Sunday, 20 December 2009

Fawzi al Langhawi

In a private setting in Kuwait on the 19th of Dec, Fawzi al Langhawi, placed his Oud on his knees and played. His friend Mohamed al Mutairy sang. Dr Sami pitched in on the piano. And they performed in a gracious, mellow, warm way, some local and arabic tunes. Fawzi's fervour on the Oud gives him the extra touch to predict many years of good music to come.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Urban Sketchers

(Their website banner of the week)

A sketch at a time, a different way to show the world around us. Great idea, good concept, fantastic tool to share one's surroundings.
Their aim is: "as a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, promoting its practice and connecting people around the world who draw on location where they live and travel."
They even have a section in their blog about "How to become a member or a correspondent"
In their list of contributors, some artists have traveled the Arab world, one is located in Mauritania. But that doesn't really match the richness and talent of the region, as we have many artists in the closet waiting for a way to show their works.

link to their page of sketches on Algeria

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Gilles Kepel in Kuwait

Did you know that the French "croissant" was actually the Viennese celebrating their victory against the Ottoman army and Vienna's bakers shaped their dough, in the symbol of Islam, the crescent?
Did you know that "cappucino" is a reference to robes of the capucines who lead the crusades? The coffee left behind by the arabs was felt as bitter, hence hot milk, hence the reference!
Did you know that before the Islamic revolution in Iran,  Khomeini, when in France at Neauphle le Chateau, was know for his sweet tooth and how local patissiers went on a frenzy of religieuses, charlottes and eclairs!

These anecdotes were given by Gilles Kepel, a professor at Institut des Sciences Politiques in Paris,  in his lecture at the DAI in Kuwait on Middle eastern history.  Of course, one's own history seen by a French scholar is always interesting as he might highlight a few angles that are usually dark. He then gave the insight and  benefits of having nuclear power in the gulf, thanks to the French technology, as one major deterrent to the nuclear built across the Gulf in Iran. He tried to cheer to the motto of independence and autonomy in the region as a way to unlock Uncle Sam's grip on the oil and petrodollars.
He claims that one has to think diagonally and in a synchronized manner! yes, maybe after thinking straight and forward, and it all depends on the variables chosen as the base.
Contemporary decisions cannot be made as reproduction of the past based on elements of fear and alliances based on threat and pressure. Maybe he could have given us a lecture on food in relation to the Middle Eastern history and leave us with a few recipes to improve our current cooking "avec le french touch" rather than the proposal of a nuclear plant tucked in the desert as a solution to all ailments.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Raghida Haddad - award Earth Journalism

Earth Journalists Awards is planning to honor the best written piece on what should concern us all. In their 15 finalists, stands out Raghida Haddad an executive editor of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment & Development), environment magazine in the Middle East. In 2008, she spent 2 weeks in the Arctic Ocean to witness global warming.
COP15, or the 15th meeting in Copenhagen of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, is about pulling as much efforts and initiative to think and act in the best possible ways and reverse human's destructive behavior and impact on the planet.  Discussions are still hot. Fund raising and commitments of payment are piling up. Alarmists will say the end is near. Others will talk about positive ways that have worked. 
Overall, the Arab world is discreet, as it is divided in two camps: countries with little resources to act upon it, and countries producing oil and gas that have more important issues to address. "Will the polar bear survive the ice melt down at the arctic circle" is not on the agenda.  Others might argue that we also have human rights, freedom and equality topics that are more urgent than the well being of the polar bear.
At best, we can hope that more awareness will trigger actions on the individual smallest scale to the largest governmental impact.

In Kuwait, en.v magazine is a leader in this field of awareness and promotion. They held their 3rd annual "recycling through art" exhibition at the Avenues mall on Dec 7th.
link to EN.V

Link to al Bia wal tanmiya magazine
Link to Earth Journalism Awards
Link to Raghida's article

Monday, 7 December 2009

Razek-Francois Bitar in Kuwait

Countertenor, Razek-Francois Bitar is a voice born in Syria and now established in Italy. Tonight, with David Simonacci on piano, he gave a warm performance at the DAI theatre, including the "Che puro ciel". In an intimate ambiance, he let his voice fill the space with his fragile yet powerful emotions. The repertoire was Handel, Gluck, Ravel. He then switched to Armenian, to Arabic and he embraced both worlds with as much ease and finesse. In sweet words, he dedicated the last song by Rahbani to his mother as if she was in the audience.
This was a treat.

a link to an interview by ORTF in german, where Bitar speaks in italian, and sings in arabic. youtube

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Al Sabah Collection "Treasure of the world"

"Treasury of the world", jewels arts of India in the age of the Mughals, the touring exhibition of the Al Sabah Collection is coming back to Kuwait. Its last visit was in St Petersburg, Russia,  at the Hermitage Museum from the 7th of August to the 29th of November 09.
It saw the end tail of the White nights in the summer, it was in the Imperial palace, a monument in russian baroque architecture. It rubbed shoulders with the treasures of the museum from the pharaonic period to the impressionist paintings. It waited for the opening with its long speeches, to the crowds in line. It stared for long hours at visitors staring back trying to get a glimpse of beauty.
  It showed the masterly craftsmanship behind stones laid in gold. It distracted attention with the large number of items in small cases. It spoke about its history beyond the detailed writings on the tags below. It carried the sense of a collection where the collector's eye is felt choosing and acquiring. It illustrated a passion set up in the best display. It expressed in the excess of gemstones the infinite details. It reflected light in a multitude of directions.
  It then waited patiently to be put back in the darkness of boxes to go back home.
Will it tour again the world as the "good will" ambassador of Kuwait and its hidden treasures? Or will it find a final destination in Kuwait in a long waited museum?

