Visitors to compose their own symphony of lights at Noor Riyadh 2023

Visitors to compose their own symphony of lights at Noor Riyadh 2023
Today, the largest annual light and art festival globally, Noor Riyadh, unveils its third edition to the public boasting 120 large-scale works from 100 contemporary artists from over 35 countries. (Arab News)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Visitors to compose their own symphony of lights at Noor Riyadh 2023

Visitors to compose their own symphony of lights at Noor Riyadh 2023

RIYADH: From Nov. 30 to Dec. 16, Noor Riyadh, the largest annual light art festival in the world, returns for its third edition, boasting 120 large-scale works from 100 contemporary artists from over 35 countries.

The festival lets every visitor follow the map to glowing artworks within each location, with pieces spread not just across Riyadh, but throughout the landscapes of the five main festival hubs: King Abdullah Financial District, Salam Park, Wadi Hanifa, Wadi Namar, and Jax District.

“For us, it’s very important that people in Riyadh feel like this is their festival. The main purpose of it is to be part of the fabric of Riyadh … It’s to make the city vibrant, beautiful, and relevant to the citizens and residents,” Miguel Blanco-Carrasco, adviser at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City and Riyadh Art, told Arab News.




From Nov. 30 to Dec. 16, every Riyadh resident will get a chance to forge a path for their own story using illuminating artworks from across the globe. (Arab News)

After running over 20,000 surveys across the Saudi populace, the team found that Riyadh’s citizens and residents preferred a more concise experience.

Nouf Almoneef, director of the festival, told Arab News: “Last year, a lot of people didn’t get the chance to go to the other locations …We want accessibility for everyone.”

Their approach was to create a contained, yet conspicuous experience: last year’s 40 locations became the five main hubs, each containing over 15 artworks, and some partnering activations in other areas.




Berlin-based French-Swiss artist Julian Charriere’s artwork “Vertigo.” (Arab News)

“Our mission is to transform the city to a gallery without walls … We’re building this legacy for artists to grow and show their works internationally. Our aim is to highlight our artists and the festival globally and for the people to also come and visit,” Almoneef said.

What truly marks out the festival is its strong curatorial narrative which leaves visitors to build a narrative out of the existing pieces placed across Riyadh.

Jerome Sans, co-founder of Palais de Tokyo in Paris and lead curator of this year’s festival, said: “We invented this as a symphony with different acts. You can take it in any order.

“Here for example, in KAFD, the story starts in the city — from mineral to nature; from the Financial District to the door of the desert, or vice versa. Salam Park is a way for us modern people to create our own garden, to shape it, but then there’s a real nature in itself. So we create all different flavors and steps where you can go from one to the other.”

Sans, supported by curators Pedro Alonzo, Fahad bin Naif, and Alaa Tarabzouni, took six months in curation to orchestrate a symphonic storyline within the city’s multifaceted landscape.




Nouf Almoneef, director of the festival said: “Last year, a lot of people didn’t get the chance to go to the other locations … We want accessibility for everyone.” (Arab News)

On the theme, the lead curator noted that desertification is a growing issue globally, not just within Riyadh, which is located in the heart of the Nafud desert. The theme “Bright Side of the Desert Moon” contemplates the light within the arid.

Like the moon, the hubs physically circle Riyadh. As visitors approach each location, they create a celebratory cross-city bonfire marked by gleaming artworks. 

For Sans, the concise number of locations act as members of the “family,” bringing the festival to a much more human scale and “easier for everyone to understand.”

For Bjornstjerne Christiansen, one of the three founders of Copenhagen-based collective SUPERFLEX, the theme lay close to the group’s way of thinking as an expanded collective, that “we need to change our behavior and perspective, and we believe we can do that through art,” he told Arab News.

Public art is an important aspect of SUPERFLEX’s work, bringing unique projects to corners of the globe, like the famous Superkilen Park in Denmark with works from 80 nationalities, The Bank urban park in UAE’s Sharjah, a projection on the UN headquarters in New York City, and many others.




SUPERFLEX’s artwork “Vertical Migration” explores territories buried within the depths of the sea projected on a high-rise building in KAFD. (Arab News)

Noor Riyadh, under the umbrella of Riyadh Art, aims to create space for the city’s populace to engage with art in a much more dynamic way. It strays away from confining the works merely within an art space and incorporates them within everyday locations, such as KAFD, a home to many corporate buildings and popular dining spots, and Salam Park, where families go to picnic and play.

