DUBAI: Saudi social media star and YouTuber Osama Marwah has been nominated for the Favorite Arab Star prize at the 2023 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, it was announced on Wednesday.
“When we were younger, we watched Nickelodeon. Today, we are among the nominees,” he wrote to his 4.2 million followers on Instagram. “Thank God. If it wasn’t for God and you, we wouldn’t be anything. Good luck to my creative friends who are also nominated.”
Best known for his vlogs and prank videos, Marwah is competing with Syrian comedian and social media personality Amro Maskoun, Jordanian YouTuber Raghda Kouyoumdjian – famous for her short comedy skits and lip sync videos; and Rozzah, a 19-year-old Jordanian content creator with more than 4.2 million followers.
The Favorite Arab Star award honors talents from the Middle East and North Africa.
First-time nominees for this year’s edition include Jenna Ortega, Jack Harlow, GAYLE, Joji, Nicky Youre and Letitia Wright, among others.
“Stranger Things” leads the pack with six nominations, followed by “That Girl Lay Lay,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “The Fairly OddParents: Fairly Odder” with four nominations each.
Fans around the world can now cast their votes across 31 categories on the official Kids’ Choice Awards website, with an additional 32 international categories available in regions around the world.
Qatar pushes tourism and culture after the World Cup
The tiny Gulf state is looking to capitalize on the exposure it received late last year and the billions invested in hosting the world’s biggest sporting event
Updated 20 sec ago
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: After 12 years of preparation to host prestigious FIFA World Cup last year — 12 years that transformed the tiny-gas rich Gulf nation of Qatar — the country is focusing on maintaining its momentum and boosting its tourism and cultural industries.
“The World Cup, to us, was a bonus on top of what we were already doing in the cultural realm,” Sheikha Reem Al-Thani, acting deputy CEO of exhibitions and marketing for Qatar Museums, tells Arab News.
Much of Qatar’s tourism and cultural boom, says Al-Thani, is part of the Qatar National Vision 2030 strategy, which was formalized in July 2008, the same year the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the renowned Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, opened in Doha.
The World Cup crowds may have left, but a multitude of projects are ongoing, signaling further growth on the horizon. Throughout Doha and in nearby desert landscapes sit dozens of specially commissioned public art installations, 30 percent of which were commissioned in the year leading up to the World Cup. Works by Qatari artists including Shouq Al-Mana, Ghada Al-Kater, Mubarak Al-Malik and Salman Al-Malek sit alongside creations of acclaimed international names such as Jeff Koons, whose “Dugong” — a massive site-specific polychromed mirror-polished stainless-steel sculpture of the marine mammal that symbolizes Qatar’s natural heritage — is stationed near the Corniche. Richard Serra’s “East West/West East” stands in the Qatari desert, as does KAWS’ “The Promise,” depicting a parent and a child contemplating a globe — stressing the need to protect the environment.
“The public art emphasizes our identity while also giving context to everything that is taking place in Qatar,” says Al-Thani. “For example, before Richard Serra’s artwork, people didn’t have much of a reason to go to that area in the desert. Now they go and are encouraged to explore the local landscape.”
According to the Qatar News Agency, the overall attendance at all the World Cup matches combined was 3.4 million. And visitors are still flocking to Qatar. In January 2023, the country registered 3,559,063 people arriving on flights, according to air transport statistics released by Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority, which marked a 64.4 percent increase from the same period in 2022.
The country has set several ambitious targets. By 2030, it aims to attract six million visitors a year and increase the contribution of the tourism sector to its GDP from 7 percent to 12 percent. To that end, the country is investing billions into culture, art, technology and tourism. In February this year, Doha was recognized as the Arab Tourism Capital 2023 by the Arab Tourism Organization.
Qatar Creates, a government-backed, year-round cultural movement conceptualized at the opening of the National Museum of Qatar in 2019 has evolved into an extravaganza combining museum exhibitions, film, fashion, hospitality, cultural heritage, performing arts and private-sector initiatives.