Link to:  al Sabah Collection

Finger Ring (1st quarter of the 17th century), Indian, Mughal or Deccan - Gold, rubies, emeralds, turquoises; carving, kundan technique - Photo by Bruce White - The Al Sabah collection,

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Ghazi Abdel Baki - new album "The last Communique" release

Ibtassim, poem by Elia Abu Mrad, music by Ghazi Abdel Baki and Band in "communique #2"

Did you attend Ghazi Abdel Baki live concert at the BO18 in Beirut, yesterday 28th November 09?
Based on the previous two albums, Abdel Baki has given the music scene at deep soft voice and a modern twist to arabic poems. It seems reviews could not settle whether it falls into the category of jazz, bossa nova, salsa, blues, rock... Or it might just be a mix of all of the above.
He is known to be a heir of the musical movement in the early seventies in Lebanon, "the cradle for interacting cultures and a fertile breeding ground for mixing musical influences and experimentation. With a soundscape that varied from traditional Arabic Music to Psychedelic Rock, a synthesis was born. Today forty years later, musicians in this region are still pushing the envelope to create more variations and new contemporary colors."
His selection of poems and words inspire for a brighter outlook in the general gloom and doom reports in the arab world.
So if you were at that concert, how was it??

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Katayoun Karami

Present at the Paris Photo at the Gallery Silk Road in Teheran, Karami shows simplicity, intimacy and yet powerful images.
Her statement is as follows
"The Other Side
Far gone are the years when lullabies caressed my hair and the summer breeze could call it home. And suddenly everything went dark... and the only brightness is the reflection of my own gray hair. In Islam, when a girl reaches the age of nine, she has to cover her hair. Thirty-one years onwards, when turning 40, I witnessed in sorrow my hair had started to gray without even having the chance to be touched by the sun. This series of double sided self portraits portray a dual image of this moment in my life; the front image through a veiling of the back of the female hair, coupled with a fading of the black color saturation. The reverse image, reflecting that what is always unseen and forgotten through a cover of handmade black and white silver gelatin emulsion, rendering the exposed female hair as limp, wasted and useless. "

Friday, 27 November 2009

Paris Photo: part 2

Paris Photo - 19 to 21 November 09
our guest blogger Tamara wrote how this event with Arab and Iranian photos gave a new perspective:

" The exhibition as a whole presents this region in a very different way and challenging to the public, either it’s a western or middle eastern public. It puts into question what is the region, who are the people, what is the landscape, what are the images and symbols--both to old fashioned orientalised views of the region, but also to a stylized sometimes fanciful self image of its own people.
It is current and engaged with a reality, harsh, complex and loaded. The representations of the topics, whether they be memory— personal, war, geographic; self representation through lyrical imagery; or a new language for self expression are in many ways an important departure from the past. They are contemporary in their use of material and technique, but also honest in their preoccupation with the issues of the regions. This collection of work is as local as it is global. That has both strengths and  weaknesses, but it is certainly a reflection of the times."

Sherihan, Egyptian actress, 1976,
by Van Leo
from the Arab Image Foundation

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Paris Photo - guests: Arab and Iranian photography

by our guest blogger: Tamara

This annual show  at the Carousel du Louvre (19 - 21 Nov 09) had a special focus this year on Arab and Iranian photography, old and new that was represented by archival images from the Arab Image Foundation and STATEMENT, a collection of galleries from the region (Lebanon, Morroco, Tunisia, Dubai and Iran)  curated by Catherine David who directed Documenta X in 1997 and directed several shows concerning the region.  A collection from the Arab Image Foundation (in Beirut) leads the visitor into selected space for the Middle East. The images are a selection from Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt of private family photographs such as those of Chafic el Soussi from Saida, film celebrities in Egypt by Chadi Abdel Salam and stylised studio images such as those of Al-Ani from Iraq and Hisham Abdul Hadi from Palestine those ranging from 1860  to 1960.

The STATEMENT show is rich in the subject matter and scope of the artists. The works of Lebanese artists such as Fouad Elkoury, Akram Zaatari (both of who are founders of the Arab Image Foundation), Lamia Joreige and Walid Raad deal with the memory of war (represented at Sfeir- Semler Gallery in Beirut and Tannit in Munich), in images and video installations such as elKhoury’s Place de L’Etoile and Zaatari’s video of a newly realised Lebanese prisoner of war from Israel, Video en 5 Mouvements, 2006-2009.