SUPERFLEX’s artwork “Vertical Migration” explores territories buried within the depths of the sea projected on a high-rise building in KAFD. It highlights the importance of understanding the ocean’s health through a siphonophore, a creature that comes in trillions every night from the bottom to the surface to clean.

“It’s very beautiful but has a lot of layers of politics in it. And that’s the good thing about art: you can look at it as beauty or aesthetics while also having many layers,” Christiansen said.

Saudi artist Dur Kattan’s “Closer than They Appear” is a collection of approximately 400 car side mirrors, using the blindspot within them as a metaphor for people’s collective blindness to our own humanity.

“In a city like Riyadh, things are very busy. It’s amazing, all these changes that are happening, but you also have to somehow ground yourself and find time to reflect on yourself, your own blindspots, and that will basically protect you from crashing,” Kattan told Arab news.

Kattan is an emerging artist whose contribution to the festival becomes her second showcase after her debut in the exhibition “Heartache” by Very Public earlier this year. While the festival hosts big-name international artists like Yayoi Kusama, it also acts as a platform for younger contemporary names to surface.

Noor Riyadh has become a staple event in the city’s events calendar, the success of which was made possible by “these amazing, talented (artists) and the teams behind the festival” as well as the interaction of the public, Almoneef said.


Dave Chappelle to perform at Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

Dave Chappelle to perform at Abu Dhabi Comedy Week
Updated 19 April 2024
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Dave Chappelle to perform at Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

Dave Chappelle to perform at Abu Dhabi Comedy Week

DUBAI: US award-winning comedian Dave Chappelle is set to perform in the UAE at the Abu Dhabi Comedy Week on May 23, organizers announced on Friday.

The capital city’s first-ever comedy festival will run from May 18-26 at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena.

Chappelle will join a long list of comedians performing at the event, including Chris Tucker, Aziz Ansari, Tom Segura, Jo Koy, Tommy Tiernan, Kevin Bridges, Andrew Santino, Bobby Lee, Andrew Schulz, Bassem Youssef and Maz Jobrani.

With numerous accolades and awards to his name, including multiple Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards, Chappelle is renowned for his wit and fearless commentary on contemporary issues.

While May 23 will mark Chappelle’s inaugural performance in Abu Dhabi, he has previously captivated audiences with two sold-out shows in Dubai.


Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 

Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 
Updated 19 April 2024
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Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 

Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 
  • The acclaimed artist is representing Saudi Arabia at this year’s ‘Olympics of the art world’ 

DUBAI: The acclaimed Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan is on a roll. Earlier this year, she opened two well-received exhibitions in AlUla, where she is also working on an ambitious land art commission for the upcoming Wadi AlFann cultural destination. And this week, AlDowayan will represent her country at the 60th iteration of the Venice Biennale — dubbed “the Olympics of the art world,” consisting as it does of multiple national pavilions — which runs until Nov. 24. She will be presenting what she describes as “two of my most major works in my career at this point.” 

AlDowayan has participated at Venice before. In 2009, she showed her work in an onsite exhibition organized by the Saudi art-focused initiative Edge of Arabia, alongside fellow Saudi artists including Maha Malluh and Ahmed Mater.  

AlDowayan will represent her country at the 60th iteration of the Venice Biennale. (Supplied)

“I’ve been going to Venice for about 12 years,” AlDowayan tells Arab News. “The first time I showed there, I knew in my heart that I would be coming back to represent Saudi Arabia; I would do everything in my power to come to this moment and prepare myself. It’s something very important for an artist: to participate in the Venice Biennale.” 

It was only last August that she was visited in her UK studio by Dina Amin, the CEO of the Visual Arts Commission, and cultural advisor Abdullah Al-Turki, and told she had been selected to represent the Kingdom in 2024.  

“My first thoughts were: ‘There’s no time,’” she says with a laugh. “To come up with a concept, complete the research, execute the concept, build it, and install it, is really complex. But my team, my studios, and I were ready. I already knew what I wanted to present, and within one week I had put together my proposal and it was approved. The artwork is a continuation of my language, my research and my forms that I work with.”

