The must-see Arab pavilions at the Venice Biennale

The must-see Arab pavilions at the Venice Biennale
The 59th Venice Biennale features a strong showing of nations and artists from the Middle East. Supplied
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Updated 13 May 2022

The must-see Arab pavilions at the Venice Biennale

The must-see Arab pavilions at the Venice Biennale
  • The region makes a strong statement at the art world’s most prestigious event

DUBAI: This year’s Venice Biennale features a strong showing of nations and artists from the Middle East.

In this 59th biennale, which runs until November 27, the Middle East region — including Iran, the Levant, the Gulf and North Africa — is represented through national pavilions, collateral events and individual artists.

Saudi Arabia’s pavilion, curated by Reem Fadda and Rotana Shaker hosts Saudi artist Muhannad Shono’s work “The Teaching Tree” — a huge installation that has been, according to an official statement, “carefully crafted combining natural elements and a mechanical structure, creating a visceral effect on the viewer.”




Saudi Arabia’s pavilion hosts artist Muhannad Shono’s work “The Teaching Tree.” Supplied

The piece references the drawn line as a fundamental visual necessity for any form of art or written word, and alludes to nature “as it writhes, fighting for its survival, shedding its skin, and ushering in hope for rebirth and new beginnings,” but also to the “wisdom contained in nature itself,” hence the title of the work.

For Shono, his appearance at the Venice Biennale is a huge honor, and a huge responsibility. “I don’t think of my showing as a personal achievement,” he told Arab News. “I’m carrying with me a brave and irrepressible creative spirit from across Saudi Arabia.”

The pavilion is also a reflection on the significant social changes that have taken place in the Kingdom and how these have channeled a new wave of creative outburst and critical dialogue. “The whole creative community in the Kingdom, not just in the visual or conceptual space, but in all kinds of creative expression, is being reborn,” Shono said.

The UAE Pavilion hosts “Between Sunrise and Sunset,” a solo show from Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, curated by Maya Allison, featuring work created specifically for the event by the Khor Fakkan-born artist.




“Between Sunrise and Sunset” at the UAE Pavilion by artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim. Supplied

The show consists of a single installation featuring dozens of Ibrahim’s human-sized, organic sculptural forms — drawn from his deep connection to his hometown’s natural environment. The forms have an array of colors, ranging from bright hues to more-neutral, earthy tones, to black and white as they progress across the room.

“In Khor Fakkan, the sun makes a shadow, not a proper sunset,” Ibrahim told Arab News when he discussed “Between Sunrise and Sunset” back in February. “At the end of the day, the sun goes to the back of the mountains. When we were growing up, we didn’t see the sun set, because the mountains would hide it.”

Egypt’s pavilion, meanwhile, features an evocative, eye-catching installation called “Eden-Like Garden,” created by Mohamed Shoukry, Weaam El-Masry, and Ahmed El-Shaer. It resembles a series of cow’s udders hanging from the ceiling of a pink-walled room lined with black metal ‘fences.’ It alludes to fertility, sexuality, purpose, serenity, temptation and desire and is both “sacred and profane,” according to a statement. “In this installation … the human being is raptured in an eternal war between instinctive and volitional nature.”

Oman has its first-ever pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year. Curated by Aisha Stoby, an art historian specializing in creations from Oman and the Arab world, the pavilion presents a retrospective of sorts on the country’s contemporary scene, which has been little regarded until now by Arab historians.




Oman’s first-ever pavilion at the Biennale presents a retrospective on the country’s contemporary scene. Supplied

For the group exhibition, “Destined Imaginaries,” Stoby includes five artists: Pioneering Omani painter Anwar Sonya; Hassan Meer, founder of The Circle, a platform for experimental art in the sultanate; Budoor Al-Riyami, an installation artist and photographer who won the Grand Prize at the 13th Asian Art Biennale in 2008; Radhika Khimji, known for her feminist work that incorporates sculpture, collage and textile; and the late sound and installation artist Raiya Al-Rawahi who died of cancer in 2017, aged 30.

“Although we are showing three generations of Omani artists, it is a presentation showcasing different perspective(s) of how we might ourselves (be viewed) from a future perspective in terms of ecology, society and art,” Stoby told Arab News.

She explained how Oman has a “thriving local ecosystem” for arts and culture bolstered by institutions and state-funded initiatives. “This presentation in Venice has long been anticipated and we hope it will be the first of several,” she added.

