British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
Renowned British explorer, travel writer, expedition leader and former soldier Sir Ranulph Fiennes has lived his life on the edge. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 February 2024
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British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his new book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’
  • The British explorer talks to Arab News about the parallels between his life and that of T.E. Lawrence, and his own time in the Arab world 

DUBAI: The renowned British explorer, travel writer, expedition leader and former soldier Sir Ranulph Fiennes has lived his life on the edge. He was the first to cross Antarctica on foot and reportedly the only person to set foot on both the North and South Poles.  

Since he started his travels back in 1967, when he was in his early twenties, Fiennes has seen it all, including the great mountains Kilimanjaro, Everest and Elbrus, the latter being the highest mountain in Europe. So, where has this drive come from?  

“It’s called DNA,” Fiennes tells Arab News. “My dad was killed in the Second World War, four months before I was born. My mum told me all about him. He’d been wounded so many times. He was in command of the greatest British tank regiment of the time and all I wanted to do, as I grew up, was to get into the British army and then become a colonel like dad. But I only reached the rank of captain.”  

After exploring cold climates, Fiennes decided to head into “the great heat,” just like one of his heroes — the British archaeologist and intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence, famously known as Lawrence of Arabia — did.  




An undated portrait of Sir Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia. (AFP)

Lawrence had a reputation for being a friend to the Arabs who were seeking autonomy from ruling Turks during the centuries-long Ottoman Empire. During World War One, he famously led bold military raids with Arab tribesmen in the great Arab Revolt. Like Lawrence, who died in 1935 at the age of 46, Fiennes was also involved in strategic military action in the Gulf, specifically Oman. In the late Sixties, he captained Arab troops in the Dhofar Rebellion, fighting against the Marxist threat.  

“I saw an advertisement from the Sultan of Oman for a two-and-a-half year posting and I put my name in immediately and was accepted,” he recalls.   




Ranulph Fiennes (front, center) with recce platoon in Dhofar 1968. (Supplied)

Fiennes has recently written a biography of Lawrence, in which he also offers his own perspective of battle. Lawrence’s story of the harsh heat of the desert has always resonated with Fiennes.  

“When I went out (to Oman), I had a copy of one of Lawrence’s books with me and I really felt more about him than any other person that I’d read about,” he says.  

Fiennes also explains in the book that “it was only after treading in his footsteps and embarking on similar adventures that I realized the man’s true greatness. . .  While there are some interesting parallels between us, I’ve often found that he is a man without equal. His adventures in the desert were enough to stir the blood.”  

Lawrence’s life of adventure began with a difficult childhood. He was reportedly abused by his mother. But his intelligence and maturity shone through from an early age.  

“It was said that he could recite the alphabet by the age of three, while he could also read the newspaper upside down before he was five. He became fascinated by military history, devouring all manner of books on the subject, including all thirty-two volumes of Napoleon’s correspondence,” according to Fiennes.  




Ranulph Fiennes (right) in Oman in the late 1960s. (Supplied) 

After studying history at Oxford University, Lawrence visited the Arab world for the first time in 1909, and it left a lasting impression on him. A few years later, he performed archaeological work in Carchemish in northern Syria.  

Lawrence was fluent in Arabic, friendly and approachable, developing a bond with Arab communities, as well as offering them medical assistance. Fiennes says that the man fit right in.  

“I came out with the definite opinion that he did love working with those particular Arabs and I loved working with the Arabs in a military situation, like he was. His actions made a great difference to the whole fight against the Ottoman Empire. He got on very well with the key guys, like Feisal. I don’t think you could have had a better person — Muslim or non-Muslim — than him in every way,” notes Fiennes. 

The ‘Feisal’ that Fiennes is talking about is Prince Feisal Bin Al-Hussein, the son of the Grand Sharif of Makkah. The prince was the leader of the revolt, and a close ally of Lawrence.  

“I felt at first glance that this was the man I had come to Arabia to seek, the leader who would bring the Arab Revolt to full glory,” Lawrence once wrote of the prince in his memoir, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”  

Between 1916 and 1918, the revolt galvanized Lawrence and Arab troops to attack Turkish-heavy locations in modern-day Syria and Jordan, notably the Hejaz Railway and the Aqaba fort. There was a lot of marching in the desert for miles on end, an intense task which tested Lawrence.  

