The Arab world at the Venice Biennale: Artists explore themes of identity, immigration, history

The Arab world at the Venice Biennale: Artists explore themes of identity, immigration, history
Women’s voices chanting in unison fill the air of the Saudi Pavilion at Venice this year. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 April 2024
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The Arab world at the Venice Biennale: Artists explore themes of identity, immigration, history

The Arab world at the Venice Biennale: Artists explore themes of identity, immigration, history

VENICE: No event in the international art scene is more anticipated, or debated, than the Venice Biennale. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” curated by Adriano Pedroso from Brazil, features 331 artists and 86 nations, including four Gulf countries as well as Lebanon and Egypt.  

Saudi Arabia 

Women’s voices chanting in unison fill the air of the Saudi Pavilion at Venice this year. “Shifting Sands: A Battle Song” was created by Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan, and hundreds of women from across the Kingdom participated in its creation. The exhibition, which includes large-scale installations in the form of desert roses filled with writing and drawings by the Saudi female participants whom AlDowayan worked with, aims to showcase the evolving role of women in the Kingdom while also striving to dispel media narratives that have long defined them. The chanting is derived from traditional battle songs once performed by Saudi men before they went into battle. Here they are chanted by women in a powerful chorus of strength and resilience, backed by recordings of the wind passing through sand dunes. The work, AlDowayan tells Arab News, “is about change, subtle changes — like those of a sand dune — the surface changes, but the core stays the same.”   




“Shifting Sands: A Battle Song” was created by Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan. (Supplied)

UAE  

Emirati artist Abdullah Al-Saadi is presenting “Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia” at the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates. It’s an introspective show consisting of drawings, sculptures, paintings and installations charting Al-Saadi’s travels around his homeland. “Traveling and understanding the natural world around me has always been an important part of my work,” Al-Saadi, who has even used rocks from the Emirates as his ‘canvas’ for some of the works, told Arab News. “Through this presentation in Venice, I hope visitors will enjoy tracing the travels I have taken over the past few years and also think about the world around us, and our place within it.”  

Visitors will also be presented with gifts: maps and scrolls in colorful traditional chests from the region, which will be removed and presented to guests by actors from the UAE.  




Emirati artist Abdullah Al-Saadi is presenting “Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia.” (Supplied)

Qatar  

While Qatar doesn’t have a national pavilion at the biennale, it is presenting “Your Ghosts Are Mine: Expanded Cinemas, Amplified Voices” — a group show of films by artists from across the Arab world, Africa and South Asia, as well as video installations from the collections of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and the Art Mill Museum (scheduled to open in 2030). All the films were backed by the Doha Film Institute. 

“For me, it was important to show movies reflective of the theme of the biennale — so, revolving around immigration, foreigners, personal diaries and self-portraits and stories from women — all coming from independent (artists) in the Global South, whose voices are not always shared,” the Paris-based curator Matthieu Orlean told Arab News. 




Installation view of 'Your Ghosts Are Mine.' (Supplied) 

 

Egypt  

Alexandrian-born artist Wael Shawky has created “Drama 1882,” a 45-minute film for which he also composed the music, for Egypt’s national pavilion, which — in the first week of the biennale at least — has proved to be one of the most popular pavilions at this year’s event.   

The film is based around Egypt’s nationalist Urabi revolution against imperial influence in the late 19th century and Shawky uses historical and literary references as starting points from which to weave together a story that fuses fact, fiction and fable, while also exploring national, religious and artistic identity.  

“I worked with performers who enacted a play in a theater for the film,” Shawky told Arab News. “The film strives in part to connect the idea of history to drama — drama regarding the connection to catastrophe and drama regarding cynicism. I like to analyze the authenticity of history, especially Egyptian history. When one makes films about history there is this gap between truth and myth.” 




