Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit

Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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AlUla is furthering its position as a global place for culture and heritage this week with its invite-only AlUla World Archaeological Summit. (AlUla World Archaeological Summit)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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300 attendees and more than 80 speakers and 200 delegates from around the world will take part in the AlUla World Archaeological Summit. (AlUla World Archaeological Summi)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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The exclusive event is part of RCU’s regeneration of AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage. (AlUla World Archaeological Summit)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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The exclusive event is part of RCU’s regeneration of AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage. (AlUla World Archaeological Summit)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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The exclusive event is part of RCU’s regeneration of AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage. (AlUla World Archaeological Summit)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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The summit includes archaeologists, artists and cultural practitioners from around the world, including the Kingdom. (AlUla World Archaeological Summit)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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The summit includes archaeologists, artists and cultural practitioners from around the world, including the Kingdom. (AlUla World Archaeological Summi)
Special Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
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The exclusive event is part of RCU’s regeneration of AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage. (AlUla World Archaeological Summit)
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Updated 15 September 2023
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Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit

Leading heritage experts gather in AlUla for World Archaeological Summit
  • Event in Saudi Arabia’s ancient desert lands to discuss cultural heritage
  • 300 attendees and more than 80 speakers and 200 delegates from around the world to take part

AlUla is furthering its position as a global place for culture and heritage this week with its invite-only AlUla World Archaeological Summit.

The three-day summit’s program of panels, discussions and excursions commenced yesterday at Maraya Concert Hall, the ancient region’s giant mirror-cladded multipurpose venue located amid a wealth of archaeological treasures stemming from the Neolithic era to the early 20th century.

Staged by the Royal Commission for AlUla and taking place through Sept. 15, the three-day summit brings together global art, culture and heritage experts from around the world who are among more than 80 speakers.

The first panel, titled “The Shape of Us: Archaeology, Identity,” asked the question of how, in the modern world, in which many conventional definitions are obsolete, can archaeology challenge and expand identities of self, family, communities and nations? How can archaeology collaborate with other disciplines to do so? The session also explored the various ways in which archaeology can be instrumental in shaping identities.

HIGHLIGHTS

The exclusive event is part of RCU’s regeneration of AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage, of which archaeological research and conservation are key aspects of the project to attract 2 million visitors per year by 2035.

Luminaries scheduled to appear at the summit include Bettany Hughes, the British historian and presenter of numerous documentaries on ancient history, and Levison Wood, a world- renowned explorer, writer and photographer who has authored 11 bestselling books and produced several critically acclaimed documentaries.

As Alessandro Sebastiani, associate professor of Roman archaeology and director of Graduate Studies, Department of Classics, University of Buffalo, said: “We want archaeology to remain accessible to everyone. Identity is about moving cultures. You create your identity.”

The exclusive event is part of RCU’s regeneration of AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage, of which archaeological research and conservation are key aspects of the project to attract 2 million visitors per year by 2035.

“The AlUla World Archaeology Summit is drawing great interest worldwide, with speakers spanning the globe from America and Australia to Jordan and Japan,” said Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani, executive director of archaeology, conservation and collections at RCU, adding that they will be sharing knowledge on the summit’s four themes: Identity, Ruinscapes, Resilience and Accessibility. Their presence aligns with AlUla’s legacy as a crossroads of civilizations, “where people have exchanged ideas from far and wide.”

Rebecca Foote, director of archaeology and cultural heritage research at RCU, told Arab News: “We wanted the summit to be interdisciplinary and intersectorial.

“Rather than being about the specific data that everyone is finding to report, the summit concerns more the issues, challenges and opportunities that are faced by archaeologists worldwide and how other sectors can help to enhance our field or and transform it towards creating a better world.”

The summit includes archaeologists, artists and cultural practitioners from around the world, including the Kingdom, with visual artist Manal Al-Dowayan; Jasir Al-Herbish, CEO of the Heritage Commission; Daif Allah Al-Talhi, professor emeritus of archaeology, University of Hail; and Suleiman Al-Theeb, professor emeritus of ancient Arabian scripts and languages at King Saud University, in attendance.

Other luminaries scheduled to appear at the summit include Bettany Hughes, the British historian and presenter of numerous documentaries on ancient history, and Levison Wood, a world-renowned explorer, writer and photographer who has authored 11 bestselling books and produced several critically acclaimed documentaries.

Panel discussions range from those which focus on ancient heritage and discoveries to the use of technology and AI, such as “Archaeology Weaves an Interconnected World” and “Saving Archaeology One TikTok at a Time.”

