Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists as part of AFAC residency program

Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists as part of AFAC residency program
Originally from the bedouin village of Basmat Tab’un, Saadi has previously created two social-themed short films that dealt with his native Palestine. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists as part of AFAC residency program

Saleh Saadi explores Palestine through the eyes of tourists as part of AFAC residency program
  • The mentorship program designed by OSN and The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture offers creators in the Arab region the opportunity to pitch their projects for potential development and distribution
  • Director Saleh Saadi is taking part in the program with his short film script for ‘Dyouf’

DUBAI: Through an open-call competition, Palestinian director Saleh Saadi was selected by MENA-based broadcasting network OSN as one of its six winners to take part in a residency program organized in conjuction with The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture that aims to support aspiring filmmakers and writers from the region.  

Saadi is taking part in OSN’s Writer’s Room mentorship program with a project titled “Dyouf” (meaning “guests” in Arabic). The mentorship program designed by OSN and The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture offers creators in the Arab region the opportunity to pitch their projects for potential development and distribution. 

Originally from the bedouin village of Basmat Tab’un, Saadi has previously created two social-themed short films that dealt with his native Palestine: “Borekas” (2020) and “A’lam” (2022).

The filmmaker says that he did not grow up in an environment that had a film institute, let alone an overall industry, but that didn’t stop his creativity, which began at home with simple means. 

“My family doesn’t have an artistic background. Their focus was to give us a good life, but they used to take pictures of us with a small camera,” Saadi told Arab News. “My siblings would film with a video camera and make little plays. . . I don’t know why it stuck with me.”

From a young age, he taught to edit and filmed sketches with his family members, who acted in his creations. “To them it was good fun, but I took it seriously,” he recalls. Saadi grew up “glued to the television set,” watching sitcoms. He also admires the work of notable Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, whose films have been shown at the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.

Saadi was selected as one of the six winners from the Writer’s Room Open Call. His dramedy submission “Dyouf” centers around the protagonist Shadi, who returns to his homeland after living abroad and feels lonely. His mother has set up a guesthouse that is being frequented by tourists. 

Each episode, delving into the themes of relationships and identities, will focus on one tourist. “Through these guests, we understand the country more. One of the main characters is the country,” Saadi explains. “It shows a certain reality, the day-to-day life and little moments of the day. I think different people will be able to relate to the show in different ways.”

Saadi adds that shooting in Palestine comes with its own set of tricky challenges, from funding to on-site disturbances. “Things are more and more difficult. I don’t want to be cheesy, but it’s also become more and more important. There are difficulties from start to finish, where anything can happen.”

Despite the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, Saadi is heartened by how Palestinian cinema is slowly on the rise in the region and abroad, through film festivals and cultural events. “I am very happy because I feel like there are more films on Palestine. They tell our stories,” he said

“We have so much love for our people, our family and our land. All kinds of art have an important role to play. Through art, we are showing that, despite all difficulties, the love is still there.”  


Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix

Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix
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Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix

Pakistanis turn to gemstone healing as latest de-stress fix
  • Practitioners believe crystals release stress, induce relaxation, promote energy balance within the body
  • Crystal healing still considered pseudoscience, no peer-reviewed studies that prove alternative therapy’s efficacy

