Riyadh street art festival returns with a global vision

Riyadh street art festival returns with a global vision
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The street art festival Rsh is one of the latest ventures by the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission. (Supplied)
Riyadh street art festival returns with a global vision
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Derived from the Arabic word for spray, Rsh festival will take place from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 November 2023
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Riyadh street art festival returns with a global vision

Riyadh street art festival returns with a global vision
  • Rsh is returning to Riyadh with a lineup featuring street artists, speakers, musicians and performers from around the region and the world
  • Festival is named after the Arabic word for spray, and will will take place from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, with a focus on global perspectives, entertainment, and cultural exchange

RIYADH: “Rsh,” a street art festival organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission, is returning to Riyadh with a lineup featuring street artists, speakers, musicians and performers from around the region and the world.

The festival is named after the Arabic word for “spray,” and will will take place from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, with a focus on global perspectives, entertainment, and cultural exchange. 

It comes as creativity continues to flourish through numerous initiatives around the Kingdom.

Dina Amin, CEO of the commission, said: “The festival is more than just a celebration — it is a dynamic platform for artistic exchange. Through this event, we aim to celebrate the transformative power of street art, transcending boundaries and forging links between diverse artistic practices while engaging communities of all ages through a wide range of festival programs. 

“We hope the (second) Rsh festival will lay a strong foundation to support cultural exchange within creative communities near and far.”

A vacant building in Riyadh’s Al-Mughrizat district will be transformed with artworks, and will host over 50 local, regional, and international creatives. The festival will include 30 artists from the Arab world and beyond who will explore the history of street art.

Co-curators Cedar Lewisohn, a London-based artist and writer, and Basmah Felemban, a Saudi artist and graphic designer, have included a family-friendly program that will feature lectures, creative workshops, and immersive activities, ranging from dance performances and film screenings to streetwear pop-ups and skateboarding sessions.  

The festival aims to highlight a range of contemporary art practices by platforming street art, a once-suppressed medium in the region. These events hope to empower the artistic community, providing artists with spaces to show their work and also educating the public on alternative forms of creativity.  

Last October, the commission hosted Shift22, a street art initiative in which the walls of the abandoned Irqah Hospital were transformed into a canvas for regional and international artists. The festival showcased commissioned and existing works from over 30 Saudi and international graffiti artists, focusing on murals, sound and video installations, and unconventional sculptures built by repurposing the abandoned hospital’s discarded materials.  

This year’s festival continues that tradition by exemplifying the ministry’s desire to promote cultural exchange both locally and globally under the strategic goals of Saudi Vision 2030.


Argentine artist ‘takes over’ Jeddah’s Al-Balad

Argentine artist ‘takes over’ Jeddah’s Al-Balad
Updated 25 February 2024
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Argentine artist ‘takes over’ Jeddah’s Al-Balad

Argentine artist ‘takes over’ Jeddah’s Al-Balad
  • Andres Reisinger’s dreamy pink drapes unlock a new dimension in art, reality

JEDDAH: Argentine digital artist Andres Reisinger has made a name for himself by reimagining various locations across the globe draped with fabric in shades of pink.

Reisinger’s whimsical virtual spaces have taken over cliff edges, coastlines, and city centers. Now, his most recent physical installation lies in the heart of historic Jeddah’s Al-Balad, breaking the boundary between digital and physical art.  

The work is part of Reisinger’s viral “Take Over” series, which casts the artist’s dreamy and romantic hues over different global locations such as Venice and Miami. In an interview with Arab News, he dug deeper into conceptualizing the 17-meter-tall installation, developing his practice, and exploring new mediums of art.  

Argentine artist Andres Reisinger’s ‘Take Over Jeddah’ was unveiled at Balad Al-Fann as part of the ‘Matters through Matter’ exhibition. (Supplied)

He said: “I think there’s something very interesting about Al-Balad in the contrast between what we are used to surrounding (ourselves) with … It’s not another 30-year-old building. It’s really something much more.

