Palestinian creatives on whether art has a role to play in times of war

Palestinian creatives on whether art has a role to play in times of war
Palestinian artist Hazem Harb pictured in front of one of his works created in November for his 'Dystopia Is Not A Noun' series. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 January 2024
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Palestinian creatives on whether art has a role to play in times of war

Palestinian creatives on whether art has a role to play in times of war
  • As Israel’s assault on Gaza enters its fourth month, Palestinian artists discuss the impact it has had on their work, and the role the arts can play in times of war 

DUBAI: In times of war — when people are dying by the thousands and hospitals and schools are bombed, as they are in Gaza at this moment — it’s easy to wonder if the arts have any real relevance or role to play. In the face of such pain and destruction, art of any kind can be seen as a luxury enjoyed only by those fortunate enough to live outside of the violence. But history shows us that some of the world’s greatest artists have produced their most potent creations in the midst of horrendous suffering and socio-political upheaval.  

In 1937, for example, Pablo Picasso produced his nightmarish painting “Guernica,” depicting the bombing of a Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. And one of Iraqi pioneer Dia Al-Azzawi’s greatest works is his massive, emotionally-charged artwork based on the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut in 1982.   




UK-based Palestinian oud player Reem Anbar. (Supplied)

As Israel’s military assault on Gaza enters its fourth month, Palestinian artists at home and abroad are using art to express their emotions and to raise awareness of the suffering their countrymen have endured. Recent exhibitions in Dubai and Beirut have shown solidarity by exhibiting works by Palestinian artists.  

Reem Anbar is a daughter of war. Born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Gaza, the musician reportedly became her town’s first female oud player, despite a lack of opportunities for studying music. Though Anbar, a Master’s student in music therapy, currently lives in Manchester, England, her memories of growing up in Gaza remain fresh. “I was raised with war,” she says. “I faced three of them. In every war, we lost our homes, neighbors, friends. . . We were literally living in a prison.” 

But she still found some hope. Aged 11, Anbar picked up the oud at a local center that offered summer activities, and it’s been her companion ever since. “I don’t know why, but I used to feel like it was a weapon for me. It allowed me to express myself and talk about my cause, my feelings, my life,” she says.  

Anbar went on to form Gazelleband in the UK in 2017. “I didn’t want to come here as a refugee and do nothing with my life,” she says. “I came here to work. I go from town to town to spread my Palestinian music.”  




Sliman Mansour's 1985 painting 'Symbol of Hope' —  Mansour says he finds himself sharing images of his older work online, because 'nothing has changed.' (Supplied)

Anbar has concerts coming up in the UK and Italy. She’s been asked about how she could play music when her family and friends are being killed. But to her, music is solace.  

“Even if a rocket drops, I will still hold on to my oud. Wars motivate us to sing and make more music. In the end, we Palestinian artists are carrying our cause wherever we go,” she says. “A message can be passed on through art.”  

Like Anbar, 24-year-old Malak Mattar hails from Gaza and has found refuge in England. She says she grew up in a household that appreciated poetry and art, and her colorful, women-centric paintings pay homage to Palestinian heritage and visual culture. In the past three months, though, her work has taken a new direction, seeing her produce raw, charcoal drawings of victims of the recent attrocities. She was actually visiting Gaza in October, leaving just the day before the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7.  

“It’s the worst period of my life,” Mattar tells Arab News. “My family is still in Gaza. Every day is a new tragedy. What’s happening is genocide. Nowhere is safe.” 




A recent drawing by UK-based Palestinian artist Malak Matar. (Supplied)

 In these new drawings, Mattar depicts helpless infants and animals, damaged buildings, and wailing women in striking monochromatic tones.  

“I think it’s my protest as an artist, using only black and white,” she explains. “To be honest, some of the works were hard to do, but it’s my way of documenting what I’m seeing on social media through journalists and photographers’ accounts. I’m drawing something that I don’t want to forget.”  

The drawings will be displayed in London’s art-residency program “An Effort,” for which Mattar was selected as artist-in-residence. The violence and displacement faced by her family in Gaza has, of course, had a huge impact on her, but she realizes the importance of continuing to create.  

“I believe in art. It has a role to play — documenting everything and expressing something in a humane, moving way,” she says. “I think it’s bad to forget. Forgetting means betrayal. What we’re seeing are war crimes. I’m not just in a state of sadness, but anger too. I can’t face the outside world, because it let us down.”    

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the veteran Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour is also preparing to showcase a new, surrealist-style canvas in a group exhibition at the end of January in Ramallah. These days, Mansour is taking things slow, not visiting his studio on a daily basis, and even when he does, it’s sometimes only to paint for an hour at a time.  




