London art exhibition addresses Arab pasts to ‘envision bright futures,’ says artist

For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
1 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
2 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
3 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
4 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
5 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
6 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
7 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
8 / 8
For his debut London exhibition, LA-based artist Massoud Hayoun draws on his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

London art exhibition addresses Arab pasts to ‘envision bright futures,’ says artist

London art exhibition addresses Arab pasts to ‘envision bright futures,’ says artist
  • Born in Los Angeles, Massoud Hayoun draws upon his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage to explore notions of belonging and identity
  • The exhibition is entitled ‘Between Broken Promises, Harissa’

LONDON: An art exhibition “addressing Arab pasts to imagine futures full of solidarity, progress and unity” has debuted at a gallery in London, drawing people from different Arab backgrounds, according to the artist.

Born in Los Angeles, Massoud Hayoun draws upon his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage to explore notions of belonging, identity and systems of power through his work, exhibiting 14 canvases drawn from his critically acclaimed memoir “When We Were Arabs: A Jewish Family’s Forgotten History,” published in 2019 by The New Press in New York.

“His evocative portraits, painted as though they were drawn using a blue-ink ballpoint pen, celebrate the complexity of society at its fullest, featuring convicts, sex workers and migrant laborers while also paying homage to the people who raised him: his Egyptian and Tunisian grandparents,” the London-based Larkin Durey gallery said in a statement.

The exhibition, entitled “Between Broken Promises, Harissa,” which is set to conclude on Friday, was listed as one of “the coolest things to do in London this week” by British GQ magazine when it opened on May 9.

“I wrote a book on Arab identity in 2019 in which I ask what Arabness is and apply that to the lives of my grandparents, who raised me ... and I felt it was important to share our little political theories with the world,” Hayoun told Arab News.

“Those ideas reflect largely in these works. Our family is of Jewish faith, but like many believers in Arabism of diverse backgrounds, our Arabness is paramount. It supersedes but does not cancel out any simultaneous identity,” he added.

The death of Hayoun’s grandparents, with whom he was especially close, led him to interrogate his Jewish Arab roots as, for the 36-year-old artist, “politics are personal, and the more people benefit from certain oppressive power structures, the less likely they are to notice ... the degree to which all politics are personal.”

Similarly, his two poetic novels, “Building 46” and “Last Night in Brighton,” both published by Darf Publishers in London, use the framework of the ghost story to examine body image, migrant laborers, and the North African diaspora.

“As a journalist, Hayoun was drawn to ‘help uplift voices — not just those of analysts and academics, but on many occasions of people who are systematically silenced,’ and personal loss, the pandemic and the example of his grandmother taking up drawing late in life, inspired Hayoun to focus on painting, a language he has always enjoyed as an immediate, visceral way in which to tell stories,” the gallery said.

His portraits are painted as though drawn using a blue ballpoint pen, which Hayoun described as “blue faces with highlights look ethereal and ghostly, and I’m often painting about people who are either passed away or set in the past or distant history.

“But, as with all art and literature, there are no invalid interpretations. Their interpretations will certainly influence my work going forward,” he said.

“The works in this show are about Arabness — not Jewish Arabness or any particular Arab community. With the news as it is, it is radical to envision bright Arab futures,” Hayoun explained.

Having already toured the US and almost concluding his UK exhibition, the artist said he is now in the process of talking to several galleries and museums to show more in Arab and Gulf countries instead of being “in the position of talking about Arabs in the so-called West.”

He said: “I’m just one of very many younger people of Arab origin right now who, for a variety of reasons, are coming together to ask what Arabness was, is, and will be and that’s a pressing and prescient question with current events as they are.

“Above all the more superficial things I’m taking away from London is a community of kindred spirits thinking past the darkness of these times. That’s a hopeful thing that will fuel my practice indefinitely,” he added.


France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
Updated 5 sec ago
Follow

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
  • A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti

PARIS: French prosecutors on Saturday charged two Moldovans suspected of painting coffins and a slogan urging an end to Ukraine war on the facade of a prominent Paris newspaper, a judicial source said.
It was just the latest in a series of such acts in the capital in recent weeks.
French officials have repeatedly warned of the risks of disinformation and other attacks by Russia over France’s support for Kyiv.
Tension between Paris and Moscow has increased since President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year he had not ruled out sending troops to Ukraine.
The two men, who carried Moldovan passports, were arrested overnight Thursday-Friday after six red coffins and the phrase “Stop the Death, Mriya, Ukraine” were painted on the building of right-wing daily Le Figaro.
Mriya means “dream” in Ukrainian.
They are being held on charges of destruction of property and participating in “an effort to demoralize the army to harm national defense in peacetime,” the source said.
Six similar coffins were found early Thursday on the facade of the Agence France-Presse headquarters in central Paris, not far from the Figaro offices.
A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti.
A separate investigations has been opened after graffiti showing French Mirage fighter jets in the form of coffins were found last Tuesday in three districts of Paris. They included the phrase “Mirages for Ukraine.”
Similar graffiti was discovered on the walls of the AFP building Monday.
Macron announced in early June that France would send Mirage-2000 fighter jets to Ukraine and train their Ukrainian pilots as part of a new military cooperation with Kyiv.
On June 8, French police said they were holding three young Moldovans suspected of being behind inscriptions of coffins in Paris with the slogan “French soldiers in Ukraine.”
They were later charged with property damage and released.
Moldova’s Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We regret and firmly condemn the incident.”
He said the “vandalism” was “part of hybrid tactics to harm our international image.”
Popsoi reiterated his comment on Saturday, denouncing an “instigation to hate.”
“We call on Moldovan citizens to be vigilant and not to allow themselves to be manipulated to the detriment of our country.”


Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election
Updated 12 min 52 sec ago
Follow

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election
  • The election commission also barred Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, saying she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required and had not met the threshold of acquiring 600 supporting signatures from citizens

KIGALI: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame defended his country’s democratic credentials as campaigning opened on Saturday for the July 15 presidential election, with the incumbent widely expected to extend his 24-year iron-fisted rule over the Great Lakes nation.
Nine million Rwandans are registered to vote in the poll concurrently with legislative elections.
Kagame has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler since the end of the 1994 genocide.
President since 2000, the 66-year-old will face the same rivals as he did in 2017: the leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party, Frank Habineza, and former journalist Philippe Mpayimana, who is running as an independent.
Rwandan courts rejected appeals from top opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that effectively barred them from contesting.
The election commission also barred Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, saying she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required and had not met the threshold of acquiring 600 supporting signatures from citizens.
The daughter of industrialist Assinapol Rwigara, a former major donor to Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front party who fell out with its leaders, the 42-year-old was arrested and disqualified from running in 2017 over allegations of forgery before being acquitted.
Speaking at a rally attended by thousands of supporters, many of whom were ferried by bus to the venue, Kagame defended Rwanda’s record on democracy in an apparent swipe at allegations of stifling opposition.
“People usually disagree on democracy or understand it differently. But for us, we have our understanding of it. Democracy means choice, choosing what is good for you and what you want,” he told a cheering crowd in the northern town of Musanze.
“Nothing is better than being Rwandan, but even better, nothing is better than being your leader ... I came here to thank you, not to ask for your votes.”
Elected by parliament in 2000 after the resignation of former president Pasteur Bizimungu, Kagame won three elections, with more than 90 percent of the ballot in 2003, 2010, and 2017, taking home nearly 99 percent of votes in the most recent poll.
He has been praised for Rwanda’s economic recovery after the genocide but faces criticism over rights abuses and political repression.
In a statement published last week, Human Rights Watch accused the government of a long-running crackdown on the opposition, media, and civil society.
“The threat of physical harm, arbitrary judicial proceedings, and long prison sentences, which can often lead to torture, have effectively deterred many Rwandans from engaging in opposition activities and demanding accountability from their political leaders,” said Clementine de Montjoye, senior Africa researcher at HRW.
In 2015, Kagame presided over controversial constitutional amendments, potentially allowing him to rule until 2034.
These shortened presidential terms from seven to five years and reset the clock for Kagame, allowing him to rule in a transitional capacity from 2017 to 2024 and then for two five-year terms until 2034.
The legislative elections will feature more than 500 candidates, with voters electing 53 out of 80 lawmakers.
The 27 remaining seats in the parliament are reserved for independent candidates, including 24 women, two young representatives, and one disabled person.
Currently, Kagame’s party and its allies hold 49 of the 53 seats in the lower house.
Opposition challenger Habineza’s Democratic Green Party has two seats, as does the Social Party Imberakuri.
The women lawmakers are elected by municipal and regional councilors, the youth representatives by the National Youth Council and the disabled candidate chosen by the Federation of Associations of the Disabled.

 


How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life

How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life
Updated 37 min 45 sec ago
Follow

How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life

How Arab innovators like ‘pictogram’ creator Rajie Suleiman have contributed to American life
  • The Palestinian-American graphic designer, professionally known as Roger Cook, left a profound legacy with his ubiquitous icons
  • Arab-American inventions in everything from food and drink to medicine and technology have dramatically improved the American lifestyle

CHICAGO: Despite an apparent surge in anti-Arab and Islamophobic sentiments in the US driven by the war in Gaza, Americans live in an environment heavily influenced by the innovations of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians.

Indeed, Arab-American inventions in everything from food and drink to medicine and technology have dramatically improved the American lifestyle. And yet the community seldom gets the recognition it is due.

