Egypt recovers 4 historic artifacts from Italy

Special Egypt recovers 4 historic artifacts from Italy
The repatriated artefacts included part of a wooden coffin lid featuring rows of hieroglyphic text. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 09 May 2023
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Egypt recovers 4 historic artifacts from Italy

Egypt recovers 4 historic artifacts from Italy
  • Items included part of a wooden coffin lid decorated with longitudinal lines containing rows of hieroglyphic text
  • Two small pieces of pottery depicting a statuette of a woman and a small vase from the Greco-Roman era were also among the artifacts

CAIRO: Four Egyptian artifacts proved to have been taken from the country illegally have been returned from Italy.

The items were recovered by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, represented by the Supreme Council of Antiquities at the headquarters of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the reclamation was part of ongoing efforts to preserve the heritage and civilizational history of Egypt.

Museum officials in Turin handed over the rare objects to the Egyptian Embassy in Rome.

Mostafa Waziry, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities thanked Italian authorities for cooperating in the return of the artifacts to their rightful home.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, supervisor of the council’s antiquities repatriation department, said the items included part of a wooden coffin lid decorated with longitudinal lines containing rows of hieroglyphic text, seized from the Sardinian city of Oristano in 2017.

Two small pieces of pottery depicting the upper part of a statuette of a woman, and a small vase from the Greco-Roman era, recovered from Genoa in 2018, were also among the artifacts.

And a 2.5-centimeter-tall djed pillar, recovered from Turin Museum, was received by the Egyptian Embassy on Nov. 14.

Abdel-Gawad said the four artifacts would go to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir for necessary restoration work to be carried out.

In September, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities recovered 16 historic items from the US.

A ministry statement said: “This comes within the framework of the highest priority given by the state to the file of recovering smuggled Egyptian antiquities and returning them to the homeland.”


Thousands of artists ask Venice Biennale to exclude Israel

Thousands of artists ask Venice Biennale to exclude Israel
Updated 52 sec ago
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Thousands of artists ask Venice Biennale to exclude Israel

Thousands of artists ask Venice Biennale to exclude Israel

ROME: Almost 9,000 people, including artists, curators and museum directors, have signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year's Venice Biennale art fair and accusing the country of “genocide” in Gaza.

Israel has been facing mounting international criticism, including in the arts world, over its military offensive in the Palestinian enclave, which happened after an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in southern Israel.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” said the online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective.

ANGA said the Venice Biennale had previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule, and excluded Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said the appeal was an “unacceptable, as well as shameful ... diktat of those who believe they are the custodians of truth, and with arrogance and hatred, think they can threaten freedom of thought and creative expression.”

He said in a statement that Israel “not only has the right to express its art, but also the duty to bear witness to its people” after being attacked by “merciless terrorists.”

The Venice Biennale press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Signatories of the appeal include Palestine Museum US director Faisal Saleh, activist US photographer Nan Goldin and British visual artist Jesse Darling, who won last year’s Turner Prize.

Dubbed the “Olympics of the art world,” the Biennale is one of the main events in the international arts calendar. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between April 20 and Nov. 24.


Third edition of AlUla Arts Festival champions public art and cross-cultural dialogue 

Third edition of AlUla Arts Festival champions public art and cross-cultural dialogue 
Updated 29 February 2024
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Third edition of AlUla Arts Festival champions public art and cross-cultural dialogue 

Third edition of AlUla Arts Festival champions public art and cross-cultural dialogue 
  • The festival showcases AlUla as a global and regional destination for art and culture  

ALULA: Positioned outside Madrasat Addeera — a former girls’ school in AlUla that has been turned into a creative arts center — are creations by five design practices, the results of the first AlUla Design Residency.  

Hall Haus, a creative collective from France, took inspiration from the traditional Arabic majlis for its giant modular sand-colored sofa, entitled “Haus Dari.” “Peculiar Erosians,” meanwhile, is a series of sculptural works by another French designer, Leo Orta, that were inspired by the mud-brick architecture of AlUla and the geology of the region. And Saudi artist Leen Ajlan created her modular seating area, “Takki,” from reclaimed wood and was inspired by regional boardgames, popular in the evenings in AlUla, such as jackaroo, backgammon and carrom. The two other works are “Surface!” from Bahrain-based design studio bahraini-danish, and “From Debris” by Studio Raw Material from India. 

Leen Ajlan's 'Takki' on show at the Design Residency Exhibition. (Lorenzo Arrigoni/ Supplied)

Together, the works form “Unguessed Kinships,” an exhibition curated by Ali Ismail Karimi, which runs until April 30.  