UK-based Palestinian artist Malak Matar. (Supplied)

“I talk to artists and friends and they all have the same problem: They don’t know what to do. There’s a kind of loss in this time period,” he says. “If I was to compare the situation we’re in right now and the First Intifada, the First Intifada had a stronger effect on art and culture. I think when people were participants in the battle, they were more creative. But, now, we are just viewers. We sometimes talk to artists in Gaza and their situation is terrible — they don’t have studios and their homes have been destroyed. When we told them about the Ramallah exhibition, they were very annoyed, saying: ‘We can’t find something to eat and you’re talking about exhibitions?’   

“It can seem as if art is not important during times like this,” he continues. “But I think it’s important — if not for this generation, then for future ones. Art reflects the soul of a certain time.” 

On Instagram, images of his melancholic figurative paintings are regularly circulated by younger audiences. Mansour finds himself sharing posts of his older work in the Eighties and Nineties. “Nothing has changed for us with the Occupation,” he says.  




The holy family under an olive tree (Acrylic and oil), Sliman Mansour, 2020. (Supplied)

Even though Dubai-based Palestinian artist Hazem Harb’s home in Gaza, which has belonged to his family for generations, has been destroyed, he — like Mansour — still believes that art has value in times like this. “I still can’t process that it’s gone,” he says. “Our whole lives and memories were in that house.”  

In November, Harb gave a live performance in Dubai, producing harrowing drawings of vulnerable faces on a huge canvas — part of his “Dystopia Is Not A Noun” charcoal series — accompanied by rousing music.  

“It was the first time in my life that I drew in front of people,” he says. “It was honestly a hard experience, but it was also expressive, letting out my feelings. Towards the end, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was literally painting from my gut.”  

He hopes that his November canvas will find a public home, such as a museum, to serve as a reminder of the atrocities that his native city has been subjected to. 

“Art,” he says, “absolutely has an important role to play — to tell and record these stories.”  


Christie’s to hold ‘Art of Islamic and Indian Worlds’ auction in London

Christie’s to hold ‘Art of Islamic and Indian Worlds’ auction in London
Updated 21 April 2024
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Christie’s to hold ‘Art of Islamic and Indian Worlds’ auction in London

Christie’s to hold ‘Art of Islamic and Indian Worlds’ auction in London

LONDON: Christie’s has announced a spring sale of “Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Rugs and Carpets,” which will be presented during a live auction at the British auction house’s London headquarters on April 25.

“This season the sale offers a curated selection of 261 lots including four unique collections,” Christie’s said in a statement. “Illustrating the breadth of craftsmanship across 10 centuries, works date from the 10th century to the 20th century and cover a diversity of artistic traditions.”

The works include paintings, ceramics, metal work, works on paper, arms, textiles and rugs and carpets from across the Islamic world, spanning the Silk Route linking China to the West.

A number of private collections will be auctioned, including early Iranian ceramics from a private American collection, as well as Persian and Indian paintings from the collection of art specialists Charles and Regina Slatkin that features a rare work by the Bukhara artist Mahmud Muzahhib.

The carpet section of the auction “is led by Sultans of Silk: The George Farrow Collection, which is a comprehensive study of the very best of silk rug weaving of the late 19th and early 20th centuries gathered over forty years by the late George Farrow,” Christie’s said in its statement. The collection will offer more than 40 finely woven silk carpets.

 

 

According to Christie’s, Farrow was a British collector of silk rugs and his “expansive collection” comprises a variety of silk weavings from different origins.

Sara Plumbly, head of Islamic and Indian art at Christie’s, said: “We are delighted to offer a wide variety of works of art from across the Islamic and Indian worlds this season (and) we are particularly excited about three private collections, all with long provenance, that highlight the breadth and diversity of the artistic traditions of Iran — from Safavid textiles and painting to medieval pottery.”

Louise Broadhurst, international head of rugs and carpets at Christie’s, said the auction house “is honored to offer the collection of George Farrow, whose passion for antique silk rugs is reflected in the illuminating breadth of examples gathered over four decades, which include highlights rarely seen on today’s market.”

The “Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Rugs and Carpets” is open to the public ahead of the live auction from April 21-24 at Christie’s in London.


Sofia Boutella dazzles at London ‘Rebel Moon’ screening

Sofia Boutella dazzles at London ‘Rebel Moon’ screening
Updated 20 April 2024
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Sofia Boutella dazzles at London ‘Rebel Moon’ screening

Sofia Boutella dazzles at London ‘Rebel Moon’ screening

DUBAI: French-Algerian actress Sofia Boutella turned heads at the UK premiere of her film “Rebel Moon — Part 2: The Scargiver” in London this week.

Boutella wore a black suit from British fashion designer Stella McCartney with a cropped satin blazer and low-rise straight-leg trousers. She styled her short, dark hair in loose waves, complemented by dramatic cat-eye makeup.

In the sci-fi adventure — a sequel to last year’s “Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire” — which debuted on Netflix April 19, a peaceful colony on the edge of a galaxy finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Boutella (@sofisia7)

Kora, played by Boutella, has assembled a small band of warriors — outsiders, insurgents, peasants and orphans of war from different worlds who share a common need for redemption and revenge, and must band together to fight the Motherworld.