Wael Shawky has created “Drama 1882,” a 45-minute film for which he also composed the music, for Egypt’s national pavilion. (Supplied)

Lebanon 

Lebanese artist Mounira Al-Solh’s multimedia installation “A Dance with Her Myth” combines drawing, painting, sculpture, embroidery, video, and audio, and guides viewers through ancient Phoenicia. The piece, Al-Solh explains to Arab News, is inspired by the tale of Europa, the daughter of a Phoenician king who was abducted from the city of Tyre in Lebanon by the Greek god Zeus, who had transformed himself into a white bull to trick her into riding him, then took her off into the sea.  

“The (work) pays tribute to the ancient multicultural heritage of Lebanon,” Al-Solh says.  

In the center of the pavilion is an unfinished boat, that Al-Solh says references “the tension that women still face today, despite their emancipation.”  




Lebanese artist Mounira Al-Solh’s multimedia installation “A Dance with Her Myth” combines drawing, painting, sculpture, embroidery, video, and audio. (Supplied)

Oman  

Oman’s second participation in the biennale, is an exhibition titled “Malath — Haven.” It includes work from five Omani contemporary artists: Ali Al-Jabri, Essa Al-Mufarji, Sarah Al-Aulaqi, Adham Al-Farsi and Alia Al-Farsi (who also curated the show). “We used the word ‘haven’ in the title because, since antiquity, foreigners — including the Romans, Portuguese and Indians — have visited Oman,” Alia Al-Farsi told Arab News. The works on display — from Al-Farsi’s own colorful and expressive mixed-media murals (such as “Alia’s Alleys,” pictured here) to Al-Aulaqi’s “Breaking Bread,” which includes a large sculpture of a niqab made from silver spoons — reflect both traditional and contemporary life in Oman.  

“As an Omani creative with an international background, my aim was for the exhibition to serve as a sanctuary for visitors and travelers, allowing stories to unfold and intertwine, mirroring how our country finds its richness in intercultural dialogue,” the curator said in a statement.




'Alia’s Alleys' is on show in Venice. (Supplied)

 


Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi first regional ambassador for fragrance line

Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi first regional ambassador for fragrance line
Updated 21 May 2024
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Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi first regional ambassador for fragrance line

Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi first regional ambassador for fragrance line

DUBAI: French luxury brand Jean Paul Gaultier has announced that Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi has been appointed as the first-ever regional ambassador for its fragrance line.

Esseibi, considered the first plus-size model in the Middle East, showcased the brand’s iconic Scandal perfume in the campaign images, donning a variety of ensembles.

Among them was a form-fitting blue dress adorned with pink floral designs. In another shot, she wore a jumpsuit in the same hue, featuring vibrant geometric prints in yellow, orange, purple and pink.

She also rocked a black gown, and a sheer beige and gold top layered elegantly over a simple black base.

Esseibi showcased the brand’s iconic Scandal perfume in the campaign images. (Supplied)

“Jean Paul Gaultier is more than just a brand to me,” Esseibi said in a statement. “It feels like family. Its identity embodies everything I stand for: Rebellion, strength, boldness, fearlessness, sensuality, and a touch of scandal.” 

“Growing up, Jean Paul Gaultier was my mother’s favorite fragrance, making it a cherished part of my life. I am deeply honored to make history as their first Arab ambassador in the region, and this brand will continue to be an enduring part of my career,” she added.

Esseibi made her international debut in September 2022 by walking for French label Victor Weinsanto at Paris Fashion Week.  

She then went on to work with a number of esteemed brands, including H&M, and has featured in the pages of multiple publications. 

In 2022, the Arab Fashion Council, a non-profit organization representing the fashion industry in the Middle East and North Africa, named the Dubai-based model as its ambassador.


Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice' red carpet at Cannes

Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice' red carpet at Cannes
Updated 21 May 2024
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Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice' red carpet at Cannes

Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice' red carpet at Cannes

DUBAI: Lebanese designers Rami Kadi and Zuhair Murad put on a show on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival — their creations were worn by two Brazilian models during the highly anticipated premiere of “The Apprentice,” directed by Ali Abbasi.

