Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British

Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British
The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman, by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British

Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British
  • Items including human skulls, armor among collections of numerous UK institutions
  • A banner taken from the battlefield at Omdurman, currently at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, is among the items Sudan wants returned

LONDON: Sudan is seeking the return of numerous historical items from the UK, including antiques, artefacts, and human remains, taken during the colonial period after the British Empire invaded the region in 1898.

The list includes two skulls belonging to Sudanese soldiers taken from the battlefield at Omdurman that year, as part of a wider pattern of trophy-hunting and looting by British soldiers, which was seen as revenge for the death of Maj. Gen. Charles Gordon at the siege of Khartoum in 1885.

The skulls were passed to the Edinburgh Anatomical Museum by the businessman Henry Wellcome, where they joined a collection of human remains from throughout Africa used to promote racist scientific theories popular in 19th-century Europe and North America.

Authorities in Khartoum are keen for the remains of the two Sudanese soldiers to be returned.

Dr. Eglal El-Malik, director of conservation at the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, said: “We have to have a big campaign. These people are our brothers, our heroes. They unified and defended our country. It is a very special story of resistance to imperialism. Their descendants should see this all here.”

A banner taken from Omdurman, currently at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, and a suit of armor held at the Royal Armories collection, are also among the items Sudan wants returned, with the aim of displaying them at a specialist museum in Omdurman, recently restored with money from the British Council dedicated to the battle and the legacy of British colonial rule, which ended in 1956.

Ahmed Mohammed, a curator at the museum, told The Guardian: “I want to show the real detail of the battle of Omdurman, and I cannot do that without all the items. It is very important for the Sudanese people to know.”

Some items have already been repatriated, including a robe worn by a Sudanese warrior returned by a British family whose ancestor took it from the battlefield.

Despite this, many practical challenges remain, including legal and security issues.

“There are lots of Sudanese (people) who want these items back now (but) they need to be aware of the legal issues. The reality is we have so many difficulties (in Sudan). It would be great if we had all these things back now but (they are) in a good situation where it is and so many people see it. So, we have to be reasonable,” El-Malik added.

Not all Sudanese experts even agree that the country’s treasures should be returned yet, given that the nation has been ravaged by war for decades, hampering its ability to recover and safeguard its looted heritage.

As well as British investment in the museum at Omdurman, the country’s National Museum in Khartoum is being refurbished with a $1 million donation from the Italian government.

Ghalia Gharelnabi, acting director of the National Museum, said: “The situation here is not suitable. For the moment they (the items) should stay where they are, but of course eventually we would like to have them in our museum.”

El-Malik noted that academics and officials at UK institutions holding Sudanese items had been “very helpful on the whole” about the issue of repatriation.

A spokesperson for Durham University said: “We work closely with the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan, including currently on loan requests for several items from the Sudan Archive to be displayed in Sudan. They and we recognize this is not without difficulties.”

Prof. Tom Gillingwater, of the Edinburgh Anatomical Museum, said his institution had not received a formal request for the return of the Sudanese skulls.

“Anatomical remains are now utilized for research into the history of genetics, diets, and the movement of people. We take our colonial legacy, and its contemporary impact, very seriously, and are continuing to examine ways to address these important issues,” he added.

Britain’s vast number of historical artefacts taken from overseas during the age of its empire has been a source of controversy for some time, including other items from Sudan dating back to the ancient Roman and Egyptian eras.

Other European countries have also grappled with the issue: In 2021 Germany became the first country to return famous statues looted from West Africa in the 19th century known as the Benin bronzes — a number of which still reside in the British Museum.


Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards

Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards
Updated 11 August 2022

Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards

Italian photographer’s ‘The Kid of Mosul’ wins top prize at iPhone Awards

DUBAI: The iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAWARDS) has announced the winners of its 15th annual edition, with Italy's Antonio Denti taking this year's Grand Prize for his pensive image, “The Kid of Mosul.”

“Chosen from thousands of submissions from all over the world, many of this year’s winning shots depict beauty rising out of isolation and honor photography’s ability to build bridges across lost connections,” read an announcement on the official website.

Denti received the Photographer of the Year Award for his photo depicting a soldier cupping the face of a young boy in his hands, which the organization described as “a moment of tenderness in the dusty rubble of war.”

‘Old Soul’ by Egyptian artist Reem Borhanwon third place in the Still Life category. (IPPAWARDS)

From the region, Egypt's Reem Borhan won third place in the Still Life category with her photo titled “Old Soul.”