Delegates will be able to take part in excursions throughout AlUla’s key heritage sites, many of which are also undergoing active archaeological excavation. These include the Nabataean tombs of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.

“We want the summit to address how archaeology can become more relevant to society,” added Foote. “How can it work for the global good across a variety of sectors by addressing key themes of identity, resilience, ruinscapes and accessibility.”

“There are people coming from around the world, Australia, Africa, Australia, Europe and from around the Middle East and Saudi Arabia,” said Foote.

The summit is about marrying the past with the present and using AlUla once again as an international cultural crossroads for intellectual discourse.

 

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival

Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival
Updated 21 July 2024
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Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival

Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival
  • Abdullah Al-Khazzam highlighted the distinctive features of the Najdi door, which typically incorporates three crossbars, in contrast with the traditional Hail door’s four-crossbar design

RIYADH: The third Beit Hail heritage festival, themed “Your Home Away from Home,” is a vibrant display of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage, with traditional craftsmanship taking center stage.

At the heart of the festival is the “Hail Wooden Door Making and Plaster Engraving” exhibit, which has drawn crowds to the Aja Park Entertainment Center where the techniques and tools used in crafting intricate designs are on show.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

Abdullah Al-Khazzam, a Hail native and registered artisan with the Saudi National Handicrafts Program “Bari,” began his journey into the world of intricate woodworking with a childhood fascination for mud construction, which evolved into a passionate pursuit of mastering the art of wooden door-making and engraving, Saudi Press Agency recently reported.

At the festival, Al-Khazzam showed his expertise, demonstrating the nuanced differences between regional door styles. His specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

He highlighted the distinctive features of the Najdi door, which typically incorporates three crossbars, in contrast with the traditional Hail door’s four-crossbar design.

Festivalgoers seemed captivated by Al-Khazzam’s craftsmanship, marveling at the intricacy of his work, SPA reported.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

Beyond door-making, the booth displays a range of related crafts. Islamic plaster engravings, integral to Najdi architecture, adorn mock-ups of building entrances and the majlis (reception rooms).

Visitors were drawn to the elaborate engravings, patterns and motifs that offer a glimpse into the social fabric of bygone eras. The festival has reported a surge in demand for these traditional designs, with many visitors expressing interest in buying replica doors and decorative pieces for their homes.

Al-Khazzam’s repertoire extends to other traditional items, such as replicas of historical water-raising devices, an ornate camel saddle that was once a common sight in the region, and recreations of the decorative elements that once adorned traditional mud houses.

Some of these designs incorporate Qur’anic verses, proverbs, and ornamental patterns while others incorporate motifs based on local flora.

 

 


Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown
Updated 20 July 2024
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Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

LONDON: Thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, we never really got to find out what audiences made of 2020’s “My Spy,” in which CIA operative JJ (Dave Bautista) is forced to team up with precocious 9-year-old Sophie (Chloe Coleman) to take down an international arms cartel.

The movie’s cinematic release, and subsequent box office receipts, were curtailed by global lockdowns as the film went straight to streaming, and found an audience suddenly a lot more tolerant of decidedly average content.

Anna Faris as Nancy and Dave Bautista as JJ in ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

You wonder if, had audiences been able to vote with their feet first time around, “My Spy: The Eternal City” might never have seen the light of day. For while this is ostensibly a comedy-action romp co-starring a teenager, it is also a weirdly violent, oddly graphic spy caper that does not seem too sure of what it is trying to be.

JJ and Chloe now live in suburban almost-harmony. He has taken a desk job so he can be at home more, while she rebels against his overbearing presence and constant demands she keeps up her spy training. When JJ offers to chaperone a school trip to Italy, he must balance being a cool stepdad with a rapidly unfolding plot to blow up the Vatican in which the pair become embroiled.

Returning for the sequel are Ken Jeong as JJ’s boss, and Kristen Schaal as his nerdy analyst Bobbi. But if you are hoping that continuity of casting means a coherent follow up to the 2020 original, you are in for a disappointment.

Chloe Coleman as Sophie and Dave Bautista as JJ on the set ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

Director Pete Segal (also returning) starts off with the same familiar, comedic beats (and leans heavily on this franchise’s spiritual predecessors “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Pacifier”) but makes the baffling choice to turn up the violence.

The sequence with some attack budgerigars is a particular lowlight, and the bottom-drawer comedy with jokes about bodily functions and a fight involving a naked statue.

It is all a bit of a mess, which is a shame, because Bautista (so good with deadpan comedy in the Marvel movies) and Coleman manage to recreate some of the same chemistry that was one of the few good things about the original.

