AlUla’s Wadi AlFann celebrates Saudi contemporary artist Manal AlDowayan 

AlUla’s Wadi AlFann celebrates Saudi contemporary artist Manal AlDowayan 
Manal AlDowayan at 'Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths.' (Supplied)
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Updated 23 February 2024
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AlUla’s Wadi AlFann celebrates Saudi contemporary artist Manal AlDowayan 

AlUla’s Wadi AlFann celebrates Saudi contemporary artist Manal AlDowayan 
  • Two exhibitions of the influential Saudi artist’s work mark the pre-opening program of a new cultural destination  

ALULA: The work of Manal AlDowayan, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading contemporary artists, is often focused on cultural metamorphosis, collective narratives and the representation of women, particularly from her home country. 

AlDowayan, who will represent the Kingdom at this year’s Venice Biennale, is currently the subject of two exhibitions in AlUla as part of the pre-opening program of Wadi AlFann, a major new cultural destination for art, design and performance.  

The first exhibition, “Oasis of Stories,” features hundreds of drawings and tales from local communities across AlUla. It will run in the AlJadidah Arts District as part of the AlUla Arts Festival 2024 until March 23.  




Part of the exhibition 'Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths’ by Manal AlDowayan. (Supplied)

“AlUla is a library of stories,” AlDowayan said in a statement. “This land holds an archive of narratives and identities that numerous civilizations engraved into its rocks for centuries, telling us about the tools they used, the animals they farmed and the lives they led.” 

The detailed drawings of daily personal and collective life in AlUla were created during workshops AlDowayan held that attracted 700 participants from AlUla, including farmers, cooks, teachers, tour guides, rangers, artists, students, craftspeople, junior football teams and a disability association. AlDowayan asked them to draw their personal stories on paper. The results are poignant and endearing renderings that detail the realities, hopes and dreams of AlUla’s residents as well as the beauty of the region’s natural landscape. 

“I want to give the contemporary inhabitants of AlUla a space for their narrative, allowing it to live permanently in a public artwork for future generations to contemplate,” AlDowayan said. 




Part of the exhibition 'Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths’ by Manal AlDowayan. (Supplied)

The exhibition marks a turning point in the development of AlDowayan’s permanent large-scale desert installation for Wadi AlFann, which will also be titled “Oasis of Stories,” and is expected to be completed in 2026. That work takes inspiration from the labyrinth-like passages and walls of AlUla’s Old Town. The drawings and stories from the workshhops will be inscribed into its walls, meaning that AlUla’s residents will leave their mark on a major piece of art in the region they call home.  

“I decided to speak with the AlUla residents to learn about their old town,” AlDowayan told Arab News. “I realized that the story of the people of AlUla has not been documented. (And I thought they needed to) inscribe their story onto something in the surrounding landscape. 

“I visited women’s homes and asked them to document their recipes; I attended weddings and danced and also asked eldery women to tell their stories,” she continued. “Me and my studio manager, Carla, were constantly trying to build a relationship of love and trust with the people from AlUla.” 




One of the pieces in the 'Oasis of Stories' exhibition. (Supplied)

Wadi AlFann is a 65-kilometer “Valley of the Arts” in the desert of AlUla. It will include large-scale art installations set against the natural desert landscape and alluring rock formations. The first five commissions will be by AlDowayan, her fellow Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, and the US-based artists Agnes Denes, Michael Heizer, and James Turrell.  

“There is no desert quite like the AlUla desert,” Wadi AlFann’s lead curator Iwona Blazwick said during the press tour. “This was once a large plateau that was underwater over millennia. The cliffs have been eroded. They’re made of sandstone. There are 7,000 years of human presence in this area, and we find it through rock art markings, petroglyphs, pictograms and hieroglyphs. They’re everywhere you look. But we want to find an expression of the 21st century that we can also add to the landscape.”  




Wadi AlFann, AlUla. (Supplied)

AlDowayan’s second exhibition, presented in collaboration with Madrid-based Sabrina Amrani Gallery, is “Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths,” a solo exhibition that delves further into her artistic practice. Sculptural works and drawings in a range of mediums explore the idea of ruin — all inspired by the engravings and architecture of the ancient tombs of AlUla. 

