Gaza-born artist Hazem Harb’s ‘Gauze’ explores resistance and identity 

Gaza-born artist Hazem Harb’s ‘Gauze’ explores resistance and identity 
Hazem Harb is a Gaza-born artist. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 January 2024
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Gaza-born artist Hazem Harb’s ‘Gauze’ explores resistance and identity 

Gaza-born artist Hazem Harb’s ‘Gauze’ explores resistance and identity 
  • The Gaza-born artist’s latest show documents the Palestinian narrative and allows him to be ‘a voice for my people’ 

DUBAI: “Me, my family and my city are experiencing a genocide right now,” Gaza-born, Dubai-based artist Hazem Harb tells Arab News. “As an artist I feel I have the responsibility now to be a voice for my people. Art is the one way I can express myself and the emotions of my people during this time. It is also a way to document the narrative.” 

That is what Harb has done throughout his career, as his latest show “Gauze” — which runs until Feb. 15 at Tabari Artspace in Dubai — demonstrates.  




Hazem Harb, '1917 I.' (Supplied)

In “The Spirit of the Spirit,” two bodies drawn in charcoal embrace each other as if for the last time. The man’s head is bowed as if to shield the woman in his grasp. She looks out in agony and sadness, her hair extending out in the wind. It is part of Harb’s “Dystopia is Not a Noun” series and was produced following the outbreak of the current war between the Israeli military and Hamas in October last year, which has further deepened the humanitarian crises in Harb’s hometown.  

The two individuals in “The Spirit of the Spirit” writhe in suffering. And the series features several other large-scale of bodies in violent motion, experiencing intense suffering and uncertainty. 




Hazem Harb, '1917 II.' (Supplied)

“Gauze,” curated by Munira Al-Sayegh, is part of the program marking the gallery’s 20th anniversary. It presents an invigorating, insightful and intensely emotional array of works by Harb spanning around two decades, from when he was first starting his career as an artist in Palestine and subsequently as an art student in Rome, to “Dystopia is Not a Noun,” created over the past two years. 

The most obvious link between the different periods of Harb’s work is his emphasis on the body as a landscape through which to explore Palestinian history, collective and personal identity, and the preservation of memories in the face of ongoing obliteration. 

Harb says that when he and gallery founder Maliha Tabari — who is also of Palestinian heritage — decided to stage the exhibition, they explored the relationship of the body to geography and land. “Gauze” was originally scheduled to open in November, but was postponed and then “restaged” within the context of current events. 




Hazem Harb, 'The Spirit of the Spirit.' (Supplied)

Many of the older works in the show — mostly abstracts — were retrieved by Harb from Gaza last summer, just before they would likely have been lost forever in the current barrage of strikes from Israel. 

“My last visit to Gaza was extremely beautiful yet filled with contradictions,” recalls Harb. “I enjoyed every moment to the maximum. I saw beauty everywhere. And I had this feeling that I just had to take my work back with me. The older works are captivating to look at — they seem to exist in a space outside of control.” 

His newer works, like the charcoal drawings in the “Dystopia” series, once again see Harb returning to a style that relinquishes control. The gestural movement in his latest works contrasts with the poignant photo montages and mixed-media installations in his earlier work as a young artist growing up in Gaza.  




Some of the works on display in Hazem Harb's 'Gauze' exhibition, curated by Munira Al-Sayegh. (Supplied)

“Gauze” holds powerful meaning for Harb; its etymological roots come from Gaza, where the material has historically been crafted for use in ancient and modern medicine to wrap parts of the body.  

Harb’s use of gauze in his work — he says he used the material as a canvas in his childhood and the exhibition includes several pieces from last year created by using gauze on cardboard — takes on even deeper meaning within the context of current events.  

“Gauze became a way to deal with grief,” he says. “Now, it is also an instrument of resistance amid the suffering of Palestinians.”  

Over the course of his career, Harb has used gauze in various works, including “Burned Bodies,” a video installation created during his studies at Città dell’Altra Economia in Rome in 2008.  




Hazem Harb's 'Gauze' series on display at Tabari Artspace in Dubai. (Supplied)

The current exhibition highlights the multifaceted significance of the material within the present-day calamity in Palestine, as well as both the metaphorical and corporeal resonance of past and present-day destruction.  

Walking through the exhibition provokes a strong physical and emotional reaction. Harb’s works are raw, asking to be seen and understood amid the madness. The works serve not only as a commemoration of the suffering, history and heritage of Palestine but also of the artist’s personal journey as a Gazan native in exile. 

Two of the more powerful works are depictions of watermelons — a fruit that has long been a symbol of Palestinian resistance — that were inspired by a 1917 fresco painting on a building in Nazareth. In “1917 I,” a slice of the fruit sits atop the melon, with the knife used to cut it jutting out proudly and prominently — another marker of defiance. 