ISLAMABAD: While gemstones have long been cherished for their ornamental value, a growing number of Pakistanis are turning to them for healing purposes, with practitioners claiming stones “emit radiations” that help foster mental and bodily wellness.
Pakistan has significant gemstone reserves, particularly in its northern and northwestern regions, which include a variety of high-quality stones such as peridot, aquamarine, topaz, ruby and emerald. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also spoke in favor of granting industry status to the country’s gemstone sector, citing their economic potential following a 47 percent increase in the export of pearls and precious stones to China last year.
But many stones have other uses and can be used in therapy and placed at precise points on and around the body to release stress, induce relaxation and promote energy balance within the body.
Scientifically however, gemstone therapy is still considered a pseudoscience and there are little to no peer-reviewed studies that prove the method’s efficacy. 
“When clients come to me, I analyze their names and numerology to understand their traits,” Syed Khurram Abbas Naqvi, a gemstone healer in the capital, told Arab News this week. “Using this insight, I recommend specific gemstones to amplify strengths and alleviate concerns.”
Naqvi said more and more people were beginning to believe in the healing properties of stones, arguing that they emitted subtle energies or vibrations that influenced the wearer’s well-being and energy. Wearing a gemstone enhanced the lifespan and function of human cells, leading to better health, improved decision-making and overall well-being, he said.
“When examining agate, one finds it contains silicon dioxide, while turquoise comprises ammonia oxide along with elements such as copper, magnesium, iron, phosphate, and CsO3 [caesium ozonide],” Naqvi added.
“The radiation emitted by these stones is believed to bolster bodily strength. For instance, silicon dioxide can help regulate blood pressure, while bloodstone may assist in controlling blood pressure in men and opal is reputed to mitigate aggression in women.
“My priority is to provide high-quality, pure stones because their radiation power is stronger and more effective.”
“PROFOUND EFFECTS”
Authentication of stones is vital for the business which depends on experts who specialize in telling real stones from fake ones.
“Clients seek our certification due to the high financial stakes and risk of fraud in the industry,” Faizan Jamshed, an internationally qualified gemologist who manages his own jewelry testing lab in the federal capital, said. “Our rigorous lab testing and certifications are vital for insurance and client trust.”
He added that a gemstone’s effectiveness for healing was closely tied to its genuine nature and purity.
“While untrained individuals may perceive all stones similarly, experts can discern substantial value discrepancies,” he said.
Naqvi added that the “color, carat, cut and clarity” of a stone were vital for gemstone therapy to work.
“The clearer, larger and purer the stone, the stronger its radiation power, resulting in more profound effects.”
But while many people remain skeptical of gemstone therapy, there are takers for the healing method who believe the right stone can do miracles and significantly change lives.
Amir Shehzad Haidari, an accountant with a local company, said he suffered for years from low energy before turning to gemstone treatment.
“Despite feeling lethargic and unmotivated, I chose gemstone healing over medical assistance,” he told Arab News. “Wearing quartz infused me with energy and tranquility.”
Muntasir Abbas, a travel agent, said he sought out gemstone healing to find relief against depression. 
“Family problems had me deeply depressed,” he said. “After traditional treatments failed, a friend recommended gemstone healing. Initially skeptical, I decided to try it. Within two to three months of wearing the suggested stone, I noticed significant improvements in my emotional state.”


‘Beauty is needed for your soul,’ Saudi artist Nasser Almulhim says

‘Beauty is needed for your soul,’ Saudi artist Nasser Almulhim says
Updated 30 May 2024
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‘Beauty is needed for your soul,’ Saudi artist Nasser Almulhim says

‘Beauty is needed for your soul,’ Saudi artist Nasser Almulhim says
  • The Saudi artist discusses societal shifts, art as therapy, and ‘putting it all out there’ 

DUBAI: The emerging Saudi artist Nasser Almulhim is an open book. A little over 10 minutes into our interview, Almulhim, speaking from his studio in Riyadh, admits to dealing with mental health issues, particularly depression. He copes, he says, by deep breathing, praying, walking barefoot on the grass, and getting in touch with his spiritual side. The topic arose when I asked about his childhood in Saudi Arabia, at a time when the country was much more restrictive.  

“I never confronted this question, because I always feared looking back at memories. It wasn’t an easy lifestyle for men or women,” Almulhim, who was born in 1988, tells Arab News. 

 'Balance' by Nasser Almulhim. (Supplied) 

Almulhim comes from a large family of four sisters and three brothers. They were raised in Riyadh’s Al-Malaz neighborhood, largely populated by an expat community of Sudanese, Egyptians and Jordanians, according to the artist. Interacting with people of different backgrounds enriched his upbringing.  

“My parents raised me well and taught me to respect people from a young age,” he says. “It was a very simple lifestyle. We didn’t have much, but my family provided us with safety and a good education. I studied in a public school and we were in the street a lot. We were playing football and we used to spray paint, just being rebellious, and the police would come,” he says. “Art was dead back in the day. It was haram.”  

Despite this, Almulhim, who enjoyed math and science as school subjects, was always sketching. “My parents saw something within me,” he says. It is also possible that Almulhim, who describes himself as a visual, nature-loving person, inherited his artistic sensibilities from his family. Almulhim says his grandmother was a poet, and his father was passionate about analog photography. 

The aritst's 'Distance is Near.' (Supplied)

“I believe he has an artistic side, but he is not embracing it,” he says. “He has a beautiful vision, even with the way he decorated the house. It came from someone who was vulnerable and sensitive.”  

