Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 

Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 
Adel Abidin’s Ithra Art Prize-winning work ‘On.’ (Photo by Yasir Alqunais)
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Updated 28 September 2023
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Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 

Iraqi artist Adel Abidin discusses his Ithra Art Prize-winning work 
  • The artist’s ‘On’ represents an ancient slave rebellion in his homeland  

DUBAI: The Helsinki-based Iraqi artist Adel Abidin’s work “On” (‘Aan’ in Arabic) was unveiled at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) this month. His proposal for the work won Abidin the Ithra Art Prize earlier this year. 

The large-scale mural, imbued with abstract inked figures on Japanese rice paper, takes center stage inside Ithra’s Great Hall. It explores the intricate relationship between history, memory and identity while also touching on the intangible and crucial aspects of oral storytelling, particularly, as Abidin emphasizes, in the context of Arab history, much of which is shrouded in ambiguity and differing interpretations. 

Abidin’s design was selected from more than 10,000 submissions by a jury comprising gallerists, academics, curators and artists. His prize was $100,000, in addition to the full funding required to bring his project to fruition. It is now part of Ithra’s permanent art collection.  

Abidin’s work confronts the subjectivity of historical discourses by reexamining oral accounts of the Zanj rebellion against the Abbassid Caliphate, which began in 869 CE in southern Iraq. He has, he says, tried to incorporate greater nuance with the inclusion of previously overlooked perspectives. The repeated stamping of the word “Aan” in Arabic script reflects the word-of-mouth stories that have been lost from historical records, while overlapping visual representations of varied, even contradictory, versions of the tale of the rebellion, result in an abstract work that allows the viewer to interpret it for themselves. 

“The piece examines the intangibility of history through the tradition of oral storytelling and the narration of history. Recently, I have been very interested in studying history, especially its intangible and vulnerable aspects,” Abidin tells Arab News. “But I couldn’t just study history in general; I needed a case to focus on. And I found this very interesting revolt that took place in southern Iraq, with the aim of emancipating slaves. I found this matter to be worth digging deeper into.” 

In 869, slaves (referred to as “Zanj” in numerous sources) — mostly of African origin and enslaved in Basra — rose up against their masters and against the Abbasid caliphate in protest against the harsh conditions in which they lived. 

“When I won the award and began really researching this story, I realized how everyone told a different story about his or her origins,” says Abidin. “It’s almost as if no one really knew where she or he was from. It is fascinating and it makes for great material.” 

Abidin found that the oral reports of the rebellion had been modified. Such ambiguity in the storytelling served as his impetus for naming his artwork “On.” 

“This process creates a vivid representation of the 14-year rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate and offers a fresh perspective on this significant event in Arab history,” he stated. “The resulting wall installation highlights the ultimate fragility of history and the organic, but unreliable, nature of memory.” 

Abidin, who moved to Finland from Iraq in 2001, has, for much of his career, created works that combine politics, art, memory and identity. He has used various mediums to present his bold and thought-provoking visions, including video, installation, sculpture and painting.  

His Ithra Art Prize-winning work is more delicate in nature — and less ‘edgy’ than the artist’s previous works. But, as Abidin points out, it is equally audacious in its own way.  

“When I began the work, I was out of my comfort zone; I had never worked this way before,” he explains. “I have never used this technique before; I’ve never worked with ink or rice paper in this manner in my entire life."  

Abidin hired a specialist in the use of Japanese rice paper and traditional gluing techniques to teach him. “I learned and now I want to continue,” he says.  

“I wanted to give the piece every sound and sight — the entire story — but I didn’t want to be a historian,” he continues. “The best way to do that was to stamp it with the word ‘on.’ By stamping that word, I am interpreting what happened with my own emotions.” 

Viewing the work, one can see that Abidin pressed down harder with the stamp in some places, so there are a variety of shades within the iterations of “on.”   

“Technically, I was very keen to create a work that gives the feeling of a tapestry of history,” he says.  

He has succeeded. The ethereal yet grand nature of “On” gives it a sense of historical importance — although it is still very much of the present too, with its abstract lines and forms shifting in and out of each other like they are dancing, or fighting, or rebelling, in an echo of the actual uprising that happened so long ago and is now brought back to life through Abidin’s work. 


Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert

Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert
Updated 28 May 2024
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Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert

Adele wears Elie Saab gown at Las Vegas concert

DUBAI: British singer Adele showed off a gown by Lebanese designer Elie Saab during her Las Vegas residency over the weekend.  

The Grammy-winning singer performed her 42nd “Weekends with Adele” concert in a sleek black, off-shoulder gown with a deep V-neck.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

 

“Captivating elegance, @adele graces the stage in Vegas in (a) … custom made Haute Couture gown,” read a post on the official Instagram page of Elie Saab.

Adele has previously chosen other designers from the region to wear during her residency, including Zuhair Murad and Georges Hobeika.

The residency is set to conclude in November this year.


Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store

Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store
Updated 28 May 2024
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Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store

Georgina Rodriguez collaborates with Faces Middle East beauty store

DUBAI: Argentine model Georgina Rodriguez took to social media to share images from her recent visit to beauty store Faces in Riyadh Park Mall.

The social media sensation – partner to football legend Cristiano Ronaldo – posted a reel on Instagram featuring moments from her trip to the store, captioning the post, “Beauty time with @facesmiddleeast,” along with a pink heart emoji.

 

 

Rodriguez can be seen getting an analysis with Faces’ skincare diagnosis machine and trying on several of the store’s products.

Rodriguez also took a moment to congratulate Ronaldo on Instagram Stories as the Portuguese footballer – who plays for Saudi football club Al-Nassr – set a new record for goals scored in a Saudi Pro League season.