“For the duration of a period from the end of October 2023 to the end of January 2024 these designers have been based in AlUla exploring materiality, objects, furniture and the ways in which design mediates public space,” Karimi told Arab News. “Of course, during the residency a series of conversations came up on the role of design in a place like AlUla and within the larger vision for Saudi Arabia in this moment and the conversations led us to the way design objects act as mediators between different unities and different publics from around the world, Saudi Arabia, and the wider Middle East, coming to AlUla and interacting.” 

“Unguessed Kinships” is one of several exhibitions taking place during the third edition of the AlUla Arts Festival, which runs until March 2, and which immerses visitors in a vibrant showcase of visual and public art and design throughout the ancient city. 

Highlights include the return of the international open-air art exhibition Desert X AlUla, and two exhibitions of Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s work that form part of the pre-opening program for Wadi AlFann, a new “cultural destination.” 

Elsewhere there is AlUla 1445, an outdoor exhibition of typically vibrant photographs taken by Moroccan pop artist Hassan Hajjaj of residents of AlUla, including farmers, sports teams, merchants, craftspeople and the creative community, taken in February last year.  

Hassan Hajjaj's 'AlUla 1445.' (Supplied)

And this year’s festival includes is the first public showing of Saudi artist Obaid Alsafi’s Ithra Art Prize-winning piece, “Palms in Eternal Embrace,” which explores what Alsafi calls “the dialogue about the deeper relationship between the landscape and humanity.” The work, staged in AlUla’s AlJadidah Arts District, is a site-specific installation comprising 30 palm trunks intricately woven together using a diverse array of locally sourced organic or recycled textiles in collaboration with local artisans. The work encourages viewers to reflect on ways to safeguard the natural environment and the endangered palm trees.  

The first of the two exhibitions of the work of Manal AlDowayan, who will also represent Saudi Arabia at the Venice Biennale this year, marks the lead-up to her monumental new land art commission “Oasis of Stories” (also the name of the exhibition), a large-scale labyrinthine installation inspired by AlUla’s Old Town, which will be permanently placed in the desert around AlUla from 2026. It features hundreds of drawings gathered from the artist’s participatory workshops with communities across AlUla. The drawings and stories will eventually be inscribed into the walls of “Oasis of Stories.” The second exhibition, “Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths,” examines AlDowayan’s practice and the recent inspiration she has derived from AlUla.  

The festival also marks the opening of Design Space AlUla in the AlJadidah Arts District, a focal point for AlUla’s wide-ranging design initiatives, and a major contribution to the vision that AlUla will become a global destination for art and culture. 

Hall Haus's 'Haus Dari' from the Design Residency Exhibition. (Lorenzo Arrigoni/ Supplied)

The event also presents the results of the annual AlUla Visual Arts Residency in “The Shadow Over Everything,” curated by Maryam Bilal. The show transfroms Mabiti’s palm grove into an outdoor experiential exhibition featuring works by artists from across the world. 

“We created the residency so that it becomes the source for our longer-term projects, such as the museums,” Arnaud Morand, head of innovation and creation at the French Agency for AlUla Development, said. “It is a way for us to create a laboratory of contemporary creation that will feed the other long-term projects. 

“We are also trying to identify talent through the residency that could be invited afterwards to pursue research into more ambitious commissions, whether for museum pieces to feed our collection strategy, or public art strategy, or otherwise,” he added.  

Works on view at “The Shadow Over Everything” include an installation/performance artwork by Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla titled “If…to be born,” which consists of mud sculptures and a live performance that delves into Arab folklore and myth.  

And in the dazzling, mirror-clad Maraya Concert Hall “More than Meets the Eye,” an exhibition of contemporary works of art by Saudi artits on loan from collectors across Saudi Arabia, is intended to “re-canonize the history of contemporary art movements in Saudi Arabia, documenting the story of artists and the role of collectors in the development of the art scene,” according to a press statement. 

Curated by Dr. Effat Abdullah Fadag, the exhibition presents key works by pioneering Saudi artists including Abdulhalim Radwi, Mohammed Alsaleem and Mounirah Mously alongside leading contemporary artists from the Kingdom such as Ahmed Mater, Muhannad Shono and Dana Awartani. The exhibition showcases works that have rarely been presented to the public.  


