London’s Kew Gardens presents ‘Plants of the Qur’an’ exhibition

London’s Kew Gardens presents ‘Plants of the Qur’an’ exhibition
Botanical Illustrator Sue Wickison in her studio. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 April 2023

London’s Kew Gardens presents ‘Plants of the Qur’an’ exhibition

London’s Kew Gardens presents ‘Plants of the Qur’an’ exhibition
  • Illustrator and scientist collaborate to explore plants named in Islam’s holy book  

LONDON: A six-year collaboration between Pakistani scientist Dr Shahina Ghazanfar and New Zealand-based botanical illustrator Sue Wickison offers wonderful insight into the plants named in the Qur’an.  

A new exhibition, “Plants of the Qur’an,” featuring 25 paintings by Wickison is now showing at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art in London’s famed Kew Gardens.  

Sue Wickison's 'Tamarix.' (Supplied)

Ghazanfar, an honorary research associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens and a Gibbs Fellow at Newnham College, University of Cambridge, told Arab News that her interest in exploring the historical and cultural significance of the 30 most featured plants from the Qur’an was both professional — from working at Kew — and personal, as she is Muslim.  

When researching her book “Plants of the Qur’an: History & Culture,” she went back to ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform texts and semitic languages of Aramaic and Hebrew to trace those plants which do not have modern Arabic names. 

“Those were more difficult to trace back. Every plant has a historical and cultural attachment to it which we must never forget or lose,” she said.  

Sue Wickison's 'Haloxylon,' part of the 'Plants of the Qur'an' exhibition. (Supplied)

Ghazanfar, whose research extends to the study of plants of medicinal, historical and economic importance of the Middle East, has just returned from the nature reserves of Tabuk and Al-Wajh in Saudi Arabia where she is working on a national survey of plants. 

“On that side of Saudi Arabia by the Red Sea, the mountains are very rich and verdant. We want to know all the animals and plants in the nature reserve. Plants, or any populations of plants found in one location which are of special importance, have to be conserved and monitored,” she explained. 

Wickison, who worked at Kew Herbarium for several years, said her interest in the plants of the Qur’an was first inspired by her visits to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. 

“What intrigued me, apart from the incredible building, were the unusual botanical motifs all over the floors and columns and up on the ceilings — different from the geometric shapes,” she said. 

Wickison travelled to the deserts and mountains of the UAE and Oman to observe the plants specific to the region, while she could find others nearer to home in Fiji and Australia. 

“The work takes hundreds of hours to produce. You must depict the plant accurately and aesthetically. I travel to see the plant because it’s really important to work from living material. Some of the plants I have grown myself at my home in New Zealand — or travelled into the mountains to find,” she explained. 

She described her joy at discovering the hidden beauty of Haloxylon Salicornicum, a flowering desert shrub growing in the desert in Sharjah. 

Sue Wickison walking among the botanical motifs of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which first sparked her interest in the plants of the Qur'an. (Supplied)

“Initially when I saw it, it looked like insignificant little stems on the ground, but when I put it under a microscope it had tiny little flowers. The seeds have wings which change color from apricot through pink to white as they go,” she said. 

Over her several years of collaboration with Ghazanfar, Wickison said she has received support and assistance from many people, including pomegranate farmers in the mountains of Oman and date palm growers in Sharjah.  

“The main thing about the project has been the cooperation and support of the people. It’s been a real group effort,” she said.  

Also featured in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery are two spectacular works by Pakistani-American contemporary artist Anila Quayyum Agha. Although her exhibition is independent from “Plants of the Qur’an,” there are complementary aspects. She described “Stolen Moment Bouquet 1 & 2” as showing the fragility of nature. 

“This is about climate change. If we don’t take action this is the kind of thing we will see in museums — not in real life. It’s also about appropriation and commerce and resources being taken from one place to another,” she said.   

Her stunning work “All the Flowers are for Me,” which she said is about “elevating women” also draws inspiration from patterns used in Islamic art and architecture. 

Anila Quayyum Agha's 'All the Flowers Are for Me' at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew Gardens. (Supplied)


A little too pink? ‘Barbie’ causes a global paint shortage

A little too pink? ‘Barbie’ causes a global paint shortage
Updated 05 June 2023

A little too pink? ‘Barbie’ causes a global paint shortage

A little too pink? ‘Barbie’ causes a global paint shortage
  • Whimsical Barbie-world utilized so much pink paint that the globe ran out, production designer claimed
  • Company clarifies shortage was due to global supply issues, extreme weather

LONDON: Who knew a Barbie movie could cause such chaos? Greta Gerwig’s upcoming film about the iconic doll required a staggering amount of pink paint, so much so that it wiped out an entire company’s global supply.

In a recent interview with the American design magazine Architectural Digest, the director, together with production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer, spoke about the construction of “Barbieland,” a whimsical world where everything, from roads to lampposts, is covered in fluorescent pink.

