Shara Art Fair celebrates Saudi artists

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A number of paintings by Saudi artists.
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Omar Naseef and Mohammed Awlia, founders of Oil and Barrel.
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Updated 30 June 2016

Shara Art Fair celebrates Saudi artists

For the second year running, The Saudi Art Council has organized and opened its doors for the Kingdom’s most influential art galleries to present some of the country’s leading local artists’ work. Shara Art Fair, opened on the 21st of Ramadan and running for five days, was held at the Saudi Art Council headquarters after the success of last year’s art fair. Sponsored by UBS, the world’s leading wealth manager, the sponsorship of the Shara Art Fair follows a successful collaboration between UBS and the Council during the 2015 art fairs that showcased the history and direction of contemporary visual arts in Saudi Arabia through a number of exhibitions, most prominent among them “21.39”, providing the public a unique chance to learn about the development of the visual art movement through the eyes of local artists. This year, it added a new feature for the art scene by having presented local food and furniture initiatives that made waves in the area; Medd Coffee and Roastry, Shelter Shoppe, Oil Barrel and Mashareq.
The participating galleries included Athr Art Gallery, Hafez Art Gallery, Cuadro Art Gallery and a silent auction held by Al-Mansouria Foundation, a foundation established by Princess Jawaher Bint Majed in support of creativity in the Kingdom. The gallery is set to encourage more Saudi artists to participate in the growing contemporary visual arts movement that has seen a great boom in the past few years and more galleries are set out to showcase their work for public viewing depicting Saudi culture and history through their eyes. Such an initiative not only encourages artists, but encourages the public to understand what Saudi artists portray through their canvases, sculptures, calligraphy, Islamic art and geometry and photographs, bringing together artists from across the Kingdom in one art space.
The space was divided according to the number of galleries partaking in the art fair and the number of artists showcasing their work this year was impressive with many varied pieces that surely caught the attention of newcomers and art lovers alike. To name a few from the field of Islamic calligraphy and geometric Islamic art, there’s Ahmad Angawi with his take on Hijazi patterns of “Al-Mangour” on glass and number talismans from Dana Awartani’s “The Hidden Qualities of Quantities”. Arwa AlNeami’s “spring camel” photographs in full blown vibrant colors, Ghada Al-Rabea’s pop art, Osama Esid’s “Erk Soos” and Moath AlOfi’s “Haramain” from his recent exhibit “Doors of Barlik” were all a hit with the visitors.
It was difficult to pass by and not stare in awe at the the intricate details of Izzat Batrawi’s “relief sculpture” with impressively fine and designed wood work , as was the neon installation by Majed Thobaiti depicting the ever so known arabic version “hhhh”.
There was an abundance of paintings displayed from various well-known and young up and coming artists, each painting with a significant concept of its own, each telling a story. There’s Tagreed Bagshi’s beautiful painting signifying the heroism of women and mysticism on a canvas aptly named “paradise”, a beautiful mix of collage and print in Garden 1 from Filwa Nazer’s Green Library Series. There was “The Ramadan Story” by Ola Hejazi, the vibrant work of the seven tawaf or circumambulations around the Kaaba series by Siddiqa Juma, Ammar Al-Attar’s five print series “salah” in an exquisite portrayal of the daily sacred ritual of prayer, as never seen before.
The Kingdom is seeing a new wave of art enthusiasm in all its forms with centers and galleries offering the best services to steer up and coming artists into the path they need to progress and evolve. Society is also opening up to the art movement, understanding the concept of art bit by bit and allowing a new contemporary wave to be displayed and appreciated.
Oil Barrel founders Mohammed Awlia and Omar Naseef were participating in the art fair as part of an initiative to support local brands as well as to integrate them with the art scene, a mix that sat well with Oil Barrel founders. “We enjoyed being a part of Shara Art Fair as it was also an opportunity for Oil Barrel to give its own rendition of the artistic history lesson through our version of Vision 2030. We chose a concept that was similar to the one Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented but through a hundred year timeline, vision 1930. It was a period of discovery and entrepreneurship, fast forward a hundred years later and the concept can be applied to the now.”
Oil Barrel’s corner of the art fair featured a centerpiece of stacked oil barrels with calligraphy work by artist Shaker Kashgari, a large mural by mother and daughter duo Siham Abdulgadir and Majdaline Bakr and original newspaper clippings from the 1930’s recreating a timeline on the very beginnings of the oil industry of the Kingdom. “Being part of Shara Art Fair also gave us the opportunity to test drive Oil Barrel’s latest furniture line, it was a success with lots of orders coming in. We literally recycle and reuse oil barrels in creative methods related to our brand,” said Mohammed Awlia.
Medd coffee and Roastery, a new favorite among Jeddawis was also a participant, serving their signature 100 percent organic, fair trade and freshly brewed specialty coffee, hot or cold of course, as well as sweets and snacks from local home businesses, an initiative they’ve been supporting since opening.
Shelter Shoppe, a concept store collaboration between husband and wife duo Faisal Sheraiff and Reem Basaad, was also a participant in the fair presenting home décor selected especially by the duo. “Shara Art Fair shared the same concept as the one we took up on ourselves to present in Shelter Shoppe, it was great being a part of such an amazing art movement. We choose pieces that are one of a kind. We handpick them ourselves and much to our pleasure, visitors were very pleased with our products and shared their delight as they browsed the area,” exclaimed Faisal Sheraiff. “We will definitely be participating more with The Saudi Art Council, the art lovers are exactly the target market we strive to attract to share our love for art.” Mashareq, a store that specializes specifically in traditional arts and crafts of the Islamic heritage, also debuted some of its magnificent wood work, handcrafted furniture and home accessories by Middle Eastern artisans. Their displays featured works that literally would take you decades back when woodwork was flaunted in homes, each uniquely crafted by the finest craftsmen.
The Saudi Art Council in partnership with the many galleries at the Shara Art Fair are helping artists in the Kingdom to come forward and showcase their work, simply by arranging art exhibits with exceptional concepts.