Earlier this month, Qatar Creates Week presented a host of exhibition openings and events, including the Tasweer Photo Festival Qatar — the second biennial program of exhibitions, awards, commissions and collaborations that aims “to diversify practices and dialogues of photographers from Qatar and the Western Asia and North African regions,” “Beirut and the Golden Sixties,” a show at the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, and Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s “The Curious Desert” at the NMOQ, bringing together a dozen new site-specific installations located in the desert near the Al-Thakhira Mangrove in Northern Qatar as well as an extensive gallery presentation.
Other highlights include the Doha Film Institute’s Qumra, an initiative offering mentorship and other opportunities for filmmakers in Qatar and around the world.
Elsewhere, “Lusail Museum: Tales of a Connected World” at Qatar Museums’ Gallery Al-Riwaq in Doha introduced the new museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, currently under development in Lusail, Qatar’s second-largest city. It will be dedicated to Orientalist art, archaeological artifacts, and media from prehistoric times to the 21st century.
The Lusail Museum is one of three new museums that Qatari global art patron Sheikha Al-Mayassa Al-Thani announced in March to expand the country’s cultural offerings. The others are the Qatar Auto Museum and the Art Mill on Doha’s waterfront promenade, which is due to open in 2030 and that will transform a former industrial flour mill on the Doha Corniche, forming a triangle with the already existing Jean Nouvel-designed NMOQ and the Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by Chilean studio ELEMENTAL, Art Mill aims to be, according to its website, “a pioneering institution in the non-Western world representing the modern and contemporary arts of all regions of the globe on an equal basis.”
While a bonanza of cultural events continues in Qatar, what officials stress is how the cultural scene has grown in tandem with, and even prior to, the country winning the right to host the World Cup. The Mathaf Art Museum of Modern Art opened in Doha in 2010 — the same year the nation won the bid and two years after the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art. Since then, particularly under the patronage of Sheikha Al-Mayassa, Qatar has injected billions of dollars into culture and tourism. Its goal is not only to build a robust art scene and strengthen its national identity, but also to diversify its economy to reduce dependency on petroleum and natural gas.
Even during the five years of blockade, from 2017 to 2021, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, the country continued to develop its cultural and tourism sector.
“The World Cup definitely gave us a drive to move faster,” says Al-Thani.
“However, for us it has always been about maintaining and developing our cultural and creative economy, educating people and really making sure that what we’re doing is (done) in a very thoughtful and homegrown way.”
During the World Cup, she adds, 80 percent of exhibitions staged were conceived by Qatar Museums through its collections.
“Very little came from the outside,” she says. “We wanted to focus mainly on the MENASA.”
In February this year Qatar’s $450 billion sovereign wealth fund stated that it was looking to rebalance its portfolio and considering investments in football, finance and technology.
“The World Cup offered us a tremendous awareness boost, exposing Qatar to many (new) people,” Qatari businessman Tariq Al-Jaidah tells Arab News. “The event gave us enormous exposure on a global level. We are already feeling its impact, especially with the increase in regional tourists that are coming.”
The Peninsula Qatar reported in February that 58 cruise ships carrying around 200,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Qatar by the end of April. The new Grand Cruise Terminal opened in November 2022, and is ideally located for tourists within walking distance of the National Museum of Qatar, Msheireb Downtown and Souq Waqif — all of which are decorated with works of public art — among others.
“The World Cup, new hotels and existing and upcoming museums have all served to help Qatar mature as a tourist destination on the cultural front,” added Al-Jaidah.
The country looks well set to capitalize on that exposure and translate it into a cultural and economic boom.
THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese-Brazilian designer Nadine Ghosn discusses quirky collection inspired by eating utensils
Updated 12 min 57 sec ago
DUBAI: The Lebanese-Brazilian designer discusses her new gold bracelet, “Straw Bracelet.”
One of the things I love to do is take the ordinary and make it extraordinary — to revisit everyday objects. Another theme that is super-clear for me is that I want my pieces to bring a smile to people’s faces. But more than that, I want them to be reminded of their childhoods.