During the interview, Greenwood, a six-time Oscar nominee, revealed that “Barbie” caused an international pink paint shortage.

“The world ran out of pink,” she declared.

While some media outlets ran with the story, Lauren Proud, vice president of global marketing at Rosco, the paint company used by the film, offered some perspective to the Los Angeles Times.

Proud confirmed that the film “used as much paint as we had,” but explained that the “Barbie” production coincided with global supply chain issues during COVID-19 and extreme weather in Texas, which impacted the materials needed for the paint.

“There was this shortage and then we gave them everything we could — I don’t know they can claim credit,” Proud said, but admitted: “They did clean us out on paint.”

Gerwig told Architectural Digest that the eye-popping pink was key to “maintaining the ‘kid-ness’” of the film’s aesthetic.

The “Barbieland” design drew inspiration from the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, Wayne Thiebaud paintings, movie “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” and “An American in Paris.”

Gerwig said: “I wanted the pinks to be very bright, and everything to be almost too much,” emphasizing her desire to capture the essence of what made her fall in love with Barbie as a child.

“Why walk down stairs when you can slide into your pool? Why trudge up stairs when you take an elevator that matches your dress?” said Gerwig.

Thankfully, the set designers managed to secure just enough paint for production, which mostly took place at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden in the UK.

The star-studded “Barbie” movie features an A-list cast including Margot Robbie as Barbie, Ryan Gosling as Ken, and an ensemble cast including Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Dua Lipa, Helen Mirren, Issa Rae, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Michael Cera, and Ncuti Gatwa.

After initial rumors of a possible ban in the Middle East and North Africa region, the production house confirmed that one of the most anticipated films of the year would be released in cinemas worldwide on July 21.

British Moroccan model Nora Attal poses for Chanel Beauty

British Moroccan model Nora Attal poses for Chanel Beauty
Updated 05 June 2023

British Moroccan model Nora Attal poses for Chanel Beauty

British Moroccan model Nora Attal poses for Chanel Beauty

DUBAI: British Moroccan model Nora Attal took to Instagram this week to share photographs of herself posing for Chanel Beauty.

The photographs, shot by Belgian photographer Quentin De Briey, show Attal posing with a pair of Chanel sunglasses. The model is also seen holding a pocket-sized capsule of Chanel hand cream and lying in long green grass with her oversized branded shades.


A post shared by Nora Attal (@noraattal)

Attal has starred in a number of campaign shoots for the French fashion and beauty house in the past, including its most recent festive season campaign in December.

The luxury label released an outer space-themed festive campaign, in which a bevy of models were depicted jetting off to the moon in style.


A post shared by Nora Attal (@noraattal)

In the short clip, a group of models fly to the moon on the glittering Eiffel Tower. Once they land, Attal can be seen exploring the lunar landscape while a robot etches the maison’s famous logo onto the surface of the moon.

“Went to the Moon with @chanel,” Attal captioned a carousel of campaign images.

Attal is a Chanel fixture and has walked the runway for the storied brand a number of times over the years.

She hit the runway for Chanel in October at Paris Fashion Week, where she showed off a number of looks as part of the label’s Spring-Summer 2023 showcase. The ensembles were part of a 71-piece collection designed by the fashion house’s creative director Virginie Viard.

The model had a 2022 to remember. Last June, she treated her Instagram fans to a snapshot of her 23rd birthday celebrations, including attending a concert by US rapper Megan Thee Stallion at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain.

Her birthday celebrations came hot on the heels of a sentimental moment for Attal, as the catwalk star tied the knot with her partner, UK-based photographer Victor Bastidas. The wedding took place against the backdrop of orange and palm trees in the presence of their loved ones in Ibiza, Spain.

Attal was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, the founder of fashion label JW Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014 before she had even taken her first steps down a catwalk.

She would go on to become a runway fixture. Based in London and signed to Viva Model Management, Attal has worked with a number of renowned designers and stylists. She has walked the runway for major fashion houses, including Tom Ford, Tory Burch, Tiffany & Co., Fendi, Burberry and Valentino, to name a few.

Sofia Carson dazzles in Zuhair Murad at event honoring late co-star

Sofia Carson dazzles in Zuhair Murad at event honoring late co-star
Updated 04 June 2023

Sofia Carson dazzles in Zuhair Murad at event honoring late co-star

Sofia Carson dazzles in Zuhair Murad at event honoring late co-star

DUBAI: Actress Sofia Carson cut an elegant figure in a Zuhair Murad gown as she reunited with her “Descendants” co-stars Dove Cameron and Booboo Stewart to remember one of their own.

The “Descendants” stars gathered at the second annual Cam for a Cause event in memory of their co-star Cameron Boyce, who died at the age of 20 due to an epileptic seizure.

The actress-singer showed up in a beautiful black Zuhair Murad fall 2023 draped pleated cape gown with gold button detailing.