“It’s like taking over a monument with all the respect and constraints and formalities around it, and on the responsibility of actually adding a new layer of information into something that’s very old and has a lot of history and meaning for our civilization.”

HIGHLIGHTS

● Andres Reisinger’s most recent physical installation lies in the heart of historic Jeddah’s Al-Balad, breaking the boundary between digital and physical art.

● The building draped in pink is positioned in a textile neighborhood, bringing a unique context to the piece.

● Reisinger previously participated in a Saudi digital art exhibition ‘A Way With Light’ put on by Athr Gallery in partnership with RFC Art.

Reisinger’s “Take Over Jeddah” was unveiled at Balad Al-Fann, a cutting-edge arts and culture initiative, as part of the “Matters through Matter” exhibition curated by Jumana Ghouth in collaboration with American philosopher Graham Haman.

The immersive installation is a tribute to “the new energy coursing through both the universe and Al-Balad.” In Jeddah’s historic district, the resilience and adaptability of cultures is platformed by weaving and formulating new narratives.

This is not the first time the Argentine creative worked to accentuate Saudi landscapes. Reisinger participated in a Saudi digital art exhibition “A Way With Light” put on by Athr Gallery in partnership with RFC Art, which showcased works of local and international artists.

Andres Reisinger, Argentine artist

But now his work comes alive on-ground in one of the Kingdom’s crown jewels. The building is positioned in a textile neighborhood, bringing a unique context to the piece as the peony pink cloth poetically flutters over the historical structure in Bedouin Market.

“I’m very drawn to the contrasts in between the hard and soft surfaces and materials that create this very antagonist narrative, where they actually tell a new story by being so different and acting together to change the space,” Reisinger said.

The digital artist staged his first physical installation in December last year when he took over a building in Miami Design District. The sleek design was a representation of the city’s vibrant and modern landscape.  

Nothing that is born from love can be transformed into something different.

Andres Reisinger, Argentine artist

Since the start of his career, Reisinger’s AI-generated art has been disputed, driving discourse over the constitutions of “real” art. By utilizing social media as real-estate for new art mediums, he hopes to overthrow the boundaries of physical and digital while creating a world where they both coexist.

“It’s really interesting for me to play with social media because it’s actually the platform where many people walk through every day, like Times Square, but it’s kind of tailored. Each one can create their own interests. I think that creates a whole virtual layer on top of the physical and geographical that I find very personal,” Reisinger said.  

Having produced his digital work remotely at first, the artist connected to individuals across the globe to help illustrate what each location and project would look like using “homemade iPhone walkthroughs.”

In Jeddah’s bustling cultural hub, people from all walks of life can now experience a romantic edge to the ancient trading port as they come across the pink drapes. The work itself does not push any specific message, but is merely an insertion of an action or expression into the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“I think positivity is my idea of the action, and I would love for people to actually be inspired and take it very positively because that’s how I made it and gave it birth. And nothing that is born from love can be transformed into something different,” he said, noting the color is a metaphor for these emotions.

As human participation is essential for the work, some may find a pleasant surprise during their walks across the neighborhood and possibly choose to look at the world with rose-colored glasses moving forward. In a new universe of possibilities by stumbling upon the unexpected, it may unlock an open mind: “that every day can change, every day can be different.”

Under the theme “Past-Forward,” Balad Al-Fann converges with various forms of contemporary and traditional art to create a temporal blend of our past heritage and its future possibilities. The hub beams with light, sound, music, theatrical performances, exhibitions, and a number of local eateries and cafes until March 9.

 


In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists

In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists
Updated 25 February 2024
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In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists

In the studio with Fadi Yazigi, one of the last of Syria’s internationally renowned artists
  • Yazigi’s work is housed in a number of international public collections, including at the British Museum in London, The Delfina Foundation in London and at the Kaleemat Foundation in Istanbul
  • The artist is known for his authentic approach to image-making, whether it be in paintings or sculptures

DAMASCUS: In the heart of ancient Damascus, veteran Syrian artist Fadi Yazigi delicately inspects a neat set of assorted paintings, sculptures, and reliefs.