“1917 I” and “1917 II” were both created by Harb this year and are the most recent works in the show.  

“They symbolize my life if I were to pass away now,” he says. “I would go with this symbol of resistance.” 


Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph
Updated 19 July 2024
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Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph
  • Familiar genre tropes are combined to make a uniquely gripping show

DUBAI: The odd-couple premise of Apple TV’s “Sunny” isn’t particularly promising — in near-future Japan a grieving widow, Suzie Sakamoto (Rashida Jones) teams up with the titular robot to try and solve the mysterious disappearance (and, apparently, death) of her husband and son in a plane crash. So far, so meh.

But “Sunny” is actually a delight. In the three episodes available at the time of writing, it mixes gory violence, humor — both dark and silly, a quirky aesthetic, meditative takes on loss, and explorations of how technology plays on our fears and desires. Jones is excellent as the expat American who come to Japan seeking solitude and instead found love with the kind-hearted Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), with whom she has a son, Zen.

After their disappearance, Suzie is gifted a “homebot,” Sunny, by her husband’s employers, a tech firm for whom Masa was a refrigeration engineer. At least that’s what he told Suzie. But then she’s told that Masa programmed Sunny especially for her — her first clue that perhaps Masa hasn’t been entirely honest with her.

Suzie is not a fan of technology, so her first instinct is to reject Sunny’s overbearingly cute attempts to bond with her, just as she tries to ignore her mother-in-law Noriko’s cutting tongue and clear disdain for the American her son chose to marry.

But as Suzie uncovers more details about her husband’s work life (at a company party, one of Masa’s minions talks of him fearfully), and his disappearance, she begins to realize that Sunny may hold the key to uncovering a sinister conspiracy.

Suzie is aided in her quest by a cocktail-bar waitress, Mixxy (singer-songwriter and social-media star Annie the Clumsy), who provides another awkward corner to the Suzie-Sunny relationship, as well as a window for Suzie into the underground world of bot-hacking. But while Suzie carries out her own investigations, she too is being stalked and observed by a shadowy criminal gang led by the sinister and scary Hime, who, it seems, also knew Masa.

“Sunny” is a gripping slow-burn, confidently paced by showrunner Katie Robbins and beautifully acted by its mostly Japanese cast. Despite the show’s many strands, Robbins’ deft touch means it avoids drifting into confusion, instead holding the audience’s attention as it leads you into a story that uses familiar elements from multiple genres to create something unique.


Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 

Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 
Updated 19 July 2024
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Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 

Mohammed Khoja pays homage to the Kingdom in latest collection 
  • The Saudi fashion designer discusses his new shirts, inspired by different regions of his homeland 

RIYADH: “I was very motivated by (the idea of) integrating my experiences as a Saudi and contributing to the creation of a more contemporary Saudi design identity through my point of view,” Saudi fashion designer Mohammed Khoja, founder of luxury label Hindamme, tells Arab News. “My ultimate goal is to open more doors and to spread Saudi culture to global audiences. 

“Hindamme has grown considerably since its inception, and I am very optimistic about what’s to come. I believe brands such as mine are proving to be more lucrative and I’ve observed an uptick in demand, and opportunities for growth, in recent months,” he continues. 

Hindamme is an old Arabic adjective that roughly “a harmonious aesthetic form.” That is what Khoja hopes to capture in each of his creations — combining a bold but minimalist approach to ready-to-wear fashion.  

Mohammed Khoja is the founder of luxury label Hindamme. (Supplied)

Hindamme’s “Season V” collection, for example, drew on color theory, and included “mood-enhancing” gradients as well as futuristic, nature-inspired themes in fabrics including velvet, nylon, and satin. Khoja debuted those designs in Paris in June last year, along with 15 other Saudi designers at a pop-up event called Emerge, organized by the Saudi Fashion Commission and MoCX, the Saudi Ministry of Culture's General Department of Innovation, in partnership with the Saudi Visual Arts Commission, the Saudi Culinary Arts Commission, and the Saudi Music Commission.  

“Season V” was designed during COVID-19 lockdowns, and was partly inspired by Khoja’s desire to “reconnect” with the Earth. It included a heat temperature-gradient blazer, which Khoja intended as a stark reminder of the threat of climate change. 

For his latest collection, his sixth, the designer was inspired by different regions of his homeland.  

“It is inspired by my love of travel and pays homage to the Kingdom’s drive to promote tourism. I designed pieces that were sort of like elevated post cards for every region — it truly is like a love letter to our cultural diversity. The new designs are also a lesson in visual storytelling; they invite you on a journey to discover each of these glorious regions.” Khoja says.  

Khoja says he spent months conducting extensive research. “I integrated the landmarks of each region that I felt were the most iconic and synonymous. Each design incorporates the iconography of that area, such as Jeddah, Riyadh, Aseer, Eastern Province and AlUla.” 