The 39-year-old took his tally of goals scored to 35 after he netted two goals against Al-Ittihad on Monday night.


New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity
Updated 28 May 2024
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New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity

New film festival in London seeks to ‘reclaim, celebrate’ Muslim identity
  • Event features narratives from Muslim filmmakers, productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith

LONDON: A new film festival in the UK is on a mission to explore Muslim experiences through film.

The inaugural Muslim International Film Festival will begin on May 30 in London’s Leicester Square.

The four-day event features narratives from international Muslim filmmakers as well as productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith.

“The idea behind the festival is about reclaiming our identity and celebrating it. For the longest time, being Muslim has felt like something we can’t be proud of,” MIFF director Sajid Varda told Arab News.

He added: “We’ve had to hide our identity, and the narrative around our faith and identities has often been controlled by others.

“There’s been a persistent frustration with how to change those perceptions and how to reconnect with wider audiences and communities.

“We want to give them a glimpse into our lives and lived experiences, while also showcasing the cinematic brilliance of our creative community and its contributions to cinema.”

The event will begin with the London premiere of “Hounds” (“Les Meutes”) by Moroccan director Kamal Lazraq. The film follows a father and son in Casablanca’s suburbs who make ends meet by committing petty crimes for a local mob until a kidnapping goes horribly wrong.

Other highlights include critically acclaimed films set in the UK, France, Turkiye, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran and Sudan.

The festival will include Q&A sessions, panels and networking events in partnership with the British Film Commission, Netflix and the BBC.

Organizers have made the festival as accessible as possible to wider audiences, Varda said.

“We wanted to ensure that the films align with our faith and ethos, avoiding gratuitous violence, nudity and overtly sexual themes. This makes the content accessible to all, not just Muslims, but also people of other faiths and beliefs who might be sensitive to these issues.”

He added: “Our ticket costs are much lower compared to other festivals. We’ve also given out many tickets at no cost to various organizations, and offered discounts to students and those facing financial hardship.”


Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story
“Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)
Updated 27 May 2024
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Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

Review: ‘Norah’ makes Cannes history with its delicate handling of a Saudi story

CANNES: Director Tawfik Alzaidi's “Norah” made history when it was selected as the first Saudi film to screen on the official calendar at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film premiered at December’s Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah before heading to the French Riviera last week, where it ran in the famed festival’s Un Certain Regard section.

“Norah” is the story of a restless young woman (played with wonderful ease by Maria Bahrawi), who dreams of a life beyond her immediate surroundings.

Set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon, a new world opens up for Norah when Nader (Yaqoub Alfarhan), a failed artist and teacher from the city, comes to her village. Despite the rigid rules of society, the pair form a platonic relationship, linked by a passion for the arts. What emerges is a story in which the characters inspire each other, played out against the backdrop of the scenic AlUla region in Saudi Arabia, a location that is becoming a major moviemaking hub.

Norah, brought up by her uncle and aunt after having lost her parents early on, listens to music and pores over magazines. She encourages Nader to follow his passion for drawing, and their affection for each other gradually develops into an unshakable union.

The director strives to walk a tightrope, maintaining an equilibrium between Saudi sensibilities and a daringly emotional outlook. He explores the hesitant heartbeats of Norah and Nader but stops short of entering any overt romantic territory. The love affair, in this case, in one with the arts — both lead characters yearn for the chance to creatively express themselves.

While the narrative carries on at a gentle pace, the tone and tenure seem ruffled and out of place in the finale — with a rather bizarre ending marred by uncertainty. Alzaidi loses his grip over the narration, which until then seemed to have traversed a smooth road.


Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet
Updated 26 May 2024
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Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

Sofia Carson shows off Elie Saab gown on the red carpet

DUBAI: US actress Sofia Carson showed off a gown by Lebanese designer Elie Saab at the closing ceremony of the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival.

The star, who has showed off Lebanese labels on multiple red carpets in the past, opted for an olive-toned ensemble from the designer’s Spring/ Summer 2024 couture collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Styled by Erin Walsh, Carson posed for photos on the red carpet in the look that featured a draped skirt and embellishments on the neckline.

The latest red carpet appearance proves Carson is something of a fan of Lebanon’s couturiers — In 2022 the “Purple Hearts” actress was spotted in New York wearing an ensemble by Zuhair Murad. 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.

In late 2023, the actress cut an elegant figure in a Zuhair Murad gown at the second annual Cam for a Cause event in memory of her former co-star Cameron Boyce, who died at the age of 20 due to an epileptic seizure.

Fast forward to 2024 and the now-concluded Cannes Film Festival has played host to a number of Arab-created looks.

Saudi designer Eman Al-Ajlan dressed Leomie Anderson. (Getty Images)

Saudi designer Eman Al-Ajlan dressed British model and TV presenter Leomie Anderson in a structured look featuring a mini dress with a net-like skirt fitted underneath at the 2024 amfAR Gala in Cannes.

A few celebrities opted for gowns by Murad at the same event, including German model Toni Garrn, sports commentator Alex Scott and Brazilian model Thayna Soares.

Meanwhile, German model Kim Dammer dazzled on the red carpet in a glamorous halter-neck black gown, intricately embroidered with geometric shapes by Lebanese couturier Rami Kadi. Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran was championed by Turkish actress Hande Ercel, who wore a black gown adorned with red and blue beads.

Egyptian actress Yasmine Sabri was also in attendance, wearing a sparkling silver dress by Lebanese designer Jean Pierre Khoury. The dress featured thousands of mirrored tube beads hand-sewn onto a corseted silhouette, according to the fashion house.