Lebanese photographer Michel Zoghzoghi supports cancer patients with latest show

Lebanese photographer Michel Zoghzoghi supports cancer patients with latest show
Zoghzoghi has been traveling the world for more than 15 years. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 April 2022

Lebanese photographer Michel Zoghzoghi supports cancer patients with latest show

Lebanese photographer Michel Zoghzoghi supports cancer patients with latest show
  • In ‘Other Nations: A Journey Through Threatened Kingdoms,’ the Lebanese photographer highlights endangered species

BEIRUT: From the polar bears of the Arctic to the tigers of India, few animals have escaped the eagle eye of Lebanese photographer Michel Zoghzoghi.

Zoghzoghi has been traveling the world for more than 15 years chronicling its natural beauty and highlighting endangered species. His latest exhibition, “Other Nations: A Journey Through Threatened Kingdoms,” which was hosted by the Dar El-Nimer gallery in Beirut earlier this month, carried a double appeal, though. Through the show, Zoghzoghi raised funds for the American University of Beirut Medical Center to help cancer patients in Lebanon.

Zoghzoghi’s work highlights the perfect balance of nature, and shows us what we are in danger of losing. “I want to show how beautiful predatory animals are and how extraordinary the nature in which they live is,” he told Arab News. “But my aim is also to send out a warning that all the species represented are endangered and that many are on the brink of extinction.

Zoghzoghi’s work highlights the perfect balance of nature. (Supplied)

“Today the uncontrolled development of modern civilizations has called everything into question. Man has become the alpha predator, but unlike other predators he has not kept (nature in) balance and is threatening himself.”

The exhibition includes photographs taken over the past 12 years in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Norway, the US, Canada, Dubai and Brazil.

The photographer refers to his expeditions as “missions,” adding that the journeys can be “far from easy,” and explaining that he often spends hours concealed in hides while waiting for an animal — sometimes to no avail.

“I traveled to the border of Pakistan and India to immortalize the snow leopard and I failed. I also remember taking a trip to South Africa to see sharks, and — no photos,” he said.

The title of the exhibition was inspired by US author and naturalist Henry Beston’s 1928 book “The Outermost House,” in which he wrote: “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals … They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”

Here, Zoghzoghi discusses some images from the exhibition.

‘Kaboso’

 I was in the Masai Mara last November. It was empty, as many visitors had cancelled due to COVID. We left camp by 5:15 a.m. and we had been driving for half an hour when we spotted Kaboso, a beautiful female leopard. She was very relaxed as there were no other vehicles. I asked (the driver) to stop in a little ditch in order to be at eye level with her. By the time he’d stopped, she was almost upon us. I took the shot and she disappeared in the bushes.

‘Prey’

This was taken in India’s Bandhavgarh National Park in 2011. We had been looking for a young male tiger that had been sighted in the area the evening before. When we finally found him, he was up on a hill looking at us through the bush. We positioned the car a bit lower on the hill as I wanted to be at eye level and I took the shot focusing on his eyes.

‘Just Around the Corner’ 

I have a few unforgettable wildlife moments. This encounter with a serval was definitely one of them. It was toward the end of my trip to the Mara in November. As we were making our way back to camp one evening, I decided to stop and stretch my legs after a long day in the vehicle. The temperature was ideal and I felt like staying out a bit more. As I was enjoying the cool breeze, I noticed a serval looking at us as he was walking towards the mud road. He seemed totally relaxed. I quickly grabbed my camera with a 500mm lens and laid flat in the mud hoping to get a low angle photo as he was crossing the mud road. He stopped on the road, looked in my direction and then started walking toward me. He stopped a few times, even groomed for a bit. When he decided he’d done enough checking me out he just left the road and disappeared in the savanna. The light was low, the air was cool, the mood was peaceful.

