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.” 


Day 2 highlights of Red Sea Fashion Week: A historic swimwear show and elegant lace

Day 2 highlights of Red Sea Fashion Week: A historic swimwear show and elegant lace
Updated 18 May 2024
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Day 2 highlights of Red Sea Fashion Week: A historic swimwear show and elegant lace

Day 2 highlights of Red Sea Fashion Week: A historic swimwear show and elegant lace

RED SEA: Moroccan label EAU made history when it kicked off the second set of Red Sea Fashion Week shows on Friday, marking the first time swimwear has featured on a Saudi runway.

With the glistening St. Regis pool and swaying palm trees as a backdrop, the second RSFW began by highlighting one of summer’s essential pieces.

EAU. (Supplied)

The collection featured simple swimwear that ranged from one-pieces with deep V-cuts and off-shoulder motifs to bandeau tops and various sarongs. Royal blues, mustard yellows, hunter greens and maroon reds dominated the collection, setting a rather curious, but not unwelcome, fall palette for the upcoming summer season.

Some of the sleek looks were coupled with silky headwear and sophisticated handbags, including woven baskets dotted with rhinestones, straw beach bags, and fringe clutches.

Sarah Altwaim. (Supplied)

More fashion flowed as the Red Sea glowed. Sara Altwaim brought her silhouettes to the poolside runway. The collection kicked off with a number of white flowing lace and chiffon dresses, each catching the eye with individual flair, subtle beaded pearls, layered cuts or mix of fabrics.

Altwaim introduced an underwater-inspired chiffon fabric featuring sketches of seabed creatures, such as fish, shrimp, and crab, that made its way into a variety of ensembles.

Yasmina Q. (Supplied)

Heavily-layered pearl neck pieces, sarong-like skirts, bejeweled fishnets, metallic fabrics, and flowing garments also drew their inspiration from marine life.

Saudi designer Yasmina Q introduced loungewear to the mix, ending the shows with a collection of knitted rib dresses in mint greens, seafoam blues, bright yellows, corals, and more.

The signature silhouette featured flared sleeves and a fitted waist that flowed into an A-line shape, while some of the pieces were also sleeveless for a more daytime summer look. Her collection, styled with summery bucket hats and sunglasses, also showcased an array of loungewear, from ribbed bottoms to simple fitted tops, fitted ribbed button-downs, kimono tops, and loose sweaters.


Tina Kunakey fronts Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign

Tina Kunakey fronts Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign
Updated 18 May 2024
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Tina Kunakey fronts Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign

Tina Kunakey fronts Amina Muaddi’s latest campaign

DUBAI: French model Tina Kunakey this week starred in Romanian Jordanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi’s latest summer-inspired campaign.

Kunakey, who has Moroccan origins, showcased Muaddi’s new BRITO slipper, a single block of plexiglass carved into the designer’s signature flared heel.

The handcrafted square-toed heels, made in Italy, come in hues of orange, purple, blue, pink, black and transparent.

The model shared pictures of the campaign on Instagram. (Instagram)

This marks Kunakey’s third collaboration with Muaddi. The model shared her thoughts on Instagram about working with the part-Arab designer once again.

“My admiration for you only deepens,” Kunakey wrote, sharing a picture of herself in the pool for the shoot.

“Season after season, each new campaign your talent shines brighter. You continuously push boundaries, and your commitment to excellence is as inspiring as it is contagious,” she added. “I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this journey and am so grateful to share this path with you, not just as your model, but as your friend.

“Thank you for trusting me since the very beginning. I love you. I am so proud of you and I am excited, and so full of love for what you’ve built and what’s to come.”

In addition to her collection of shoes, Muaddi’s jewelry and bag lines are also gaining acclaim among her celebrity clientele. The shoemaker’s label has garnered a loyal list of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Hailey Bieber Baldwin.

Muaddi launched her eponymous footwear line in August 2018, about one year after departing from her role as co-founder and creative director of luxury footwear label Oscar Tiye.

The creator also helped design the shoes for Rihanna’s Fenty collection. The collaboration received the Collaborator of the Year award at the 34th edition of the FN Achievement Awards in 2020.

A year later, she landed a spot on Women’s Wear Daily and Footwear News’ 50 Most Powerful Women list.

Her jewelry collection encompasses rings, earrings and bangles, while her handbag range includes a variety of styles, from sleek clutches with striking embellishments to bold totes and crossbody bags.

Some of the bags are embellished with sparkling crystals or intricate sequins, while others are made from satin or leather and feature metallic finishes. The color palette includes classic cream, brown, black, red and silver.


Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney
Updated 18 May 2024
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Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

Hoor Al-Qasimi appointed artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney

DUBAI: The Biennale of Sydney announced this week that Emirati creative Hoor Al-Qasimi will become its artistic director for 2026.