That film was not great, sure, but compared to this, it seems like a fondly remembered masterpiece.


Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 
Updated 20 July 2024
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Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 
  • We need to ‘stop seeing the Arab world as a block,’ says IMA curator 

PARIS: The latest contemporary art exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris — “Arabofuturs,” which runs until Oct. 27 — is, according to curator Élodie Bouffard, “built around the dynamic of the singularities expressed in the Arab world, and the singularity of each of the artists.” Those artists come from the Arab world and its diasporas, and include Saudi artists Ayman Zedani and Zahrah Alghamdi, Lebanese sculptor Souraya Haddad Credoz, Tunisian artist Aïcha Snoussi, and Moroccan artist Hicham Berrada. 

The show is divided into two parts: “Programmed Futures” and “Hybrid Futures.” In the first, Bouffard explains, the featured artists explore contemporary society, “capitalism, ultra-consumerism, the question of exile, the diaspora, and identities — often through a post-colonial approach.” 

The second part tackles imagined societies — the artists deploy aesthetic fictions that take visitors into organic worlds “that make us travel in time, and reflect on transhumanism, the future of the human, and the resilience of nature,” Bouffard says. 

Saudi artist Ayman Zedani's video installation at 'Arabofuturs.' (Supplied)

Both sections underline that the notion, and perception, of the future is personal, with each artist drawing on his or her personal experiences. 

The exhibition begins with a space dedicated to artwork from Gulf, and an introduction to the concept of Gulf futurism formulated by Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria and Kuwaiti musician and conceptual artist Fatima Al-Qadiri in 2012 as part of a photo series and interview in Dazed magazine. It was, according to the IMA website, “a worried questioning of the accelerated hyper-modernization at work in the region.” 

“This article was a pivotal moment in Gulf futurism, having led the artists to become interested in the question of futures and science fiction,” explains Bouffard. 

Sophia Al-Maria et Fatima Al Qadiri's 'The Desert of the Unreal.' (Supplied)

Al-Maria’s “Black Friday” — a series of photographs and a video installation — questions the standardization of spaces and the loneliness that can stem from it. It is followed by Al-Ghamdi’s “Birth of a Place,” which was previously displayed at the Diriyah Contemporary Art Bienniale, and explores new architectures. 

“She's trying to create a new cosmogony — a new (example) of the skyline, the enhancement of heritage, and the future of metal and glass constructions, in environments where there’s a real material and architectural cultural,” notes Bouffard. 

The aim of this section is to present the different approaches to architecture, heritage, identity, and exile in the Gulf and North Africa.  

A still from Larissa Sansour's 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain.' (Supplied)

“Themes pertaining to the future of societies can be rooted in their past,” Bouffard says. “It is our job at the IMA to stop seeing the Arab world as a block. We wanted to show that there is not just one future. When we talk about the future, everyone thinks of video games and artificial intelligence, but futures unfold in all forms. We thought it would be interesting to reflect on artefacts, paintings, ceramics, and organic material.” 

Al-Ghamdi, for example, used leather, an organic material in “Worlds to Come,” while Berrada used metal to create hybrid masks combining insects, plants, and humans in “Les Hygres.” Elsewhere, Credoz worked with ceramics “to shape coloured magma and build post-apocalyptic organic worlds,” Bouffard says. 

A piece from Hicham Berrada's 'Les Hygres.' (Supplied)

Snoussi, meanwhile, “recreates manifestos that bear witness to past societies that have disappeared, leading to Arabic writing, but also to Amazigh, with a theme of symbolism that recreates bridges between the present and the future.” 

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour contributes “In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain,” a video from 2015 featuring archaeological activists burying porcelain bearing a keffiyeh motif, an attempt to make future claims on this territory. 

“She highlights the politicization of archaeology in Israel and Palestine in this video, which has a particular resonance today,” Bouffard says. 


Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph
Updated 19 July 2024
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Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph
  • Familiar genre tropes are combined to make a uniquely gripping show

DUBAI: The odd-couple premise of Apple TV’s “Sunny” isn’t particularly promising — in near-future Japan a grieving widow, Suzie Sakamoto (Rashida Jones) teams up with the titular robot to try and solve the mysterious disappearance (and, apparently, death) of her husband and son in a plane crash. So far, so meh.

But “Sunny” is actually a delight. In the three episodes available at the time of writing, it mixes gory violence, humor — both dark and silly, a quirky aesthetic, meditative takes on loss, and explorations of how technology plays on our fears and desires. Jones is excellent as the expat American who come to Japan seeking solitude and instead found love with the kind-hearted Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), with whom she has a son, Zen.