Participatory workshops for 'Shifting Sands - A Battle Song' by Manal AlDowayan. (Supplied)

The Saudi pavilion’s theme at Venice this year is “Shifting Sands—A Battle Song.” It is curated by a trio of female art experts, Jessica Cerasi, Maya El-Khalil, and Shadin AlBulaihed. In AlDowayan’s sound-meets-sculpture installation, she brings together much of what she has explored in her practice over the past two decades — community engagement, participatory art, media (mis)representation, and the visibility, or lack of it, of women in Saudi culture. The work is also about the momentous changes taking place in the Kingdom today, and her response to them.  

The work comprises two key parts: sound and soft sculptures. Saudi and Arab women’s voices are front and center; AlDowayan allowing them to reclaim their narrative, which she believes has consistently been misrepresented.  

“If you’re always told that you’re oppressed, repressed, depressed… you sort of lose the sense of yourself,” she adds. “And this artwork talks about this sort of constant hounding by Western media — and local media — speaking about the Arab woman; her body, her space, the rules of her behavior, and how she should exist in the public space.” 

Manal AlDowayan's 'Shifting Sands - A Battle Song.' (Supplied)

For this section, AlDowayan put out an open call inviting women to take part in workshops. They proved very popular, attended by all ages, professions and backgrounds.  

“In Riyadh, within three hours, 350 women registered,” she says. “We had to block the registration link because I don’t know how to control 350 women. I’m just one.” In the sessions, participants reacted to negative press headlines and media clippings, and AlDowayan recorded those reactions.  

“I always say that people are trying to define what a Saudi woman is,” explains AlDowayan. “We researched thousands and thousands of articles in my studios, in seven languages, and there were some very dark things written. I showed the women these articles and said, ‘Do you really feel these articles are really speaking your truth?’”  

She also asked them to write and/or draw their own stories. Examples included: “Two women equal one man.” “Thanks love, we don’t want to be saved.” And “Surrendering doesn’t look good on us, for we are wars.”  

Detail from Manal AlDowayan's 'Shifting Sands - A Battle Song.' (Supplied)

A selection of the written quotes were then read out loud by participants. While reading, they had headphones on, listening to, and harmonizing with, the eerie humming sounds made by sand dunes, which AlDowayan had previously recorded.  

“It was beautiful and meditative. You will see women with their eyes closed, their arms stretched out. It was a very spiritual moment,” AlDowayan recalls. The whole ‘performance’ was inspired by ‘Dahha,’ a ritual in which warriors celebrated victory with music and dance.  

Inside the pavilion, where the women’s recordings play, stand three soft black-and-brown sculptures, full of folds, shaped like the sand crystals known as desert roses — a recurring motif in AlDowayan’s work.  

“The rose is a very weak and delicate (thing),” she says. “But this crystal is born in extreme circumstances. First, it needs to be pouring rain, then there needs to be high temperatures and that’s how it crystalizes. I feel like I’ve adopted this form as a body and I deal with it like skin.”  

The folds of the enlarged sculptures are imprinted with “a cacophony of what Western media has written: the veil, repressed, oppressed, women, sexuality… All the words that always float over our heads,” says AlDowayan. They also include some of the women’s positive messages, as well as their drawings.  

“While you’re taking this journey you will hear the sound, and sound is sculptural in my opinion: It occupies but you can’t see it,” she says. “I feel the invisibility of sound, and its ‘presence’ is like the Arab woman. She’s strong, she’s there; it’s undeniable. Just because you don’t see her, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.” 

As for how visitors will react to her work, AlDowayan hopes to provoke conversations.  

“I want questions. I want extreme emotions. They can hate it, they can love it, they can cry. But, I can’t do neutral,” she says. “Neutral means I did not succeed. If they have questions, then I’ve succeeded. If they talk about it after one day, I’ve succeeded.” 


US Kuwaiti artist Latifa Alajlan — ‘I used to compare myself to other artists’ 

US Kuwaiti artist Latifa Alajlan — ‘I used to compare myself to other artists’ 
Updated 19 April 2024
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US Kuwaiti artist Latifa Alajlan — ‘I used to compare myself to other artists’ 

US Kuwaiti artist Latifa Alajlan — ‘I used to compare myself to other artists’ 
  • The third in this year’s series focusing on contemporary Arab-American artists in honor of Arab-American Heritage Month

DUBAI: Kuwaiti artist Latifa Alajlan moved to America in 2016 to study art at Grossmont College in San Diego, followed by a Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where alumni include major American artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Mitchell and Grant Wood.  

Now, Alajlan is based in New York, where she is represented by Franklin Parrasch Gallery. “New York is the Makkah of the art world,” she tells Arab News. “You have so many galleries and institutions — that’s what I do every Friday. It’s very meditative for me and I enjoy walking around the city.”    