London based Iranian artist Reza Aramesh (GALLERY B21 DUBAI) uses his photography as metaphor to communicate violence committed by man. He uses historical images, often of war, men abusing men recreated in unexpected settings, forcing the viewer to react to the initially illogical image. Each of his works is captioned with the original image that inspired it, such as ACTION 51: Kerem shalom Israel-Feb 17, 2008 Palestinian Soldiers sit blindfolded on the ground after they were captured by Israeli soldiers.

The work of Katayoun Karami (GALLERY SILK ROAD TEHRAN), The Other Side is a different approach to time and memory where she captures a series of double sided photographs, the front is the same image of her face and the back are changing images of her hair.

Rula Halawani of Palestine (SELMA FERIANI GALLERY, LONDON-TUNIS) is more concerned with identity and territory in her work, depicting abstract concepts through series of realistic images—Intimacy

Farah Nosh (EMPTY QUARTER GALLERY, DUBAI), presents a series of intimate family photographs from her native Iraq to demonstrate the persistence of daily life and ritual despite war and violence outside.

Gohar Dashti (Silk Road Tehran) has a series of a couple’s daily life, sleeping, eating, sitting, set in a battleground, with tanks and soldiers in the background, rendering their lives more fragile and poignant.

Other artists such as the Cairo based Iraqi artist Yasser Alwan focuses on the urban condition, documenting repeated scenes of daily life in Cairo over extended periods while Morrocan artist Yto Barrado focus more on themes of migration. Other artists represented included Bahman Jalili, Mohammad Ghazali, Sadegh Tirafkan, Ramin Haerizadeh, Asim Rafiqui, Malik Nejmi, Wael Shawky, Sama Alsahibi, Raja Aissa, Lara Baladi.


Reza Aramesh

Arab Image Foundation (Hashem al Madani - 1950)
  Arab Image Foundation

Katayoum Karami
Rula Halawani - Intimacy (2004)  

Farah Nosh - Dinner

Fouad el Khoury - Wedding

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dr Naif al Mutawa - "The 99", comics

Dr Naif al Mutawa gave a presentation on his works as creator of the "99" superheroes tonight at Dar al Athar al Islamiyah, Kuwait.
He talked about the journey that led him to his comic books' success.
It starts with the bad image Islam, in the west, in addition with one version of Islam depicted as being the only version possible. Trained as a clinical psychologist in the US, he says:"it is all about perception, how to alter and control it".
He wants to show that Islam is about values, although there is no religion reference in the comics. He uses ideas, symbols to built a positive spin and an identity boost. He targets the dichotomy between traditions and modernism. He calls on women as Superheroes, some veiled, some with hair flowing in the wind. He plans to tackle many issues young readers face with a new archetype based on an Islamic culture.
His aim is to be on equal level as Superman and his fellow friends Batman, Wonder woman etc. He was proud to announce that Superman is in close contact with the 99 superheroes to form a possible cooperation. Islam and muslims don't have to be on Bad side all the time.
The plot is thrilling, drawings and colors are of high quality, characters and powers are inspiring.
A question from the audience was about the dilution of Islam through this media: Dr Mutawa answered that the message of Islam is given by him through lectures around the world, but he doesn't see fit to give a direct message of religion in his comics as the intellectual antibodies will come out and destroy them.
As long as Dr Mutawa leaves preaching for the preachers and continues to address a void in the public image, then let "the 99" be a successful business.

link to the website: the 99

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sadu Weaving

Sadu weaving, a lecture given by Dr Keiriene Canavan at the American  University of Kuwait, is about the traditional textile art of the Bedu, nomads of the desert.
"I am interested in this basic simple way of weaving uninterrupted for centuries, the same way in different geographical locations in the world" says Dr Canavan. She presented a series of photos on the importance of textiles, the symbols they carry and the creativity they bear.
She has spent years with the Iban Dayak tribes in Borneo, getting through their weaving to the essence of  their outlook on religion and life. Each Iban Dayak house is specialized in a skill, woodcarving, sculpting etc... and any skill is considered a gift from God. Some old patterns were lost with memories not recorded or knowledge not transmitted.
"Weavers are not interested in words... Patterns are individual and need to be interpreted by the weaver." Dr Canavan will spend the next five month in Kuwait on a sabbatical to study traditional symbols in the geometrical forms of triangles, diamond shapes in black and white from the desert weaving, a craft close to extinction. A modern state today, Kuwait has the capacity to wipe out the past and build for the new.
In march 2010, she will share her conclusions in another lecture at the Sadu House Museum. Hopefully, she will find with her fresh eye and experienced perception what seems to be less valued and meaningful by the the future generations.

