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,