Lebanon’s appearance at the biennale is a clear sign of the country’s determination to preserve and showcase its cultural identity through art, despite the severe economic, social and political challenges it currently faces.




The Lebanon pavilion has installations by Ayman Baalbaki and Danielle Arbid. Supplied

Funded by private Lebanese donors with support from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture and curated by Nada Ghandour, the pavilion presents an installation from Beirut-based artists Ayman Baalbaki and a video by Paris-based filmmaker Danielle Arbid.

The work on show offers a dialogue, says the curator, between the Lebanese living in the country and those abroad.  Baalbaki, known for his expressionistic canvases featuring bursts of rich impasto in vibrant palettes often tells of the emotional impact of conflicts in the Arab world, particularly in Lebanon. Abid’s work, on the other hand, draws her inspiration from her cross-cultural upbringing living in France, Lebanon and the West.

“We wanted to participate this year to say to the world that Lebanon still exists on an international level, especially through its art and culture,” Ghandour told Arab News. “We are showing another face of Lebanon, not only the country’s problems, but the art and culture that we have.”


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.


Pop superstar Justin Bieber set to bring world tour to Dubai

The concert, which is part of his Justice World Tour, is just one stop on his tour of more than 30 countries. (File/AFP)
The concert, which is part of his Justice World Tour, is just one stop on his tour of more than 30 countries. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 May 2022

Pop superstar Justin Bieber set to bring world tour to Dubai

The concert, which is part of his Justice World Tour, is just one stop on his tour of more than 30 countries. (File/AFP)

DUBAI: Canadian pop superstar Justin Bieber is set to perform at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena on Oct. 8, 2022, it was announced on Tuesday.

The concert, which is part of his Justice World Tour, is just one stop on his tour of more than 30 countries which will run from May 2022-March 2023.

Thomas Ovesen, owner of T.O.P Entertainment and the outfit responsible for bringing the show to Dubai said: “having Justin back for what will be his third visit and fourth performance in the city is so exciting, both for his fans and for me personally. The UAE hasn’t seen shows of this size and scale since pre-pandemic and I can guarantee everyone is in for a real treat – the production is world class and there is no doubt Justin is at the very top of his game right now.”

Pre-sale will start at 10am on May 26 and general tickets will go on sale on May 27.

The upcoming dates start this month in Mexico, with a stop in Italy before continuing on to Scandinavia for shows in August.  Next up is South America, South Africa and the Middle East in September and October.  The tour will close out the year in Asia, Australia and New Zealand before moving to the UK and Europe in early 2023. 

These new shows come on the heels of his 52-date 2022 North American tour, which kicked off in San Diego on Feb. 18.


A slice of Saudi culture on the streets of Davos

A slice of Saudi culture on the streets of Davos
Updated 24 May 2022

A slice of Saudi culture on the streets of Davos

A slice of Saudi culture on the streets of Davos
  • For Swiss native and consultant Antonin Muller, Saudi Café has allowed him to discover a culture he knew little about.

DAVOS: The Saudi Tourism Authority has brought a small slice of the Kingdom’s culture to the Swiss mountains in the shape of the Saudi Cafe, which is open throughout the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. 

Visitors can enjoy Saudi delicacies, from pumpkin jereesh to a rose mamoul crumble, as well as the staple of the Kingdom's hospitality, Saudi coffee. The cafe is also a unique combination of elements of Saudi design and art, to give people what Abdullah Al-Dakhil, spokesman for Saudi Tourism Authority, calls “a real taste” of Saudi Arabia.

And Al-Dakhil is hopeful that the cafe will continue to raise awareness of Saudi Arabia as a tourism destination, something that has been on the rise since the launch of the tourism visa in 2019.



“Saudi is going through an incredible transformation and tourism is at the forefront of this. Now that borders are open and the world is traveling again, inspiring people to visit Saudi is our top priority. We have already seen a 72 percent recovery to pre-pandemic levels, which gives us the confidence in the world’s desire to explore and discover the diversity and beauty of our country,” he added.

“Our presence, through this experience in Davos at WEF, where leaders meet and connect, plays an important role in driving destination awareness and giving people a glimpse into what Saudi has to offer.”



“Welcoming people with genuine Saudi hospitality, giving them an opportunity to try different specialties that we brought from Saudi Arabia's different regions -- mangoes from Jizan, chillies from Hail, other condiments from Riyadh and Jeddah and more - we wanted to give them a taste of Saudi,” Abdullah said.