‘Ice Bear’

We left Longyearbyen in Norway on the M/S Origo on March 15, 2019, in the middle of a snow storm and headed north along the western coast of Svalbard. Early one afternoon as we were making our way through a beautiful fjord we spotted a bear sleeping in the snow. We immediately got into the zodiac and headed his way. After a freezing two-hour wait, he finally decided to come our way and started to walk along the ice edge. He disappeared behind an ice mound and as he appeared again on top of the mound, I took the shot.

‘The Magical Realm’ 

I was in Pantanal, Brazil, in September 2016. We reached Corixo Negro, off the Cuiaba River, before sunrise. The mist was very thick — giving this eerie yet magical atmosphere. As the first colors of the sun were starting to faintly appear I saw a heron sitting peacefully on the side of the river. He suddenly flew and I took the shot. A few seconds later the sun rose and the mist turned suddenly red before disappearing.


REVIEW: ‘Sidney’ on Apple TV+ is a gripping biopic on a black actor’s rise during the civil rights movement

REVIEW: ‘Sidney’ on Apple TV+ is a gripping biopic on a black actor’s rise during the civil rights movement
Updated 29 September 2022

REVIEW: ‘Sidney’ on Apple TV+ is a gripping biopic on a black actor’s rise during the civil rights movement

REVIEW: ‘Sidney’ on Apple TV+ is a gripping biopic on a black actor’s rise during the civil rights movement

CHENNAI: Many years ago, when I interviewed Sidney Poitier at the Montreal International Film Festival, what struck me most was his humility, graciousness and empathy. He addressed those traits in a new documentary “Sidney,” out now on Apple TV+.

Produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the nearly two-hour film delves deep into the Hollywood icon’s psyche and is an endearing biopic that tells us so much about his struggles to get to where he did.

Poitier died in early 2022, but the film features a telling interview with the star, who speaks about learning humility and empathy from his parents, and also shares the traumatic story of his birth.

He was in his 90s when he died, but he was not supposed to live so long. Born two months premature to tomato farming parents on Cat Island in the Bahamas in the 1920s, his father had brought a shoebox to serve as a makeshift coffin. But his mother would have none of it — she walked around the island weeping when she chanced upon a soothsayer, who predicted that the child would go places and reach the pinnacle of glory.

“I achieved most of it,” Poitier tells us in the documentary, which has been narrated in the form of a lilting story. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Although much of the biography comes from the man himself, there are invaluable inputs from Winfrey, Halle Berry and Morgan Freeman, who says at one point that Sidney never played a subservient part – something so common in Hollywood before race relations became a huge debate in the 1960s. Earlier, Black actors could only be janitors or dishwashers or nannies on the silver screen, but Poitier changed all this. His 1963 film “Lilies of Field” earned him an Oscar and he became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

What caused even more of a stir was 1967 film “In the Heat of the Night” in which Poitier’s Detective Virgil Tibbs slapped an actor playing a white plantation owner on screen. It was electrifying, especially given the ongoing civil rights movement.

The biopic dives into all this and more, but does not shy away from the actor’s failings in his personal life — his long affair with actress Diahann Carroll triggered a divorce which split his family, for example.

What viewers will undoubtedly take away is a picture of a man who paved the way for actors of color to shine on the big screen and emerge from the shadows of their white contemporaries.


Adel Emam: The biggest star in Arab cinema

Adel Emam: The biggest star in Arab cinema
Updated 29 September 2022

Adel Emam: The biggest star in Arab cinema

Adel Emam: The biggest star in Arab cinema
  • For this week’s edition of our series on Arab icons, we profile one of the Arab world’s most popular stars
  • The Egyptian actor’s remarkable longevity is down to his talent and integrity

DUBAI: There are not many lives as full as Adel Emam’s. Put it this way: The Dubai International Film Festival has given him a Lifetime Achievement Award twice. A legend of stage and screen — both big and small — Emam is the crown prince of Egyptian pop-culture, a comic and dramatic actor who has appeared in 103 movies and more than a dozen TV series over an astounding career that has lasted more than 60 years. 