In several rooms of the exhibition, there are soft desert rose-shaped sculptures made from tussar silk, on which are printed subtle images reflective of AlUla’s heritage. Elsewhere, AlDowayan’s labyrinth-like drawings bring to mind the winding passages of AlUla’s Old Town.  




The 'Oasis of Stories' exhibition in Wadi AlFann. (Supplied)

There are also intricate works created by Sadu weaving, a technique traditionally used by Bedouin women, mounted on the wall. Once again, AlDowayan engaged the larger AlUla community, and its imprint powerfully resonates throughout.  

“I want to be sure that everyone enjoys art,” AlDowayan told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia is going through a huge transformative moment and public art is being commissioned across the Kingdom. This is part of a vision that art will be ingrained in our communities.” 


Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’
Updated 16 April 2024
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Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

DUBAI: Israeli artist Ruth Patir has shut down her national pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale, saying that she will only reopen it when a “ceasefire agreement happens” between Israel and Hamas.  

Patir said in a statement on Instagram: “I feel that the time for art is lost and I need to believe it will return. We (Tamar, Mira and I) have become the news, not the art. And so, if I am given such a remarkable stage, I want to make it count.

“I have therefore decided that the pavilion will only open when the release of hostages and ceasefire agreement happens,” she added. “This has been our decision and we stand by it. I am an artist and educator, I firmly object to cultural boycott, but since I feel there are answers, and I can only do what I can with the space I have, I prefer to raise my voice with those I stand with in their scream, ceasefire now, bring the people back from captivity. We can’t take it anymore.”

In February, thousands of people, including artists, curators and museum directors, signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year’s art fair and accusing the country of “genocide” in Gaza.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” said the online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective.

ANGA said the Venice Biennale had previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule and excluded Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said the appeal was an “unacceptable, as well as shameful ... diktat of those who believe they are the custodians of truth, and with arrogance and hatred, think they can threaten freedom of thought and creative expression.”

Dubbed the “Olympics of the art world,” the Biennale is one of the main events in the international arts calendar. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between April 20 and Nov. 24.


Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’
Updated 16 April 2024
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Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

DUBAI: Mexican actress and singer Eiza Gonzalez this week turned heads at the premiere of the Saudi-backed action movie “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” in New York City. 

The star dazzled in a metallic gold strapless gown by New York-based label Jason Wu. The dress boasted intricate three-dimensional designs accentuating the waist and chest. 

Complementing the ensemble, she showed off matching gold heels from Maison Ernest and Cartier jewelry. Her brunette bob was styled in a voluminous blowout. 

Complementing the ensemble, she showed off matching gold heels from Maison Ernest and Cartier jewelry. (Getty)

She posed on the red carpet alongside her co-stars Henry Cavill, Henry Golding, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Cary Elwes, Babs Olusanmokun, Henrique Zaga and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. 

The premiere was attended by Mohammed Al-Turki, film producer and CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation. 

The Saudi foundation, which backed the movie, took to Instagram to share pictures of the premiere captioning the post: “Live from New York, the premiere for ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,’ Red Sea Film Foundation is proud to have supported through its Red Sea International Film Financing initiative.”

 

 

Based on recently declassified files of the British War Department and inspired by true events, the movie is an action-comedy that tells the story of the first-ever special forces organization formed during WWII by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a small group of military officials, including James Bond author Ian Fleming. 

The top-secret combat unit, composed of a motley crew of rogues and mavericks, goes on a daring mission against the Nazis using entirely unconventional and utterly “ungentlemanly” fighting techniques. Ultimately, their audacious approach changed the course of the war and laid the foundation for the British SAS and modern Black Ops warfare.

The film is directed and co-written for the screen by Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes,” “The Gentlemen” and “Wrath of Man”) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure”).

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” will be released in cinemas in the Middle East on April 18 and internationally on April 19.


Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story

Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story
Updated 16 April 2024
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Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story

Amir El-Masry, Pierce Brosnan to dramatize British Yemeni boxing legend’s story

DUBAI: British Egyptian actor Amir El-Masry will star alongside Pierce Brosnan in the sports drama “Giant,” based on the story of British Yemeni boxer Naseem “Naz” Hamed.