Meanwhile, the First Place Photographer of the Year Award went to Rachel Sela of Sweden for her image, “Anti-Social Distancing,” which turns masking up into an act of theater.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by IPPAWARDS (@ippawards)

Kelley Dallas of the US won Second Place for his image “Girl with the Violin.” And Third Place went to Glenn Homann of Australia for his photo, “Wasted.”

Kelley Dallas of the US won Second Place for his image ‘Girl with the Violin.’ (IPPAWARDS)

Top-three winners in an additional 16 categories were awarded to photographers from almost every corner of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, San Marino, Poland, United Kingdom, United States.


Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 
Updated 11 August 2022

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan thanks Mideast fans while promoting adaption of Hollywood’s ‘Forrest Gump’ 

LOS ANGELES: Bollywood star and producer Aamir Khan spoke about India’s connection with the Middle East while promoting his latest film, “Laal Singh Chaddha,” which was released on Thursday in the region. 

The movie, which is an adaption of the Hollywood classic “Forrest Gump,” tells the story of Laal, a purehearted and intellectually disabled man who lives through pivotal moments in India’s history.

Despite making the film for Indian audiences, Aamir told Arab News that he is glad to see viewers from far and wide gravitating toward it, including those in the Arab world.

“I think Indians have a closer emotional key to the Arab world and to the Middle East,” he said. “I would like to tell all my fans across the Middle East that I want to thank them for all the love they've always given me and my work.”

The actor said: “If someone had asked me: ‘would you like to do “Forrest Gump?”’ I would have thought he was joking.”

The film reinterprets “Forrest Gump’s” iconic moments to reflect Indian culture, including exchanging the box of chocolates on the bus stop for gol gappe during a train ride.

“It kind of spans 50 years,” Khan told Arab News. “So you have the characters in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and then in 2000.  And so every department, whether it's the production design, whether it's the look of the film, the costumes, everything has to change according to that time.” 

“So it's a very preparation-heavy film and really a challenging film, but great fun to do as well,” he added.

The film stars Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor, who plays the role of Chaddha’s childhood love. 

The film also sees superstar Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo appearance. 


Dubai exhibition highlights Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s latest work

Dubai exhibition highlights Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s latest work
Updated 11 August 2022

Dubai exhibition highlights Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s latest work

Dubai exhibition highlights Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s latest work
  • Rana Samara’s ‘Inner Sanctuary’ runs until August 28 at Dubai’s Zawyeh Gallery

DUBAI: From drawings of empty rooms to presenting human figures, Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s “Inner Sanctuary,” which runs until Aug. 28 at Dubai’s Zawyeh Gallery, focuses on the artist’s conception of her own intimate space from an emotional perspective.

‘Untitled 2’

Jerusalem-born artist Rana Samara’s latest show “portrays an inner sanctuary visually and sentimentally,” critic and journalist Rana Anani writes in the exhibition brochure. Not all the images are comforting though. This painting of a hospital bed, Anani points out, “bears an unsettling feeling.” “The scattered red tubes on the surface of the colorful floors reflect commotion as if there was an emergency scene,” she writes.

‘Untitled 44’

“Samara uses colors, motifs, and shapes to convey her sentiments showing her content, calmness, anxiety, or frustration,” Anani explains. It’s surprising just how much emotion Samara packs into these empty rooms. This bedroom, with peacock features in the background, for example, “gives a feeling of lightness, weightlessness, and a connection with the skies.”

‘Untitled 43’

This is one of the rare occasions that Samara’s work includes a human figure — this contemplative woman. Her usual omission of humans, Anani suggests, “could be a way to capture moments that people leave behind” or “an attempt at emancipation from the restraints imposed by their presence and an opportunity to reveal concealed feelings, whether joyful or gloomy.”  


Madinah art community Thalothya supports Saudi Arabia-based artists

Madinah art community Thalothya supports Saudi Arabia-based artists
Updated 11 August 2022

Madinah art community Thalothya supports Saudi Arabia-based artists

Madinah art community Thalothya supports Saudi Arabia-based artists
  • Artist Meshal Al-Hujaili launched a community project of talks called Thalothya to support artists by educating them on other parts of their careers
  • Al-Hujaili began his journey in the art world at a young age by drawing graffiti before taking another direction

RIYADH: The artist’s main focus is on the aesthetic aspect of life, leaving material concerns behind, leaving many artists struggling to understand the economic world, sparking confusion over pricing their paintings and profiting from their talents.

This was one of the reasons that artist Meshal Al-Hujaili was inspired to launch a community project of talks called “Thalothya” to support artists by educating them on more parts of their careers.