One striking example involves the work of Palestinian-American graphic designer Rajie Suleiman, professionally known as Roger Cook, who died in February 2021 at the age of 90 having left a profound legacy.

Rajie Suleiman, also known as Roger Cook. (Supplied)

Cook was a graphic designer who created the ubiquitous “pictograms” that ease the everyday lives of Americans across industries, professions, transport, amenities, and public safety.

Among them are the icons of a man and a woman used to identify public restrooms, symbols for non-smoking areas, public telephones, emergency medical services, parking, no entry signs, and for public transportation including airports and transit stops.

Because they are so ubiquitous, the pictograms Cook designed are often overlooked, yet they serve as efficient identifiers in nearly every aspect of American life — concise graphic depictions that convey meaning across languages, cultures and levels of literacy.

Cook and his business partner Don Shanosky won a government contract in 1974 to design a series of pictograms of small, easily identifiable images that could efficiently inform and direct the public to the services they require.

Roger Cook's works are memorialized in a display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. (Supplied)

The Manhattan-based graphic designers created 34 pictograms that conveyed meaning through their resemblance to physical objects, according to Cook’s obituary in the New York Times.

These images are especially helpful in airports and other environments where people may not be familiar with the local language. Indeed, they have become known as a “universal language of wayfinding.”

Beyond municipal spaces, pictograms have been adopted by IBM, Container Corporation of America, Montgomery Ward, Bristol Myers Squibb, Volvo, Subaru, AT&T, the New York Times, Bell Atlantic and BASF, among other major companies. 

For their “outstanding achievement in design for the government of the United States,” Cook and Shanosky received an award from then President Ronald Reagan.

Roger Cook (right) accepts an award from President Ronald Reagan on Jan. 30, 1985, as Elizabeth Dole, the Secretary of Transportation, looks on. (Courtesy of the family)

“We held firm to the principle that design communicates to its maximum efficacy without frills, contrivances and other extraneous material that if the core idea is a good one, it will shout loudest when it is not overshadowed by ornamentation,” Cook wrote in his 2017 book, “A vision for my father.”

Somewhat ironically, the designer himself underwent a process of cross-cultural simplification when his name was changed from Rajie Suleiman to the anglicized moniker Roger Cook.

Cook’s paternal grandfather’s surname was Suleiman. However, according to Cook’s obituary, his grandfather “was given the nickname Kucuk, the Turkish word for small, by Turkish occupiers because of his small stature.

“Later, when the British occupied Palestine, they turned that into Cook.”

Many years later, his grandson also had a new name foisted upon him. Rajie’s elementary school teachers found his name too difficult to pronounce, and so chose to Americanize it to Roger. Thus, Rajie Suleiman became Roger Cook.

Roger Cook's sculptures featured items he had collected at flea markets and elsewhere.
(Courtesy of the family)

Despite this imposed identity, Cook and his family never lost sight of their Arab-Palestinian heritage. Cook told the New York Times in a 2004 interview that his own father had died at the age of 94 while listening to the radio in the hope of hearing news of peace in Palestine.

His father’s passion for Palestine and the many family trips they made to the region during Cook’s childhood later inspired him to expand his graphic representations, creating images that reflected the tragedy of the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948. 

Many of his photos, paintings, and graphics are publicly displayed at the Palestine Museum in Woodbridge, Connecticut, and are currently memorialized in a display at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

“His Symbol Signs’ graphic design work was created in collaboration with his business partner Don Shanosky for the Department of Transportation to standardize way-finding symbols used in public spaces,” Elizabeth Barrett Sullivan, the museum’s collections curator, told Arab News.

“While they didn’t invent pictographs as a mechanism, they were the firm chosen to create this system that has been widely used and replicated.

“As graphic designers, they understood the need for signs that could be recognized without the need for text. The majority of the symbols created in the ‘70s are still in use today, which is a testament to their universality.”

All Flights Cancelled, sculptural assemblage, 2006 by Rajie Cook. (Supplied)

Sullivan said the items in the museum display were donated by Cook’s family two years ago. The display will be a “semi-temporary” exhibit, with plans for it to travel to other institutions in the years ahead.

“We are excited to have his work in our collections and be able to share his story with our visitors,” said Sullivan.

“He was a prolific artist, especially in the last 20 years of his life, with a significant focus on Palestine. He used his art to bring more awareness to the cruelty of the occupation, as well as honoring his own heritage.”

Of course, Arab-Americans have contributed far more than mere signage. Many iconic brands were started as small businesses run by Arab-Americans, among them Haggar, Philz Coffee, Kinko’s, BioSilk hair products, and Joy Ice Cream Cones, to name but a few.

The development of television transmission and liquid-crystal display screens was spearheaded by Lebanese-American Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbagh for General Electric.