TRAILBLAZERS: Nabila Al-Bassam — groundbreaking Saudi artist and gallery owner 

TRAILBLAZERS: Nabila Al-Bassam — groundbreaking Saudi artist and gallery owner 
Updated 29 February 2024
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TRAILBLAZERS: Nabila Al-Bassam — groundbreaking Saudi artist and gallery owner 

TRAILBLAZERS: Nabila Al-Bassam — groundbreaking Saudi artist and gallery owner 

DUBAI: The first in this year’s series highlighting pioneering female artists from the Arab world in honor of Women’s History Month. 

The life of Saudi artist, teacher, traveler and gallery owner Nabila Al-Bassam is as multilayered as her detailed textile collage works. Al-Bassam was born in India, where her family had previously established business ties. She lived there for 17 years and was educated in Mumbai before going on to the American University of Beirut, one of the Arab world’s top learning institutions. 

Al-Bassam, who is now based in Alkhobar, graduated with a Master’s degree in education in 1968. She then headed to the US, where she learned how to work with paper, textiles, silkscreen printing and ceramics. Returning to her home country in the late Seventies, Al-Bassam established the Arab Heritage Gallery, reportedly one of the first gallery spaces to open in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.  

One of Nabila Al-Bassam's textile works on show at the Diriyah Biennale. (Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

A selection of her colorful pieces from the Nineties are now being shown for the first time at the Diriyah Biennale in Riyadh, where co-curator Wejdan Reda told Arab News: “She realized that she wanted to create a space dedicated to art. She was very interested in preserving the crafts and knowledge behind textile making.” That led Al-Bassam to travel around the country for many years, which was uncommon for a woman at the time.  

On her travels, Al-Bassam was inspired by both the scenery and the people. She met local craftswomen and collected a variety of materials, including silver beads, traditional dress cloths and old fabrics, which she later incorporated into her textile canvases. She was also inspired by the traditional sadu weaving technique, which features symmetrical patterns of triangles and diamonds, often colored in red, black, brown and white.  

Many of Al-Bassam’s woven pieces, some of which have been showcased in international auction houses including Sotheby’s and Phillips, are an homage to the mountainous, palm-tree-lined Saudi landscape. Rows of cloth are stacked on top of one another, forming a colorful orchestra of hills or dunes that accommodate little houses and imposing, patterned towers. 


The winners of the Kingdom Photography Award 

The winners of the Kingdom Photography Award 
Updated 29 February 2024
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The winners of the Kingdom Photography Award 

The winners of the Kingdom Photography Award 
  • Works from the five winners of this year’s contest, which was themed ‘We Tell Stories’ 

Mohammed Juraybi 

Mohammed Juraybi, ‘Saudi Symphony.’ (Supplied)

‘Saudi Symphony’ 

For the second iteration of the Kingdom Photography Award — an initiative launched by the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission — Saudi, or Saudi-based, photographers were asked to enter a series of images that went “beyond mere landscapes or heritage-inspired imagery” to give “an insight into local communities, practices and philosophies.” Juraybi submitted a series of “evocative images of traditional Saudi dance rituals,” including this shot, taken in Riyadh. 

Abdullah Alshaikh 

Abdullah Alshaikh, ‘I’m from this land.’ (Supplied) 

‘I’m from this land’  

“Recognized as the largest oasis in the world, Al-Ahsa is home to 2.5 million date palms,” Alshaikh writes in his artist’s statement. His series “traces the journey of the date palm,” the award’s brochure says, thereby fulfilling the organizers’ vision that “by placing an emphasis on narrative and concept, photographers are encouraged to tell nuanced visual stories … that may not be possible through single-image submissions.” 

Amna Alhayik 

Amna Alhayik, ‘The Women from Al-Qatif.’ (Supplied) 

‘The Women from Al-Qatif’ 

Alhayik concentrated on the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, particularly the city of Al-Qatif, for her series of snapshots of women. Her series, she writes, “is a record of everyday rituals of shopping in the street markets, walking to work in the morning, or buying bread or other groceries. Women interact with the city, both alone and in community. In this act of being public, (wearing) the traditional headscarf, this project builds an intimate record of public life.” 

Nather Alsayf 

Nather Alsayf, ‘Ibrahim Almilad — Life in Colors.’ (Supplied) 

‘Ibrahim Almilad — Life in Colors’ 

Like Alhayik, Alsayf took inspiration for his series from the city of Al-Qatif, specifically the 65-year-old artist Ibrahim Almilad and his creative practice. Almilad, Alsayf writes, uses “every surface” of his home as a canvas for his unique style of ‘dot painting.’ “Almilad is a true example of someone who lives and breathes his craft, with the hope that the colors from his art translate into joy for him and others,” Alsayf adds. 