At 82, Emam may have taken a slight step back from the public eye, but the love the Arab world continues to show for him, and his influence on the generations of talent who grew up idolizing him, is as immense as it has ever been. 

“Everything in the world changes. The rhythm of speech changes. Life becomes fast too. And believe me, you can fool some people all the time, and you can fool all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” Emam told Kuwait’s Zaman TV in the 1970s. “It is honesty that determines career longevity, and an actor’s esteem from his fans determines his continuation or his end.”

Adel Emam with Hend Sabry in Marwan Hamed's 'The Yacoubian Building'. (Supplied)

While Emam was waxing philosophical about another actor at the time, by his own metric it is his sincerity that has helped earn his following — both from those that watch his work, and those that have worked with him directly. 

His straightforward nature and honesty have long been the key to his comedic voice, too, allowing him to tackle hot-button issues such as gender roles in society (1966’s “My Wife, The Director General”); terrorism and religious extremism (1979’s “We are the Bus People,” 1992’s “Terrorism and Kebab,” 2006’s “Hassan and Marcus”); political corruption (2006’s “The Yacoubian Building”) and more, only come out the other side (mostly) unscathed. (Like many Egyptian celebrities, he has stirred controversy with his indelible satire, but no charges against him have ever stuck.)

For Marwan Hamed, Egypt’s top modern director and the man behind Egypt’s current all-time box-office champion “Kira & El Gin,” there’s simply no competition — there has been no bigger moment for him than collaborating on “The Yacoubian Building” with the man known as “Al Zaeem” (The Big Boss).

“Working with the Egyptian legend Adel Emam has been the greatest privilege I’ve had in my career,” Hamed tells Arab News. “Adel Emam is my childhood, teenage, and all-time, hero. Working with him was a great moment, and to work with such a great man and artist in my first film was an exceptional honor for me.

“His humanity, generosity and love were the highlight of this experience, and personally I learned a lot from him, whether from observing him or from the words of advice that he gave me,” he continues. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that the whole experience is the most memorable I’ve had, and every shooting day was full of value and true art.

Egyptian film star and comedian Adel Imam (L) applauds with his wife Hala al-Sharakani (R) the beginning of the first screening of his new film "Hello America" at the opening night 04 January 2000 in Cairo. (AFP)

In “The Yacoubian Building,” which became the most popular film in Egyptian history up to that point (a theme throughout Hamed’s career) and the best-received performance of Emam’s dramatic career, Emam cemented himself as Egypt’s biggest star, regardless of genre. He also helped launch the career of his own son, Mohamed Emam, his co-star in the film and now one of the biggest stars in Egypt in his own right. 

“I love him so much. I admire him so much. He's my idol,” Mohamed told Arab News earlier this year, while admitting that it hadn’t always been easy trying to build his own career. “It’s very difficult to become an actor when your father is the biggest actor in the world,” he said. “It was a big, big struggle at first. Slowly people grew to understand that I love cinema, that I don’t do this just because my father is a big actor.”

As a public figure, Emam has long been humble in nature, rarely pointing to himself as a leader.

“I am not a superstar, or a leader of any kind. There are no leaders in art. All I want is to use my talents to make people's lives better, if only in a small way,” he once said.

Adel Imam and Omar Sharif in 2008 at a press conference announcing their film 'Hassan and Marcus.' (Getty) 

That, of course, is likely why people trust his opinions. Interviewers have often found themselves asking for his thoughts on political or social issues, looking to him for guidance in the debates of the day. And he invariably answers candidly — and often bravely. 

In those conversations, however, he does not see himself as anything more than a voice in the crowd.

“The masses are the ones who move politics, and the problems of the masses are the things that move politics. It is not an individual who moves politics,” he told Zaman TV.

Born in 1940 in the city of Mansoura in Egypt, Emam studied agriculture at Cairo University, where he lost interest in his studies and became intrigued by the art, literature and theater that his friends were introducing him to. 

“I feel (acting is) in my blood,” he said to Kuwait’s Zaman TV. “I love it, and my connection is always with people in the audience. In film, the camera enters the heart through the eyes. The more heart you see, the more honest the artist.”