Alajlan, Latifa, Ishq, 2024. (Supplied)

But she is also aware of the competition in such an established artistic environment. “In New York, when you’re a young artist what’s dangerous about it is that you compare yourself to other artists,” she says. “I used to do that a lot and I had to take a step back and realize it was unhealthy. Everyone has their own journey.” 

Hers began in Kuwait, where her parents, especially her strict father, would “force” Alajlan and her siblings to visit museums and write essays on artworks. “I just didn’t understand. People were enjoying their summer, and we were going to museums,” she says. “That was boring.”  

Now, however, Alajlan can look back on her childhood and understand her parents’ intentions. “That’s what I appreciate: the fact that they kept pushing me,” she says. 

Lilith's Garden, 2024. (Supplied)

As for her creative practice, Alajlan has experimented with ceramics, glass-blowing, blacksmithing and sculpting. But such labor-intensive mediums weren’t for her. “I almost lost my fingers,” she says. “It’s intense. . . I’ve realized painting is my thing.” 

Through her abstract work, Alajlan addresses political, cultural and architectural attributes of her homeland. But she finds inspiration everywhere, she says — from her friends to conversations with strangers. There is an element of mystery to her canvases; she might hide certain parts of her composition with splodges of paint, filling them with gentle gestural strokes and motifs from mosques.  

“To me, painting is very therapeutic,” she says. “It’s my way of praying.” 


Recipes for success: Chef Lorenzo Buccarini offers advice and a pasta and caviar recipe 

Recipes for success: Chef Lorenzo Buccarini offers advice and a pasta and caviar recipe 
Updated 19 April 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef Lorenzo Buccarini offers advice and a pasta and caviar recipe 

Recipes for success: Chef Lorenzo Buccarini offers advice and a pasta and caviar recipe 

DUBAI: “I discovered my passion for cooking at a young age, being drawn to the sights and smells from my family’s kitchen,” Zenon Dubai’s executive chef Lorenzo Buccarini tells Arab News. “My earliest memory of cooking is helping my grandmother prepare lasagna. Those moments ignited a lifelong love affair with the culinary arts.”. 

Zenon, located at Kempinski Central Avenue in the heart of Downtown Dubai, offers Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. 

“Working with Zenon Dubai has been an enriching experience filled with creativity and collaboration, allowing me to push boundaries,” said Buccarini. 

Zenon is located at Kempinski Central Avenue in the heart of Downtown Dubai. (Supplied)

From the vibrant culinary scene of London in 2012 to Istanbul in 2014, Bali in 2016, and Morocco in 2018, Buccarini has dabbled in an array of cuisines over the years. Here, he discusses his go-to dish, favorite cuisine and most challenging dish to prepare. 

Q: When you started out, what was the most common mistake you made? 

A: Underestimating the importance of proper seasoning. Achieving the perfect balance of flavors is essential in every dish, and mastering seasoning techniques was a valuable lesson early in my career. 

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs? 

Invest in quality ingredients and don’t be afraid to experiment. Additionally, learn fundamental cooking techniques such as knife skills and proper seasoning, as they form the foundation of any great dish. 

Zenon offers Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. (Supplied)

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish? 

Fresh herbs — whether it’s parsley, basil, cilantro, or thyme, incorporating fresh herbs adds depth and complexity to your cooking. They elevate the flavor of any dish. 

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

Naturally, as a chef, I pay attention to the details if I’m dining out. 

What’s the most common issue that you find in other restaurants? 

Something I often notice is inconsistency in execution — whether it’s undercooked proteins, over-seasoned dishes, or lackluster presentation. Consistency is key to delivering memorable dining experiences. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Zenon Dubai (@zenondubai)

And what’s your favorite cuisine when you go out? 

I do enjoy exploring different cuisines, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would have to be classic Italian cuisine. There’s something inherently comforting and soul-satisfying about dishes like homemade pasta or a perfectly cooked risotto that never fails to delight the palate. 

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

Spaghetti aglio e olio. It’s a simple yet flavorful pasta dish made with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, and parsley. It’s quick to prepare and showcases the beauty of minimalistic Italian cooking. 

What customer behavior most annoys you? 

It can be frustrating when customers request significant modifications to a dish without considering the integrity of the recipe. While accommodating dietary restrictions is important, excessive alterations can compromise the intended flavors and balance of the dish. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Zenon Dubai (@zenondubai)

What’s your favorite dish to cook? 