“He was a very hardy guy,” says Fiennes. “He could put up with discomfort an awful lot. On one occasion, when he was leading an attack, he shot his own camel as he charged and fell off. He managed to just get back on again and carry on. That was just one of many examples of his hardiness. It’s not normal to start camel travel with a gun. You normally do it slowly and learn to get comfortable on board a camel.”  

Aside from setting foot in Damascus and Aleppo, Lawrence also stayed in modern-day Saudi Arabia. His traditional two-story house in the city of Yanbu, located on the Red Sea, still stands today. It was recently renovated to attract visitors and history enthusiasts.  

Victory for the Arab Revolt turned sour when the winners of the First World War — Britain and France, among other nations — unveiled their own plans for controlling the Levant, going against Lawrence’s promise that the Arabs would have the right to self-rule.  

“He felt terribly guilty that the Brits would take over, like the French and sometimes the Russians, instead of handing it straight over,” says Fiennes. “Unfortunately, he was not in as important a position as those people who wanted the French and Brits to divide Arabia between them.”  

When the disappointed Lawrence returned to England, he kept a low profile. “He was very honest about his own view of himself. He didn’t want to be famous or infamous. He just wanted to disappear,” says Fiennes.   

Nearly five decades have passed since Fiennes’ days in Oman, but despite the fact that he and his men were in a situation where life could be snatched away at any moment, he has many fond memories.  

“I am very lucky to have had such a wonderful time with many Arab soldiers in Oman,” he says. “Many things that were in Lawrence’s book remind me of the happy times — all the nights sitting around the fire, joking and laughing — with those soldiers in the desert.” 


Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon

Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon
Updated 14 April 2024
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Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon

Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon
  • The newly rediscovered medallion features a portrait of Sultan Mehmed II The Conqueror
  • The item is expected to sell for around £2 million at auction at Bonhams of London

LONDON: To the Christians of Europe in the mid-15th century, the Islamic leader Mehmed II was “the terror of the world,” a “venomous dragon” at the head of “bloodthirsty hordes.”

The Roman Catholic Pope, Nicholas V, went even further. To him, the seventh ruler of the Ottoman Empire was nothing less than “the son of Satan, perdition and death.”

Understandably, Mehmed’s subjects felt rather differently about the man who between 1444 and 1481 would triple the size of the empire.

Illustration showing Mehmed II, the Conqueror of Constantinople. (Shutterstock)

To them, he was “The Father of Conquest,” the man who in 1453, at the age of 21, achieved the impossible by capturing the supposedly impregnable fortress of Constantinople.

The single most strategically important city of the Middle Ages, Constantinople had been in Christian hands ever since its foundation in 330 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine.

In modern-day Turkiye, Mehmed II is considered a hero by many. Symbolically, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which was completed in 1988 and links Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait, bears his name.

Now, a unique and only recently rediscovered portrait of Mehmed the Conqueror, created an estimated three years before his most celebrated feat of arms, is coming up for sale at an auction at Bonhams of London, at which it is predicted to fetch as much as £2 million ($2.53 million).

This painting of Mehmed the Conqueror by Venetian artist Gentile Bellini in about 1480 can be seen at the National Gallery in London. (Supplied)

This is far from being the only known portrait of Mehmed; one of the most famous, painted by the Venetian artist Gentile Bellini in about 1480, can be seen at the National Gallery in London.

The uniqueness of the likeness on the bronze medallion is that it is not only the only known portrait of Mehmed II as a young man, pictured before he conquered Constantinople, but also the earliest known portrait of any Islamic ruler by a Western artist.

There is no date on the medal. But the clue to when the portrait was executed — almost certainly from life, by a skilled but anonymous Renaissance artist — lies in the Latin inscription, which reads: “Great Prince and Great Emir, Sultan Master Mehmet.”

Tellingly, said Oliver White, Bonhams’ head of Islamic and Indian art, “the inscription lacks the ‘Imperatorial’ title, which was included on medals after the fall of Constantinople.”

Experts have also concluded that, because of the absence of any design or lettering on the reverse of the brass medallion, plus the existence of a hole at its top, through which a chain might have been attached, it could well have been “a deeply personal and significant possession of the great Sultan.”