He blows off the gathered dust, stating: “I feel we are living in a medieval age, not everything is fair, there is no plan for the world, and it’s not an honest period.”

Fadi Yazigi’s work is housed in a number of international public collections, including at the British Museum in London, The Delfina Foundation in London and at the Kaleemat Foundation in Istanbul. (Supplied)

Yazigi, 57, is at home in his Bab Sharqi atelier, drawing intricate sketches that are sometimes comical, cartoonish even, giving glimpses of the unorthodox techniques of one of Syria’s most creative modern artists.

“(Jean) Dubuffet is a big inspiration for me.” He told Arab News, referring to the late French painter and sculptor.  “I feel the humanistic side, the pain and suffering of everyday people, from the homeless person in the street to those stricken in poverty. I feel they are always right,” he added.

Fadi Yazigi, 57, is at home in his Bab Sharqi atelier, drawing intricate sketches that are sometimes comical, cartoonish even. (Supplied)

One glance at Dubuffet’s work and the influence is conspicuous. The artist, who died in 1985, embraced so-called "low art" and discarded traditional beauty standards in favor of an authentic approach to capturing people and places in his art. In the same vein, Yazigi is known for his authentic image-making. 

“I try to explore new materials in my work, to experiment with a wide variety of means and forms, each new material gives me a feeling whether on canvas, cardboard, textiles or papers, using acrylic, oil and ink, I depict people and human emotions,” he explained of his style.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Fadi Yazigi (@fadiyazigiart)

Yazigi’s work is housed in a number of international public collections, including at the British Museum in London, The Delfina Foundation in London and at the Kaleemat Foundation in Istanbul, among other locations. His solo exhibitions include Art Paris 2016, Galerie Tanit in Beirut, and The Mosaic Rooms in London 2011. He has also exhibited extensively at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

The artist represents the last of a breed of older-generation Syrian creatives who have attained global recognition.   

In a spectacular new collection, the artist created a set of sculptures inspired by the exploration of memory.

“I’m working on the idea of memory. It's inspired by the tale of Kalila and Dimna, where there is a phasic flow, where square artworks are ornamented with heads that suggest different emotions and stories. It's relevant to general human nature,” the artist said.

Kalila and Dimna are a collection of fables where the heroes are animals, the role of the king is played by a lion and the two jackals, Kalila and Dimna, are both the narrators and the protagonists.

The Indian-origin tale — composed in Sanskrit possibly as early as the third century BC — was translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa in the eighth century.

The ingenious representation of life as hybrid human-animal creatures is symptomatic of Yazigi’s general preference for this type of art.

“Relief is my favourite type of art, it's what is similar to my style and identity, and lots of my efforts and works are relevant to that, I love the multi-dimensional, especially working with mud or clay, human beings were made of it, that’s what they say.”

Born in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Yazigi is known for choosing to leave many of his works untitled. (Supplied)

Born in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Yazigi is known for choosing to leave many of his works untitled. 

“I am free to do what I want with my piece, and you are free with what you want to title it, to tell your story. I’m not going to push you to be inside my cage, and I won't be pressed to concur or conform to what a title has to be, so I leave it open to interpretation, something untitled is also titled at the same time,” he explained.

Art curator Nour Salman spoke to Arab News about her experience working with the renowned artist on the recent solo exhibition “Once in Damascus.”

“While working with Fadi, I discovered a whole new realm of art, as an artist he is incredibly hard-working and creative, he can make something out of nothing in an instant, and that’s partly why he gets international recognition.

“His vision and viewpoint on art and the way he makes it is inspiring and rare. We don’t have that weighted creative touch in Syria anymore. There is a depth to his work that takes generations to develop.”


Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series

Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series
Updated 25 February 2024
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Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series

Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists in upcoming series

DUBAI: Through an open-call competition, Palestinian director Saleh Saadi was selected by MENA-based broadcasting network OSN to film his upcoming six-episode series, “Dyouf” (meaning “guests” in Arabic). 

