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