Saudi artist’s ‘The Teaching Tree’ symbolizes Kingdom’s great change

Saudi artist’s ‘The Teaching Tree’ symbolizes Kingdom’s great change
Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 April 2022

Saudi artist’s ‘The Teaching Tree’ symbolizes Kingdom’s great change

Saudi artist’s ‘The Teaching Tree’ symbolizes Kingdom’s great change
  • Muhannad Shono’s large-scale installation reflects on creative resilience in Saudi Arabia

VENICE: A large 40-meter-long form that seems to writhe gently like a living being takes up the entirety of the pavilion of Saudi Arabia. The organically formed structure is covered in palm fronds painted in black and moves, ever so slightly, powered by pneumatics.

Titled “The Teaching Tree” and by Muhannad Shono, the artist selected to represent the Kingdom in Venice this year, the work is, in his words, “the embodiment of a living imagination, the resistance and resilience of the creative mind. It encompasses a journey, not only of myself, but of the resilience and irrepressible creative scene that is emerging now in Saudi Arabia.”

As the country continues to forge its voice on the international art scene, Shono has become a strong advocate for a new generation of artists from Saudi Arabia.

When beholding Shono’s work, the viewer becomes aware of rays of outside light that cast shadows on the floor, serving a role in the aesthetic and performance of the artist’s work.

Muhannad Shono is the artist selected to represent the Kingdom in Venice this year. (Supplied)

“I wanted the work to be connected to outside light; I wanted the work to change as the natural light changed prompting how people experience it. Lighting became very crucial in the end and shadows that were made became very important in how they wanted to manifest,” Shono told Arab News.

Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022. (Supplied)

Curated by Reem Fadda, the director of the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi, and assistant curator Rotana Shaker, Shono’s enigmatic form explores ideas of resilience, regeneration, nature, creation, and mythology in the natural world and in the human imagination. The work was entirely assembled by hand in Riyadh by a team of Saudi and international artists and mounted in Venice.

Fadda said: “There was a big community alongside Muhannad of artists, supporters, and creators and the curation was divided between me and Rotana. Photographers, designers, and creatives of all kinds came together and supported him in the creation and manifestation of the work.”

Reem Fadda is the Director of the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

Underpinning the work are the concepts on which Shono has long based his art, namely the practice of questioning truths, ontologies, and basic ideas regarding human life. Of note is the artist’s investigations into the drawn line — the origin of “The Teaching Tree” and the basis for all aesthetic forms — an act of creative agency itself.

“Here we find this massive installation of a line that becomes an embodied thing, a living thing, throbbing, breathing, and coming to life as a force of absolute creative resistance and imagination.

Rotana Shaker is the assistant curator. (Supplied)

“This is not an industrial thing. It is a structure and there is pneumatics that are inside. The palm fronds were hand dried, treated, and died and they are all waste palm fronds from the trimmings that were then hand inserted each and every one,” Fadda added.

The stories of Al-Khidr, the legendary Islamic figure endowed with immortal life who is described in the Qur’an as a righteous servant of God possessing great wisdom or mystic knowledge, have had a profound influence on Shono’s personal and creative life.

According to several myths, wherever Al-Khidr sat a garden would grow — symbolizing, similar to Shono’s work at the Biennale, healing, regeneration, and rebirth.

Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree,” 2022, Sculptural installation with palm fronds, pigment, pneumatics and metal structure, overall dimensions variable. (Supplied)

“The Teaching Tree” thus reflects also on the idea of hope for rebirth, particularly when faced with the present warning signs of past and future ecological and human struggle.

Shono said: “The work is the embodiment of the living imagination. It is an act of creative resistance. Despite attempts to restrict human imagination, and in fact, thanks to those restrictions, more fertile ground is created for stronger expression.”

The 59th Venice Biennale runs until Nov. 27.


Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 

Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 
Updated 5 sec ago

Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 

Lebanon-born Nina Ali exits ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ 

DUBAI: “The Real Housewives of Dubai” cast member Nina Ali is exiting the show after just one season as the Bravo reality series gears up to start filming season two.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by LipstickMommy (@nina.ali)

“It was an honor to be a part of the debut season of The Real Housewives of Dubai, and to help Bravo bring this beloved franchise to the city I call home,” Ali posted on Instagram. “I’m grateful to the network, Andy Cohen, and the team at Truly Original for welcoming me into this extended family and for embracing the diversity of riches Dubai has to offer.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by LipstickMommy (@nina.ali)

Ali also added that she has some “exciting opportunities” coming up.

“2023 has already brought many exciting opportunities my way, including an emerging new business, new home and new adventures, so for now I’ll be moving my attention away from the show to allow myself the space to focus on new challenges,” the businesswoman, entrepreneur and mother of three added. 


Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery
Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia. (Instagram)
Updated 30 January 2023

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabs top spot at MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards as Myazu voted Saudi Arabia’s best eatery

ABU DHABI: Japanese eatery Myazu in Riyadh has been named the best restaurant in Saudi Arabia by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants MENA list in a ceremony held in Aby Dhabi on Monday night as Dubai’s Orfali Bros Bistro nabbed the overall top spot.  

The ranking is voted on by a body formed of 250 restaurant experts in the region, known as the Academy. Each member casts seven votes for those that are – in their expert opinion – the best dining experiences in the MENA region.

