From London to Berlin, Iraqi photographer’s UAE show highlights unity during pandemic

From London to Berlin, Iraqi photographer’s UAE show highlights unity during pandemic
Yamam Nabeel is staging his first exhibition in the region at ICD Brookfield Place, in Dubai. Supplied
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Updated 08 June 2022

From London to Berlin, Iraqi photographer’s UAE show highlights unity during pandemic

From London to Berlin, Iraqi photographer’s UAE show highlights unity during pandemic

DUBAI: While in many ways the trials and tribulations of the coronavirus pandemic years are mostly in the past, there is no denying the impact the health crisis has had on the world.

Artists who worked during the lockdown and restriction periods are now showcasing creations often charged with emotion, grief, and solidarity.

One such artist is London-based Yamam Nabeel, an Iraqi writer and photographer, who is staging his first exhibition in the region at ICD Brookfield Place, in Dubai.

Titled “Waiting for Time/Intersecting Realities” and running until June 30, it presents a series of 29 photographic portraits that narrate the pandemic stories of more than 60 people from all walks of life, and a range of countries and cultures. The images depict the shared experience of navigating the hardships, joys, and grief over the course of the virus outbreak.




“Waiting for Time/Intersecting Realities” is running until June 30. Supplied

Nabeel began creating his work in the English capital during the first lockdown in May and June of 2020. With his 1960s medium‐format Hasselblad and Mamiya 7 cameras, he travelled from London to Berlin and then to Dubai between 2020 and 2022, recording and interviewing people including playwrights, comedians, hospital workers, journalists, and lawyers.

Through his photos, Nabeel has caught moments of waiting, reflection, and joy all shot outdoors in a place of the subject’s choosing. The pictures highlight the shared commonalities and disparities between individuals during the period.

He told Arab News: “My aim was to connect people during a difficult shared experience that the current generation have never experienced.

“It was a time filled with fear, uncertainty, and solitude. We all lived the same reality, locked in our immediate surroundings, waiting for something no one could predict. I wanted to collect individual stories, to weave them together into an interconnected and collective human story.”




The pictures highlight the shared commonalities and disparities between individuals during the pandemic. Supplied

Through the works on display, Nabeel has questioned whether humans will hold onto the unity garnered through tragedy or if previous divisive ways will return.

He said: “As an Iraqi and as an Arab, the word unity resonates greatly with me. My NGO was called FC Unity and used the global power of football to bring people together. Having this exhibition in Dubai, in the UAE, pays homage to that concept.

“Unity is the foundation of this country. Everything I have done in my life was about bringing people together. In times of fear and trauma as well as in times of safety and stability,” he added, in reference to his not-for-profit organization that aims to provide a platform for development and education through football.

Dubai was one of the last cities he visited before the pandemic, in January, and it was the last place he shot in, returning in December just as the omicron variant of COVID-19 reared its head, challenging the world with more uncertainty.

“I decided that it was time to include Dubai and slightly alter the project to show three different global cities at three various times of the pandemic.

“As we were within touching distance of returning to so-called normality, I decided to show Dubai on color film, while showing London and Berlin on black-and-white film. All photographs were taken as medium format, analogue images,” he said.




“Waiting for Time/Intersecting Realities” marks his eighth solo show. Supplied

Born in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Nabeel was raised in Hungary and later moved to London where he has been living since 1992. He is the son of exiled poet Nabeel Yasin. His family left Iraq in 1980, when he was four years old. They then lived in France, Lebanon, and the former East Germany, before settling in Hungary in 1981.

“My mother tongue is Arabic, my first language is Hungarian, and the language I write and create in is English, but my heart and soul forever remain Iraqi,” he added.

Through his photographic portraits, Nabeel has translated a global crisis into more intimate, individual, and personal stories of each sitter. He is now planning a project in Iraq.

He said: “My aim is to present a new narrative about our wonderfully diverse and interesting culture and heritage to European audiences.”

“Waiting for Time/Intersecting Realities” marks his eighth solo show.