FASTFACTS

• Size of of Ottoman Empire would triple between 1444 and 1481.

• In 1453, at the age of 21, Mehmed II captured Constantinople.

• Mehmed II made further conquests before dying aged 49 in 1481 .

This, said White, suggests the intriguing possibility that it might once have hung around the neck of The Conqueror as a talisman. Indeed, in a later portrait Mehmed is depicted wearing what appears to be the very same medal.

“For us, the single most important historical element is that we believe that the medal belonged personally to Mehmed,” said White.

“You can also say it was almost certainly done from life, that it is a real portrait that actually looks like him rather than being a typical generic miniature painting of a sultan.”

Although the name of the artist remains unknown, “we do know that it was made in Italy, because that’s where all these pieces were being made at the time, when it was a fairly new thing.

“The whole concept of these portrait medallions, which had been resurrected from ancient Rome, had begun only about 20 years earlier, in the 1430s.”

Presenting the fall of Constantinople as an existential struggle between Christianity and Islam would be to simplify a complex situation, said White. There were Turks among the defenders of Constantinople, loyal to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI, and thousands of Christians among the 50,000-strong Ottoman army.

Shutterstock image

In a short biography commissioned by Bonhams, historian Peter Frankopan writes that despite the portrayal of Mehmed in contemporary European propaganda as a tyrant, in fact “the conquest of Constantinople was accompanied by a set of policies that even critics conceded showed a surprising degree of tolerance, most notably to the Greek Orthodox Christians who were protected from persecution by laws as well as by the sultan’s personal command — with similar concessions being given to Armenian Christians, to Jews and to other minorities in the city.”

Nevertheless, the fall of the city, “which had been the subject of lavish investment by the Roman Emperor Constantine and had stood for more than a millennium as the capital of the Roman Empire in the east — usually called the Byzantine Empire — sent shockwaves through the Mediterranean and beyond.

“Constantinople’s fall to Mehmed and his forces was not so much a dramatic moment as a decisive turning point in history.”

Art experts from Sotheby's talk about Paul Signac's "La Corne d'Or (Constantinople)" during an auction preview November 1, 2019 at Sotheby's in New York. (AFP/File photo)

In fact, according to the Victorian British historian Lord Acton, modern history began “under the stress of the Ottoman conquest.”

In Acton’s view, wrote Frankopan, “the failure of Europeans to put their differences to one side, the reluctance of Christians in the west to support their Greek-speaking Orthodox neighbours to the east, and the ineffective response to the threat posed by Mehmed and his Muslim armies set off a chain reaction that ultimately helped shape the Reformation — if not the age of global empires that emerged from places such as Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain.”

It was, said White, “no exaggeration to say that the fall of Constantinople shaped the modern world — and it was with the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century that many of the problems of the modern world arose.”

Ruins of Rumelihisari, Bogazkesen Castle, or Rumelian Castle, built by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II.  located at the hills of the European side of Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul, Turkiye. (Shutterstock image)

In his relatively brief life — he died at the age of 49 in 1481 — Mehmed achieved much, including a series of further conquests in Asia and Europe. But although he carved his way through much of the 15th century with a sword, he was a man of contradictions, introducing many political and social reforms at home and proving a great patron of the arts and sciences.

“He gathered Italian humanists and Greek scholars to his court,” said White, “and by the end of his reign had transformed Constantinople into a thriving imperial capital.”

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Although Mehmed commissioned many portraits of himself during his reign, executed in the Italian style, it is the rarity of the medallion that has invested it with such a high potential value.

“The medal was acquired by its present owner in an auction in Rome in 2000,” said White. “It was lumped in with a job lot of medals, and considered to be of very little importance.”

At the time no one quite understood its significance. A lot of academics have looked at it, and for seven or eight years after the original sale it was thought it might date to the 1460s, which was post-Constantinople and therefore less.”

Finally, it was realized that Mehmed had been referred to by the Latin title “Magnus princeps” only once before — in a treaty with Venice, drawn up in the 1440s.

In all portraits and references following the 53-day siege of 1453 he is referred to without exception as “The Conqueror of Constantinople.”


ALSO READ: Book by Saudi author unravels Ottoman atrocities in Madinah


The unnamed owner is now parting with the medal after the successful completion of two decades of research into its history.