Fashion influencer Maria Braz showcased a custom-made kaftan-style gown by Rami Kadi, cinched at the waist and adorned with sequins and feathers.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MARIA BRAZ (@mariabbraz)

“Like an angel for Cannes Film Festival,” the blogger wrote on Instagram.

She accessorized her look with a diamond necklace and matching earrings from the Italian label Damiani.

On the same red carpet, Brazilian fashion model Thayna Soares wore a draped silk dress featuring an embroidered high-neck bodice and a thigh-high slit from Zuhair Murad’s Spring 2024 collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MARIA BRAZ (@mariabbraz)

While Donald Trump’s hush money trial entered its sixth week in New York, an origin story for the Republican presidential candidate premiered at the festival on Monday, unveiling a scathing portrait of the former president in the 1980s.

“The Apprentice” stars Sebastian Stan as Trump. The central relationship of the movie is between Trump and Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), the defense attorney who was chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s Senate investigations.

Cohn is depicted as a longtime mentor to Trump, coaching him in the ruthlessness of New York City politics and business. Early on, Cohn aided the Trump Organization when it was being sued by the federal government for racial discrimination in housing.

“The Apprentice,” which is labeled as inspired by true events, portrays Trump’s dealings with Cohn as a Faustian bargain that guided his rise as a businessman and, later, as a politician. Stan’s Trump is initially a more naive real-estate striver, soon transformed by Cohn’s education, The Associated Press reported.

According to AP, “The Apprentice” a potentially explosive big-screen drama in the midst of the US presidential election. The film is for sale in Cannes, so it does not yet have a release date.


‘Material Woman’ exhibition in London creates synergy of Arab women’s fashion and art

‘Material Woman’ exhibition in London creates synergy of Arab women’s fashion and art
Updated 21 May 2024
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‘Material Woman’ exhibition in London creates synergy of Arab women’s fashion and art

‘Material Woman’ exhibition in London creates synergy of Arab women’s fashion and art
  • Curation tells a “story about how women use their hands to craft their destinies,” Shoucair says

LONDON: The worlds of fashion and art from Arab female creatives converged this week at the “Material Woman” exhibition in London.

The exhibition, held from May 17 to May 19 at Soho Revue, is the brainchild of the art collective Hayaty Diaries, in collaboration with the fashion platform and pop-up series 3eib.

"The Warmth of My Bed" (2023) and "Thulathia" (2024) by Lebanese artist Yasmina Hilal. (Supplied)

Featuring an eclectic mix of sculptural art, mixed media, projection installations, fashion and jewelry, the exhibition explored craftsmanship and materiality.

“Each element came together to tell a cohesive and beautiful story about how women use their hands to craft their destinies and honor their heritages through both creative worlds of art and fashion,” Lebanese curator and Hayaty Diaries co-founder, Christina Shoucair, told Arab News. 

The curatorial process began with the pairing of artists and designers, creating a harmony between the works. 

"Communion" (2023) and "Wound" (2023) by Bahraini artist Zayn Qahtani

Bahraini artist Zayn Qahtani’s shrine-like objects, featuring delicate ethereal drawings on date paper, explore themes of venerative mourning. These are paired alongside a series of rustic sculptures and draped garments by Egyptian designer Nadine Mos.

Lebanese artist Yasmina Hilal’s photo sculptures, which incorporate her distinctivve metalwork and soldering technique, are complemented by a curated display of contemporary silver and gold accessories by Celine Dagher, a Lebanese jewelry designer.

Meanwhile, Egyptian artist Hanya Elghamry examines the process of remembering by graphically recreating various details and narratives in her installation “Abandoned Projection.” Set as a backdrop against her floating “Tampered Redux” series, along with Moroccan designer Hanan Sharifa’s mesh and delicate dresses, the space offers visitors an immersive experience.

Garments designed by Nadine Mos on display at "Material Woman" in London. (Jules Foad)

“Christina and Kinzy presented the vision for The Material Woman and I loved the idea of blending the worlds of fashion and art together and utilizing the theme of materiality as a vehicle of creative empowerment and liberation,” 3eib founder, Dania Arafeh, told Arab News. 