This is not the first time Carson has worn the Lebanese couturier. Late last year, Carson attended the Global Citizen Festival in a coordinating look from Murad’s resort 2023 collection. The outfit featured an embellished crop-top and mini-skirt set with matching thigh-high leather boots.

Meanwhile, the Cam for a Cause  event, which was created by Boyce’s parents under the Cameron Boyce Foundation, was made to raise awareness and find a cure for epilepsy and SUDEP, Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, which caused the young actor’s death in July 2019.


A post shared by Sofia Carson (@sofiacarson)

“Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi received the Cameron Boyce Foundation’s Youth Empowerment Award for her “activism surrounding STEM awareness, women’s rights, civil rights, and her countless acts of kindness toward others.”

“I met Cameron when we were 5 years old, and even then, his talent, his fearlessness and his belief in the power of his peers was evident,” Shahidi said in a statement. “It means so much to be recognized for my advocacy, and the work I continue to do to effect change. I’m grateful to my friends and family at the Cameron Boyce Foundation for thinking of me, as I will always be inspired and activated by their incredible work in the fight to end epilepsy.”

Shahidi attended the event in a black top under a stylish black coat with a jewel-encrusted leopard brooch from Cartier.

Last year, Carson paid tribute to the actor by posting a sweet pic of them together on Instagram to mark three years since he died.

In the photo, Carson could be seen hugging Boyce.

“Three years without you. I love you, forever. I miss you, forever,” Carson wrote in the caption.

Music star Dua Lipa brands UK govt ‘small-minded’ over immigration

Music star Dua Lipa brands UK govt ‘small-minded’ over immigration
Updated 04 June 2023

Music star Dua Lipa brands UK govt ‘small-minded’ over immigration

Music star Dua Lipa brands UK govt ‘small-minded’ over immigration
  • London-born singer, of Kosovo Albanian parentage, says migrants work ‘incredibly hard’
  • Home Secretary Suella Braverman previously referred to Albanian migrants as ‘criminals’

LONDON: British pop music star Dua Lipa has branded the UK government “short-sighted and small-minded” over its rhetoric toward migrants.

The singer, of Kosovo Albanian parentage, called for “more empathy” toward Albanians in an interview with the Sunday Times.

In October last year, Home Secretary Suella Braverman labeled Albanian migrants crossing into the UK illegally via small boats in the English Channel “criminals.” 

Around 16,000 Albanians made the journey in 2022, which Braverman referred to as an “invasion” of England’s south coast.

Lipa, 27, who was born in London, said: “Of course it hurt. All those words thrown around about immigrants? I always felt London was an amalgamation of cultures. It is integral to the city.

“So, when you hear the government talk about Albanians, for example, it hurts. It’s short-sighted and small-minded, but it’s the way a lot of people think.”

The singer’s parents fled their homeland in 1992 to escape the growing tensions that eventually led to war in 1998.

“No matter how we try to change the rhetoric, there will always be those who think, ‘Immigrants are coming into the country and taking jobs’,” Lipa said.

“However, immigrants who have come here have earned their keep by working incredibly hard.

“There needs to be more empathy, because people don’t leave their country unless they have to out of necessity, out of fear for their family.”

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama praised the singer during a visit to London in March, saying: “Dua Lipa is not just simply a British singer, but she’s an Albanian immigrant that has come here, as many have come, to construct, to nurse, to cook and to sing for you, and we want to make sure that this community feels not only safe but feels honored here.”

Rama, who held talks with his British counterpart Rishi Sunak on illegal migration and repatriation, added that he found Braverman’s rhetoric “very, very disgraceful.”

Abu Dhabi pavilion wins big at London Design Biennale

Abu Dhabi pavilion wins big at London Design Biennale
Updated 03 June 2023

Abu Dhabi pavilion wins big at London Design Biennale

Abu Dhabi pavilion wins big at London Design Biennale

DUBAI: The Abu Dhabi pavilion has been named one of three winners at the London Design Biennale, and were awarded a medal for the most inspiring interpretation of the theme of global collaboration.

Salama Al-Shamsi, director of cultural sites at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, and House of Artisans curator Azza Al-Sharif accepted the award.

House of Artisan’s immersive installation, “Formation of Soof,” highlights the relationship between Emirati crafts and architecture.

Under the theme “The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations,” the art center showcased Emirati crafts, including the traditional Bedouin weaving technique known as Sadu.

In 2011, UNESCO added Sadu to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

Using raw wool to create intricate designs and distinctive patterns, Sadu often reflects issues regarding social identity and the surrounding environment.

In a statement published on social media, House of Artisans explained that highlighting the craft “is a key part of creating awareness on its importance” in order to preserve it for the future.

The House of Artisans pavilion also displayed weaving items, such as wool and the spindle, and explained the technique practiced by Emirati women.