“It’s been his baby for 25 years,” said White, “and I think he feels, ‘we know what it is now, and it's time for the public to enjoy it’.”

There is, of course, no guarantee that the medal will be purchased by an institution, said White. But the expected price and the historical significance of the piece in the story of Islam suggests at least “the possibility” that bidders will include some of the great museums of the Middle East.

Tipu Sultan's fabled bedchamber sword sold for £14 million at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale in London on May 23, 2023. (Photo credit: Bonhams)

Bidding will have to be furious to beat the world record for an Islamic and Indian object, set by the sale in London last year of the sword of Tipu Sultan, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India between 1782 and 1799, for £14 million.

The Mehmed medallion, estimated at between £1.5-2 million, will be the star lot at the Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art Sale on May 21 at Bonhams New Bond Street, London.

 


Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more

Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more
Updated 13 April 2024
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Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more

Cinema for Gaza auction raises over $300,000 with the aid of Annie Lennox, Jonathan Glazer, Ramy Youssef and more

DUBAI: Cinema for Gaza, which was launched by a group of female filmmakers and film journalists, has raised $316,778 to support the UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians through a celebrity auction, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The auction featured donations from Tilda Swinton, Annie Lennox, Joaquin Phoenix, Spike Lee and Guillermo del Toro among others. 

Lennox’s handwritten lyrics to her Eurythmics hit “Sweet Dreams” was the top seller, with a bidder paying $26,222 for the item.

Meanwhile, “The Zone of Interest” director Jonathan Glazer, who received criticism online for referencing the Gaza conflict in his 2024 Oscars acceptance speech, donated seven posters from the film, signed by himself, composer Mica Levi and producer James Wilson, as well as a selection of posters for his 2014 feature “Under the Skin,” which collectively raised $13,702. 

US-Egyptian comedian and creator Ramy Youssef donated tickets to his live show as well as to the afterparty and a meet-and-greet. Oscar-winner Phoenix donated a signed “Joker” poster. Del Toro contributed six signed books. Lee contributed a signed, framed poster of Malcolm X.

“We thought we might raise maybe £20,000 ($25,000),” said London-based film journalist and critic Hanna Flint to The Hollywood Reporter.

Flint set up Cinema for Gaza together with her film-industry friends Hannah Farr, Julia Jackman, Leila Latif, Sophie Monks Kaufman, and Helen Simmons a few months after the start of Israel’s ongoing military assault on Gaza.

“We’re a very diverse group of women, we’ve got women of color, we’ve got Jewish women, Muslim women, Christians, atheists, who all came together out of this need to do something tangible to show our support and activism for the humanitarian crisis that’s going on (in Gaza),” said Flint.

“We really believe that cinema can be a powerful tool, a political tool, to speak about the world, to reflect and engage with what’s going on, and, we thought, what better way (to get) people in our industry to come together to try and help people who are not doing that well?”
 


Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show

Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show
Updated 13 April 2024
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Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show

Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr all set to speak ‘the truth’ at Dubai show

DUBAI: Palestinian American comedian Amer Zahr, who is set to perform at the Dubai Comedy Festival on April 17, says he is an activist who “likes to use comedy as his tool.”

In an interview with Arab News ahead of his show at the Dubai Opera, Zahr said: “Activism is about telling the truth. Being Palestinian is about telling the truth. And comedy is about telling the truth. People sometimes say to me, ‘Hey, I never know when you’re joking.’ I tell them, ‘Look, I’m always being serious. I’m always telling the truth.’ But a comedian uses humor to tell the truth.

“Because if you can make someone laugh, they listen to you and they let down their guard.

“And we Palestinians have been trying to tell our story for 75 years. And we’ve been using art, music, poetry … but for me, I found that comedy is a very effective way. So, I’m a Palestinian first who is trying to tell our stories, and comedy is my tool,” he added.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amer Zahr (@amerzahr)

Zahr, who is also a law professor and political activist, said he got hooked to stand-up comedy while in law school.

“I had thought about comedy and then in law school, the opportunity presented itself where there was a show going on, and they kind of asked if anyone wants to do some comedy before the main comedian comes on. And so, I said ‘let me try it.’ I got up there. I told a couple stories about my dad. Everybody laughed, and I got kind of hooked to the idea of being on a stage and being able to make people laugh and connect with people in that way,” said Zahr.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amer Zahr (@amerzahr)

For Zahr, the allure of stand-up comes from the fact that it involves “speaking truth to power.”