The top 10 consisted of eateries from around the region, with a heavy showing from Dubai, including Moonrise in Dubai at number 10, Zooba (Zamalek) in Cairo at number 9, Fakhreldin in Amman at number 8, Kinoya in Dubai at number 7, George & John in Tel Aviv at number 6, 3 Fils in Dubai at number 5, Ossiano in Dubai at number 4, Fusions by Tala in Manama at number 3, Trèsind Studio in Dubai at number 2 and Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai at number 1.

“Also crowned The Best Restaurant in the UAE, this Dubai establishment is the restaurant embodiment of three brothers from Aleppo, Syria. The dining experience here is focused on storytelling, where every flavour, ingredient and technique has played a special part in the trio’s story. The atmosphere, with the rhythm set by the work in the two-storey kitchen overlooking the dining space, is fun, indulgent and at times nostalgic,” the organization posted on Instagram shortly after the announcement.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s best restaurant, the organization posted: “Under the leadership of chef Ian Pengelley, (Myazu) is a spot where harmony reigns in texture, aromas and flavors. Some dishes push the envelope of gastronomic craftsmanship while others focus on Japanese fan favorites, but all are set apart by a sophisticated presentation that has become part of this restaurant’s DNA.”

 

The eatery ranked number 18 on the list, just after Tawlet Mar Mikhael in Beirut.

Meanwhile, the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award 2023 went to Palestinian chef Salam Dakkak and this year’s Estrella Damm N.A. Chefs' Choice Award went to Moustafa Elrefaey of Zooba in Cairo.

 


Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  
Updated 30 January 2023

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards  

DUBAI: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival — which took its final bow this weekend in Park City, Utah, after its first in-person edition since 2020 — saw three Middle Eastern films winning awards, including “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”  

Iranian American director Maryam Keshavarz’s “The Persian Version” won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition.  c

The film follows a large Iranian American family gathering for the patriarch’s heart transplant when a family secret catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past.   

It was one of three films at Sundance this year to be directed by Iranian women, the others being “Joonam” and “Shayda.”  

Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. But when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Animalia (@animaliathefilm)

The third regional film to win an award at Sundance is “Animalia” by Morocco's Sofia Alaoui, who took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film follows a young mother-to-be as she experiences an alien invasion with a sense of dread that slowly turns into liberation.  


Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab
Updated 30 January 2023

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas glitters in Lebanese label Elie Saab

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has a well-documented penchant for Arab designers. The Indian star, who crossed over into Hollywood, has been pictured donning looks from regional labels on plenty of occasions, including designs by Zuhair Murad and Nicolas Jebran, to name a few. 

Now, Chopra has taken to Instagram Stories to share a photograph of her latest look — a glittering get up by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.  

“When your fit deserves a closet selfie,” she captioned the casual snap.  

The jewel-toned look consisted of a floral midi dress paired with a matching bomber jacket.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

The former Miss World, who is married to US singer Nick Jonas, has sported Arab designs in the past and is also known for championing up-and-coming brands.  In 2021, Chopra made an appearance in Dubai and opted for a striking, saffron-colored design from sustainable Moroccan couture house Benchellal. 

The orange air mesh blazer dress featured a draped shawl cape and pockets and was plucked from the label’s ninth collection. She wore it with slim-fitting black trousers and pumps. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Priyanka (@priyankachopra)

Chopra also supported rising US Lebanese label Monot in 2021 by showing off a white, custom draped dress by the label during a product shoot for her haircare range.  

The actress and entrepreneur walked the red carpet at the second iteration of Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival in December 2022 in a lavish gold gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran, complete with a matching overcoat.  

Arab designers have increasingly become the “go-to” for Indian celebrities at major events. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ami Patel (@stylebyami)

Ami Patel, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, previously explained Bollywood’s love affair with Middle Eastern design talent to Arab News, saying: “I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them.” 

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali, who just unveiled his latest collection on the sidelines of Paris Haute Couture Week, agreed, telling Arab News in a previous interview: “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world.” 

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” added Rai, in a bid to explain why stars such as Chopra, who started off in Bollywood, have an affinity for Arab designs. 


Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia
Winnie Harlow attends the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Scott Garfitt)
Updated 29 January 2023

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

Canadian model Winnie Harlow spotted at Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted in Saudi Arabia this weekend attending the Formula E Diriyah E-Prix.

 The model was part of the thousands of fans who watched on as 22 of the fastest electric race cars ever built raced for the second time this weekend.

 “The experience at Formula E is unmatched and I’ve really enjoyed the vibe, people, atmosphere, and racing. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia a few times and always have a great experience, so I love that Formula E is in Diriyah,” Harlow said in a released statement.

“Living in a more sustainable world and being able to enjoy motorsports at the same time is incredible,” she added. 

Harlow rubbed shoulders with the likes of John Legend, Martin Garrix, Miguel and French Montana, who performed at the event’s after-race concert series.

Netflix series “Emily in Paris” star Lucien Laviscount was also in attendance.

“I’m a massive fan of motorsport and anything to do with cars. Seeing the new GEN3 race car on track for the first time was insane,” he said in a released statement. “It looks like a fighter jet on wheels and sounds like it’s from a sci-fi movie. Formula E are leading the world in electric car innovation. I’m in line for an electric vehicle and this has really given me a taste.”