During Almulhim’s high school years, he started to notice how ‘different’ he was as a Saudi, compared to other Arabs in the region. “We used to travel to Syria and Lebanon,” he recalls. “In Beirut, everyone was hanging out on the beach. People were doing their thing, and then I would come back to Riyadh, and it was the complete opposite. I would ask my dad, ‘Are we outsiders?’ And he would say, ‘There is a system. This is our tradition and culture.’ So I was always trying to do the opposite.” 

After graduating from high-school, Almulhim, who didn’t speak English at the time, travelled all the way to Sydney, Australia, to study intensive English courses, and later moved to the US to pursue a bachelor’s degree. “The funny part is, I went there to study engineering,” he says, adding that the men in his family were doctors or engineers. At university, he spent time with creative people studying music and theatre, and they noticed something about him.

 'Face Your Own Madness.' (Supplied)

 “They saw me reading books, sketching, playing the guitar, watching art documentaries, and going to museums. They were telling me to shift my major. It was a big deal for me and for my family as well. I shifted to study fine arts, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I felt light, I felt like myself,” Almulhim, who graduated with a degree in studio art from the University of West Florida, says.  

As reflected in his colorful paintings, Almulhim isn’t afraid of embracing his feminine side, something that stems from his close relationship with his sisters.  

“I always felt comfortable talking to them, even about sensitive topics, which I couldn’t talk to my parents about. There was a gap,” he says. But, it has invited criticism from male viewers. “With using pink, for example, I’ve had men ask me, ‘Why are you using pink? You’re a man.’” 

He says he wants to go “back to basics” with his painting, by appreciating beauty again.  

“In art, beauty is my greatest inspiration. The late Lebanese artist Etel Adnan said that, nowadays in the art scene, we’ve neglected the idea of beauty and we’re just focused on the conceptual,” he says. “People like distraction, which makes sense because we live in distraction. But I feel like beauty is needed for your soul, your physical self, and being nice to other people.” 

Nasser 'Gazing at The Sea Horizon.' (Supplied)

Almulhim fills his calming canvases, composed of floating geometric forms, with open spaces of color.  

“In painting, I like colors that bring happiness and might heal you. It puts you in a state of mind that doesn’t numb you, but makes you disconnect from the distraction around you. I always say that art is therapy for me. Part of it is, I feel like I’m escaping, maybe from some pain that I need to heal from, and part of it is that I’m confronting that pain,” he explains, adding that he hopes to one day pursue a doctorate degree in art therapy. His paintings also contain a psychological and spiritual element, creating a universe of his own, where he is “channeling the Higher Power, Allah, this great universe, this divinity that is outside and within us.”   

On June 6, Almulhim will open his new exhibition, “On In-Between,” at Tabari Art Space in Dubai. Through his new paintings, the artist is tackling the psychological stages of the subconscious, pre-consciousness, and consciousness.  

“I’m telling the audience that we have to understand this world to heal and to know ourselves,” he says. “Also, it’s fine to flow between these two or three fields. I’m telling you as a humble human being, I am all of these things: My chaos, my order, my vulnerability, my beauty, my ugliness. I’m putting it all out there.”  

Almulhim is also driven at this stage of his career by collaborating with fellow artists in the Arab region. He would like to set up art-residency exchanges, where artists from Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan can work in his Riyadh space, and vice-versa. He says it was the ongoing tragedy in Gaza that sparked this idea.  

“I’m an artist, but, above that, I’m a human being,” he says. “How can I help? How can I contribute? How can we learn from each other as Arabs and as citizens of the globe? I feel in our region, we are in need of this unity.” 


HIGHLIGHTS: Rana Al-Mutawa’s exhibition ‘Everyday Life in the Spectacular City’ 

HIGHLIGHTS: Rana Al-Mutawa’s exhibition ‘Everyday Life in the Spectacular City’ 
Updated 30 May 2024
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HIGHLIGHTS: Rana Al-Mutawa’s exhibition ‘Everyday Life in the Spectacular City’ 

HIGHLIGHTS: Rana Al-Mutawa’s exhibition ‘Everyday Life in the Spectacular City’ 

DUBAI: The exhibition, which runs until July 4 at Dubai’s Kutubna Cultural Center, features images from Rana Al-Mutawa’s book of the same name, which is subtitled “Making Home in Dubai.”