Dr Canavan's blog: Link

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Contemporary Art market - auction

In his article in the New York Times on the 13th of november 09, Souren Melikian, specialist well entrenched in the art department, is set to reassure us all: "The auction market is booming and when it comes to contemporary art, it is charging on at an accelerated pace, as it did before the financial turmoil broke out in the autumn of 2008".
Auction houses are best known today to publicly set prices for art works, and actively promoting this or the other. They help in bridging speculation and inflating a market ready to be blown.  Christie's has a foot in the Arab world with its wing in Dubai, a few years back with the support of media specialized in the subject. It became a renowned stop shop for any collector in the area. Emerging collectors were growing faster than emerging artists, they had plenty to spend and had to distinguish themselves in buying unique items.
Thanks to the results in the last two auctions in New York, the contemporary art is thriving and collectors can indulge. But as Melikian says: "Yet, no great importance is attached to personal aesthetic creation. In most cases, words and names alone matters."

NY times article: link
Sotheby's results in NY: link
Christie's results in NY: link
Photo of a mobile structure by Alexander Calder sold at 902 500 usd

Friday, 13 November 2009

Aslam al Silahdar Mosque, Cairo - restoration

The Aslam al Silahdar Mosque is now reopened to the public after a 3 year restoration. The 650 year old mosque was given a face lift with the help of the Agha Khan Trust for Culture. Mameluke architecture, hidden in the Darb al Ahmar distric, the mosque is one out of the 456 registered islamic monuments in Cairo.
What time frame do you need to visit each of these buildings? and this is only the Islamic heritage!
Stones, designs, geometrical intricacy, visual illustrations... memories from the past to show evidence of the artisans' skills. Testifying on a way of life, they give richness to the present.
Through a meticulous restoration program in using materials as in the past and only modern technology to fortify the new,  the whole approach is about preservation of the spirit inhabiting the space.
Cairo remains an open treasure hunt to explore the Arab's history through beauty of stones.

link to the Agha Khan trust
(photos by AP)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Claude Levi Strauss

A voice is silenced.
Claude Levi Strauss, anthropologist, ethnologist, scientist, philosopher was a seeker of a certain understanding about humans and their relation with their environment, their language, their behavior.
Born in 1908 he died on 31st of October 2009 just before his 101's birthday.
100 years of a lifetime is something. But 100 years of fruitful, knowledge collecting, revolutionary ideas producing, sharing in teaching and publishing; that is a life well spent.

"We are in a world that I don't belong to anymore. The one I knew and cared for was of 1,5 billion humans, today we are over 6 billions. It is not my world anymore." he says in one of his recent interviews.
But his intellectual impact is a treasure in deciphering primitive tribes in the Amazon forest and their way of life. He worked on myths and symbols. He opened science to other cultures and concluded that, with its own rationale, no culture is superior to the other.
He viewed the confusion between material progress and  superiority in civilization as being infatued with one's own self and a mistake for the mind.
In his humble ways, he has found in the most primitive societies: "A pure form of the elements, diversity of beings, the grace of nature and the decency of men".

Sunday, 1 November 2009

underground music in Lebanon

As a follow up on the previous note of "yallah underground", please find two interesting blogs on the music scene in Lebanon:     By Ziad Nawfal who hosts weekly programs on Radio Liban    By Omar al Fil, young supporter of alternative music

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Yallah Underground

Yallah Underground: "I don't sell a dream, I sell reality, that's the difference between me and a pop singer." Rayess Bek, Scrambeld Eggs, Fareeq al Utrash...
From the trailer, Farid Eslam, director, shows expert techniques of documentary film making. He chose a subject, we as arab, are rarely aware of: Underground music...
It reminds us of the vibrant talents ready to explode when given a chance. It reveals the need to express beyond the main avenues. It gives hope that creativity lives under the thickest concrete slab.
Let them all play and sing.
And let us wait for the movie to be released...

facebook page : Link
(thanks Alia for the info)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Green Caravan film festival (day 1)

         As an effort to bring together the community and share concern about the environment, Equillibrium has started today their film festival in Kuwait.
         At the press conference, beside the usual thank notes, Dr Salah Bourjini, UNDP representative in Kuwait for the region, presented few striking points. He said:  "We no longer talk about human development, we are now talking about human security, we need to find ways to liberate humans from the threats from which their lives are affected". Now, that is a whole new approach...
"Liberate", "free from fear": These words seem to come out of an eastern religion dogma for a personal spiritual journey.
       Will their next objective be the right to happiness for everyone on planet earth?
     Dr Bourjini incorporated the environment factor and explained: "We cannot continuously deteriorate the Eco-system, continue to stress the region and this is a threat ". The climate change is a visible sign. "Countries have to seriously address these problems, otherwise their economies will not be sustainable". On the other hand, if the planet deteriorates so fast, and the result be so harsh on humans, will we still be thinking about the economy, its financial crises and sustainability?
According to these movies shown at Dar al Athar, the damage is way beyond repair. Recycling is important but we have to start right now, all together.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Korean cultural week in Kuwait