Zuhair Altraifi 

Zuhair Altraifi, ‘Al-Ain Aljawhariyah.’ (Supplied)   

‘Al-Ain Aljawhariyah’   

Altraifi’s winning series focuses on Al-Ahsa and “its rich heritage of underground springs,” according to the award brochure. “In capturing how these springs serve as a space for community, the photographer transports the viewer into not just the physical space of the (spring), but also its emotional value in the hearts of the locals.” Altraifi writes of this spring: “No longer being used for irrigation — which used to be the main purpose of the springs — it developed into a community space for swimming, entertainment, and also for washing clothes.” 


‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says

‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says
Updated 28 February 2024
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‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says

‘Culture is not unipolar,’ Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture says

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia's evolving cultural landscape is nowhere more visible than in AlUla. 

“Culture is not unipolar, nor should it be. It is shaped by interaction and evolving dialogue,” Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Culture Rakan Altouq stressed after the conclusion of the first AlUla Future Culture Summit. 

Altouq spoke to Arab News on Wednesday and outlined what the future holds for the Kingdom’s culture sector. “This is an incredibly exciting time for Saudi Arabia,” he said. 

Organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla, the summit, which was not open to the public, unfolded this week from Feb. 25 to 27 in Daimumah, nestled in the heart of AlUla’s oasis. 

Altouq described Daimumah as a “microcosm of AlUla, where contemporary art, nature, and heritage converge,” underscoring its significance as a venue for the event.

Themed “Cultural Landscapes,” the summit served as a platform for innovative arts, cross-cultural dialogue, and creative expression. (Supplied)

Explaining the choice of location, Altouq emphasized the historical and cultural importance of AlUla, saying: “AlUla is an area of immense historical and cultural importance. Having the inaugural Future Culture Summit here was an important way to match content with context.”

Themed “Cultural Landscapes,” the summit served as a platform for innovative arts, cross-cultural dialogue, and creative expression. 

Altouq said: “The concept of a cultural landscape evokes the dynamic interplay between human creativity, tradition and heritage, and the natural environment.”

Highlighting the intrinsic connection between culture and environment, Altouq described AlUla as a cultural landscape, emphasizing the deep bond between people and their natural surroundings.

The selection of “Cultural Landscapes” as the theme aimed to spotlight this symbiotic relationship, Altouq said.

The summit drew 150 prominent figures from the global cultural sector including  Lise Macdonald, president L’Ecole School of Jewelry Arts, Laurent Le Bon, Centre Pompidou president, and German curator and museum director Klaus Biesenbach. 

“The Future Culture Summit has effectively brought together cultural leaders from all over the world,” he commented. “They have come to share their experiences and ideas but also to be exposed to a vibrant and growing cultural sector in Saudi Arabia that is really reimagining how we think about cultural institutions, the role of emerging technologies, and ways to ensure these institutions serve their communities.”

Altouq expressed enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia’s cultural transformation and said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for Saudi Arabia. Nowhere is the Kingdom’s transformation more evident than in its cultural sectors, which are not only opening up new areas of the economy but enriching the lives of citizens and helping to build a vibrant society.” 

“The Future Culture Summit is part of the wider project to facilitate new avenues of exchange and collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the international cultural community,” he added. 

With a focus on expanding culture’s role in advancing and fostering positive change, the summit offered a diverse program of panel discussions, immersive performances, workshops, and guided exploration of AlUla’s rich cultural and physical landscape.

During “The Future of the Culture Scene: A Factor of Success,” Abdullah AlRashid, Director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), asserted the need for doubt and reflection in sustaining a successful cultural future, whilst Jason Harborow, Vice President of Culture of RCU, advocated for looking beyond the numbers and KPIs to focus on how to extend and expand reciprocal human bonds and learning.

In another panel, “Landscapes: Cultural Development and Environment,” speakers explored the connection between cultural infrastructure and the environment, exploring the integration of art in the landscape. Akiko Miki, International Artistic Director of Benesse Art Site Naoshima & Director of Naoshima New Museum of Art, said: “The journey to a site is part of the experience - taking time and experiencing time itself is something very important for our human activities.” 

Alongside the performances, panels and keynotes the summit featured a range of workshops led by leading cultural institutions, exploring topics such as the integration of blockchain in museums, rethinking landscapes as mediums of cultural expression, and fostering cross-cultural collaboration.