Other Arab Americans who have dramatically improved global lifestyle include pop-top tab designer Nick Khoury; coronary bypass surgery pioneer Dr. Michael DeBakey; TV technology developer Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbagh; and iPod and iPhone design leader Tony Fadell. (Getty Images/ Supplied)

In medicine, surgical techniques in heart surgery were pioneered by Dr. Michael DeBakey, the son of Lebanese immigrants, who developed coronary bypass surgery in 1963 that has saved millions of lives.

The popular waffle ice cream cone is claimed by no fewer than four Arab-Americans — Ernest Hamwi, Nick Kabbaz, Abe Doumar and Leon B. Holwey.

Working at Apple Computers under Steve Jobs, himself an Arab-American orphan adopted as a baby, fellow Arab-American Tony Fadell oversaw the 2001 design of the iPod and the iPhone.

And Nick Khoury, a Palestinian-American born in Jifna, led the team at the Continental Can Company in the 1950s that designed and developed the pop top tab that allowed Americans to shift from glass bottled drinks to easy-open aluminum cans.

At a time when conflict is raging in the Middle East, stoking fear, anger and mistrust among communities across the globe, it is easy to forget the many positive contributions made by those who trace their origins to the region.

By acknowledging the many ways in which Arab-Americans like Rajie Suleiman have bettered public life, perhaps a recognition of common humanity will prevail, offering a potential way-finder to peace.
 

 


Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says

Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says

Ukrainian drones strike town near Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Russia-installed official says
  • Two drones exploded on Saturday in a residential area and a resident was hurt
  • An official at the occupied Zaporizhzhia station had initially reported that it was unaffected by those military actions

MOSCOW: A Russian-installed official said on Saturday that Ukrainian attack drones again struck Enerhodar, a town near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, after drones earlier in the week hit two of the town’s electric substations.
Eduard Senovoz, the top official in Enerhodar, said on Telegram that two drones exploded on Saturday in a residential area and a resident was hurt. Another drone was downed.
In attacks on Wednesday and Friday on Enerhodar, a few km (miles) from the nuclear plant, he previously said one of Enerhodar’s substations was destroyed, while the other was damaged. Power was cut to most residents.
An official at the occupied Zaporizhzhia station, Europe’s largest nuclear plant with six reactors, had initially reported that it was unaffected by those military actions.
But the Russian management of the station said on Telegram on Saturday, before the latest drone strikes, that some “infrastructure facilities” including the transport department and print shop experienced disruptions following the attacks earlier in the week.
Nuclear safety measures remained fully operational, it said.
Ukrainian officials have made no comment on the incidents and Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the attacks exposed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s disregard for nuclear safety.
“In view of the Zelensky regime’s total inability to negotiate anything, our country will take all necessary measures to deny the Kyiv regime all means of carrying out such strikes,” Zakharova said on the ministry’s website.
Russian troops seized the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early days of the February 2022 invasion, and Moscow and Kyiv have since routinely accused each other of endangering safety around it. It produces no electricity at the moment.
Russian news agencies quoted Yevgeny Yashin, director of communications at the Zaporizhzhia station, as saying the damaged substation in Enerhodar could be repaired.
Russia launched mass attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the first winter of the conflict and resumed a long series of attacks in March.
Kyiv says the renewed attacks have knocked out half of Ukraine’s energy-generating capacity and forced blackouts.
Russian missiles and drones damaged energy facilities in southeastern and western Ukraine on Saturday, wounding at least two energy workers and forcing record electricity imports, officials said.
Ukraine has stepped up its use of drones this year to attack Russian oil facilities.


Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding

Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding

Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding
  • A woman feared to have been swept away had been found alive after being caught in torrential rain and thunderstorms
  • “Intensive searches are under way for the three people still listed as missing,” police said

GENEVA: Swiss authorities in the southeastern canton of Grisons said Saturday that they were searching for three people missing after heavy flooding the previous day in the region.
Police said a woman feared to have been swept away had been found alive after being caught in torrential rain and thunderstorms that caused landslides and flooding in the Mesolcina valley and forces dozens of residents to be briefly evacuated.
“Intensive searches are under way for the three people still listed as missing,” police said in a statement, adding they were likely at home when floodwaters swept away three houses along with three vehicles.
Local media reports said the missing included an elderly woman and a couple.
One police rescue vehicle was also swept away by the floodwaters but police said two colleagues inside were able to get out and swim to safety.
Police urged people to stay away from the worst-hit areas and not attempt their own rescue searches.
Several villages were left without electricity and drinking water following the storm, local reports said.
Recent days have seen other areas of Switzerland, including the ski resort of Zermatt, affected by heavy rainfall with several roads cut off and rail services hit.
President Viola Amherd posted on X that her thoughts were with those people affected.