The Korean embassy has devoted a full week to share its culture and artistic production in diverse locations in Kuwait. Those who saw the classical  music concert by Korean Musician were impressed by the traditional clothing, instruments and show.
       The breakdance joint performance, was on the 19th and 20th of October. Although breakdancing is now a trend from the past as it was popular in the 70's and 80's, starting with gangs and hip hop music, the Korean b-boy group presented a good blend between the modern movement and the use of traditional korean drums, the samulnori. They even invited a breakdance group from Kuwait to dance together on stage.
Mr Myeongso, Eo, First secretary at the Embassy said: "We tried to present Korean culture and part of it is breakdancing.  We wanted also to bridge the two countries so we found a local group to participate in the show, they rehearsed together and they did a great show. But we had a hard time finding the Kuwait group."
Kuwait is full of surprise and hidden talent.
Let's see how will the public respond to the rest of this cultural week: three movie nights on the 25th ("le Grand Chef"), 26th ("Forever the Moment"), 27th ( "200 pounds of beauty") of October at the leila gallery, Salmiyah. The dynamic Korean movie industry has been producing excellent quality and it is certainly worth the visit.
pick your show and head for salmiyah at 7 pm.

trailer for "Le Grand Chef" (Iron Chef-style fierce competition set in Korea where contestants compete to win a legendary knife.)

trailer for "Forever the Moment" (The inspirational true story of Korean women handball team's struggle against Denmark.)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"Red Ahmar Surkh Kirmizi" by Marianna Shreve Simpson

"I love red" says Dr. Marianna Shreve Simpson, specialist in Islamic art, during her lecture at Dar al Athar al Islamiyah, Kuwait, on Oct 19th.
As she wore a red suit for the occasion, she could have gone beyond the kitsch. But she took the audience into the realm and the essence of red, where it came from, how it was used and a fascinating historic approach to Islamic art through a color.
Two ways to use red:  - pigment ( a source of color and ink suspended in a liquid used a layer of color)  - dye (color dissolved in leather or fabric to penetrate and form a bond at the molecular level)
An insect, the cochineal gave many civilizations the deepest red. Vernice was another insect producing the red. Cinnabar mineral provided the vermilion red...
In a condensed visual and informative listing, she went through many technical details, historical events. Across the economics and industry of the red, she traveled in the 11th century from the crops in Armenia, to merchants in caravans, to calligraphers in Baghdad, to silk weavers in Agra to the bazaars of Grenada, Cairo, Isfahan, Lahore.
"It is the color of power" she said, displaying on the screen "Suleiman the magnificent" in a red kaftan, surrounded by red.
"It is the color of love and desire" while she analyzed a Persian miniature.
"It is the color of violence, blood, war": she expanded on the duality of the color and its symbolism.
"It is the color to vocalize and punctuate the holy book" and she presented calligraphy pages of the Koran.

In the introduction, she referred to "The Perfect Red" written by Amy Butler Greenfield, an exhaustive tale of the origins and the evolution of the color throughout history.
In the conclusion, she quoted Orhan Pamuk in his book " My name is Red" :"God is the perfect red".
As a culmination point to reduce the color to its simplicity, she says:"We all share the same color of blood and it is red. In its universal association, Red represents life."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Harley Davison Ride in Lebanon

For 3 days, Harley Davidson riders from the Arab world prevailed over boundaries, frontiers, cultural gap, religious restrictions, social limitations. They came from Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, from overseas, across many deserts.
On the mountains of Lebanon, 330 bikes roared in one tone, they moved as one hybrid element, they communicated in  the same hand signals.
    Together in their shinning armor, they carried the ideas of camaraderie, friendship and adventure. Although a ride is solely for the ride itself; the symbiosis with the elements, wind,  earth, moon, fire gives it a transcending dimension.
Forget one's worries or fears, hold your bike as an extension of your body, feel the vibes, and let the passion inflame your guts...
Did anyone propose to give posthumously a Nobel prize to Harley and Davidson? In the legend of "the Eagle soars alone" these bikers have gone beyond wars and conflict, they have distilled a sense of peace and togetherness...

(photos by Waleed Shalaan)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Education world day (5th oct)

A silent celebration: teachers' day, education, quality of impact, sustainability, progress, build the future, invest in teachers now...
The UNESCO has invested so much in the education at all level, around the world. But why, in their website, on this day, do they include a guidebook to tackle violence in schools? What is happening to the world of education? In France, headlines talk about a proposition to pay students as an incentive to attend and a way to reduce absenteeism. Those who have the possibility to learn might not want to take the chance and those who want to learn might not have the access.

In the Arab world, many reports have been published by the UN arms or other NGOs on the illiteracy with comparative results: the main issues remain: gender literacy, young children out of school, adult education, wars and conflicts, financial crisis, evaluation of academic achievement, rural population, poverty... What numbers reveal is in accordance to what they are compared to. In terms of world wide literacy and proficiency, the Arab world cannot compare itself to some western nations. But the effort is palpable whether in government policies or NGO's working on the ground or private initiative turning into associations. Universities are mushrooming in the Gulf area to cater to the growing demographics. The discrepancies within the Arab world uncovers the lack of its uniformity. Some countries have more means and will to promote and propose proper education to their citizens. Others nor the will nor the means. And some lost in trying.
Educational systems around the world are in constant challenge to adapt to a changing world and changing guidelines. Information is available at the speed of light with new technologies. It stays a sensitive issue yet so necessary to reflect upon.

click here for the Unesco site

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Shanghai - Jia Aili in Platform China gallery

