Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 

Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 
Mohammed Saleem, Abstract Figure, 1997. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 October 2023

Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 

Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 
  • Artworks from the Kingdom form part of the Barjeel Art Foundation’s latest show 

DUBAI: A new exhibition at Sharjah Art Museum in the UAE called “Parallel Histories” showcases 124 artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation, known for championing Arab art. The show, which runs until spring next year, includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and tapestries. Featuring near-equal representation of female and male artists, some works are being shown for the first time in Sharjah.  

According to the foundation, the show’s title “references the manifold socio-political events that occurred in the region across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While the multiple histories and diverse experiences encapsulated by works on display were often separated by geography, personal circumstance, national borders, political climate, and various conditions of life, they — like parallel lines — often ran alongside one another, replacing each other with time.” 

A variety of themes are examined, from political conflict to questions of identity. “We hope that the exhibition will inspire viewers to look at the region’s history with fresh eyes, and question how events of the past have shaped, and continue to shape, our reality today,” curator Suheyla Takesh tells Arab News.  

Below, we look at the Saudi artists’ works shown in the exhibition. 

Abdulhalim Radwi 


A key topic explored in the show is “ongoing political strife, including the question of Palestine for example, and Arab solidarity with the ongoing plight of Palestinian people,” Takesh explains. This painting by the late Makkah-born artist, from 1962, features resistance fighters — some of whom are holding slingshots, while others are about to throw rocks. A figure on the left cries, “God is greater.” Radwi was one of the first artists from the Kingdom to receive a grant from the government to study abroad. His other work often incorporated elements of Saudi desert life, architecture, and folklore.  

Abdulsattar Al-Mussa 


During the 1970s, Al-Mussa travelled to Russia to pursue medical studies. But his long-standing interest in the arts meant he changed tack, eventually obtaining an art degree in Moscow, where he took part in his first exhibition. He later moved to Ukraine, where he reportedly made his first mural. Al-Mussa is known for carving everyday scenes onto cardboard, as seen in this solemn black-and-white piece from 1988. According to a statement from Hafez Gallery, he created “drawings of cafés and their employees, as well as the vitality with which they are doing their jobs.” 

Mohammed Al-Saleem 

‘Abstract Figure’ 

Al-Saleem was born in the northern town of Marat in 1939, and was one of Saudi Arabia’s most prolific artists in the Sixties and Seventies. He was reportedly the first to stage an exhibition in Riyadh (in 1967). As a young man, Al-Saleem was educated by Egyptian tutors, who inspired his interest in calligraphy. Al-Saleem had a deep affinity with the desert. He coined the term ‘horizonism,’ depicting evocative Saudi landscapes that also incorporated abstract Arabic calligraphy.” This 1997 work is a prime example of that style.  

Manal AlDowayan 

‘The Emerging #6’ 

AlDowayan’s work often focuses on her fellow countrywomen and the effects on them of the social and cultural transformation the Kingdom has undergone over the past few years. One of her recent motifs is seen in this 2021 work: bent women’s legs. “The Emerging #6” represents “a statement directed at women as they enter the public sphere in Saudi Arabia today,” according to a text published by Art Basel. “In this painting AlDowayan uses the representation of women legs that appear to emerge from the floor. These legs have not fully emerged, just slightly, but they seem ready to kick out to jump through.” 

Nasser Al-Salem 

‘Whoever Obeys Allah, He Will Make For Them A Way Out’ 

Al-Salem is a multidisciplinary artist and architect, who works with neon lights, painting, and sculpture. The written word, especially that pertaining to religion, is at the heart of his practice. “Although you could say my work is very much inspired by my religion, I by no means have a specific audience, and hope that my messages have a spiritual or historical significance for everyone,” he has said. This sculptural work features the title phrase arranged in an abstract form (in Arabic), making the work look like a maze. 

Samer Tabbaa


‘Untitled VII’ 

Tabbaa was born in the mountainous Saudi city of Taif. Like many of his contemporaries, he was inspired by the vast openness and mysticism of the desert. “He employs geometry in composing his three-dimensional work, of which ‘Untitled VII’ is a telling example,” notes Takesh. “Taking the shape of upward arrows on one side, and downward ones on the other side, the work resembles a dynamic architectural element, or a stylized totem pole. Set within a group of architecturally-inspired works at the Sharjah Art Museum, it engages in conversation with paintings that tackle the subjects of geometry and space.” 