Emam studied agriculture at Cairo University. (Getty)

As popular as Emam is, there are many sides to him that are not common public knowledge. Compared to his contemporaries and co-stars such as Omar Sharif and Soad Hosny, his private life has remained relatively private. But those are the sides that his own son hopes to portray on screen someday, Mohamed told Arab News.

“There’s another side to him that people don’t see: The father. The man that I know best,” he said. “I would love to be able to tell that story myself someday.”

While Emam may have slowed down, his career is still going strong. He last starred in the 2021 film “Bodyguard,” and is set to star once again with his son in “El Wad W Aboh” in the near future.

As for persistent rumors of his ill health or retirement, The Big Boss himself is here to put them to rest. 

“Honestly, it’s a great feeling for a man to read his own obituary while he is well,” Eman joked to ET Bil Arabi last month.


London Halal Food Festival opens its gates to 18,000 visitors

London Halal Food Festival opens its gates to 18,000 visitors
Updated 28 September 2022

London Halal Food Festival opens its gates to 18,000 visitors

London Halal Food Festival opens its gates to 18,000 visitors
  • With 150 vendors, festival showcases 25 cuisines from around the world
  • Festival’s mission is to help support halal SMES

LONDON: The Halal Food Festival returned to the UK capital this year for its sixth edition with 25 cuisines on offer at more than 150 stalls.

At least 18,000 people attended the two-day event, which ran from Sept. 24-25 at London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The scale and scope of the festival mean London now hosts one of the largest specifically halal food gatherings in the world, according to organizers. 

Kevin Jackson, director of Algebra Festivals, launched the festival with his partner Waleed Jahangia seven years ago. 

“We created an event that would put food at the heart of the community. There’s no better way of sharing culture than through food,” he said.

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have invested heavily in infrastructure, transforming the festival into an experience that goes beyond food.

The event featured a VIP lounge, shopping stalls, live entertainment, cookery theater, picnic area, kids play area, mechanical bull and fun competitions. 

One of the highlights was a live demonstration by NHS doctor and former “MasterChef” winner Dr. Saliha Mahmood Ahmed. 

Using bread dough to teach women how to examine themselves for early signs of breast cancer, Ahmed aimed to overcome cultural taboos that contribute to low cancer awareness among the Muslim community in the UK. 

The new additions reflect the growing view that halal is more than just about food but is a lifestyle, too. 

Jackson recalled that when he and Jahangia launched the festival, most Muslim events in London were held in community centers or school halls. 

But the London Stadium event shows the Muslim community now has access to some of the most renowned venues in the capital. 

The festival has also evolved into a cultural melting pot, with both its cuisine and its foodies coming from around the globe. 

“We’ve got people from Manchester, Birmingham, people who came on a day trip from Paris yesterday. We’ve got people from Spain. We’ve got people from Scotland. This is such a big event for the Muslim community that they travel for miles to come to it,”  Jackson said.  

Chef Fatima El-Rify of Mama Hayam reported positive feedback from visitors tasting her Egyptian cuisine. 

“They didn’t know what it was completely. They knew a little about kosheri, but now they have a really strong idea. They’re coming back for more. They’re bringing their friends. They really love kosheri and mahshi, so that’s really good.” 

She added: “I think there is nowhere else in London that you can try all these different cuisines and just have this ease of it all being halal.” 

The festival also features the timeless and the contemporary, from Jordan’s traditional Anabtawi Sweets to London’s Lola’s Cupcakes.

Apart from catering to Muslim visitors, it aims to provide an international platform for the halal economy, while helping to nurture halal small and medium enterprises. 

“We’re building business relationships. The traders all trade with one another. The suppliers, our partners here, Tariq Halal, are providing products for our exhibitors,” Jackson said. 

Founder Shahin Bharwani of Mocktail Company, which sells non-alcoholic beverages,  said that she was fortunate to have been able to exhibit at the Halal Food Festival in 2016 within months of launching her business. 