Platform China gallery presented in Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair the latest works of Jia Aili. Powerful lines, dynamic, with an intriguing fascination to the Mickey Mouse symbol. This works comes of interest beyond the common use of icons in Chinese art which seem to flock around the Mao era, the pre mao era, the transformations of cities, the new order, the modern China. The grey and white canvas convey an inner expression of a futuristic projection of solitude wearing the Mickey ears. The next canvas in black in white shows the artist's technical ability; is the Mickey a mockery or a reality in today's China?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Amin Maalouf - the blog

Amin Maalouf, the renown author, is experimenting the new web tool: blogs, blogging, to blog, to be blogged about, I'll post it on the blog...
An author who lives in recluse, writes alone, page after page to produce a 150, 200, 500 pages books, plans to share his thought process in short notes. It's a thrill to see an established writer in his medium ready for exploration within new dimensions. Come to think about it, it's not so surprising as Maalouf has often used his own perspective and point of view to present a different perception of History. The book "The Crusades through Arab eyes", for example, has given laymen the capacity to contemplate their own history and think about their present. In a simple fluent language, he has opened doors to help many understand the intricate labyrinth of origins. "In the name of Identity" touches upon the essence: who are you? who am I?
This blog will add a layer of sweetness to the information flood on the web.

his blog in English or French: with amin maalouf

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair

Art fair from the 10 to the 13 th of september in Shanghai. Many galleries from Asia and some from the west. Art in a massive way. It gave a good sense of the Chinese art and how it is unfolding in the world of expression. At the entry, a curated display of the finest works.
The one that stood among others was this red carpet installation by Shinji Ohmaki from Japan: He used an ephemeral patterns of flowers to be walked on and destroyed to create a new life to the carpet. Elegance and futility under each step.

(more to come on this art fair and events around it, in future posts)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Green Caravan film festival

Save the date: 28 -29th October 2009
to save the earth eventually.
Green Caravan is coming your way in Kuwait at the Dar al Athar theater in Midan Hawally. A Film Festival to show world renowned movies on Earth matters: wild animals, water, pollution...
Please check their web site for more information. Take your kids or your grandma.
In the program: "Home" a movie released early summer by Yann Arthus Bertrand, the man best known as "the photographer from above".

The effort is a non profit endeavor, by Equilibrium to pull energies into better informed opinions that might someday do something.

Link to the film festival:

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Lebanese National Library Foundation

The Lebanese National Library Foundation saw a need to fulfill: restore and bring to the public the archive of books and newspapers with a history of more than hundreds of years. The effort is tedious and straining. Exhibitions are arranged often to keep the spirit alive. Beyond their wars, Lebanese are often aware of their written heritage and their freedom of speech across ages.
In the world today, many are questioning the existing necessity of National Libraries. With the age of technologies and unwired web of information, does anyone flip through books or dictionaries or even encyclopaedias?
The National Public Library in France (Bibliotheque Nationale de France) is under a severe strain of “take over” from the gigantic info monster: Google. Under the cover of digitizing all documents, the French are propelled into the digital faster track. They have already covered 800 000 documents, and wonder if Google's intentions are beyond the profit when proposing a full coverage of the archives.
The Lebanese National Library is far from that fear. They are still desperately fundraising to restore first, and then erect a space. They are certain that a memory brought back to life could encourage the younger generations of researchers into a far broader capacity of understanding.
And these youngster need an access to the past to built a better future.


Friday, 21 August 2009

Zeina Maasri "Off the Wall"

A book published in feb 2009 on posters during the WAR in Lebanon, researched and written by Zeina Maasri. The forward by Fawwaz Traboulsi is quite eloquent in the issues at stake:

" Question: Why should we remember a civil war? Answer: so as not to have it repeated (...) Forgetting is one thing, amnesia is another. Amnesia, both officialized and popular, has been rampant in post war Lebanon (...) Collective amnesia is pathological while it pretends to be curative. (...) it condemns the patient and re-enact the traumatic past as a permanent present. That is why the post war years have been lived as a 'cold civil war' awaiting for the 'return' of the hotter version.
With patience, perseverance and a lot of talent Maasri has managed to collect document and archive hundreds of posters produced by the different protagonists during the wars of Lebanon. (...) she has offered us another way of looking at posters: posters as weapons.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Fouad el Khoury

On War and Love.
Espace Kettaneh-Kunigk, Beirut, took down the traces of this photo/dairy/collage exhibition by Fouad el Khoury. Have you missed that event?
Anyhow, you needed time to explore it, and in Beirut, hardly anyone has the time for such a subtle, deep reflections on these explosive topics: WAR and LOVE
First, you have a general look and wonder to start, then realize there are dates on each photo. You search for a beginning then face the inevitable 13th July 2006. You read the caption closer: "flying to Athens the next day for the opening of my photo exhibition (...) title: 1982 named after the last invasion of Lebanon by Israel".
His daily life is displayed with photos and words to give his impression of the summer 2006, but they also mimic so many wars in Lebanon in the past 30 years. Such contrasts and aberrations simply put. He introduces his love life as a center anchor to a world disintegrating in a warfare. Unknown parameters and variables. Love becomes unknown and unstable.

