REVIEW: Extremism turns peaceful city upside down in ‘Flowers in Flames’

REVIEW: Extremism turns peaceful city upside down in ‘Flowers in Flames’
“Flowers in Flames” is by award-winning Sudanese author Amir Tag Elsir. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 September 2022

REVIEW: Extremism turns peaceful city upside down in ‘Flowers in Flames’

REVIEW: Extremism turns peaceful city upside down in ‘Flowers in Flames’

CHICAGO: Shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2018 and newly translated into English in 2022, “Flowers in Flames” is by award-winning Sudanese author Amir Tag Elsir.

Weaving a narrative made up of ethereal dreams and harsh wakefulness, Elsir introduces readers to Sur, a city where Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Africans, and Europeans peacefully coexist.

Among the residents is a small group of Copts including Khamila, the narrator of the tale. Between Khamila, her father Jamari Azer, the wealthiest corn merchant in the city, and a host of community members, residents live predictable lives until rumors of a threat emerge and life is turned upside down.

Translated into English by Raphael Cohen, Sur appears like a light and is extinguished just as fast when the Righteous One and his extremists overrun the city.

Through Khamila, readers discover Sur, a rich city built by the multiple personalities that call it home. Governed by the Turk Yusuf Dameer, the residents have eased into life, providing each other with sustenance and engaging relationships. In a large melting pot like Sur, there are bound to be religious and patriarchal boundaries that are not crossed, but everything is dealt with peacefully.

Khamila is a young Copt in her twenties and is curious about the world around her. She lives in a city that has moved between cultures and religions throughout the ages, creating a special place to call home. But the welcoming atmosphere diminishes when war arrives.

According to Khamila, Sur is a city, “that had always swung between order and chaos, between civilization and a charming primitiveness, but had always been a home for every community and faith.” And it is for this reason that the Righteous One and his extremists target Sur.

As people begin to disappear, and food becomes scarce, Khamila’s world fades. She realizes that she may never see the people she once loved and lived with again. The comfort and safety that she once knew is snatched away in an underground bunker in Majd Square where the women are kept safe and then ultimately captured.

Like Sur, a transitional city between ancient and modern, accommodating to the various cultures and religions it represents, the attack represents a transitional time in Elsir’s fictional world, from liberal and open-minded to extreme conservative thought. Caught in the crosswinds are the people who have no desire to be forced into a new normal.

Elsir masterfully brings readers into Sur to fall in love with its inhabitants and then quickly snatches it away when extremist ideology befalls them. His story is one of a vibrant city that disappears overnight and with it the people who have shaped it for centuries.


John Legend to perform as part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fifth anniversary celebrations

John Legend to perform as part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fifth anniversary celebrations
The singer-songwriter dropped his newest album “Legend” in September. (AFP)
Updated 32 sec ago

John Legend to perform as part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fifth anniversary celebrations

John Legend to perform as part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fifth anniversary celebrations

DUBAI: In celebration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fifth anniversary, US superstar John Legend is headed to the UAE capital to headline the Louvre Abu Dhabi Grand Festival. The performance is set to take place on Nov.12.

The EGOT musician, who has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards, is most famous for his soulful tracks like “All of Me,” “Ordinary People” and “Love Me Now.”

The singer-songwriter, who dropped his newest album “Legend” in September, has already performed two sold-out shows in the UAE, at the Dubai Jazz Festival in 2018 and at Dubai's Coca-Cola Arena in 2020.
 

The new album, which boasts foot-tapping tracks like “Guy Like Me,” “Strawberry Blush” and “You,” features collaborations with the likes of Rapsody, Rick Ross, Amber Mark, Jhene Aiko and Ty Dolla $ign. The artist will no doubt perform a number of tracks from the album in Abu Dhabi.

“’Legend’ is full of sensuality, joy and celebration. But our lives are more complex than that. My family and I have also been challenged by loss and grief and pain. I wanted to make space on this album to be vulnerable, spiritual and reflective. I needed this music to help me heal, and to hopefully help others heal. I brought my full self to this album, and that’s why I decided to make it my first (sorta) self-titled album,” Legend posted on his social media about the record.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi Grand Festival will also feature Majid Al-Muhandis – an  Iraqi-Saudi singer and composer, who will take to the stage on Nov. 11. Earlier this year, the singer made waves when Russian supermodel Irina Shayk got a starring role in his music video for the song “Waareftek” (“I Knew You”) from his 2022 album of the same name. Shayk stars as the singer’s love interest in the five-minute-long clip.

On Nov. 13, Egyptian composer, pianist and conductor Omar Khariat will perform as part of the festival. Khairat has composed a number of successful works such as “The Fortune-teller,” “The Magic Perfumes” and “Arabic Rhapsody.”

 


Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh
Updated 03 October 2022

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh
  • Exhibition reflects upon notions of time and memory in an era of rapid change

RIYADH: The Misk Art Institute launched a new exhibition in Riyadh titled “Tales of Nostalgia” on Monday.

The exhibition showcases the works of 12 Saudi and international artists who reflect upon notions of time and memory, and nostalgia, exploring alternate narratives through emergent technologies.

Curated by Marnie Benney and Misk Art Institute assistant curator, Alia Ahmad Alsaud, it will be on display at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Art Gallery until Jan. 15. 

“‘Tales of Nostalgia’ is both a reflection upon and a conversation about where we are, as a species, in our endless, intertwined relationship with time and technology,” the organizers said. 

Featuring immersive digital soundscapes, the exhibition aims to shed light on an increasingly technological and digitized world, particularly the increasing importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks, workshops, and opportunities to listen to and engage with participating artists over the course of several days.