Saadi submitted his project in response to OSN’s Writer’s Room mentorship program, which was also organized by The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, that aims to support aspiring filmmakers and writers from the region. 

Originally from the bedouin village of Basmat Tab’un, Saadi has previously created two social-themed short films that dealt with his native Palestine: “Borekas” (2020) and “A’lam” (2022).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Saleh Saadi (@_salehsaadi)

The filmmaker says that he did not grow up in an environment that had a film institute, let alone an overall industry, but that didn’t stop his creativity, which began at home with simple means. 

“My family doesn’t have an artistic background. Their focus was to give us a good life, but they used to take pictures of us with a small camera,” Saadi told Arab News. “My siblings would film with a video camera and make little plays. . . I don’t know why it stuck with me.”

From a young age, he taught to edit and filmed sketches with his family members, who acted in his creations. “To them it was good fun, but I took it seriously,” he recalls. Saadi grew up “glued to the television set,” watching sitcoms. He also admires the work of notable Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, whose films have been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.

Saadi’s winning submission “Dyouf,” a dramedy which is in the process of development, centers around the protagonist Shadi, who returns to his homeland after living abroad and feels lonely. His mother has set up a guesthouse that is being frequented by tourists. 

Each episode, delving into the themes of relationships and identities, will focus on one tourist. “Through these guests, we understand the country more. One of the main characters is the country,” Saadi explains. “It shows a certain reality, the day-to-day life and little moments of the day. I think different people will be able to relate to the show in different ways.”

Saadi adds that shooting in Palestine comes with its own set of tricky challenges, from funding to on-site disturbances. “Things are more and more difficult. I don’t want to be cheesy, but it’s also become more and more important. There are difficulties from start to finish, where anything can happen.”

Despite the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, Saadi is heartened by how Palestinian cinema is slowly on the rise in the region and abroad, through film festivals and cultural events. “I am very happy because I feel like there are more films on Palestine. They tell our stories,” he said

“We have so much love for our people, our family and our land. All kinds of art have an important role to play. Through art, we are showing that, despite all difficulties, the love is still there.”  


Najdi Ardah — a testament to vibrant Saudi history

The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)
The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2024
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Najdi Ardah — a testament to vibrant Saudi history

The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)
  • Saleh Nasser Al-Abdulwahed, leader of the Saudi Ardah group, told Arab News that the Najdi ardah “stands as a testament to Saudi history”

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia is home to a rich tapestry of folkloric arts, each with its own distinct features, but all with the same purpose: to express the Kingdom’s history, culture, and heroism.

Over time, these artistic traditions have become essential components of a variety of events and holidays. They predominantly take the form of ardah — group war dances which were originally intended to terrify enemies by showcasing the performers’ military prowess and the power and courage rooted in their past.

Of the many types of ardah, the most popular style in the Kingdom is the Najdi ardah, also known as the Saudi ardah.

The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)

Saleh Nasser Al-Abdulwahed, leader of the Saudi Ardah group, told Arab News that the Najdi ardah “stands as a testament to Saudi history.”

The Najdi Ardah begins with the recital of a poem, after which the drummers begin, establishing the rhythm for the dancers to follow. The group leader then takes the stage, wielding a blade and demonstrating well-practiced movements that match those of warriors in battle. He expertly maneuvers the sword, occasionally laying it on his shoulder, lifting it high, or holding it on its side. He also uses precise finger movements to move the blade in a circular motion, demonstrating his expertise.

Usually, the dancers will be dressed in their finest military outfits.

FASTFACT

The Najdi Ardah begins with the recital of a poem, after which the drummers begin, establishing the rhythm for the dancers to follow.

“Ardah performers don Al-Murawden military uniform, featuring long sleeves. They complement it with Al-Zaboun, a finely crafted wooden cashmere fabric adorned with a cashmere shawl, meticulously made by hand, resembling the ‘dagla’ gown,” Al-Abdulwahed explained. “Additionally, the performers may opt for Al-Saya, a tailored white summer fabric, or the Jokha, which is usually reserved for dignitaries such as kings, princes, and knights.”