The 25th edition of the biennale will run from March 7 to June 8.

Since its inception in 1973, the biennale has grown to become one of the longest-running exhibitions of its kind and was the first biennale established in the Asia-Pacific region.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by IBA (@biennialassociation)

Al-Qasimi created the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2009 and is currently its president and director. Throughout her career, she acquired extensive experience in curating international biennials, including the second Lahore Biennale in 2020 and the UAE Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

In 2003, she co-curated the sixth edition of Sharjah Biennial and has remained the director of the event since.

Al-Qasimi has been president of the International Biennial Association since 2017 and is also president of the Africa Institute. She has previously served as a board member for MoMA PS1 in New York and the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, among other roles.

She is also the artistic director of the sixth Aichi Triennale, scheduled to take place in Japan in 2025.


Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales

Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales
Updated 17 May 2024
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Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales

Muhammad second most popular name for baby boys in England, Wales
  • Name ‘has soared in popularity in recent times’: Daily Mail
  • Layla, Maryam, Yusuf, Fatima, Musa, Ibrahim among popular Arabic names

LONDON: Muhammad was the second most popular name for baby boys in England and Wales in 2022, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The Daily Mail reported on Friday that the Arabic name “has soared in popularity in recent times,” having ranked 20th in 2012.
Variations of the name’s spelling, Mohammed and Mohammad, were also among the top 100 most popular baby boys’ names in 2022, ranked 27th and 67th respectively.
Other popular Arabic names for baby boys were Yusuf (93rd), Musa (99th) and Ibrahim (100th).
In the girls’ list, Layla ranked 56th, Maryam 75th and Fatima 99th.


India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence

India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence
Updated 17 May 2024
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India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence

India’s butter chicken battle heats up with new court evidence
  • Two Indian restaurant chains have been sparring since Jan. at Delhi High Court, both claiming credit for inventing the dish
  • The lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of social media users, food critics, editorials and TV channels across the globe

NEW DELHI: With new photographic and video evidence, an Indian court battle over the origins of the world famous butter chicken is set to get spicier.
Two Indian restaurant chains have been sparring since January at the Delhi High Court, both claiming credit for inventing the dish in a lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of social media users, food critics, editorials and TV channels across the globe.
The popular Moti Mahal restaurant chain said it had the sole right to be recognized as the inventor of the curry and demanded its rival, the Daryaganj chain, to stop claiming credit and pay $240,000 in damages. Moti Mahal said founder Kundan Lal Gujral created the cream-loaded dish in the 1930s at an eatery in Peshawar, now in Pakistan, before relocating to Delhi.
That “story of invention of butter chicken does not ring true” and is aimed at misleading the court, Daryaganj said in a new, 642-page counter-filing reviewed by Reuters.
Daryaganj says a late member of its founding family, Kundan Lal Jaggi, created the disputed dish when he helmed the kitchen at the relocated Delhi eatery, where Gujral, his friend-cum-partner from Peshawar only handled marketing.
Both men are dead, Gujral in 1997 and Jaggi in 2018.
Evidence in the non-public filing includes a black-and-white photograph from 1930s showing the two friends in Peshawar; a 1949 partnership agreement; Jaggi’s business card after relocating to Delhi and his 2017 video talking about the dish’s origin.
By virtue of the friends’ partnership, “both parties can claim that their respective ancestors created the dishes,” Daryaganj says in the filing, calling the dispute a “business rivalry.”
Moti Mahal declined to comment. The judge will next hear the case on May 29.
A key point of contention, which the court will have to rule on, is where, when and by whom the dish was first made — by Gujral in Peshawar, Jaggi in New Delhi, or if both should be credited.
Butter chicken is ranked 43rd in a list of world’s “best dishes” by TasteAtlas, and bragging rights about who invented it can matter, brand experts said.
“Being an inventor has a huge advantage globally and in terms of consumer appeal. You are also entitled to charge more,” said Dilip Cherian, an image guru and co-founder of Indian PR firm Perfect Relations.
Moti Mahal operates a franchisee model with over 100 outlets globally. Its butter chicken dishes start at $8 in New Delhi, and are priced at $23 in New York.
Late US President Richard Nixon and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru are among the famous clients to have visited its primary outlet in Delhi.
Daryaganj started in 2019 and its butter chicken costs $7.50. It has 10 outlets, mostly in New Delhi, with plans to expand to other Indian cities and Bangkok.
In its 2,752-page Indian lawsuit, Moti Mahal had also accused Daryaganj of copying “the look and feel” of the interiors of its outlets.
Daryaganj has retorted with photographs of restaurant interiors which the judge will review, claiming it is Moti Mahal that has copied its “design of floor tiles.”