Are you still in Love Fouad el Khoury or have you found peace?

His website:

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Baalbek Festival

Baalbeck Festival ended their season with Verdi's "La Traviata" performed by the "Choregraphies d'Orange" in partnership with their festival in Orange, France.
Pleasant and powerful execution: voices, music, costumes surrounded by enchanting columns and stones.

The classic drama of love and death is a recurrent subject to be tackled by many Lebanese during their recent history of wars, deaths, politics, religion and in contrast the invincible effect of love.
The Lebanese's love of exquisite and refined art struck once again.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


The wedding entrance by Jill and Kevin youtube video had 18,877,982 viewers and Press attention when even NBC tv has asked to perform again in the Today show. Analysis and questions on the matter: are they acting up for a video clip, are they promoting a song? or are they just a plain creative couple putting up their wedding entrance on youtube for family and friends? and why is there such a buzz? how did they make the buzz?
They have nothing to do with any promotion of songs. They are ordinary people ready to use the latest technology and promote themselves.
In the Arab world, there are many youtube videos on weddings, such as Chantal and Elie's dance in Lebanon. With it, comes overwhelming attempts to fit the social norm in an escalating business. The location, the bride's dress, the flowers, the zaffeh, the music, the food, the service, the lighting ... on and on and on...
What matters is: are they having fun?
In the Arab culture, improvisations in weddings has yet to emerge. Until then enjoy the party.

(NBC's Link)

Monday, 3 August 2009

Walter Moers

Does anyone know a good translator from German to Arabic? If you do, please give him this book "Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher" by Walter Moers to savor words, images, plots, suspense, races, clashes in the world of books. Electrifying. Stunning. When he reads it, it might give him the urge to propagate that love of books to the young Arab readers, through Moers' eyes.
The writer is known in Germany for his comics and his books. It is usually given to young adults as dreaming is best done when still young...

Or is it already translated? That would be the jackpot!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Legal and illegal art

Street dance in Paris is not legal. Feisal, Ibrahim and friends, some from Tunisia, others from different part of the world, perform in the tourists' zones. Under thirty years, they decide to get together to earn a few coins in the summer, entertain the crowds, and sometimes they get police intervention on the spot.
What is the sanction in France to dance in the street? probably not as much as in other countries where public dancing is punished highly, music and singing must be state controlled.
Does it stop the dancing?

On the same note, Flash Mob dancing has become a fad in many countries. In an anonymous manner, a group of dancers get on the floor of high traffic area, usually a train station, a big mall etc.. and perform together during a song to give the impression of a random event. The use of a web camera, youtube, twitter, facebook etc.. promotes the success of the pre and post event. In the past month, around the world, spontaneous flash mob dances have been organized as a tribute to Micheal Jackson.
In Kuwait, it was reported by fellow bloggers that a silent non dancing tribute to Micheal Jackson on the beach ended up being dispersed by the police.
Does it stop listening to Jackson's words :
"We are the World, we are the children ... We'll make a better day, just you and me..."
and let's start dancing!

link to flash mob dance : Montreal

Saturday, 1 August 2009


The Disney, Pixar movie "UP" in 3 D is not a movie for kids... It must be for grandparents or adults who care for the younger ones, thinking that a movie will be quiet time without running, screaming or yelling...
It is a trap, beware...
The story is about an old man, with a foot in his grave, who is thrust to the ultimate: totally give up his dream or do something about it.
The trap is hidden, disguised, dangerous with extremely critical ideas in a unbelievable story. And the worst is to believe that the bad man is really a bad man... He is nothing else but the same as the hero turned sour, sad and aggressive.
Adults are surely more gullible than kids, accustomed and trained to accept that the "Peter Pan world" is not real
(For adults, it has to be written that coffee in paper cups is extremely hot, beware... cigarettes and smoking will kill etc... Otherwise they will not take the time to pause and think...)
In this movie, you cannot accomplish anything the old man is seen doing. There is no sign anywhere saying: " you should not try this with your own home..."

Friday, 31 July 2009

Venice Biennale - 6 - collateral events

In the Saudi Pavilion, tucked down beside the Guggenheim collection, stood there, with an orange aura, the mother of all kitsch elements in the Arab world: The Fake Neon Palm Tree. Controversy on that issue can be discussed in length. But in Venice, surrounded by old stones and a view on the canal, it served its purpose.
The exhibition has the intention to be at the edge of Arabia (its title) and presents confirmed artists who like to push it to another level.
Among others, Manal al-Dowayan portraits women with some male professional tools: "I am an engineer" "I am a truck driver". The message is loud and clear. The photography in black and white is apealling.
Ahmed Mater Aseeri uses two x-rays printed on paper prepared with tea, pomegrenate, coffee and other materials used traditionally on the opening page to a religious text.
The show gives a sensation that contemporary art in Saudi Arabia is moving on the uphill road for more fame.