Why specifically the utensil component? It’s because I’m a huge foodie and I think it’s a cultural part of connecting with people. For me, using these hidden heroes — these tools that we use to connect, to slurp, to eat — was, in a way, valorizing them.
It also had an element of customization. What I love to do is introduce a collection, but allow my clients to continue the storytelling by making it unique to them, and that’s where the title “Youtensils” comes in. We’ve all had meals that remind us of people and, to me, if people can impose this into this collection by customizing it themselves, it’s only going to strengthen the storytelling. It was definitely a canvas that I think people hadn’t played with before.
The first piece I worked on was the fork, but the straw was my ‘A-ha’ moment. If I needed to explain the collection through one piece, it would be the straw, because it’s so playful, it’s something we use from a young age. It reminds me of these drinks that we probably shouldn’t be drinking, like smoothies and slushies. There is also the perspective of this being a piece that’s part of our society that we’re no longer going to come across in the future, because there’s a movement — which I support — to ban plastic.
For me, the detail that’s so important — that we went over so many times — was that place where the straw bends. It’s such a simple image that people think probably it was so easy to create, but it’s so complex.
It actually took bending a straw to show the different bends and creases and how the straw is actually formed when you bend it. Everything is handmade and there’s just a small detail of fine jewelry, which is at the tip of the straws, where we’ve decided to put these circles in, where people can customize it with whatever stone speaks to them.
Part-Arab models share Ramadan greetings on social media
Updated 24 March 2023
DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian catwalk star Bella Hadid, Moroccan Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi and Dutch Egyptian Moroccan model Imaan Hammam took to Instagram on Wednesday to wish their followers a happy Ramadan.
Hadid, who also unveiled a new campaign with French luxury label Louis Vuitton on Wednesday, shared colorful artwork that read “Ramadan Mubarak.”
“I wish the most peaceful month ahead (sic),” she wrote in her caption.
Her father, Palestinian real estate mogul Mohamed Hadid, replied to her in the comments and wrote: “Love you Bella. The happiest and most peaceful month for you, me, our family and loved ones InshAllah.”
El-Maslouhi used her platform to ask people to support Moroccan mothers this Ramadan through the Rif Tribes Foundation, a youth-led humanitarian and cultural organization dedicated to the people of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco.
Public Art Abu Dhabi aims to bring accessible art to UAE capital
A digital media work by South Korean collective, d’strict, was unveiled on launch day
Updated 23 March 2023
ABU DHABI: With its dozens of islands and more than 30 sophisticated cultural venues – from Louvre Abu Dhabi to Manarat Al Saadiyat and Qasr Al Hosn – the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi is emerging as a leading arts hotspot in the region, and possibly the world. Adding to its roster of cultural projects is Public Art Abu Dhabi.
Launched on March 20, it's a community-focused initiative, supported by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, aimed to enhance the quality of living by dotting the city with various forms of public art that is accessible to all.
"We've built the foundations in Abu Dhabi. We're ready," Reem Fadda, the director of Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi, said in a speech at the initiative's official launch at the Cultural Foundation. "Public art has always had a place in Abu Dhabi and we have infrastructure to build upon that even further. . . We don't want you only to come to our sites and museums, we will take art to you. You will walk in the streets of Abu Dhabi and encounter art. You will recognize your city through the lens of art."
The initiative consists of three main components, which will be spread throughout the capital and demonstrated in the coming years. Manar Abu Dhabi, meaning "lighthouse" in Arabic, will launch in November 2023 as a "year-long light art platform that activates the city and celebrates its natural beauty through light art installations," explained Fadda. The other element is direct commissions by artists from the region and abroad, whose works will embellish Abu Dhabi's corniche, parks, schools, roundabouts, tunnels, and historic sites.
There will also be Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennial, taking off in November 2024, which will be co-curated by Fadda. "We are hoping to manifest a lot of public art commissions and also present artists' work across the city, and we are hoping to able to do that through community engagement," she said.
