Renowned fair’s chairman speaks of Venice Biennale’s ‘love story’ with the Arab world

Special Renowned fair’s chairman speaks of Venice Biennale’s ‘love story’ with the Arab world
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President of La Biennale di Venezia Roberto Cicutto. (Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)
Special Renowned fair’s chairman speaks of Venice Biennale’s ‘love story’ with the Arab world
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President of La Biennale di Venezia Roberto Cicutto. (Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)
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Updated 28 July 2022

Renowned fair’s chairman speaks of Venice Biennale’s ‘love story’ with the Arab world

Renowned fair’s chairman speaks of Venice Biennale’s ‘love story’ with the Arab world
  • Chairman of 127-year-old Venetian institution recalls history of Arab and Muslim involvement in the arts and architecture
  • Egypt won the Golden Lion for art in 1995, Bahrain for architecture in 2010, and the UAE won the same award last year

VENICE: The Venice Biennale is keen to offer its facilities and expertise as a laboratory platform for arts students and researchers from the Arab world who want to experiment with art and architecture, its chairman says.  

In a special interview with Arab News, Roberto Cicutto, who has overseen the prestigious institution since 2020, spoke of the “love story” between the Venice Biennale and Arab and Muslim countries over the years, and talked up the possibilities for further cooperation with artists in the future.

The 74-year-old Venetian, with a storied background in cinema production, met Arab News in the Ca Giustinian palace, a few steps from St. Mark’s Square.

Looking out at the unique view of the most celebrated lagoon in the world, dotted with Renaissance bell towers and cupolas, he recalled that, since the 1930s, 15 Arab and Middle Eastern countries have participated in the Venice Biennale, which was founded in 1895.

Arab participation started in 1938, when Egypt took part in the Art Biennale. Iran and Turkey joined in 1956, then Tunisia in 1958; Iraq in 1976, Syria in 1964 and Cyprus in 1968.

“In the new millennium we had the pleasure to host more prestigious presences from that part of the world,” Cicutto said. Indeed, Arab and Muslim nations have flocked to the event since the turn of the century, with Morocco participating since 2005, Lebanon since 2007, the UAE from 2009, Bahrain from 2010, Saudi Arabia from 2011, Kuwait from 2012, Yemen from 2016 and, finally, Oman joining this year.

Cicutto recalled that Egypt won the Golden Lion for national participation, the exhibition’s highest award (based on the historic symbol of the city), at the 1995 Art Biennale. Bahrain’s pavilion, curated by Noura Al-Sayeh and Fuad Al-Ansari, won the Golden Lion at the Architecture Biennale 2010.

“Bahrain’s exhibition offered an analysis of the country’s relationship with the rapidly changing coastline. Forms of transitory architecture were presented as devices capable of claiming the sea as a public space,” Cicutto recalled

In 2021, the Golden Lion for best national participation at the Architecture Biennale again went to an Arab nation: The UAE.

The pavilion, entitled “Wetland” and curated by Wael Al-Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, presented an experiment encouraging people to think about the delicate relationship between waste and production, both on a local and global scale, proposing a construction model capable of combining craftsmanship and advanced technologies.

“Hashim Sarkis was the first Lebanese curator of the 2021 International Architecture Exhibition. An architect and dean of the MIT School of Architecture in Boston, Sarkis chose for his edition of the exhibition — scheduled for 2020 and then postponed to 2021, due to the pandemic — a title which will prove to be premonitory: ‘How will we live together?’” Cicutto said.

Among the artists participating over the years, Cicutto remembers in particular those who were invited to the Art Biennale 2015 by Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor: Lebanese Mounira Al-Solh, Jordanian Ala Younisthe, Syrian collective Abounaddara, Egyptians Massinissa Selmani and Inji Efflatoun, and Tunisian Nidhal Chamekh. 

He also mentioned Kader Attia, a France-based Egyptian, from the 2003 edition, and from 2017, Hassan Khan, an Egyptian, and Maha Malluh from Saudi Arabia.

“More and more, art and architecture exhibitions also refer to artisan traditions which do not forget ancient traditional forms of manufacturing or construction techniques in their artistic form,” he said. “In our sustainability age, the Arab countries represent an example of the fact that everything that can be recovered from the past (can) become a worthy practice on sustainability issues.”

Cicutto says that the Venice Biennale “has already experienced great interest from some Arab countries,” and at Dubai’s Expo 2020, it held a presentation at the Italian pavilion, welcoming the participation of the UAE Minister of Culture Noura Al-Kaabi.

Now the Venice Biennale aims to “offer its facilities as a laboratory platform for all those students and researchers, who are interested in its disciplines, to experiment with the theoretical knowledge acquired in universities and training centers.”

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia — as well as the same anniversary of the founding of the Venice Biennale Film Festival.

“For us, this is an important anniversary because it allows (us) to recognize the role that the oldest film festival in the world has played in attributing artistic dignity to the film industry,” Cicutto said.

In 2017, the Biennale College’s cinema section for emerging filmmakers and micro-budget films financed a project called “Martyr,” which was presented at the festival that year, directed and produced by a team from Lebanon.


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.