Alia Ahmad 

‘The Shadow’ 

In this 2021 artwork, Ahmad uses muted tones to create a painting that, according to Takesh, “resembles a tapestry or work on fabric, accentuating a possible reading of it as a mirage or illusory scene.” In her artist’s statement, Ahmad writes that she has been “influenced by an upbringing in Riyadh’s industrial/desert landscape. A majority of my paintings represent different placid dreamscapes, with linear impressions of the Saudi landscape.” Takesh adds that Ahmad “weaves together notions of memory, place, and landscape. . . Her work vividly reflects the ephemeral quality of thoughts, visions, and sensations as translated onto a painted surface.” 

First Muslim film festival to launch in London

First Muslim film festival to launch in London
Updated 27 May 2024

First Muslim film festival to launch in London

First Muslim film festival to launch in London
  • 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

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

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.

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes
Soraya Al-Shehri, Nabila Abu Al-Jadayel, Kariman Abuljadayel, and Salwa Abuljadayel. (Supplied)
Updated 27 May 2024

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

Saudi animation on pandemic-era worship in Makkah draws praise in Cannes

JEDDAH: Saudi film “Wa Isjod Wa Iqtareb” (“Prostrate and Draw Near”) won the “Animation That Matters” award during the Animaze Animation Day event at Marché du Film, the industry networking section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed, produced, and written mother-daughter duo Suraya Al-Shehry and Nabila Abuljadayel, the film was created via production company Suraya Productions and explores the period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic when cleaning staff replaced the usual mix of international worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The film integrates traditional art and 2-D animation, but it is its subject matter that makes it unique, according to Al-Shehry.

“In the history of cinema, there has been a noticeable lack of films focusing on Makkah and the Holy Mosque, particularly in the realm of animation. Collaborating with my daughter … on our short animated film has brought me immense joy and a profound sense of fulfilment,” she said.

She added that the film portrays a significant moment in global and Islamic history by showcasing the Grand Mosque devoid of pilgrims, with the exception of the cleaning and maintenance staff who had the unique opportunity to pray there during the pandemic when no one else could.

Abuljadayel reflected on the nearly two-year project, saying: “For me, the best reward was the chance to collaborate with my mother, an experience that transcends any accolade.”

She emphasized that receiving the award aligned with the film’s core message of celebrating shared humanity.

“I firmly believe that what comes from the heart resonates with others, whether expressed through animation or my artwork, and the greatest testimony of that is the success of this film,” she said.

The creative duo seem to be keen to continue their success, with another project scheduled for completion next year.


British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation
Updated 25 May 2024

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation
  • Saira Peter says she is privileged to contribute her voice to British government’s public events, citizenship ceremonies
  • She also recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ in 2018 and received acknowledgement and gratitude of Queen Elizabeth II

ISLAMABAD: A British-Pakistani Sufi Opera singer, Saira Peter, announced in a video message circulated on Saturday she received a letter of appreciation from Buckingham Palace for recording the British national anthem, “God Save the King,” following the coronation of King Charles III.
The British king’s coronation took place last May at Westminster Abbey in London. The event brought leaders and high-profile personalities from around the world and marked his official accession to the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
Upon receiving the recording, performed in the soprano vocal range, the highest of the female voice types in classical singing, the king sent Peter a letter conveying his good wishes and sincere thanks for her public services.
She also received a signed photo card from him and Queen Camilla.
“I want to share with all my followers how excited I am to receive a letter and card of appreciation and gratitude from His Majesty King Charles the Third,” Peter said in the video, where she mentioned she was Pakistan’s first opera singer. “This arrived in response to my civic service of recording the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King.’”
“Being British-Pakistani, I feel so privileged to contribute my skill and voice to the British government’s public events and citizenship ceremonies,” she added.
Peter informed the British national anthem was recorded at the request of UK Government offices at Hastings Town Hall in East Sussex. The recording is now used across her adopted country for official government events.
Previously, she recorded “God Save the Queen” in 2018, making her the first Asian and the only Pakistani officially invited to undertake the task. Peter also received acknowledgment and gratitude from the late queen.
Born in Karachi, the opera singer told Arab News during her visit to Pakistan last year she used to sing in church choirs and began her Western classical journey, learning from Paul Knight, a disciple of Benjamin Britten, in London in the early 2000s after her family moved there.
Peter’s father, Zafar Francis, pioneered the Noor Jehan Arts Center in London, which was opened by British superstar Sir Cliff Richard in 1998.
She is the director of the performing arts center and teaches both Western and Pakistani classical music there.
She said her work in Britain was projecting “a positive image of Pakistan.”