As the speeches of the launch came to an end, audience members were invited to step outside of the building to witness the unveiling of the initiative's first public artwork. Sitting atop of the building is "WAVE," a digital media work by South Korean collective, d’strict, that has implemented "an anamorphic illusion technique,” according to the press release, whereby, “the 2D installation recreates perpetually surging three-dimensional waves," It's a fitting theme, corresponding to the emirates's pristine azure waters.
US actor Eyas Younis talks Casting Arabia and stellar TV career
The actor has nabbed roles in US TV shows ‘Unforgettable,’ ‘Homeland’ and ‘NCIS: LA,’ among others
Eyas Younis is also the founder of Casting Arabia, a regional platform that connects filmmakers with acting talent
Updated 24 March 2023
RIYADH: From Wall Street, to pharmaceutical sales to a bona fide career in acting, US actor Eyas Younis, who is of Jordanian descent, is no stranger to reinventing himself — and with the launch of his new platform Casting Arabia, he hopes to help other performers chart their own paths to success.
The platform came to life in January, after 18 months of meticulous planning, and with more than 1,700 applicants already on the waiting list, it is clear that there was strong demand for such an initiative in the Middle East.
“Drawing on my background in business, I created a free online platform named Casting Arabia,” Younis told Arab News on the sidelines of the recent Ignite forum in Riyadh.
On the portal, any filmmaker can post the roles needed for the cast and crew of their upcoming project, and members of Casting Arabia can apply.
On the flipside, actors and other creative talents in the industry can create non-public profiles and submit themselves for the opportunities posted on the site.
“This is the system in the US on many of the platforms, like backstage, actors, and other casting networks that keep your profile private. By doing it this way, you empower the talent to pick the roles they resonate with,” Younis explained.
The website also features free learning tools, including short and snappy videos on how to take the best headshot, as well as tips for analyzing a script — and more.
It is a valuable tool for up-and-coming actors, made all the more meaningful as Younis himself was once a struggling actor.
Coming from a background in finance, armed with an MBA, Younis worked on New York’s Wall Street until the market crash of 2008, when he returned to Jordan and took up a position at a pharmaceuticals giant in Amman.
“But still, the nagging voice in my head kept searching for excitement, a break from (the) boring corporate world,” shared Younis. One day, he spotted an ad for an acting working on Facebook and, upon arriving, realized it was an open audition.
As daunting as that may sound to the rest of us, Younis gave it a shot — although he admits nerves took over and he sent his brother, who had accompanied him, home, saying “‘I am too nervous for you to sit next to me. Go home.”
He memorized the lines, sang terribly and gave a less-than-stellar performance, but by sheer luck a director named Deema Amr who had just secured her first feature film witnessed the audition and later told him “you were horrible, but there is something there, you should explore it,” according to Younis, who laughs at the memory.
She called him in to audition for a supporting role in “A 7 Hour Difference” — he landed the gig and never looked back.
“I didn’t take the decision to pursue it proficiently. It was a good beginning but it was that feeling of ‘ahhh, this is where I found myself,’” he said.
However, the producer of the film continued to call Younis, offering audition after audition, and he went on landing parts.
“Then I was approached by Basim Ghandour for a short film, on set I decided I would quit. I remember (it was) March 15, 2011. I went to take acting classes in New York, but I wasn’t in a hurry to move there. I kept thinking there was too much competition. Who wanted another Arab actor?
“I vowed never to play a terrorist and never will. But bravely, I signed up for an acting course at the (Stella Adler Studio of Acting). The intensive course program ran for several months, I attended various classes from 9 a.m. till 8 p.m. daily. We covered everything from Shakespeare to acting for TV and film. It was very intense… I remember I decided after the course that there would be more opportunities for me in the US than in the Arab world. I just had that feeling that I could do it here,” he said.
“After selling my car and furniture and quitting my job, I moved to New York in May 2011. I got a manager in July and booked a play in September. I was on the prime-time TV show ‘Deception,’ playing an Albanian mafia boss… so, in less than a year, I was on TV.
“I still remember when I called my mum and said I would be on TV, and she knew I wasn’t coming home,” he added.
Cue roles in CBS’s “Unforgettable,” “Homeland” and “NCIS: LA” and it’s safe to say that Younis has found his calling.