One of them is osso buco. It’s a classic Italian dish made with braised veal shanks, aromatic vegetables, and a rich tomato-based sauce. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in a dish that’s hearty, flavorful, and deeply satisfying. 

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right? 

For me, mastering the perfect risotto has always been a challenge. Achieving the ideal balance of creaminess and texture while ensuring the rice is cooked to perfection requires precision and attention to detail. It’s a dish that demands patience and practice to get just right. 

As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Or are you more laidback? 

I try to maintain a balance between discipline and approachability. I do set high standards for my team, and I expect professionalism in the kitchen, but I believe in fostering a supportive and collaborative environment. Effective communication and mutual respect are essential for success in any kitchen. 

Chef Lorenzo’s pasta, cream reduction and caviar 

Chef Lorenzo’s pasta, cream reduction and caviar. (Supplied)

INGREDIENTS 

For the cream reduction: 1L double cream; 500g dried porcini; 1L water 

For the fresh pasta (can be substituted for store-bought pasta): 600g semolina flour; 1400g 00 flour; 8 fresh eggs; 300g water 

INSTRUCTIONS 

1. To reduce the cream, add it to a pan and gradually reduce the heat to a slow boil, stirring frequently. As the water boils off, the cream will be reduced. You want to reduce it by half. Then place the pan to one side. 

2. For mushroom stock, add the dried porcini to a pan with the water and simmer for one hour. Strain immediately. Reduce the stock by ¾. 

3. For the pasta, mix all ingredients together to make a dough. Put in the fridge for one hour. Remove from the fridge and shape it as you like (here at the restaurant we do rigatoni). You can just use standard, store-bought pasta too.  

4. Cook the pasta in boiling water for five or six minutes (or as instructed for store-bought pasta), then drain. 

5. Put 250g of the cream reduction and 20g of reduced mushrooms into a hot shallow pan. Add a pinch of salt. Add the pasta to the sauce. Stir. Add a little parmesan and top with caviar.


REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘Crashing Eid’

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘Crashing Eid’
Updated 19 April 2024
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REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘Crashing Eid’

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘Crashing Eid’

Shying away from the traditional, comedy television show “Crashing Eid” presents quite a progressive viewpoint — but certainly not an uncommon one.

The four-episode series follows the story of Razan, an independent young Saudi woman who fled her old life and built a new one in London along with her teenage daughter Lamar — only to find herself in love with a Pakistani Brit, Sameer.

The show opens with a surprise spin as Razan takes it upon herself to initiate a proposal to Sameer, who she has known for two years. She and her daughter then plan to take a short trip back to hometown Jeddah during Ramadan, without her family knowing that she has no plans to move back home — or that she is engaged.

Sameer decides to return the surprise by showing up to her family’s home, only to be met by Razan’s father, who mistakes him for a maintenance worker. This spurs the show into a flurry of misunderstandings and awkward interactions that surface some rather crucial unresolved family issues and traumas.

As Saudi has become more global in its population, in many ways including international marriages, the issues in “Crashing Eid” have become more vital to discuss than ever.

Rather than focusing on the difficulties that come with marrying a foreigner, such as lengthy legal procedures and official marriage approvals, the show hones in on societal acceptance. The aspects of honor and locality of marriage are brought to the surface.

The show also uses the main plot to dig up some underlying issues prevalent in any society, not just in Saudi Arabia. Through Razan’s homecoming, she is forced to revisit the reality of her previous marriage to Lamar’s father, who had been physically abusive. Choosing to leave him and start a new life abroad, she is met with societal condemnation and victim blaming.

While Razan’s brother Sofyan battles divorce and child custody issues, the family reveals the challenges of generational gaps. It also demonstrates the common shift to the globalization of younger generations and the tight hold on traditions within older ones.

The show has a unique way of making difficult or rather taboo topics palatable for a general Saudi audience. It sets the table for conversation, at the very least.

Sure, some of the acting seemed fairly novel, reminiscent of early 2000s sitcoms sans the laugh track, and the show also had a peculiar style of direction and editing.

But certainly, “Crashing Eid” must be applauded for its bold statements, proving that it is not afraid to rock the boat for the chance to tell authentic Saudi stories. For anyone looking to get a deeper sense into the modern-day Saudi household, the show is a must-watch.