Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 

Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 
The Saudi pavilion’s theme at Venice this year is “Shifting Sands—A Battle Song.” (Supplied)
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Updated 19 April 2024
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Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 

Manal AlDowayan on her work for the Venice Biennale 
  • The acclaimed artist is representing Saudi Arabia at this year’s ‘Olympics of the art world’ 

DUBAI: The acclaimed Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan is on a roll. Earlier this year, she opened two well-received exhibitions in AlUla, where she is also working on an ambitious land art commission for the upcoming Wadi AlFann cultural destination. And this week, AlDowayan will represent her country at the 60th iteration of the Venice Biennale — dubbed “the Olympics of the art world,” consisting as it does of multiple national pavilions — which runs until Nov. 24. She will be presenting what she describes as “two of my most major works in my career at this point.” 

AlDowayan has participated at Venice before. In 2009, she showed her work in an onsite exhibition organized by the Saudi art-focused initiative Edge of Arabia, alongside fellow Saudi artists including Maha Malluh and Ahmed Mater.  




AlDowayan will represent her country at the 60th iteration of the Venice Biennale. (Supplied)

“I’ve been going to Venice for about 12 years,” AlDowayan tells Arab News. “The first time I showed there, I knew in my heart that I would be coming back to represent Saudi Arabia; I would do everything in my power to come to this moment and prepare myself. It’s something very important for an artist: to participate in the Venice Biennale.” 

It was only last August that she was visited in her UK studio by Dina Amin, the CEO of the Visual Arts Commission, and cultural advisor Abdullah Al-Turki, and told she had been selected to represent the Kingdom in 2024.  

“My first thoughts were: ‘There’s no time,’” she says with a laugh. “To come up with a concept, complete the research, execute the concept, build it, and install it, is really complex. But my team, my studios, and I were ready. I already knew what I wanted to present, and within one week I had put together my proposal and it was approved. The artwork is a continuation of my language, my research and my forms that I work with.”




Participatory workshops for 'Shifting Sands - A Battle Song' by Manal AlDowayan. (Supplied)

The Saudi pavilion’s theme at Venice this year is “Shifting Sands—A Battle Song.” It is curated by a trio of female art experts, Jessica Cerasi, Maya El-Khalil, and Shadin AlBulaihed. In AlDowayan’s sound-meets-sculpture installation, she brings together much of what she has explored in her practice over the past two decades — community engagement, participatory art, media (mis)representation, and the visibility, or lack of it, of women in Saudi culture. The work is also about the momentous changes taking place in the Kingdom today, and her response to them.  

The work comprises two key parts: sound and soft sculptures. Saudi and Arab women’s voices are front and center; AlDowayan allowing them to reclaim their narrative, which she believes has consistently been misrepresented.  

“If you’re always told that you’re oppressed, repressed, depressed… you sort of lose the sense of yourself,” she adds. “And this artwork talks about this sort of constant hounding by Western media — and local media — speaking about the Arab woman; her body, her space, the rules of her behavior, and how she should exist in the public space.” 




Manal AlDowayan's 'Shifting Sands - A Battle Song.' (Supplied)

For this section, AlDowayan put out an open call inviting women to take part in workshops. They proved very popular, attended by all ages, professions and backgrounds.  

“In Riyadh, within three hours, 350 women registered,” she says. “We had to block the registration link because I don’t know how to control 350 women. I’m just one.” In the sessions, participants reacted to negative press headlines and media clippings, and AlDowayan recorded those reactions.  

“I always say that people are trying to define what a Saudi woman is,” explains AlDowayan. “We researched thousands and thousands of articles in my studios, in seven languages, and there were some very dark things written. I showed the women these articles and said, ‘Do you really feel these articles are really speaking your truth?’”  

She also asked them to write and/or draw their own stories. Examples included: “Two women equal one man.” “Thanks love, we don’t want to be saved.” And “Surrendering doesn’t look good on us, for we are wars.”  




Detail from Manal AlDowayan's 'Shifting Sands - A Battle Song.' (Supplied)

A selection of the written quotes were then read out loud by participants. While reading, they had headphones on, listening to, and harmonizing with, the eerie humming sounds made by sand dunes, which AlDowayan had previously recorded.  

“It was beautiful and meditative. You will see women with their eyes closed, their arms stretched out. It was a very spiritual moment,” AlDowayan recalls. The whole ‘performance’ was inspired by ‘Dahha,’ a ritual in which warriors celebrated victory with music and dance.  

Inside the pavilion, where the women’s recordings play, stand three soft black-and-brown sculptures, full of folds, shaped like the sand crystals known as desert roses — a recurring motif in AlDowayan’s work.  

“The rose is a very weak and delicate (thing),” she says. “But this crystal is born in extreme circumstances. First, it needs to be pouring rain, then there needs to be high temperatures and that’s how it crystalizes. I feel like I’ve adopted this form as a body and I deal with it like skin.”  

The folds of the enlarged sculptures are imprinted with “a cacophony of what Western media has written: the veil, repressed, oppressed, women, sexuality… All the words that always float over our heads,” says AlDowayan. They also include some of the women’s positive messages, as well as their drawings.  