 


South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements

South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements
Updated 43 sec ago

South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements

South Asians in UK honored for their outstanding achievements
  • Pratik Dattani, the director of the Asian Achievers Awards, said: ‘The aim of the evening is to recognize changemakers from across the South Asian community in the UK’
  • This year’s awards were presented in 12 categories, one of which, the Woman of the Year Award, was renamed as a tribute to the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON: Influential and inspirational South Asians in a range of fields in the UK were honored recently, during a prestigious ceremony in London, for their outstanding achievements.

Established in 2000, the Asian Achievers Awards, one of the most prominent and long-established celebrations of its kind, returned for its 20th edition after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers chose to pay tribute this year to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, and renamed the Woman of the Year Award in her honor.

“The aim of the evening is to recognize changemakers from across the South Asian community in the UK,” Pratik Dattani, the director of the awards, told Arab News. “It really is the cream of the community and everyone really worth celebrating.”

This year’s awards were presented in 12 categories: art and culture; business leadership; community service; entrepreneur and professional of the year; media; sports; health; innovation; uniformed and civil service; women of the year; and lifetime achievement.

The proceeds from the event, held at JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London, will go to Pardada Pardadi Educational Society UK, a charity that helps underprivileged children across India and South Asia. (AN Photo)

“It means a lot to have South Asians in prominent positions because it’s about leadership in the community, mentorship, and having visible role models,” Dattani said.

He added that the current mayor and the deputy mayors of London come from South Asian backgrounds, the UK cabinet during the past 12 years has included, on average, four ministers of Indian or Pakistani origin, and the richest person in the UK is of South Asian origin.

“This just shows the immense contribution we make to the cultural, social and economic fabric of the country, he said.

“South Asians in the UK are here to stay but the growth, the economic success and the community success of the South Asian community will grow and the awards will continue to be the place in the UK, and across Europe, where we recognize South Asian excellence.”

This year’s awards paid tribute to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, and renamed the Woman of the Year Award in her honor. (AN Photo)

Dattani said that the proceeds from the event, held at JW Marriott Grosvenor House, will go to Pardada Pardadi Educational Society UK, a charity that helps underprivileged children across India and South Asia. In all, he said, it raised more than £150,000 ($165,945), with additional commitments of more than £100,000.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman received the newly renamed Queen Elizabeth II Woman of the Year award, which her parents accepted on her behalf.

“I think from the start, our mantra has been: ‘Suella you’ve got to study hard and you’ve got to do well if you want to get anywhere,’” said her mother, Uma Fernanades.

“And I think being of ethnic minority, and also being a lady, it’s harder still and (requires) us to work doubly hard, and she has done that.

“Another thing I used to say to her, whenever she passes an exam or she gets a degree, I always used to say, ‘This is not just for you, it’s for the whole community out there and you’ve got to learn to share it.’ And I think I would want to know that she’s setting an example; that she’s just an ordinary woman, just like anybody else, but if you want to achieve something, you can do it.”

Capt. Harpreet Chandi MBE, an officer and physiotherapist in the British Army, received the Uniformed and Civil Service Award. She recently completed a 700-mile solo, unsupported expedition to the South Pole that took 40 days.

“When I had the idea, I didn’t know anything about Antarctica; I literally typed into Google, ‘How do you get to Antarctica as a modern-day explorer?’” she said. It took her about two and a half years to actually get onto the ice.

“I became the first woman of color to do a solo expedition but that was just a journey — then I got back and I did about four months of school talks and reached about 18,000 students, just hoping to inspire the next generation,” Chandi said.

Capt. Harpreet Chandi MBE, an officer and physiotherapist in the British Army, received the Uniformed and Civil Service Award. (AN Photo)

She is preparing to return to Antarctica in a month with the aim of becoming the first woman to complete a solo, unsupported crossing of the continent. She plans to cover 1,100 miles in 70 days.

“My aims are hopefully to inspire people to push their boundaries and show that, actually, it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you’re from, you can go and achieve anything you want and no barrier or boundary is too (great),” Chandi said.

“I really want to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and do whatever they want and achieve whatever they want.”