 


Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November
Updated 03 October 2022

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

DUBAI: The second edition of Middle East Fashion Week (MEFW), organized by the Middle East Fashion Council (MEFC), is set to take place from Nov. 7-10 at The Agenda in Dubai Media City.

The event will also hold the second edition of the Middle East Sustainable Fashion Forum –  a panel of speakers leading discussions on environmentally responsible and financially viable ways to integrate sustainable practices into the design process and the supply chain.

Keeping this theme in mind, the choice of venue becomes more apparent. The Agenda’s vision is to become the world’s first carbon-negative performance venue. “The sound and lighting industry is historically very power hungry, and coupled with AC and facilities, traditionally a large CO2 footprint would be in place for an event such as this. The Agenda will be using the latest technology to reduce power consumption,” reads a description on the event's official website.

Guests attending the event will be able to see their individual carbon footprint for attending the shows and how it is offset.

Designer applications for Middle East Fashion Week are open until October 10, 2022. To apply, email [email protected]

 


Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show
Gigi Hadid hit the runway in an all-denim look. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2022

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

DUBAI: Supermodel Gigi Hadid hit the outdoor runway at Givenchy’s latest show at Paris Fashion Week on Sunday.

The US Dutch Palestinian star showed off an all-denim look, featuring a button-down jacket along with a below-the-knee jean skirt with oversized pockets.

Gigi Hadid hit the runway in an all-denim look. (AFP)

Hadid walked the runway amid less than perfect weather as VIP guests, including US singer Olivia Rodrigo, survived torrential downpours only thanks to helpers clutching transparent umbrellas. But the show had to go on. For Matthew M. Williams, a designer who has garnered lukewarm reviews of late, this collection was a little like crunch time, The Associated Press reported.

For spring, the US designer moved his street aesthetic in a dressier direction — likely trying to bring himself to the safer ground of the age-old house’s traditional aesthetic.

An oversized tweed black bolero cut a creatively surreal silhouette atop a pencil-thin mini dress, twinned with Matrix-style shades. Elsewhere, features such as rouching on a silken top, or draping on a fluid skirt, resembled thick organic sinews or human ribs.

This felt like a positive, gently transgressive, direction for the house immortalized by Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress.

However, many of Williams’ design elements still felt out of place on the Paris runway, such as 90s low-slung cargo shorts that seemed unflattering, clashing with the black silken ruffled cuffs that dangled down.

Earlier at Paris Fashion Week, Hadid hit the runway at the Isabel Marant show, wearing the French label’s Spring-Summer 2023 collection. 

She strutted down the runway in an oversized cameo print jacket in neutral hues and was joined by her sister Bella, who showed off two looks. The first featured a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag. The second look was a black flowy mini dress with cut-out detailing across the chest.

The sisters also walked the catwalk for Italian brand Versace at Milan Fashion Week.

Donatella Versace’s collection conveyed female power in a way that only the label can.

“I have always loved a rebel,’’ Versace said in show notes. “A woman who is confidence, smart and a little bit of a diva (sic).”

The show conveyed a strong sense of female ritual as models traversed a runway lit by dark candles and lined with stained-glass windows with the Versace medusa head, before exiting through glass-enclosed spaces where bathrobe-clad men lounged on gilded chairs amid purple columns, underlining a shift in the power dynamic.

 


Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards
Updated 03 October 2022

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

CAIRO: Despite playing host to two of the Arab world’s most prestigious film festivals, as well as being famous for its storied film industry, Egypt has decided not to submit any titles for the Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards, with industry insiders telling Arab News the decision was a difficult one.

The members of the film selection committee, which falls under the Cinema Professionals Syndicate, decided to opt out of the running for the Oscars, which will be held on March 12, 2023. However, some critics did voice their support for a clutch of films.

Art critic Faiza Hindawi, a member of the committee, told Arab News that one film which generated huge buzz was Nadine Khan’s “Abu Saddam.” However, the film failed to make the cut due to strict regulations about its release date.

“‘Abu Saddam’ was not on the list of the four films closest to nomination due to its non-compliance with the conditions and regulations stipulated in the awards, including the date of the screening. One of the conditions is that the film was shown in the year 2022 and, unfortunately, ‘Abu Saddam’ was shown last year,” Hindawi explained.

“We are bound by conditions that must be met in the works that are nominated, procedural conditions (as well as) technical conditions, meaning that the films that meet the procedural conditions are presented to us to choose from, and the list did not contain ‘Abu Saddam,’” she added.

A few of the titles floated for consideration this year included “Kira Waljen” directed by Marwan Hamed; “Qamar 14” directed by Hadi El-Bagoury; “The Crime” directed by Sherif Arafa; and “2 Talaat Harb” directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali.

Egyptian producer, scriptwriter and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Mohamed Hefzy added that despite a bevy of commendable films released in 2022, none were nominated due to the high standard of films that will compete from around the world.

Mohamed Hefzy shared his thoughts on the lack of an Egyptian submission this year. (AFP)

“The committee that made the decision included more than 30 filmmakers, and it is clear that the films presented to them did not live up to their expectations to be nominated for the Oscars,” he told Arab News.

“As a person who is a member of the Academy, and those who vote for the best international film, I can say that the level of the 90 films that compete every year for Oscars from all over the world are well-made films, so the competition is very tough, and in my opinion when there aren’t any Oscar-worthy movies worth nominating it’s better to not nominate any,” he added.

Previous films submitted for Oscars consideration by Egypt include “Soad” (2019), “Youm El Din” (2018) and “Sheikh Jackson” (2017), among others.