He said: “Comedy is one of the purest art forms. When somebody sings, we’re okay with it if we learned later on that they didn’t write the song. We’re just happy they have a great voice. But when you hear a comedian, you assume that everything that that person is saying is genuine and coming from them. And if you learned later that it wasn’t, you might feel cheated.

“Comedy is a very personal art form between the audience and the comedian. And, so, that’s something that you that you grow into. And then comedy, in its purest form, is a form of protest, speaking truth to power. And, so, it kind of fits the Palestinian story perfectly,” he added.

Asked about what audiences can expect from his Dubai show, Zahr said: “It’s going to be me telling the Palestinian story from before Oct. 7, and after Oct. 7, with love, laughter and the truth. And maybe during the show, I’ll make people laugh until they cry. And sometimes I’ll make them cry until they laugh.”


Ryan Reynolds spotted wearing Gigi Hadid’s clothing brand

Ryan Reynolds spotted wearing Gigi Hadid’s clothing brand
Updated 13 April 2024
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Ryan Reynolds spotted wearing Gigi Hadid’s clothing brand

Ryan Reynolds spotted wearing Gigi Hadid’s clothing brand

DUBAI: Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds is the latest celebrity to be spotted in a cardigan from Palestinian Dutch supermodel Gigi Hadid’s clothing label Guest in Residence.

Hadid took to Instagram to thank the “Deadpool” star for choosing the label, while also playfully including the star’s actress-wife Blake Lively in the message.

“Thank You @vancityreynolds mostly because we collectively, as a team, geek out every time you wear Guest in Residence,” wrote Hadid.

“You will never look like Blake in it,” the post added. “But you know this and I find you as a more useful friend of the brand because you love trying all the new pieces and she’s been wearing the same shirt from two winters ago through every season.”

“CC @blakelively … Your spring package is on the way, please try a cotton blend.”

Reynolds was wearing a peach Everywear Cardigan.

Earlier this year, Lively was spotted in New York City wearing a colorful Guest in Residence sweater.

Lively was with US singer and songwriter Taylor Swift when she was seen wearing an orange, yellow and black striped sweater, called Stripe Crew.

Hadid shared Lively’s picture on her Instagram and wrote: “I’m dead, so gorgeous.”

Lively paired the sweater with a brown suede circle skirt, a pair of orange platform heels and a yellow, brown and beige Louis Vuitton purse.

Lively and Swift were attending a private party at Lucali Pizza restaurant in Brooklyn.

Swift has been spotted in Guest in Residence several times. She sported an eye-catching, red cashmere crewneck at a Kansas City Chiefs game, while cheering on her partner Travis Kelce.

Yet another celebrity supporting Hadid’s label is Hollywood star Bradley Cooper, who sparked dating rumors with Hadid late last year.

In February this year, the “Maestro” actor stepped out in in the label’s Stripe Crew in the forest/cobalt/midnight colorway. He paired the look with comfortable gray sweatpants, hiking shoes and a heavy coat.

Late last year, Cooper also made a style statement when he was photographed wearing the cashmere Plaid Work Shirt while out on a stroll in New York City.


Saudi conceptual artist Filwa Nazer discusses highlights from her career so far 

Saudi conceptual artist Filwa Nazer discusses highlights from her career so far 
Updated 12 April 2024
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Saudi conceptual artist Filwa Nazer discusses highlights from her career so far 

Saudi conceptual artist Filwa Nazer discusses highlights from her career so far 

DUBAI: For as long as she can remember, the conceptual Saudi artist Filwa Nazer — who was born in Swansea, Wales, in the 1970s but grew up in the Kingdom — has always loved art. She says that she spent her time as a youngster drawing, painting, writing notes, and reflecting on life in a Saudi Arabia which, back then, lacked art education. “As a young artist, you don’t realize that all the challenges you face eventually inform your creative process,” Nazer tells Arab News.   

In the 1990s, Nazer moved to Milan, where she studied fashion design and later trained with the acclaimed Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré.  

“He was quite an intimidating character, so I was a little bit in awe of him, but I was fascinated by the fact that he was an architect originally. His white shirts were quite structural,” says Nazer.  