He noted that warriors typically choose red clothing, though the shades could vary from a bright, blood-like tone to a more muted burgundy.

The performers will also typically be heavily armed, wearing a dagger, a gun holster, a bullet holder known as mujannad, and a sword. When wearing the uniform, the participant positions his pistol holster to the left and mujannad to the right. Various types of sword are used, each with its own sheath.

The Najdi ardah is a cultural touchstone for many Saudi nationals, and remains widely practiced today, not only in the central part of the Kingdom, but all over the country. It is frequently showcased at weddings. Its involvement in such ceremonies creates a sense of joy and delight, enthralling both older and younger generations.

Folk arts in other regions

The Hejaz region is one of the Kingdom’s most diverse in terms of folk arts. It is renowned for the Majrour art form, characterized by two facing rows of performers wearing tied and belted headbands. Each individual holds a daf in hand, contributing to the performance with special tunes and melodies.

The Yanbawi tarab is a form of collective musical expression, featuring the use of a stringed instrument called a simsimiyya, which is closely tied to maritime culture.

In Taif, the ardah Al-Zir takes center stage during special occasions and holidays. This dance involves the use of swords, guns, and daggers, and is a significant element of cultural festivities.

In the northern region, the traditional arts of Al-Samari and Al-Dahha come to life with two opposing rows of performers creating harmonious rhythms, playing melodies such as Al-Mashoub, Al-Zubai, and Al-Hajini.

 


From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom
Updated 24 February 2024
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From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

From finance to fame: Yasmine Al-Bustami discusses her journey to Hollywood stardom

LOS ANGELES: From working in finance to gracing the stage and screen, Yasmine Al-Bustami has emerged as a dynamic talent on the rise.

Known for her roles in “The Originals,” “NCIS: Hawai’i” and “The Chosen,” the actress was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and a Filipino mother.

Al-Bustami grew up in Texas and began work in the world of finance, but soon found that she was not fulfilled and began to dig for something more exciting.

“I had never taken acting classes or anything, but I knew to get auditions you needed an agent,” she said. “So I just emailed all the Dallas agents and one of them was so sweet, emailed me back … I was sending in my business resume, too, I didn’t even have an acting resume. I was like, ‘this is where I went to university. I have a finance degree.’ None of that. They don’t care.

“And (the agent) goes, ‘well, clearly, you have no idea what you’re doing. Go to class. And here are some acting class recommendations.’ Then from that, I just kept taking classes in Dallas, then moved to Los Angeles,” she said.

Al-Bustami began with a brief appearance in a health-related commercial before making her television debut in “The Originals,” appearing in the recurring role of Monique Deveraux, a villain in the first season.

The actress was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and a Filipino mother. (Getty Images)

Today, she has a role in hit spinoff “NCIS: Hawai’i” and the historical drama “The Chosen,” which recently moved to the theater.

“On ‘The Chosen,’ I play Ramah,” she said. “And when you meet her, it’s in season one. I’m in one of the episodes, episode five, and I basically work with Thomas the Disciple, and we have a little bit of romance there. We are very flirtatious with each other, and then you start to see that develop from seasons two to now, the season that is out right now is season four.”

Part of the challenge Al-Bustami faced was gaining the approval of her parents and finding roles true to her ethnicity.

On the latter note, she has scored a role representing women of color in the dark comedy show “Immigrants.”

“We just finished the pilot and that is by my friend Mustafa Knight, and it’s basically how we have described it is like ‘Friends,’ but with color,” she said.

“I’ve never been more proud to be an immigrant because now I also have an outlet to express that to people through storytelling,” the actress added. “It’s a different kind of gratefulness whenever you get the opportunity to play something that you are actually.”

The show is described as a dark comedy series following the “misadventures of six unlikely friends through their trials and tribulations on what it really means to be American in America.”