“While you’re taking this journey you will hear the sound, and sound is sculptural in my opinion: It occupies but you can’t see it,” she says. “I feel the invisibility of sound, and its ‘presence’ is like the Arab woman. She’s strong, she’s there; it’s undeniable. Just because you don’t see her, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.” 

As for how visitors will react to her work, AlDowayan hopes to provoke conversations.  

“I want questions. I want extreme emotions. They can hate it, they can love it, they can cry. But, I can’t do neutral,” she says. “Neutral means I did not succeed. If they have questions, then I’ve succeeded. If they talk about it after one day, I’ve succeeded.” 


Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet
Updated 23 May 2024
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Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid made a powerful fashion statement in Cannes, expressing her support for Palestine, while Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani stole the spotlight at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in a gown by Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali.

The star, who attended the screening of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga,” dazzled in a strapless, voluminous dress that was cinched at the waist from the designer’s ready-to-wear 2024/2025 collection.

Hadid turned heads with stylish appearances in Cannes too. 

She made a bold statement in the streets of the French city by wearing a red and white dress inspired by the keffiyeh, showcasing her support for Palestine

The supermodel was also spotted in a striking silver dress from the DSquared Fall-Winter 2006 collection for Chopard’s “Once Upon A Time” Gala this week.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

She was also seen in a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. 

Hadid wore a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. (Getty Images)

During her time in Cannes, she was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress, with a plunging neckline, from Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection. 

Hadid was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress. (Getty Images)

For the “The Apprentice” red carpet, she opted for a sheer halter neck dress from Saint Laurent’s Fall 2024 collection. 

Meanwhile, Arab designers have been dominating the red carpet with their creations worn by celebrities from around the world.

Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted on the red carpet of French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” wearing a black lace dress with a mesh train and purple floral details from the Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad’s Fall 2023 collection. 

Murad, the celebrity-loved designer, also dressed Brazilian model Izabel Goulart. She opted for a white chiffon gown with a black lace bodysuit and floral appliques that was also from the couturier’s Fall 2023 collection.

Rami Kadi also made a splash on the red carpet this week with his designs.

He was championed by US actress Loreto Peralta at the same screening as Harlow and Goulart. 

She wore a mauve, off-the-shoulder gown embroidered with three-dimensional flowers from his “Les Miroirs” collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Juliana Paes (@julianapaes)

Brazilian actress and model Juliana Paes chose a metallic off-white gown by Emirati designer Hamda Al-Fahim. The dress featured side pleats, sequin detailing and a side-attached train.


Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

DUBAI: Saudi film “Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, becoming the first film from the Kingdom to screen as part of the official calendar at the event.

The movie, filmed entirely in AlUla and directed by Tawfik Al-Zaidi, is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

The movie is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The film is set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the prefessional pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon. It stars Maria Bahrawi, Yaqoub Al-Farhan, and Abdullah Al-Satian and follows the story of Norah and failed artist Nader as they encourage each other to realize their artistic potential in rural Saudi Arabia.

“Norah” is in competition with 19 other films from around the world.

The cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.” (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

On Wednesday, the cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival Mohammed Al-Turki and Jumana Al-Rashed, respectively, appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.”

“Norah” was backed by the Red Sea Fund — one of the Red Sea Film Foundation's programs — and was filmed entirely in AlUla in northwest Saudi Arabia with an all-Saudi cast and a 40 percent Saudi crew.


‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’
Updated 23 May 2024
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‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’

‘Bridgerton’ star Nicola Coughlan ‘hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah’
  • The first four episodes of Season 3, in which Nicola Coughlan plays the revolving lead role, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend

DUBAI: Irish actress Nicola Coughlan, known for her role as Penelope Featherington in Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton,” demonstrated her solidarity with Palestine this week by wearing the Artists for Ceasefire pin during an interview with USA Today as she promoted the latest season of the show, in which she plays the lead role.

When asked about the pin, the artist said: “It’s very important for me because I feel like I’m a very privileged person. I’m doing my dream job and I’m getting to travel the world, but then I’m hyper-aware of what’s happening in Rafah at the moment.”

The actress, whose family lived in Jerusalem in the late 70s, said her father was in the Irish army and was part of the United Nation’s Truce Supervision Organisation which worked towards brokering peace in the Middle East.

@splendiferous Nicola Coughlan speaks about her Ceasefire pin she has been wearing during the Bridgerton Press Tour #NicolaCoughlan original sound - splendiferous

“I feel very passionately about it. I’m Irish also, so it’s sort of a different perspective,” Coughlan added. “I just feel, if I have this global platform, which I do at the minute, I think if I can hopefully raise funds for aid organizations — I have a fundraiser on my Instagram right now for Medical Aid for Palestine and if people would like to donate to that or share it, I think it would be a wonderful thing to do.”

Coughlan has continuously shown her support by wearing the pin during various occasions, including the premieres of the third season of “Bridgerton,” promotional events and her television appearances such as “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Good Morning America.”

Season three of Netflix’s Regency-era drama has become the most successful season so far based on viewership numbers, Forbes reported this week.

