got herself into. 

 

 

The work relies mostly on flashbacks to move the narrative along, telling us how Liv uses her past problems and difficulties as lessons to try to escape from the remote place. Her experiences with her dull mother (Florencia Lozano), sickly father (Juan Pablo Espinosa) and her boyfriend (Jeff Wilbusch) help Liv on her mission to get back to civilization. 

It all seems a tad contrived and forced, with plenty of missed opportunities for a few thrills. Unfortunately, the hint of heightened adventure never materializes and even the introduction of a wild bear does little to save this middling survival story. A tantalizing tenet is fleetingly introduced when Liv finds tubes full of money and tubs of opiates that her shady pilots were smuggling across the border. However, any possibility of an exciting storyline is shut down by the creators, who chose not to follow up on the plot point. 

Despite the focus on the supporting characters, they are not well written and hardly make an impression. The series struggles to find the right balance, veering off into Liv’s past too often and ignoring the gripping potential of her present circumstances.


Artist Osman Yousefzada unveils new installations in London 

Artist Osman Yousefzada unveils new installations in London 
Updated 08 August 2022

Artist Osman Yousefzada unveils new installations in London 

Artist Osman Yousefzada unveils new installations in London 

DUBAI: British Afghani Pakistan multi-disciplinary artist Osman Yousefzada has unveiled a series of installations titled “What is Seen and What is Not” at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

Running until Sept. 25, the artworks respond to Pakistan's 75th Independence Day and explore themes of displacement, movement and migration.

“What is Seen and What is Not” runs until Sept. 25. (Supplied)

The site-specific works created by Yousefzada, who is also a world-famous fashion designer, bring together textiles, wrapped objects and a seating installation.

“It’s a great honor to be commissioned to reflect on the 75 years of Pakistan’s independence,” said the artist in a released statement. “‘What is Seen and What is Not’ offers a portrait of contemporary Pakistan, through a British diasporic lens as it attempts to reel away from colonial subjugation.”


Saudi Arabia among top 5 overseas markets as ‘Bullet Train’ rakes in $62.5M

Saudi Arabia among top 5 overseas markets as ‘Bullet Train’ rakes in $62.5M
Updated 08 August 2022

Saudi Arabia among top 5 overseas markets as ‘Bullet Train’ rakes in $62.5M

Saudi Arabia among top 5 overseas markets as ‘Bullet Train’ rakes in $62.5M

LOS ANGELES: The stylized action romp “Bullet Train,” starring Brad Pitt, earned $62.5 million worldwide over its opening weekend, according to studio estimates this week, with Saudi Arabia earning a spot on the overseas play ranking.

The film racked up $32.4 million at the international box office and $30.1 million on the domestic charts.

Overseas play was led by the UK with a $3.5 million start, followed by France at $3.1 million, Mexico delivering $3 million, Australia rolling to $2.2 million and Saudi Arabia clocking $1.9 million.

The UAE ranked sixth, delivering $1.3 million.

The movie trailer was displayed on Burj Khalifa. (Supplied)

The “Bullet Train” debut for Sony Pictures was solid but unspectacular for a movie that cost $90 million to make and was propelled by Pitt’s substantial star power. Even if it holds well in coming weeks, movie theaters have no major studio releases on the horizon for the rest of August, and few sure things to look forward to in early fall.

The movie trailer and a message from Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, who stars in the film as the Wolf, were displayed on the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, this week to elevate the anticipation of the movie-goers for the film.


Model Alessandra Ambrosio, actress Vanessa Hudgens turn to Arab labels for summer style 

Model Alessandra Ambrosio, actress Vanessa Hudgens turn to Arab labels for summer style 
Updated 08 August 2022

Model Alessandra Ambrosio, actress Vanessa Hudgens turn to Arab labels for summer style 

Model Alessandra Ambrosio, actress Vanessa Hudgens turn to Arab labels for summer style 

DUBAI: From US Egyptian jewelry maker Jacquie Aiche to Lebanese eyewear maven Karen Wazen, celebrities from around the world are turning to Arab designers to accessorize their summer looks. 

US actress Vanessa Hudgens recently shared a picture of herself wearing a ring designed by  Aiche. The “High School Musical” star championed the brand’s double pyramid triangle ring in smoky topaz. 

Hudgens’ summery look featured a vintage Versace tie dye mini dress and a midsize Queen Nefertiti necklace in yellow gold designed by jewelry label FoundRae. 

Another one of Aiche’s loyal clients is Canadian supermodel and former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Winnie Harlow. 

The star was spotted flaunting one of the brand’s turquoise beaded necklaces. 

Earlier this week, Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio stepped out wearing Aiche’s pave diamond Small Mama necklace that retails at $5,750. 

On her Malibu stroll, the catwalk star wore a linen jumpsuit which she paired with a cotton bandeau top. Later that evening, she posed for pictures in an oversized suit by The Mannei, a brand founded by Polish-Jordanian stylist and model Sara Boruc Mannei. 

In a previous interview with Arab News, Aiche said that to her, 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. 

Aiche, who launched her eponymous label from her garage in 2008, 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. 

Meanwhile, Lebanese eyewear designer Karen Wazen also had her moment in the spotlight this week with a number of international celebrities stepping out in her shades. 

Real estate broker and breakout star of Netflix’s popular “Selling Sunset” reality show Christine Quinn wore Wazen’s Pam reflective glasses in gold.

Meanwhile, US content creator Chriselle Lim, who has more than 1.4 million followers on Instagram, wore the Jen shades in brown. 


Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission
Updated 07 August 2022

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission

Review: ‘Thirteen Lives’ pays tribute to real-world heroics of Thai rescue mission

LONDON: When details began to emerge of the daring rescue of a Thai football team from flooded caves in Tham Luang Nang Non, it seemed only a matter of time before Hollywood swooped in to buff the real-life drama with the polish of a big-budget movie adaptation. Happily, “Thirteen Lives” is more than a shameless cash in. Director Ron Howard treads carefully, telling the story of a truly monumental international rescue effort which eventually expanded to include more than 10,000 people. Rather than attempting to only superficially capture that sense of scale, however, Howard focuses in on a few crucial players — the British dive team who first located the boys, the small group who planned and orchestrated the rescue of the 12 young players and their coach, the local governor tasked with bringing everybody home, the Thai engineer working with locals to divert the floodwaters, and the Thai Navy SEALs who spearheaded the initial response.

 

 

For the most part, this focused approach works well. Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell (questionable English accents aside) are excellent as divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, as are co-stars Joel Edgerton (as Australian Richard Harris) and Sahajak Boonthanakit as Governor Narongsak. Though the famous faces inevitably get the lion’s share of the screentime, Howard does his best to tell more than just the tale of the Western saviors – taking a few beats to flesh out characters such as the parents of the boys, local farmers and the frustrated SEALs. 

In order to do so, Howard also had to be a little ruthless with his 150 minutes — so there is no mention of Elon Musk’s contentious contributions to the rescue effort, and no time to find out much about any of the innumerous supporting volunteers. Instead, “Thirteen Lives” is a tense, taut drama, claustrophobically shot and scored. It’s perhaps impossible to accurately recreate the sheer terror that must have gripped the rescuers and rescued alike, but Howard goes some way towards acknowledging their magnificence.