(link to the website : edge of arabia)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Venice Biennale - 5 - collateral events

In the collateral events, the one not be missed was : Peter Greenaway's video installation of "The wedding at Cana". He used the wall where the painting originally was hung, in the Benedictine abbey across from St Mark's Square. He pulled teams of sound and lights experts. He wrote scripts for a virtual dialogue between all figures on the canvas and added music to the event. He manipulated laser beams, projections on side panels, numbers on characters for identifications, closeups images of faces, animated diagrams. He darkened some areas, focused on others and the show was on for 50 min.
The stage set for the wedding. Murmurs of voices starts with a gossip on the far end, comments on the invitees, remarks on cloths, references on food. Attention gets closer to the main organizers, their worries and pride. Instruments are played, cutlery shaken, velvet and silk crumpled. "An ebullient painting, a feast, a wedding, a celebration, a grand event, a tumult, a swirl of bright conversation, laughter, music. (...) Banish gloom, guilt and melancholy. What are all these people saying, talking about, chattering about,debating, anticipating, discussing? Should we listen in? Can we listen in?" says Greenaway in his written introduction.
Until drinks dried up and the Christ performs his first public miracle to turn water to wine. And it continues to spin in their heads, on their tongues: doubts, amazement, suspicion, credulity...
The miracle was depicted as if Jesus was part of the Venitian court of the 16th century and far away from its setting in Cana, Galileo with a Jewish background in AD 31/ 33

Could Paolo Veronese, the Italian painter of the Renaissance in Venice, have thought of this interpretation in his "Wedding at Cana"in 1562? Or did Greenaway see in this painting the potential to go beyond what the artist offered in his art?
He was able to turn this silent canvas into a lively hybrid from modern technology to art history to an explanatory form of the subject with the context of the period it was painted in.
"In this way it seems that, shifting the identity of this work from vision to sound, you were able to retain the idea of Veronese, that is the idea of art, which is always to establish a non-place" says Achille Bonito Olivia

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Venice Biennale, 4 Palestinian pavillion

The collateral events scattered around the city are as interesting as the main events in the official Arsenale and Giardini. With a map and the vaporetto, it felt like a paper rallye race from one end to the other, trying to locate them.
For the first time, the Palestinian pavillion presented few works of their artists. As Palestine is not recognised as a country, it could not have its own stage. In reference to that state without land, their catalogue and title "Palestine c/o Venice" is about the need to have a host for their existence.
In its tourist's guides, Venice has the stigma of starting the first Jewish ghetto in 1516, when the ruling council decided to make all Jews live in the "Ghetto Nuova" and allowed them to practice their pawn-lending under strict laws, leave their ghetto with a yellow scarf or circle and lock the gates at night.
Venice is coming a long way, to allow the victims of the Israeli occupation to have their own physical presence on land and show their art under their own banner.
Palestinian art is closely related to lives under harsh conditions. It has to do with installations of photos of land, villages destroyed, buildings restored…
Salwa Mikdadi, the event's independent curator, had the difficult task of conceiving the project, as she says on the artists :"The fluidity of their art is reflected on their ability to work unfettered by geopolitical boundaries and exile. Collectively, they have brought to the world’s attention diverse conceptual readings of space of memory, displacement, migration, nation and the human condition."
Or which art to present at the biennale and how will it be understood in the arena of the best and will it be of equal level as the other art works?
Their most surprising work was in the dark sound proof room, where Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Patti offer a recording of: words from the Oslo treaty, people arguing, songs by Oum Kalthoum, and the unfogettable, hauting resonnace of bombs and shellings... It had the simplicity of a straight forward art, with a vibration that plunged the viewer into another time and space.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Venice biennale, Giardini - 3

In the Giardini, among the 30 official pavillions, the elegant Venitian pavillion concentrated on glass works and their garden had a explosion of colors, forms and materials by the artist Dale Chihuly. The pavillion is about "glass art" and the historical link to the murano traditions.

The Egyptian pavillion presented their best work with canvas by Adel Al Siwi and Ahmed Askalany's scupltures in palm tree leaves and iron. The giants looked impressive and gave a earthly feeling of life on the Nile's shores. Size of these "worshipers" was dramatic, filling the space with deep connection to majestic monuments from the pharaos' time.

In the Brazillian pavillion, two artists were representing the art in South America. At first glance, the canvas works by Delson Uchoa in their intrecate layers of materials, and the brightness of colors were the most striking. But after reading the curator's note, the Luiz Braga's photography is on one hand very familiar and simple but also researched in details :" because his approach to the subject is not literary or ideological, his gaze records, directly and precisely, documented sequences that seem to strech out the time of a peculiar life. Treated as a raw material in an abstract, aesthetic vision, the Amazon reveals itself as an artificial world, like a markedly pictorial , nearly dreamlike staging of the place where he lives."

The Spanish pavillion proudly showed Miquel Barcelo's retrospective. His works include his love for Africa, He uses organic materials on his canvas as well as clay for his ceramics. His performance recorded on video using a large amount of clay on a wall then on a person reveals a tendency to surrender and surround himself with clay and earthly matter without disctinction between beauty and mud.