“(We are) creating excitement and inspiration about embarking on a journey to Saudi, welcoming the world with open hearts and minds.”

An important aspect of the Saudi cafe, besides showcasing Saudi culture, is the chance to answer questions about how the Kingdom is transforming under its Vision 2030 plan. 

“We only really know what’s going on in Saudi Arabia based on certain news channels we have access to, so definitely pleasantly surprised in terms of the transformation,” Tiffany Jones, one visitor to the cafe from South Africa, said. “I’m happy to see there is some transformation taking place.” 

And for Swiss native and consultant Antonin Muller, the cafe has allowed him to discover a culture he knew little about. 

“I had never tried Saudi food, I knew very little about the country, so to have this here in Davos is great for people who may never have had a chance to sample the culture,” he said. “This is what being at WEF is all about.” 

 


Author Mohammed Alnaas first Libyan to win International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Author Mohammed Alnaas first Libyan to win International Prize for Arabic Fiction
Updated 23 May 2022

Author Mohammed Alnaas first Libyan to win International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Author Mohammed Alnaas first Libyan to win International Prize for Arabic Fiction

DUBAI: Author Mohammed Alnaas, 31, is the youngest author and first Libyan to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his book “Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table.”

The winner was announced on Sunday and Alnaas will be given a $50,000 prize in addition to funding for an English translation of the book.

The Libyan author delves into gender roles and ideas of masculinity in a faraway village of his native country for the book. After getting engaged, Milad’s family life becomes the talk of the village as he indulges in his passion for bread-making while his fiancé works to support the house.

Milad learns of the gossip by the neighborhood and publicly questions traditional gender roles.

Alnaas’s novel won out of six shortlisted novels, and was praised for its complexity and literary flair. 

The book was written in just six months during the lockdown, while Tripoli was under bombardment.

Alnaas revealed that writing “Bread on the Table of Uncle Milad” was his “refuge from insanity” amidst the news of COVID-19 and war.

“The winning novel is written in the form of confessions of personal experience. Its plethora of detail is deftly unified by a gripping narrative,” said Tunisian novelist and previous IPAF winner Shukri Mabkhout, chair of the 2022 judges. This offers a deep and meticulous critique of prevailing concepts of masculinity and femininity and the division of work between men and women, and the effect of these on both a psychological and social level. It falls into the category of novels which question cultural norms about gender. However, it is embedded in its local Arab context and steers away from any ideological treatment of the issues, as such a treatment would be contrary to the way in which fiction can present multiple points of view,” he added.

Born in 1991, Alnaas obtained a BA in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tripoli in 2014 before publishing his short story collection “Blue Blood” in 2020.


Egypt’s ‘Feathers’ nabs top prize at Critics’ Awards for Arab Films

The film just won best film, screenplay and director at the Critics’ Awards for Arab Films. (Supplied)
The film just won best film, screenplay and director at the Critics’ Awards for Arab Films. (Supplied)
Updated 23 May 2022

Egypt’s ‘Feathers’ nabs top prize at Critics’ Awards for Arab Films

The film just won best film, screenplay and director at the Critics’ Awards for Arab Films. (Supplied)

Dubai: “Feathers” by Egyptian director Omar El-Zohairy has swept the board at the sixth edition of the Critics’ Awards for Arab Films by the Arab Cinema Center.

The satirical film won the top prize at Cannes Critics' week last year and has just won best film, screenplay and director at the Critics’ Awards for Arab Films.

The Arab Cinema Center focuses on Arab-language films that premiered on the festival circuit outside of the Arab world in 2021. It was voted on by 167 film critics from 68 countries, who saw the films on Festival Scope.

“Feathers” took six years to reach the big screen and was produced by a multitude of firms and countries. It was co-produced by Juliette Lepoutre from Still Moving in France, with Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic and Shahinaz Al Akkad from Lagoonie Film, both in Egypt, Derk-Jan Warrink and Koji Nelissen from Kepler Film in The Netherlands, Giorgos Karnavas and Konstantinos Kontovrakis from Heretic in Greece, and Verona Meier from Germany and Norway.

Other winners at the event include Palestinian Maisa Abd Elhadi, who nabbed the best actress award for her performance in Hany Abu-Assad’s “Huda’s Salon,” while Palestinian Ali Suliman won best actor for his role in Egyptian director Mohamed Diab’s “Amira.”

The winner for best documentary was Syrian-born Palestinian filmmaker Abdallah-Al Khatib’s “Little Palestine, Diary of a Siege.”