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Maleficent, Angelina Jolie’s misunderstood sorceress, returns

‘People aren’t born hard and aggressive,’ says Jolie. ‘Something happens and you don’t feel safe.’ (Supplied)
Updated 21 October 2019

Maleficent, Angelina Jolie’s misunderstood sorceress, returns

LOS ANGELES: No one is born the villain. Not Lucifer in Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, not Arthur Fleck in Todd Philips’ recent release “Joker,” and certainly not Maleficent, whom Angelina Jolie brought to life in 2014. Unlike “Joker,” however, “Maleficent,” a reimagining of Disney’s classic “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), was an open-hearted film, showing not only how the world can harden the pure of heart, but also how love can soften it once more.

“We think of her as evil and dark, and we asked why, and went deeper,” says Jolie of the character. “Most women — most people — aren’t born with a certain hardness and aggression; something happens in your life where you lose trust, you don’t feel safe, and you start to fight and you protect yourself in a different way.”

“Maleficent” shows not only how the world can harden the pure of heart, but also how love can soften it once more. (Supplied)

In “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the sequel set six years later, Maleficent hardly lives up to that title, but rumor would have it otherwise. The story of the ‘sleeping beauty’ Aurora (Elle Fanning) has spread across the land, painting Maleficent as the villain, rather than the one whose love saved her. Now, as Aurora plans to marry Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), Maleficent must meet the neighboring Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), who wishes to destroy Maleficent and her magical world.

“When you see a leader like (Ingrith), who is so angry, so hostile, and who believes that the only way to survive is to destroy the other… we make it very clear in this film that she’s afraid, she’s weak and she’s ignorant. That’s why she’s behaving that way and that’s why she’s wrong,” Jolie says. “It’s not political, it’s not trying to be, but if you’re happy about the way the film ends, and it feels right, I think that heads you in the right direction, and for children it gives a nice guide.”

In the film, Maleficent must meet the neighboring Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), who wishes to destroy Maleficent and her magical world. (Supplied)

While the film features a lot of violent spectacle, the inner conflict of the lead characters themselves is whether they are strong enough to resist becoming violent, rather than the inverse.

“That’s something that isn’t portrayed a lot on screen — a lot of princesses grew up and they said, ‘Well, we’re going to make her a strong princess, and we’re going to make her tough, so we’re going to make her fight!’ Is that what being a strong woman means? We’re going to have to have a sword and armor on and fight? Aurora can do that in a different way, in a pink dress. It’s beautiful that she keeps her softness and vulnerabilities as her strengths,” says Fanning.

Redefining the ‘strong woman’ character is not just about redefining strength, for Jolie. It’s about lifting women up without pushing men down.

Harris Dickinson plays Prince Phillip in Disney's live-action “Maleficent.” (Supplied)

“We show diverse types of women, but we have extraordinary men in the film,” she says. “I really want to press that point, because I think so often when a story is told of a ‘strong woman’ she has to beat the man, or she has to be like the man, or she has to somehow not need the man. We both very much need and love and learn from the men. I think that’s also an important message for young girls — to find their own power, but to learn from and respect the men around them.”

For Maleficent, those men include Conall and Borra (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ed Skrein respectively), both of whom are of the same race as her, cast out from the rest of the world. The two play out the conflict at the center of the film — whether the only path to peace is conflict, or whether diplomacy and goodwill can help.

Elle Fanning plays Aurora in “Maleficent.” (Supplied)

Ejiofor, who was nominated for an Academy Award for 2013’s “12 Years a Slave” says he was captivated by the film’s themes.

“It was an interesting conversation about leadership — what self-sacrifice means in terms of leadership — and has a real engagement with optimism and positivity in terms of leadership and what is beneficial to most people, and what part leadership plays in that. I felt there was something very rich in the script,” he says.

Even Prince Philip was built to break stereotypes and challenge perspectives, according to Dickinson.

Angelina Jolie brought Maleficent to life in 2014. (Supplied)

“I saw him as this young man trying to figure out how to find his voice and challenge the perspectives of his parents and rule in a more inclusive way,” he says. “(Director Joachim Rønning) and I spoke about him as not just the archetype of a Disney prince who comes along and saves the day.”

While Skrein’s Borra at first seems to be the cliched hawkish brute, he too turns out to be more openminded than he appears.

“The love and understanding of Conall’s message really resonated more, and we do see Borra go on a real arc or journey of his moral stance,” Skrein says. “I think that comes from Conall and that’s why we have to try and preach empathy and peace over violence as much as we can.”