Prema Subaskaran, chairperson of Lycahealth and KIMS Hospital, won the Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare Award and said it was a “great privilege” to be recognized for her efforts.

“I’m really passionate about health care and I really wanted to become a doctor and serve the people, but because of the civil war (in Sri Lanka) and family commitments, I couldn’t and I had to stop my degree in the middle,” she said.

Prema Subaskaran, chairperson of Lycahealth and KIMS Hospital, won the Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare Award. (AN Photo)

“Then I always wanted to set up a business that could facilitate philanthropic work through the field of medicine by working with like-minded people, so this is how I set up Lycahealth in 2015.”

With a focus on providing patients with a complete diagnostic pathway and secondary care, Lycahealth last year acquired KIMS Hospital, the largest independent private hospital in the English county of Kent.

“We play a critical role in Kent to provide outstanding health care to the local community, as well as becoming a big employer in the local community,” Subaskaran added.


Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure

Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure
Updated 29 September 2022

Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure

Newly launched website gives Islamic art global exposure
  • islamicart.me was launched t­o promote Orthodox Christian artists Hilda and Lena Kelekian, who create artwork with verses from the Qur’an
  • ‘I thought it would be a good idea to finally get her very unique art pieces (out there),’ founder Anthony Azoury said

DUBAI: A Lebanese patron has launched a website to give Islamic art made by creatives Hilda and Lena Kelekian, who are of Armenian, Cypriot and Lebanese descent, international exposure.

Anthony Azoury launched islamicart.me to expose new clients to the Orthodox Christian creatives who create artwork with verses from the Qur’an.

“Hilda has been getting a lot of interest worldwide,” Azoury told Arab News. “She has a lot of clients from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf region – and even in Europe. So, I thought it would be a good idea to finally get her very unique art pieces (out there).”

Hilda paints on goat and cow skin, while Lena is a ceramicist. 

“There shall be no compulsion in religion,” Hilda Kelekian. (Supplied)

In an interview with Arab News, Hilda, who has been painting for over 30 years, said that she contacts imams to make sure that her writing, her art and her techniques are correct. 

“I find melody in Arabic letters. When I write, I don’t follow the schools of Arabic letters like the school of Kufi. I have my own (style) in the way I write,” she said, referring to a style of Arabic calligraphy. “I know all the rules and I am in touch with multiple sheikhs so that when I am drawing I obey the rules of the Islamic sect.”

“When I open the Qur’an to copy a verse, I have to obey the style. There are little details that I must obey. I must be clean when I am painting,” she added.

 

 

Hilda, who is an award-winning artist, creates and mixes her own paint that makes the colors visible on animal skin. 

It takes her a minimum of one month to finish one painting. “To be more productive, I start so many paintings together,” she said. 

The website, which went live last month, ships the artworks to countries around the world.

“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” Hilda Kelekian. (Supplied)

Hilda has exhibited her work in the US, Spain, Venice, France, China and more. 

Lena is a multidisciplinary visual artist, iconographer, art therapist and ceramicist.

She has hosted 17 solo exhibitions in 13 countries and has taken part in more than 202 collective exhibitions in 62 countries.

Her work is on display in 32 institutions around the world, including in London and Italy.


Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba dies in New York

Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba dies in New York
Updated 29 September 2022

Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba dies in New York

Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba dies in New York
  • Ahmed Alshaiba previously performed for US politician Hillary Clinton
  • The YouTube star was most famous for his covers of international hits, including tracks by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber

DUBAI: Yemeni oud player and social media star Ahmed Alshaiba, who performed for the likes of US politician Hillary Clinton, has died following a traffic accident in New York.

The musician shot to fame for his oud renditions of hit international songs such as Ed Sheeran's “Shape of You,” Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” and the theme songs of popular franchises such as “Game of Thrones” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Aside from covers, however, Alshaiba also worked on creating original music, releasing his latest album “Malahide” in August.

With nearly 800,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, Alshaiba’s videos amassed millions of views due to his mash-up of Arab and Western styles. 

At the time of posting, the late musician's family had not released an official statement as yet.


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. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Apple TV (@appletv)

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.