El-Masry will play Hamed, who competed from 1992 to 2002, and Brosnan is set to portray his Irish-born boxing trainer Brendan Ingle. The film will be written and directed by Rowan Athale (“The Rise,” “Gangs of London,” “Strange But True”) and Sylvester Stallone is on board to executive produce, alongside other Hollywood executives.

“Giant” tells the story of the boxer’s humble beginnings in a working class area of Sheffield and his discovery by Ingle. Hamed shot to fame amid rampant Islamophobia and racism in 1980s and 1990s Britain.

El-Masry won a Scottish BAFTA for his performance in the film “Limbo” in 2021 and was cast in the fifth season of Netflix’s historical drama “The Crown” as the young Egyptian billionaire Mohamed El-Fayed, among other acting credits.


Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles

Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles
Updated 14 April 2024
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Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles

Jessica Chastain flaunts Elie Saab look at Breakthrough awards in Los Angeles

DUBAI: US actress and producer Jessica Chastain sparkled in a purple jumpsuit by Lebanese designer Elie Saab at the Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

Chastain — who has previously championed looks by Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad, among other Arab designers — hit the red carpet in the sequined number that boasted a plunging neckline and bootleg-style pants. Celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart finished off Chastain’s look with a statement necklace by Damiani jewelry.

US actress and producer Jessica Chastain sparkled in a purple jumpsuit by Lebanese designer Elie Saab. (Getty Images)

French Canadian scientist Michel Sadelain was awarded an "Oscars of Science" for his research into genetically modifying immune cells to fight cancer at the event, AFP reported.

The genetic engineer was awarded the Breakthrough Prize at a glitzy ceremony attended by tech giants such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, and an array of celebrities including Chastain, Robert Downey Jr. and Bradley Cooper.

His work has led to the development of a new form of therapy called CAR-T that has shown exceptional efficacy against certain blood cancers.

"This prize is an extraordinary recognition," Sadelain told AFP on the red carpet at the Oscars Museum. "It's all the more of an honor because ... my scientific colleagues told me for a long time that it would never work.

Honorees Dr. Michel Sadelain, right, and Dr. Carl H. June accept awards onstage during the 10th Breakthrough Prize Ceremony. (Getty Images)

"The greatest pleasure, however, is to see patients... who no longer had a chance and who thank us, who are alive today thanks to CAR-T cells," added Sadelain.

Launched in 2010, the Breakthrough Prize awards "the world's most brilliant minds" in fields including life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, styling itself as the Silicon Valley-backed answer to the Nobels.

Dubbed the "Oscars for Science", founding sponsors include Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg.

Sadelain will split the $3 million prize money with American immunologist Carl June, who also led groundbreaking research into the field independently of his co-winner.

Sadelain studied medicine in Paris, then immunology in Canada, before taking up postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989.

Other celebrity guests at the event includes actresses Zoe Saldana and Margot Robbie, director Olivia Wilde and Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh, among others.


Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

Saint Levant addresses Gaza war on stage at Coachella music festival

DUBAI: Saint Levant, a Palestinian French Algerian Serbian rapper, performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival music festival in California on Saturday.

The musician used the opportunity to address the ongoing war in Gaza, saying: “Coachella, my name is Saint Levant and I was born in Jerusalem and raised in Gaza … as I hope all of you are aware, the people of Gaza have been undergoing a brutal, brutal genocide for the past six months. And the people of Palestine have been undergoing a brutal occupation for the past 75 years.”

Saint Levant performed a series of his hits, including “Nails,” “From Gaza, With Love” and a slowed-down version of “Very Few Friends.” The artist also performed “Deira” and “5am in Paris,” which was released last week.

“It’s about exile,” he said, describing the new song. “A feeling that us Palestinians know a bit too well.”

Born Marwan Abdelhamid in Jerusalem, the singer previously spoke to Arab News about his childhood.

“The actual cultural makeup is my mom is half-French and half-Algerian. My dad is Serbian, half-Palestinian. And they actually both grew up in Algeria. But they decided, in the early 90s, post the Oslo Accords, that Palestine was going to be free.

“So they went back, my dad went to live in Gaza in the early 1980s. And my dad actually built a hotel there and that’s where I grew up,” he said.

“For everyone, childhood is very meaningful. And for me, it was a juxtaposition because I remember the sound of the drones and the sounds of the bones. But more than anything, I remember the warmth, and the smell … and the taste of food and just the odd feeling of soil.”