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.”


Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up

Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up
Updated 14 August 2022

Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up

Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi pulls off stellar summer with Beyonce video, Greece pop up

DUBAI: From accessorizing US singer Beyonce in her latest music video to opening a pop-up installation in Mykonos, the Jordanian Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi has been making headlines with her latest work. 

This week, Beyonce released a teaser for her song “I’m That Girl,” the opening track in her latest album “Renaissance.”

In the 3-minute video clip, the US superstar wears fishnet stockings from Muaddi’s 2021 collaboration with Austrian brand Wolford.

Beyonce wore fishnet stockings from the Amina Muaddi x Wolford collection. (YouTube)

The Amina Muaddi x Wolford collection featured form-fitting tights and leggings, alongside bodysuits, dresses and a sinewy catsuit with built-in heels that are meant to hug the body like a glove. The designers opted for latex, lace, viscose jersey and sustainable leather in the offering. 

One of the labels Beyonce championed in her music video is luxury fashion house Alaia, which was founded by late Tunisian couturier Azzedine Alaia.

She also wore pieces from renowned labels such as Burberry, Mugler, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Miu Miu, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and many more. 

Meanwhile, Muaddi, the designer to the stars, gave her 1.3 million Instagram followers a look into her pop-up installation in Mykonos. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AMINA MUADDI (@aminamuaddi)

She shared images of the display and wrote: “If you’re in Mykonos this Summer, stop by our pop-up installation at my favorite shop @luisaworld in Nammos Village, Psarou Beach. Drop 2/22 available in store.”

Last week, the footwear designer released a new campaign for her latest collection titled “Drop 2/22,” which starred Egyptian Moroccan model Imaan Hammam and celebrated her Arab roots. 

The short clips, shared on Muaddi and Hammam’s Instagram accounts, were shot in Cairo. 

The footage was captured by British Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Dexter Navy and featured Hammam in multiple scenarios, including standing alongside a white Arabian horse and posing atop intricately woven rugs.

She posed for pictures alongside women and men wearing traditional outfits and head and face covers decorated with jewelry. 

Muaddi’s offerings feature strappy square stilettos, satin pointed-toe pumps and transparent platforms that are embellished with the designer’s iconic sparkly detailing. 

The collection not only features the designer’s glitzy creations, but also her expanded handbag and jewelry collection.


Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022

Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022
Updated 13 August 2022

Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022

Egyptian star Mai Omar is first judge for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Mai Omar has been announced as the first judge for the Miss Universe Bahrain 2022 contest. The superstar announced the news in an Instagram post, along with the official Miss Universe Bahrain account.

“I am so thrilled to be a part of this historical project and I believe in this platform that empowers women, encourages young individuals to voice out their advocacies and at the same time have an amazing experience sharing their wonderful and inspirational stories with the world,” Omar said.

The new Miss Universe Bahrain will be revealed to the public during the show’s broadcast on Sept. 11, two weeks after she is crowned on Aug. 26.

Nadeem Deyani, who made history last year by being the first woman from the country to participate in the global pageant, will crown her successor at a gala event, the location for which has not yet been revealed.


Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary

Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary
Updated 13 August 2022

Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary

Egyptian musician Ali Loka gets his own Spotify mini-documentary
  • ‘I still carry the same attitude and work ethic. I never tire of this process,’ viral music star tells Arab News

DUBAI: For Egyptian singer-songwriter Ali Loka, music is about telling personal stories. As Spotify’s latest RADAR ARABIA artist, he now has the opportunity to tell those stories to a wider audience through his own mini documentary.

“I don’t sing about anything that I didn’t go through, feel very deeply or have seen someone close to me live through,” said Loka in an interview with Arab News.

“If you listen deeply and want to know more about me, you’ll hear everything that has to do with me, all my personal stories and everything that’s happening in my life. All the small intimate details that I cannot talk about face to face are in my music. Music is how I can express everything that’s happening to me.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ali Loka (@aly_louka)

The music streaming platform worked with Loka to release a mini-documentary, where fans can follow Loka around Cairo, from the stage to downtown to Giza, to get an intimate look at his journey from starting as a solo artist to joining a band and then going solo again.

The film also looks into Loka’s viral track “Matkhafeesh Yamma,” which dropped in November 2021, taking the singer-songwriter to new levels of stardom. The song is currently the most-streamed Egyptian song outside of Egypt on the platform, with 73 percent of its Spotify streams coming from non-Egyptian markets.

But the song’s success can be attributed to Loka’s dedication to his art and a prolific work ethic.

“Before ‘Matkhafeesh Yamma’s’ release, there was a lot of work in the making. ‘Matkhafeesh Yamma’ was released in November 2021 and before that, my team and I had released about 20 tracks. Since 2020, we have released around 30 tracks. The inspiration for the track came from within. It was the feeling I was going through and felt the need to say out loud,” said Loka.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ali Loka (@aly_louka)

One of his bigger musical dreams is to perform in front of the pyramids in Cairo. “And not just in the area but right in front of Khofu, the biggest of the pyramids. I want the pyramids to be distinctive in the background, not too far away,” said Loka.

About his future plans, Loka said: “I have some releases coming and tracks that I am working on. This time, they are even more organized than before. It is the same working process that I have been following all my life. I still carry the same attitude and work ethic. I never tire of this process. I am also shooting a music video to get released in August.”


Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods
Updated 12 August 2022

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods

Honayda to be first Saudi label on display at luxury London store Harrods

DUBAI: Saudi fashion label Honayda will become the first designer from the Kingdom to be displayed at luxury London department store Harrods. 

The womenswear brand, known for its strong roots in Saudi culture and led by creative director Honayda Serafi, will go on display at the store from Aug. 22.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HONAYDA (@honaydaofficial)

“Proudly announcing that Honayda’s latest collection is now showcased at one of the world’s most iconic department stores, Harrods. A curated selection of exclusive pieces will be available on the eveningwear floor, inaugurating the first Saudi fashion designer in store,” read a post on Honayda’s official Instagram page.

A curated selection of exclusive pieces from Honayda’s “A charm from Afghan” collection will feature in the eveningwear section of Harrods, located on the first floor.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HONAYDA (@honaydaofficial)

The brand has made waves regionally and internationally, including with celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Lupita Nyong’o, Ashanti and Eve, who have worn the brand at major events around the world.
 


Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour
Updated 14 August 2022

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour

Renowned Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS to visit UAE, Egypt on farewell tour

DUBAI: Popular Croatian cello duo 2CELLOS, made up of Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, are ready to hang up their bows, but not before a farewell world tour that will include the Middle East this year.

“The Dedicated Tour” is headed to Hurghada, Egypt, on Nov. 18 and in Dubai the following day as part of the tour.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by 2CELLOS (@2cellosofficial)

The two musicians have already performed sellout shows in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Austria.

2CELLOS play instrumental arrangements of pop and rock hits, as well as classical and film music, and have featured on US television series, including “Glee” and “The Bachelor.”

The duo rose to fame in 2011 after their cover of “Smooth Criminal” became a YouTube hit, receiving over 3 million views in the first two weeks. Their debut eponymous album was released in 2011, with covers of songs by rock bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay, Nirvana, Muse and Kings of Leon.