Here, Khoja discusses some of the pieces from his latest collection. 

AlUla 

“The ancient languages and rock art are important elements for AlUla because of its rich ancient history of Lihyanite and Nabatean civilizations, so I utilized it for the shirt. Along with the ancient inscriptions and carvings, the AlUla shirt is decorated with famous ancient sites and landmarks such as Hegra and Elephant Rock, along with the integration of the majestic Arabian leopard,” the designer says. 

Aseer  

Khoja’s Aseer silk shirt includes a hand-painted backdrop of Rijal AlMaa village, decorated with Al-Qatt Al-Aseeri patterns, which the designer credits as a major source of inspiration throughout his career. “Aseeri culture has always been a great influence. I grew up reading books about the beautiful crafts and how women of the region specialized in this art,” the designer says, adding that Al-Qatt Al-Assiri was also the inspiration for his debut collection. 

Jeddah  

“Jeddah is a colorful array of iconography representing the bright colors of the coastal city,” Khoja says. “Jeddah is very famous for its breathtaking sunsets and I wanted to present its sunsets as the centerpiece. The shirt also includes the famous fountain as well as architecture from Jeddah’s historical district, Al-Balad.” 

Eastern province 

“With the Eastern Province design, I featured iconic landmarks of the region, with refences to Jabal Qarra in AlAhsa, Ithra and Dammam Well No. 7 — the first oil well discovered in the Kingdom,” says Khoja. 

Riyadh 

“The Riyadh silk shirt is another piece of visual storytelling and features iconic modern-day landmarks of our beloved capital such as KAFD, Kingdom Tower, and Al-Faisaliyah Tower. It infuses the rich traditions of its past with a neon homage to Diriyah and motif patterns taken from old Najdi doors,” Khoja said.  


Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 
Updated 19 July 2024
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Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 
  • We need to ‘stop seeing the Arab world as a block,’ says IMA curator 

PARIS: The latest contemporary art exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris — “Arabofuturs,” which runs until Oct. 27 — is, according to curator Élodie Bouffard, “built around the dynamic of the singularities expressed in the Arab world, and the singularity of each of the artists.” Those artists come from the Arab world and its diasporas, and include Saudi artists Ayman Zedani and Zahrah Alghamdi, Lebanese sculptor Souraya Haddad Credoz, Tunisian artist Aïcha Snoussi, and Moroccan artist Hicham Berrada. 

The show is divided into two parts: “Programmed Futures” and “Hybrid Futures.” In the first, Bouffard explains, the featured artists explore contemporary society, “capitalism, ultra-consumerism, the question of exile, the diaspora, and identities — often through a post-colonial approach.” 

The second part tackles imagined societies — the artists deploy aesthetic fictions that take visitors into organic worlds “that make us travel in time, and reflect on transhumanism, the future of the human, and the resilience of nature,” Bouffard says. 

Saudi artist Ayman Zedani's video installation at 'Arabofuturs.' (Supplied)

Both sections underline that the notion, and perception, of the future is personal, with each artist drawing on his or her personal experiences. 

The exhibition begins with a space dedicated to artwork from Gulf, and an introduction to the concept of Gulf futurism formulated by Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria and Kuwaiti musician and conceptual artist Fatima Al-Qadiri in 2012 as part of a photo series and interview in Dazed magazine. It was, according to the IMA website, “a worried questioning of the accelerated hyper-modernization at work in the region.” 

“This article was a pivotal moment in Gulf futurism, having led the artists to become interested in the question of futures and science fiction,” explains Bouffard. 

Sophia Al-Maria et Fatima Al Qadiri's 'The Desert of the Unreal.' (Supplied)

Al-Maria’s “Black Friday” — a series of photographs and a video installation — questions the standardization of spaces and the loneliness that can stem from it. It is followed by Al-Ghamdi’s “Birth of a Place,” which was previously displayed at the Diriyah Contemporary Art Bienniale, and explores new architectures. 

“She's trying to create a new cosmogony — a new (example) of the skyline, the enhancement of heritage, and the future of metal and glass constructions, in environments where there’s a real material and architectural cultural,” notes Bouffard. 

The aim of this section is to present the different approaches to architecture, heritage, identity, and exile in the Gulf and North Africa.  

A still from Larissa Sansour's 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain.' (Supplied)

“Themes pertaining to the future of societies can be rooted in their past,” Bouffard says. “It is our job at the IMA to stop seeing the Arab world as a block. We wanted to show that there is not just one future. When we talk about the future, everyone thinks of video games and artificial intelligence, but futures unfold in all forms. We thought it would be interesting to reflect on artefacts, paintings, ceramics, and organic material.” 

