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. 


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
Updated 9 min 45 sec ago

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes
  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.

 


Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco
Updated 24 May 2022

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

Saint Laurent to reportedly present menswear show in Morocco

DUBAI: Parisian luxury label Saint Laurent is reportedly set to present its spring 2023 menswear collection in Marrakesh on July 15, according to multiple reports.

Morocco was a great source of inspiration to the late Yves Saint Laurent, and a museum dedicated to the famed fashion designer was even unveiled in Marrakesh in 2017.

The legendary couturier purchased a villa in the Moroccan city in the mid-1960s and two decades later purchased the spectacular Majorelle Gardens to save it from destruction. A mausoleum was built for the designer at the site after his death in 2008.

His years there inspired many of his collections and continue to influence the storied house that bears his name.

Although it will be the first physical show that Saint Laurent will stage in the North African country, it isn’t the first time that the brand has showcased one of its collections in Morocco.

In 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and when all brands shifted to the digital world, artistic, creative and image director of Saint Laurent Anthony Vaccarello unveiled a 10-minute-long video for the spring 2021 ready-to-wear line with models seen walking on dunes in the Moroccan desert in lieu of a runway.

The men’s show in Marrakech will coincide with an exhibition focused on Saint Laurent’s longstanding relationship with Morocco. Entitled “Love,” the exhibition will run from June 5-Oct. 31 at Palácio Duques de Cadaval in Évora, Portugal.

 


Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

Saudi pavilion hosts Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman at Cannes Film Festival

DUBAI: Oscar-winning Indian composer A. R. Rahman jetted to Cannes this week to attend the 75th edition of the city’s renowned film festival. 

Besides walking the red carpet and attending film premieres, the singer and songwriter was spotted at the Saudi pavilion where he was welcomed with Saudi coffee. 

“Taking pride in the Kingdom’s legacy of generosity, Saudi coffee is being prepared at the Cannes Film Festival,” the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia shared on Twitter, adding images of Rahman at the Saudi pavilion. 

Saudi coffee is heavily associated with generational hospitality and generosity, providing a close connection to the country’s customs and traditions.

In January, the Ministry of Commerce announced that the commercial name of Arabic coffee will be officially changed to Saudi coffee in the Kingdom’s restaurants, cafes, stores and roasters. 

The announcement, by ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Hussein, is in conjunction with a Culture Ministry initiative in naming 2022 as the “Year of Saudi Coffee” as a way to strengthen the identity and culture of Saudi Arabia.

The record producer was spotted on the red carpet during Cannes Film Festival  opening ceremony. He attended the premiere of French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius’s zombie comedy “Final Cut (Coupez!)”


Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’

Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’
Updated 24 May 2022

Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’

Gigi Hadid begins filming second season of Netflix show ‘Next in Fashion’

DUBAI: Part-Palestinian catwalk star Gigi Hadid has begun filming the second season of Netflix’s “Next in Fashion” alongside British TV personality Tan France, nearly five months after the model revealed her exciting new role to fans.

Ahead of the new season, which does not have a release date, Hadid took to Instagram to share her excitement over the forthcoming episodes and gush about her co-host, calling the British reality television star her “brother” and stating that shooting the new show together has been “a joy of my life.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The 27-year-old posted a carousel of photos on Instagram, which included a snap of her posing with France and reading the “Next in Fashion” script.

“Can’t believe we’re almost a month into making a new season of @nextinfashion. Want to say, with only a couple weeks left, that shooting this show alongside my brother @tanfrance has been a joy of my life,” the US-Dutch-Palestinian model captioned the post. “I can’t wait for you all to meet these designers — an amazing, talented, sweet, cool, deserving group of humans and for them to share themselves and their creations with the world! We have so much in store for you,” she added.

The first season of the fashion competition show, which premiered in January 2020, featured 18 designers who faced weekly design challenges to win a $250,000 prize and a chance to have their collection sold on Net-a-Porter.

France also recently lauded his “Next in Fashion” co-host and dubbed her an “amazing mom.”

In a conversation with Us Weekly, the host said he has received many parenting tips from the supermodel, who welcomed a baby girl with former One Direction star Zayn Malik, in 2020.

He told the publication: “She’s one of my closest friends. I love her so much.

“It makes the show really, really fun,” added France. “It’s probably the best time I’ve ever had on a show.”

The 39-year-old continued: “She’s an amazing mom. I’ve gotten so many tips from her,” adding that he “of course” has met her daughter Khai.


‘A Perfect Pairing’: Netflix hitches its hopes to the romance wagon

‘A Perfect Pairing’: Netflix hitches its hopes to the romance wagon
Updated 24 May 2022

‘A Perfect Pairing’: Netflix hitches its hopes to the romance wagon

‘A Perfect Pairing’: Netflix hitches its hopes to the romance wagon

CHENNAI: Netflix is once again dabbling in the romance genre with Stuart MacDonald’s “A Perfect Pairing.” Whether it’s simply the season of love or a bid to counteract a series of blows — a landslide loss of subscribers in the first quarter of 2022, for example — this rom-com does not quite get the heart racing as Netflix execs may have hoped it would.

The classic love story has all the touchpoints of a Mills and Boon book, with its ruggedly dashing heroes and attractive damsels in distress, but besides some instances of beautiful cinematography there is nothing to make this film stand out.

To be fair, Lola Alvarez (played by a feisty Victoria Justice) has a mind of her own and is no forlorn Mills and Boon heroine, although she is in a state of distress. She will not tolerate nonsense, even from her boss at a cutthroat Los Angeles-based drinks importer. When her best friend at work steals a major client, Lola quits, deciding to open her own company. She decides to visit a famed beverage manufacturer in Queensland, Australia, where she tries to win over the owner, Hazel Vaughn (Samantha Cain), by working on her farm. There she bonds with the mysterious and handsome Max (Adam Demos), who has his secrets — for this wouldn’t be a true romance story without a little heartbreak.

This rom-com does not quite get the heart racing as Netflix execs may have hoped it would. Supplied

A corporate woman, the film does feature some light-hearted moments when Lola finds herself dealing with the grime of the farm. Some of the incidents are witty, like her bonding with a sheep, nicknamed Baarbra, others a bit juvenile. Her clumsy acts can be seen as irritating, but the gradual attraction between Max and Lola is breezy and Demo’s performance is enjoyable to watch.

Some visually exciting sequences add to their romance — for instance in the taproom, where the farm staff tap their legs and dance around to “Are You Going To Be My Girl.” Equally vibrant is the sheep-shearing scene against the backdrop of Ben Nott's cinematography, which captures the lush landscape and local wildlife — a baby kangaroo hops into the screen in a delightful distraction to the tension which begins to simmer as the plot winds to a climax.

It's a comfort watch for a weekday night in, with a predictable end and all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV rom-com, but sometimes that’s just the ticket.