With part two set to drop in June, “Bridgerton” Season 3: Part 1 was the most-watched title on Netflix from the period of May 13 - 18, according to Variety. The first four episodes, released on May 16, reached 45.1 million views during its opening weekend.


Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe
Updated 23 May 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

Recipes for success: Chef John Mark offers advice and a salmon batayaki recipe

DUBAI: Chef John Mark has worked at a number of prestigious establishments over the years, in the Maldives, Mauritius, the UAE, and India, among others. Now, he’s the chef de cuisine at Japanese restaurant Gishiki 45 in The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. 

Here, Mark discusses embracing mistakes, his favorite dish to make, and the importance of a healthy working environment. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?  

I love the smell of garlic and the smell of onion. These two ingredients are very important in Asian cuisine; they give the dishes a nice aroma and flavor, and can enhance any dish.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

I’m not one to criticize any chef or restaurant unless there are mistakes in the dish that I ordered. I respect chefs. I respect people who are working in the hospitality. And if I do need to say something, I make sure to say it in the right manner. 

What’s the most common mistake that you find in other restaurants? 

That the service team and the kitchen are at war. This is the chef’s responsibility. We need to make sure that the service team and the kitchen are one. It’s so important, because, as chefs, we cook, but the service team deal with the guests. The only thing that we want is to make the guests happy. So we need to be a team. 

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

Thai food. I love coconut flavors and Thai food has coconut in almost all the dishes. The flavors and the smell are rich. It makes me happy.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

My daughter loves to eat. I let my family try different cuisines, but she really loves pasta. So, I cook pasta for my daughter — and for my wife of course. We also have a famous dish in the Philippines called chicken adobo, and when I am home I like to cook that for my family. 

Gishiki 45. (Supplied)

What customer request most annoys you? 

You cannot be annoyed at your guests as a chef. You need to be flexible. We are here, in this world, to learn, and this is a huge opportunity. I can’t just focus on one thing like a horse; I have to keep an open mind. Why not try what they ask for, if this is what they want? 

What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?  

It’s something we’re famous for in the Philippines. It’s very authentic, you only really see it in the villages. It’s called beggar’s chicken. It’s so delicate. It’s a long process. You need to marinate the chicken and stuff it, then you wrap it in banana leaf. Then, you put mud on it. You cook it in the mud. So, when its cooked, you need to break the mud and open it. It smells amazing.  

As a head chef, what are you like? 

When I started as a chef, there was a lot of tension and a lot of shouting, but I don’t think this is a good environment. I don’t want it to be quiet in my kitchen, but I don’t want tension. Of course, I can be a little strict, but I don’t want anyone to shout at my staff. I have to talk to them nicely. Shouting is not on my menu. 

Chef Mark’s Salmon Batayaki recipe    

INGREDIENTS: 

160g salmon; 1 oyster mushroom 

For the dashi water:  

Mix 100ml water; 5g konbu; 2g katsuobushi 

For the batayaki sauce: 

Mix 2 spoons soy sauce; 20g butter; 50ml dashi water; 1 spoon yuzu juice 

INSTRUCTIONS:  

1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and dust with corn flour. 

2. Heat fryer to 180 celsius and fry the salmon for 2 minutes. 

3. ⁠Prepare a heated non-stick pan. Heat your batayaki sauce. 

4. ⁠Put your salmon and mushroom in the batayaki sauce and simmer until the sauce becomes shiny and has a buttery texture. 

5.  Garnish with crispy leek and serve.  


Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis
Updated 23 May 2024
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Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

Review: ‘99’ captures the drama of Manchester United’s annus mirabilis

DUBAI: The documentary series “99” celebrates the 25th anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in sporting history: when Manchester United won England’s two biggest domestic trophies — the Premier League and the FA Cup — and the most prestigious tournament in European club competition — the UEFA Champions League — to complete a (then) unprecedented treble.

The fact that the feat has since been repeated (most recently by United’s arch rivals Manchester City), has taken some of the shine off it, but this was still one of the greatest single seasons in the history of any sport.

The show is stacked with interviews with the players who made history, as well as their fearsome manager, Alex Ferguson, whose obsession with winning the Champions League has been well-documented elsewhere. There isn’t much new insight here, and footballers aren’t renowned for their eloquence, but the filmmakers have done a good job of getting them to dig beyond the platitudes and explore the sometimes-thorny relationships between certain players, the pressure of playing for (at least then) arguably the biggest club in the world, and the self-doubt that could creep in during the biggest games.

But even if its makers had managed to get nothing from the interviewees, they would have known that “99” couldn’t fail to grip even the most casual of sports fans, because the story of the actual football during the season is so outlandish that even a Hollywood exec might question anyone pitching it. Throughout the season, and particularly in the last couple of months, United staged numerous late comebacks in situations where it seemed they’d blown their chance of making history — not least in the last game, the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, when they famously scored two goals in three minutes of injury time to turn almost-certain defeat into the unlikeliest of victories: an act of what seemed like sheer willpower, inspired by the manager’s self-belief. As Ferguson said at the end of that game, “Football. Bloody hell!” The makers of “99” have successfully captured that expression.