Al-Ghamdi, for example, used leather, an organic material in “Worlds to Come,” while Berrada used metal to create hybrid masks combining insects, plants, and humans in “Les Hygres.” Elsewhere, Credoz worked with ceramics “to shape coloured magma and build post-apocalyptic organic worlds,” Bouffard says. 

A piece from Hicham Berrada's 'Les Hygres.' (Supplied)

Snoussi, meanwhile, “recreates manifestos that bear witness to past societies that have disappeared, leading to Arabic writing, but also to Amazigh, with a theme of symbolism that recreates bridges between the present and the future.” 

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour contributes “In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain,” a video from 2015 featuring archaeological activists burying porcelain bearing a keffiyeh motif, an attempt to make future claims on this territory. 

“She highlights the politicization of archaeology in Israel and Palestine in this video, which has a particular resonance today,” Bouffard says. 


‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 
Updated 19 July 2024
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‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

DUBAI: Canadian filmmaker Shawn Levy says he was thrilled to helm Marvel’s first R-rated superhero outing — “Deadpool & Wolverine” — which lands in cinemas July 25. 

“I was thrilled by Marvel’s lack of boundaries,” Levy tells Arab News. “Clearly (they) understood that to make a ‘Deadpool’ film that’s satisfying, it needed to be creatively and audaciously free. So, we were given very few limits. I think there was one joke in the entire movie that was requested to be changed.” 

“Deadpool & Wolverine” imports both Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and the newly resurrected Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) from 21st Century Fox and into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, currently reeling from a series of recent flops. In fact, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is the only cinematic release scheduled from the MCU this year. 

The film picks up six years after the events of ”Deadpool 2.” Wade Wilson has left his time as the mercenary Deadpool behind him, until the Time Variance Authority pulls him into a new mission. With his home universe facing an existential threat, Wilson reluctantly teams up with an even-more-reluctant Wolverine on a mission that, according to the blurb, “will change the history of the MCU.” 

Levy, who has previously worked with both Jackman (on 2011’s “Real Steel”) and Reynolds (on 2021’s “Free Guy” and the following year’s “The Adam Project”), says he has been a fan of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise since the first film came out in 2016.  

“I remember watching (the first) ‘Deadpool,’ and I was stunned because it redefined the superhero genre and it was also one of the most relentlessly funny and creative movies I’ve ever seen. It still is. I’ve watched it seven or eight times. So, I really came to this as a fan,” he says. 

“(When the opportunity came to direct this film), I realized: ‘I have the privilege to tell the first Deadpool-Wolverine story.’ I also thought: ‘Oh, I can not only honor these characters, I can also tell a story about friendship and about brotherhood that is as poignant as it is funny.’ And that felt like a great opportunity. 

“I came into this with a keen awareness of what preceded me,” he continues. “And I’m aware of the passionate love for this world and these characters around the world. So, I was humbled. I was momentarily daunted. But then I did a mental trick with myself where I focused on the opportunity, an opportunity to play in a sandbox that is familiar to the world, where the tropes and conventions and the encyclopedic possibilities were huge. And once I started focusing on the opportunity of stepping in, I wasn’t intimidated by it. I was excited by it.” 

Levy says there are two things he’s most excited about audiences discovering. “The first is: In a movie with Deadpool and Wolverine, we all know there’s going to be sick fights and there’s going to be a lot of them, and I think there’s a delightful surprise in the mandate we gave ourselves making this movie, which was that there should be an evolution to the action. It’s got a cinematic language, in that each action sequence has its own visual vocabulary. I think that’s going to be a delightful surprise. 

“But maybe the most subversive surprise of ‘Deadpool and Wolverine’ is the extent to which it is emotional,” he continues. “It is — especially in its second half — a very poignant film about friendship and about redemption.” 


Eminem to headline fifth edition of Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm

Eminem to headline fifth edition of Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm
Updated 18 July 2024
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Eminem to headline fifth edition of Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm

Eminem to headline fifth edition of Saudi Arabia’s MDLBEAST Soundstorm

DUBAI: MDLBEAST’s Soundstorm festival, returning to rock Banban, Riyadh from Dec. 12–14 for its fifth edition, announced superstar rapper Eminem as its headline act.

Joining Eminem in the lineup will be US rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, British rock legends Muse, Swiss DJ duo Adriatique (Adrian Shala and Adrian Schweizer), German DJ Boris Brejcha, Italian DJ Marco Carola, British-Canadian DJ Richie Hawtin and many more.

As the region’s biggest music festival, Soundstorm delivers a vibrant mix of music styles and genres from around the world.

Ramadan Al-Haratani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said in a statement: “Soundstorm, the region’s biggest music festival, has successfully made a remarkable impact on the regional and global music scene, making it an eagerly anticipated annual festival for music fans worldwide.

“This has contributed to enhancing the Kingdom’s position in the music entertainment sector.”