Thalothya emerged as an artistic community concerned with spreading artistic culture, enhancing the creative side of the artists, and exchanging experiences.

Their goal is to create a healthy artistic environment in which practitioners find support and expertise to develop their art. The sessions are held once a month in Madinah.

The group also organizes monthly dialogue sessions, regular presentations on the artists’ latest works, online interviews with an eclectic range of influential artists, and discussions on the journey that each artist took and its impact on their craft.

“Thalothya started in an informal way between me and my artist friends, and I decided to set up a meeting to discuss art. Then I was surprised that the topic started to spread among artists and that a large number wanted to attend courses. The news spread in the city. We started with 15 people, and the last session was attended by 60 artists,” Al-Hujaili told Arab News.

Al-Hujaili said that because of the crowds of people who wanted to attend the event, the sessions were moved from a cafe to art galleries in Madinah, where there are halls to accommodate 200 people in the session.

“Many people want to join the discussion circles, which is why I refuse the requests of many cafes and places that want to host us because I know that the place will not accommodate us,” said Al-Hujaili, adding: “Thalothya created an artistic revolution in Madinah.”

He said: “The topics we raise are not purely artistic, so we talk about the legal aspect of art, and 90 percent of artists do not know how to legally preserve their works or price their works. We help them to dialogue and talk in a safe space and host different topics each time. 

“For example, we once discussed the subject of ‘art block’ during our research, and we found a definition that is completely different from what we thought, and we present a new aspect that focuses on the topic of marketing and the problems that the artist goes through, why an artist appears and becomes famous suddenly, and then he is isolated and disappears.”

Al-Hujaili’s paintings are distinguished by geometric formations. He began his journey in the art world at a young age by drawing graffiti before taking another direction.

“I started my graffiti from primary to secondary school, and I drew graffiti, then art took a new curve. For six years, I only drew straight lines and worked on drawing geometric shapes, and the result was special, as I was unique in my art, in which I put my fingerprint. I was requested to paint a mural at the Arab Open University in Madinah,” he said.

The dialogues were not limited to male artists, with women making up a large share of the discussion.

Basma Al-Bloshi, a portrait artist, said: “What distinguishes Thalothya is that it cares about the artist’s aspects, both psychologically and practically, and we discuss the things that develop the artist.”

She continued: “The idea of Thalothya is to educate the artist about other aspects of art. One of our goals is to spread Thakothya throughout the Kingdom.”


Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 
Updated 10 August 2022

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer releases trailer for Netflix’s ‘Mo’ 

DUBAI: Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer released on Tuesday the trailer to his upcoming Netflix show “Mo.” 

The eight-episode series, which will be released on Aug. 24, centers on a Palestinian immigrant family living in Houston, Texas. It follows Mo Najjar, played by Amer, who straddles the line between two cultures, three languages and a pending asylum request, all while hustling to support his family, which includes his mother, sister and older brother. 

Jordanian-Kuwaiti-Palestinian actress Farah Bsieso stars as Mo’s mother Yusra Najjar, while Egyptian-American actor Omar Elba portrays Sameer Najjar, Mo’s older brother, who has social anxiety. 

Rapper Tobe Nwigwe plays Nick, Mo’s oldest, most loyal friend and Mexican-American actress Teresa Ruiz stars as Mo’s girlfriend Maria. 

Amer also serves as executive producer in the series, along with his “Ramy” co-star and friend Egyptian-American Golden Globe-winner Ramy Youssef, who also appears in the show. 

In December, Amer told Arab News that he is at a point in his career where he is able to share his stories with a wider audience than ever before through an artistic medium that allows viewers to experience both his perspective and that of the Palestinian people in an intimate way.

“That’s why I think the art of stand-up is so liberating. It’s never been about the money,” he said. “Making money is great, and I want to make what I can, but it’s about telling great stories. I’m less concerned about money, and more concerned about punching above my weight. Creating a masterpiece is a worthy trek. That’s how I feel. That’s where I’m at right now with my stand-up, and my TV show.”

Amer began his career in comedy in his early teens and soon discovered that no one was telling stories about his experience or that of Arabs in general.

“I first got on stage at 14 years old, and I started touring when I was 17. Immediately, I started noticing that there was this huge gap,” he said. “There was no real representation at all on any of those stages of Arabs or Muslims. I said to myself, ‘OK, why don’t I introduce it?’”

With “Mo,” “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas,” “Mo Amer: The Vagabond” and “Ramy,” the comedian has and still is sharing the stories of both his family and his people.