Snyder previously spoke about the two-part epic space opera at Netflix’s Tudum global fan event in Brazil, where he showcased a behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film, based on a concept he has been developing since college.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sofia Boutella (@sofisia7)

“I’ve been working on this story for quite a while,” Snyder said on stage, according to Deadline. “It’s about a group of farmers on the edge of the galaxy that get visited by the armies of the Motherworld, who are the bad guys. The farmers have to decide to fight or submit.”

He continued: “I don’t want to give it all away, but if they had decided to fight, let’s say that was an option, they would have to travel around the galaxy to find warriors to fight with them. And so, it had us traveling quite a bit.”

Kora is not Algiers-born Boutella’s first role as a sword-wielding extraterrestrial. The actress, who at the age of 10 fled to Paris with her family during the Algerian civil war, is known for her breakout performance in the Oscar-nominated film, “Star Trek Beyond,” in which she portrayed the fierce alien warrior, Jaylah.


Rami Kadi unveils couture collection in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

Rami Kadi unveils couture collection in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla
Updated 20 April 2024
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Rami Kadi unveils couture collection in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

Rami Kadi unveils couture collection in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

DUBAI: Lebanese designer Rami Kadi presented his latest haute couture collection on Friday in AlUla with star-studded guests. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rami Kadi (@ramikadi_pvt)

 

His summer/spring designs offered something for everyone. The dresses showcased a variety of necklines, ranging from halter gowns and plunging V-shaped dresses to off-the-shoulder styles, strapless designs and more. 

 

 

The dresses, crafted from fabrics such as tulle, chiffon and crepe, exuded voluminous, glitzy and metallic aesthetics. However, there were also satin options and simpler designs available.

 

 

The collection boasted a palette of pastel hues including pink, peach, blue, green, purple, and an array of other colors such as off-white, beige, silver and gold.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rami Kadi (@ramikadi_pvt)

 

The show was a collaboration between Kadi and AlUla moments. It was attended by Lebanese superstar Najwa Karam, Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani, Tunisian actress Dorra Zarouk, and Saudi influencers Nojoud Al-Rumaihi and Lama Alakeel.


Hollywood Arab Film Festival: Showcasing Arab cinema in Los Angeles

Hollywood Arab Film Festival: Showcasing Arab cinema in Los Angeles
Updated 20 April 2024
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Hollywood Arab Film Festival: Showcasing Arab cinema in Los Angeles

Hollywood Arab Film Festival: Showcasing Arab cinema in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: The third annual Hollywood Arab Film Festival began this week, bringing the best of 2024’s Arab cinema to Los Angeles and giving fans a chance to see the films in theaters as well as introducing a new audience to the Arab world’s top talent.

The event, which runs until April 21, was attended by a number of celebrity guests including Egyptian producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy, Tunisian actor Dhaffer L’Abidine, renowned Egyptian star Elham Shahin and Egyptian producer Tarek El-Ganainy.

 

 

At the event, Hefty said: “Arab cinema really needs a platform to tell our stories and to show who we are, our identity, our hopes and dreams, our pains, and all the different social topics that are tackled in some of the films that are being presented are maybe more relevant today than ever. So I think it’s a great opportunity to have this dialogue.”

Hefzy’s film “Hajjan” was showing at the event. It is a Saudi Arabia-based film directed by Egyptian filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky.

“Hajjan is a film about a young boy who got a very special connection to his camel, who has a brother who was a camel jockey and races,” Hefzy said. “And, one day when something really unexpected happens to his brother, and shatters his world, it forces him to step into his brother’s shoes and become a camel jockey, and so starts racing himself.”

The movie is a co-production between the Kingdom’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, and Hefzy’s Film Clinic.

“It was a film made in Saudi Arabia with Saudi talents and actors with an Egyptian director, but with the Saudi co-writer and Saudi actors and shot mostly in Saudi Arabia,” Hefzy said. “So I think it’s, it was a great experience, and learned a lot about Saudi Arabia, learned a lot about the culture.”

The festival featured cinema from various Arab countries, presenting films from 16 different nations. Marlin Soliman, strategic planning director of HAFF, highlighted the inclusion of six feature films, ten short films and six student films.

Spanning five days, HAFF offered its audience a vibrant experience, including a red-carpet affair, panel discussions on filmmaking and diversity in Hollywood, and, of course, screenings of high-profile films.

The festival also saw several filmmakers singing the praises of Saudi Arabia’s expanding film industry.

L’Abidine, the writer and director of “To My Son,” said: “I’m thrilled to be back again with my second feature film ‘To My Son,’ a Saudi film… I think there is a great evolution of Saudi cinema that’s been happening in the last few years.”


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.