‘Flanerie’ 

The exhibition is billed as an “urban ethnography that reveals how middle-class citizens and longtime residents of Dubai interact within the city’s so-called superficial spaces to create meaningful social lives.”  

 

‘Fountains’ 

In her book, Al-Mutawa argues that Dubai’s often-spectacular (at least in size) buildings, though regularly criticized as superficial and soulless, in fact “serve residents’ evolving social needs, transforming (these spaces) into personally important cultural sites,” perhaps disproving “stereotypes that portray Dubai’s developments as alienating and inherently disempowering.” 

 

‘A Sense of Belonging’ 

In a press release, Al-Mutawa says that the work is an attempt to show that “superficial” places are “important cultural sites: ones where social and gender norms are observed and negotiated.” She adds: “I hope (the work) can generate debate about how to go about understanding these places without repeating the stereotype about inauthentic Gulf cities.” 


Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi to create Riyadh Air cabin crew uniforms

Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi to create Riyadh Air cabin crew uniforms
Updated 30 May 2024
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Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi to create Riyadh Air cabin crew uniforms

Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi to create Riyadh Air cabin crew uniforms

DUBAI: Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi, founder of the Paris-based label Ashi Studio, is set to design the inaugural fashion line for the cabin crew of the Kingdom’s new airline, Riyadh Air, which is on track to make its maiden flight in 2025. 

Ashi is set to unveil the uniform design concepts and share his inspiration for the creations at Haute Couture Week in Paris from June 22-27. The full uniform launch is scheduled for later this year.

Riyadh Air’s CEO Tony Douglas said: “The cabin crew fashion line is one of the first things our guests will see when they board our aircraft in 2025, and we are confident that Ashi’s unique designs will leave a lasting impression, ensuring the experience lives long in their memory after they have landed.

“It’s such an honor to collaborate with Riyadh Air to design the airline’s first ever cabin crew fashion line,” the designer said in a released statement. “The airline will play an important role in the future of Saudi Arabia by making Riyadh one of the world’s key destinations.

“I am delighted to be part of a project so significant for our nation. It’s an exciting time to be in Saudi Arabia and to witness another Saudi brand going global,” he added. “I am looking forward to sharing the cabin crew fashion line with the world, and to seeing the Riyadh Air team wearing my creations when it takes its maiden flight in 2025.”

Ashi became the first couturier from the Gulf region to join the Fédération de la Haute Couture in Paris as a guest member in 2023. He also became the first designer from the Gulf to be included in the BoF 500 list, the Business of Fashion’s index of the people shaping the fashion industry in 2023.

Ashi’s creations have been worn by the likes of Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Kylie Minogue, Penélope Cruz, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, Queen Rania of Jordan and more.  


Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire

Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire
Updated 29 May 2024
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Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire

Dua Lipa denounces ‘Israeli genocide,’ calls for Gaza ceasefire

DUBAI: British singer Dua Lipa has taken to social media to denounce Israel’s military operations in Gaza as an “Israeli genocide” in an Instagram Story post shared with her 88 million followers.

The Grammy-winning artist, who has Kosovo Albanian heritage, also used the trending hashtag #AllEyesOnRafah that is being used online following Israel’s bombing of the Palestinian city.

“Burning children alive can never be justified. The whole world is mobilising to stop the Israeli genocide. Please show your solidarity with Gaza,” the singer wrote.

The singer shared a post on an Instagram Stories. (Instagram)

It is the strongest condemnation Lipa has made so far in Israel’s eight month bombing campaign that followed an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

In December, she wrote: “With each passing day, my heart aches for the people of Israel and Palestine. Grief for the lives lost in the horrifying attacks in Israel. Grief as I witness the unprecedented suffering in Gaza, where 2.2m souls, half of them children, endure unimaginable hardships. For now, I desperately hope for a ceasefire in Gaza and urge governments to halt the unfolding crisis. Our hope lies in finding the empathy to recognise this dire humanitarian situation. Sending love to Palestinian and Jewish communities worldwide, who bear this burden more heavily than most.”

Meanwhile, English singer-songwriter  Paul Weller, who performed in front of a Palestinian flag on his recent tour, spoke against Israel in an interview with British newspaper the Observer in May, saying: “Am I against genocides and ethnic cleansing? Yes, I am, funnily enough. I can’t understand why more people aren’t up in arms about what’s going on. We should be ashamed of ourselves, I think. One minute you’re supplying bullets and bombs and guns, and then you’re sending over food. How does that work?”