“It was brilliant in terms of being a startup to get the brand exposure needed at this type of event.” 

Festival vendors reflected on the halal industry’s growth in the past decade. 

Bharwani said: “There’s so many variations of businesses here, particularly the food. Years ago you could never imagine halal tacos hell or gourmet burgers, that type of thing, so to have those kinds of halal options now is amazing.” 

Co-partner Abid Haider of Proper Burgers said that the event “just keeps getting bigger and bigger.” 

With the industry now worth billions, the London festival is part of a growing movement placing halal on high street.

 


Christie’s Dubai to exhibit rare Islamic and Mughal finds

Christie’s Dubai to exhibit rare Islamic and Mughal finds
Updated 28 September 2022

Christie’s Dubai to exhibit rare Islamic and Mughal finds

Christie’s Dubai to exhibit rare Islamic and Mughal finds

DUBAI: Set to take place from Sept. 28 to Oct.3, Christie’s Middle East and North Africa has announced a new exhibition open to the public of a selection of important works of art from across a number of forthcoming auctions taking place at Christie’s Dubai.

The exhibition, taking place in DIFC, will showcase a selection of top lots, including paintings, works of art and carpets.

One of the highlights at the exhibition includes works from "Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Oriental Rugs and Carpets" auction.  The first item is an exceptionally rare 17th century Royal Mughal Pashmina carpet, from 1650's Northern India. Another piece of interest is a work from a group of Iznik pottery from The Victor Adda Collection – a collector based in Alexandria in the early 20th century.

Also included in the collection are a number of important Old Master and European paintings. These include Sir Anthony van Dyck's "Portrait of Henrietta Maria." In 1632, van Dyck was appointed as ‘Principal Painter’ to King Charles I of Britain.  

A number of equestrian paintings, including a work by French artist Theodore Gericault and a racing scene by British master Sir Alfred James Munnings, are being showcased, reflecting the region’s considerable passion for horsemanship in all forms.

“This carefully curated selection of important works on exhibition at Christie’s Dubai reflects the discerning taste of collectors across the MENA region, who appreciate the very best quality, artistry, and extraordinary craftsmanship represented by these works across categories.  It is a great honor to be able to showcase these works in Dubai for the first time,: said Arne Everwijn, Director of Business Development Middle East and North Africa, in a statement.


Singer Kylie Minogue to headline a New Year’s Eve gala dinner in Dubai  

Singer Kylie Minogue to headline a New Year’s Eve gala dinner in Dubai  
Updated 28 September 2022

Singer Kylie Minogue to headline a New Year’s Eve gala dinner in Dubai  

Singer Kylie Minogue to headline a New Year’s Eve gala dinner in Dubai  

DUBAI: Australian pop sensation Kylie Minogue is set to headline a New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner at Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm. 

Minogue will take to the stage in the lead-up to hotel’s 2023 countdown, entertaining guests with anthems such as “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,” “All The Lovers” and “The Loco-Motion.” 

Her performance will be followed by fireworks and pyrotechnic displays. 

This year’s gala dinner theme is titled “A Night With The Stars.” 

Minogue first performed in the Middle East at the resort’s grand opening back in 2008.

The music sensation has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide and in 2020, made UK chart history becoming the first female solo artist to claim number one albums in five consecutive decades.  

Minogue has multiple awards and accolades to her name, including three BRIT Awards, two MTV Music Awards and a Grammy Award. 

Timothy Kelly, the executive vice president and managing director of Atlantis, said in a statement: “We are incredibly excited to welcome the return of Kylie Minogue to Atlantis, The Palm for a spectacular New Year’s Eve performance.”

“As the leading entertainment destination in the region, our New Year’s Eve Gala Dinners have become legendary, with Kylie joining the likes of rock band KISS in 2020, and Robbie Williams in 2021. We no doubt that 2023 will be another exceptional moment and can’t wait to give our guests one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve of their lives,” added Kelly.