After their disappearance, Suzie is gifted a “homebot,” Sunny, by her husband’s employers, a tech firm for whom Masa was a refrigeration engineer. At least that’s what he told Suzie. But then she’s told that Masa programmed Sunny especially for her — her first clue that perhaps Masa hasn’t been entirely honest with her.

Suzie is not a fan of technology, so her first instinct is to reject Sunny’s overbearingly cute attempts to bond with her, just as she tries to ignore her mother-in-law Noriko’s cutting tongue and clear disdain for the American her son chose to marry.

But as Suzie uncovers more details about her husband’s work life (at a company party, one of Masa’s minions talks of him fearfully), and his disappearance, she begins to realize that Sunny may hold the key to uncovering a sinister conspiracy.

Suzie is aided in her quest by a cocktail-bar waitress, Mixxy (singer-songwriter and social-media star Annie the Clumsy), who provides another awkward corner to the Suzie-Sunny relationship, as well as a window for Suzie into the underground world of bot-hacking. But while Suzie carries out her own investigations, she too is being stalked and observed by a shadowy criminal gang led by the sinister and scary Hime, who, it seems, also knew Masa.

“Sunny” is a gripping slow-burn, confidently paced by showrunner Katie Robbins and beautifully acted by its mostly Japanese cast. Despite the show’s many strands, Robbins’ deft touch means it avoids drifting into confusion, instead holding the audience’s attention as it leads you into a story that uses familiar elements from multiple genres to create something unique.


‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 
Updated 19 July 2024
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‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

DUBAI: Canadian filmmaker Shawn Levy says he was thrilled to helm Marvel’s first R-rated superhero outing — “Deadpool & Wolverine” — which lands in cinemas July 25. 

“I was thrilled by Marvel’s lack of boundaries,” Levy tells Arab News. “Clearly (they) understood that to make a ‘Deadpool’ film that’s satisfying, it needed to be creatively and audaciously free. So, we were given very few limits. I think there was one joke in the entire movie that was requested to be changed.” 

“Deadpool & Wolverine” imports both Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and the newly resurrected Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) from 21st Century Fox and into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, currently reeling from a series of recent flops. In fact, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is the only cinematic release scheduled from the MCU this year. 

The film picks up six years after the events of ”Deadpool 2.” Wade Wilson has left his time as the mercenary Deadpool behind him, until the Time Variance Authority pulls him into a new mission. With his home universe facing an existential threat, Wilson reluctantly teams up with an even-more-reluctant Wolverine on a mission that, according to the blurb, “will change the history of the MCU.” 

Levy, who has previously worked with both Jackman (on 2011’s “Real Steel”) and Reynolds (on 2021’s “Free Guy” and the following year’s “The Adam Project”), says he has been a fan of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise since the first film came out in 2016.  

“I remember watching (the first) ‘Deadpool,’ and I was stunned because it redefined the superhero genre and it was also one of the most relentlessly funny and creative movies I’ve ever seen. It still is. I’ve watched it seven or eight times. So, I really came to this as a fan,” he says. 

“(When the opportunity came to direct this film), I realized: ‘I have the privilege to tell the first Deadpool-Wolverine story.’ I also thought: ‘Oh, I can not only honor these characters, I can also tell a story about friendship and about brotherhood that is as poignant as it is funny.’ And that felt like a great opportunity. 

“I came into this with a keen awareness of what preceded me,” he continues. “And I’m aware of the passionate love for this world and these characters around the world. So, I was humbled. I was momentarily daunted. But then I did a mental trick with myself where I focused on the opportunity, an opportunity to play in a sandbox that is familiar to the world, where the tropes and conventions and the encyclopedic possibilities were huge. And once I started focusing on the opportunity of stepping in, I wasn’t intimidated by it. I was excited by it.” 

Levy says there are two things he’s most excited about audiences discovering. “The first is: In a movie with Deadpool and Wolverine, we all know there’s going to be sick fights and there’s going to be a lot of them, and I think there’s a delightful surprise in the mandate we gave ourselves making this movie, which was that there should be an evolution to the action. It’s got a cinematic language, in that each action sequence has its own visual vocabulary. I think that’s going to be a delightful surprise. 

“But maybe the most subversive surprise of ‘Deadpool and Wolverine’ is the extent to which it is emotional,” he continues. “It is — especially in its second half — a very poignant film about friendship and about redemption.”