Saudi artist Filwa Nazer — who was born in Swansea, Wales, in the 1970s but grew up in the Kingdom — has always loved art. (Supplied)

At the Ferré company, she was particularly drawn to the archival department, where all kinds of vintage garments were stored. She also learned about embroidery. Those experiences feed into her recent work, which focuses heavily on fabrics, but with an emotional touch.  

There is something sentimental about Nazer’s artwork, which is inspired by emotions, spaces, life transitions and memories. “For me,” she says, “the work always comes from a personal place.” 

Here, Nazer talks us through six significant works, from a large-scale installation in the desert to an intimate fabric piece addressing women’s bodies.  

 

‘The Skin I Live In’  

This installation from 2019 was one of the first ever textile works that I made, setting me on this journey of working with textiles. It’s two meters high and looks like a big skirt from the front. Inside, there are layers of embroidered muslin cotton, which is cut according to the floor plans of my flat in London. Covering the muslin is a layer of green polyethylene — a type of plastic mesh that you see in construction sites. I use these materials in a conceptual and symbolic way. I wanted to see if I could use sewing as a language and create landscapes of emotions through stitching. This work was about a particular time when I needed healing and protection, and that space provided a container for me to explore all of that.   

 

‘Preserving Shadows’  

This was part of Desert X AlUla this year. I’d never done something on this scale before — and in such a challenging environment like AlUla desert, which made me feel blocked. But I like to get out of my comfort zone and see what can happen if I work in a different way. Through my research, I came across this paragraph about plants in the desert and the supernatural. Suddenly, there was a lightbulb in my head and I started thinking that my blockage and discomfort in this environment could become my concept. I wanted to create a journey that is about a moment of transition; you walk through shadows and, as you walk, you are ascending and the shadows recede until you reach the end. It’s a journey of metaphorically overcoming darkness. 

 

‘The Hands Want To See, The Eyes Want To Caress’ 

This body of work was shown in an exhibition called “Saudi Modern” in 2021. A few artists were commissioned by Bricklab to create artworks that responded to a particular building from the modernist era of architecture in Jeddah. I created these five pieces as my response to a private residence, the Bajnaid House, in Al-Kandarah area. It was the epitome of modernist, trendy Jeddah in the Fifties and Sixties. It’s completely lost that status now. The works kind of explore what happens to a space or a house as it degrades — as it’s abandoned. Some of these pieces are about how I connected to the aesthetics of the house and the other pieces, the ones with the wood and fabric, are about how this house made me feel and how my body reacted to it. It asks: “Is a discarded house not attractive anymore? Or do you find beauty in the way it is now?” 
 

‘Five Women’   

This was a very special series. It was commissioned for the first edition of the Diriyah Biennale in Riyadh in 2021. It literally tells five stories of five Saudi women from my generation — women that I have spoken to privately and anonymously. Each woman told me a story and gave me a dress that related to one particular story about an event that changed this woman’s relationship with her body. The stories were about pain, coming of age, and the flamboyancy of showing off beauty in society. This work was also shown in the Lyon Biennale in 2022.  
 

‘Missing A Rib’ (2019) 

This 2019 piece is about my house in Jeddah. It’s a transparent sculptural piece, within it hangs a structure that resembles a broken rib cage. Prior to the conception of this work, I injured my ribs and was in bed for such a long time. Besides alluding to the symbolism of Adam and Eve, with Eve being created from Adam’s rib, it also connects to the theme of exploring spaces under the influence of patriarchy. The white strips (a type of thread-pulling technique decorating the hemlines of undergarments of men in Saudi) are a metaphor for masculine energy controlling a woman’s space. 

 

‘Topoanlysis’ 

This is one of my latest works that I made for Selma Feriani Gallery in 2023. It’s part of a seven-piece series that explores patterns of personal garments in relation to personal living spaces. You can see the outline of a floor plan. The red patches are made of layered stitching. I revisited that kind of abstract stitching that I use symbolically as landscapes of emotion. Nevertheless, when you look at it; the duality of it gives it the feel of a body or a chest. The green that I always use is symbolic of Saudi Arabia, so it links to society and environment. It’s quite philosophical in exploring space, but also in relating to emotions, memories and socio-political influences.