Hayaty Diaries, which focuses on celebrating the artwork of Arab women, marked its debut last December with its inaugural exhibition, “Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled,” in the British capital. 

“Our Hayaty Diaries journey has been incredible. We’ve had the privilege of meeting many creatives from the region and have felt the warmth and support of the community. We are immensely grateful for all the encouragement we have received along the way,” Egyptian-Saudi curator and Hayaty Diaries cofounder Kinzy Diab told Arab News.

The London-based collective is now preparing for its exhibition “Levitate,” which will run from June 6 to June 16 and center around themes of fantasy and imagination.
 


Ithra celebrates Saudi Arabia’s ‘creative voices’ at Cannes Film Festival

According to film director Hamza Jamjoom, the present opportunities for Saudi directors have greatly improved.
According to film director Hamza Jamjoom, the present opportunities for Saudi directors have greatly improved.
Updated 21 May 2024
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Ithra celebrates Saudi Arabia’s ‘creative voices’ at Cannes Film Festival

According to film director Hamza Jamjoom, the present opportunities for Saudi directors have greatly improved.
  • Panel discussion was held within the Saudi pavilion of the Film Commission, with attendees from the global cinematic industry
  • Panelists discussed the 15 projects that won support from the Ithra Film Production Program

RIYADH: Ithra organized a panel discussion entitled “Creative Voices” to shed light on young Saudi cinematic talents on the sidelines of the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

It was held within the Saudi pavilion of the Film Commission, with attendees from the global cinematic industry.

The panelists discussed the 15 projects that won support from the Ithra Film Production Program, including 11 short films and four feature-length films.

According to film director Hamza Jamjoom, the present opportunities for Saudi directors have greatly improved compared to previous years, allowing them to showcase local stories through cinematic works that reflect the Saudi culture internationally. 

Raneem Al-Muhandis, the director who debuted her film “Swing” in 2022 with support from Ithra, said Saudi Arabia boasts a rich pool of narratives ripe for cinematic exploration with worldwide appeal.   

Ithra cinema coordinator Mansour Al-Badran said that this program has taken local filmmaking to a new level.

“We produced the film ‘Hajjan’ within IFPP which has so far won nine awards in local and regional film festivals and was chosen to be the opening or closing film in prestigious festivals,” he said.

Al-Badran added that “Hajjan” is a prime example of the cinematic projects Ithra is working on.

He highlighted that Ithra is interested in stories that draw inspiration from the rich Saudi culture and aims to raise the standards of filmmaking in the local community through workshops and seminars.

Additionally, he highlighted Ithra’s collaboration with the Cinema Society to host the Saudi Film Festival, which is as a major platform for showcasing up-and-coming talents in the film industry. 

The Ithra event at the Saudi pavilion featured a luncheon bringing together representatives of organizations that support filmmakers in Saudi Arabia. The aim was to strengthen relationships and promote the exchange of cinematic experiences between industry professionals and enthusiasts. 


Dubai Fashion Week announces Spring/Summer 2025 edition dates

Dubai Fashion Week announces Spring/Summer 2025 edition dates
Updated 21 May 2024
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Dubai Fashion Week announces Spring/Summer 2025 edition dates

Dubai Fashion Week announces Spring/Summer 2025 edition dates

DUBAI: Dubai Fashion Week (DFW) has announced its Spring/Summer 2025 dates, with international labels set to hit the runway from Sept. 1-5, 2024.

 “By positioning it ahead of the fashion weeks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, DFW provides an opportunity for participating designers to set the season’s trends and capture the attention of buyers,” organizing bodies the Arab Fashion council and Dubai Design District said in a released statement.  

 

 

Previous iterations of DFW saw New York-based label Carolina Herrera as the guest of honor last October with a presentation by the brand’s Creative Director Wes Gordon; supermodel Naomi Campbell closing the October edition by walking for Rizman Ruzaini; and Moroccan designer Maison Sara Chraibi making her DFW debut in February after presenting her collection at Paris Haute Couture Week.