Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Khalid al Hamad - photography

Khalid al Hamad, young graduate of liberal arts, fine photographer exhibited his works last week at the Boutique 4, shuwaikh, Kuwait.
His one dollar bill cut out in the geographical shape of Kuwait says something about his vision of his country or the whole relationship with Uncle Sam, or even his creative shocking interjection to get some reactions away from the common feeling of "it looks all fine, why change anything?"
His other series of young orphans in a monastery in Thailand, where he taught english for a month, is a moving series of portraits in large size. He shows that he can handle light, contrast, texture, composition.
Khalid needs to continue exploring and certainly not just getting stuck into a style because it sells. There is a lot to investigate in the world and much more to learn and share.

Agnes Stillfried - the Conquest of Tunis

Dr Agnes Stillfried gave a capturing lecture of history through works of art. At the Dar al Athar, in Kuwait, she used Tapestry commissioned  in the 16th century by the Emperor Charles V to talk about geopolitics with the Ottoman Empire and  how battles were prepared, launched, fought, won and the final analysis of marketing one's actions.
Dr Stillfried started with some technicals on tapestry and the importance of this particular set in their massive size, woven with the best quality colors,  best material and by the best weavers.
She then exhibited the main actors: Charles V emperor, Soliman the magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman empire,  Hayreddin Barbarossa, the pirate turned into Pasha and Admiral in control of the Mediterranean sea, Muley Hasan, governor of Tunis defeated by Barbarossa,  Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen, artist commissioned to make the most exuberant tapestry with full account of the battle,  and some other minor actors.
       Vermeyen went to the battle with the troops in june 1535 and recorded scenes in hundreds of drawings none of which have survived. He then drew the real life size cartouch, a template for weavers. These cartouch were used a first time for a set of tapestry in the 16th century on display today in Madrid at the Patrimonio National and the second time in the 18th century for another set on display in Vienna.
       Agnes Stillfried went through many details that caught her eye: like women washing on the side of a battle, or why the young page wore an oversized helmet, or the details of the Santa Anna, the largest ship of the century, or ostriches next to the goats, or the fabric and fashion of the moment etc.
      Tunis was conquered by Charles V, but Agnes Stillfried gave another historical perspective and reality: Barbarossa was still at large and ruling over the Mediterranean after his loss of Tunis and this battle did not have a significant impact on politics of that time. "It looks like political propaganda." she says. Charles V tried to market himself as extraordinary Emperor, and he succeeded, among other achievements, in leaving an artistic legacy that you should see if given the opportunity.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Diwan Shamlan - Kuwait

Diwan Shamlan is the house where the Shamlan men have received guests since 1918. The architecture is authentic, the log wood that carries the roof was brought in from Kenya and this determined the room's width. The house was built as a diwan but is not the oldest standing structure, A few other are still operating where the elderly men sit in for tea, and younger generation comes in to talk about the latest in town.
This Diwan has the distinct characteristic of history. Subjects are often about the ways of the past. The family tree is displayed as photos of those who made the family and each man carries his story. A separate special room  is meant to leave a trace of chronology where every inch of the walls show a record of Kuwait as far back as possible, from the first areal view of the Safat roundabout, to the water transported, to the pearl diving to the boats that went for months, to the people who made it happen.

The archival interest is of great value and the question remains on how can Kuwait erase its own history for the sake of making room for the new concrete towers. Today, around the Shamlan Diwan, a touristic heritage neighborhood is being built, hoping to recreate what is lost.
Will it have any soul left? Wouldn't it be better to spend money and effort to help those, with memory, preserving the fading pictures and the stories of all these events?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Broug's vocation for islamic geometrical design

Islamic geometrical figures and structures. Eric Broug is a dedicated artist that has studied extensively in the geometrical realm. He wrote books, designs objects, screens. He set up an atelier in the UK. He teaches the concept. He has a facebook page to promote interconnection about it. He is set in the world to show what a delight it can be.
        These geometrical forms are about a balance between  a grid as the necessary invisible structure and the interconnection of highlighted lines; between the limited forms and the infinite complex shapes; between straight lines and curves; between two dimensions and three dimensions and maybe even more; between the precise mathematical calculations and simplicity of visual impact; between the manifested apparent chaos in the world and the invisible well calculated composition.
There is a fascination for understanding and Broug is not alone in his quest to unlock this irresistible appeal.

Facebook page: Broug Ateliers For Islamic Geometrical Design
Broug website link

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Nabati poetry, a new tool for rebellious acts

Poetry live, from Abu Dhabi TV, on a show: "Million's Poet" a contest for the best performer. This week, on air Ms Hissa Hilal from Saudi Arabia has broken a record on her rating by the judges but also on international news about the content of her verses. She uses the "subversive fatwas" as her main rhetoric and she boldly says that these fatwas are a source of inequality and violence. She has received death threats but will appear next week on TV for the final show and will know if she will receive the big prize or some consolation money for her courage and her defiance against radical thinking.

Nabati poetry : Link

Article in The National : link

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Music at the Palestinian Camps

Mustapha ZamZam is a singer, producer and stage performer in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon. He sings traditional tunes in a familiar beat to his audience of the camps. This particular song is about a woman, love at first sight. He searches for her from one camp to the other, asking about her, describing her. The dance performed live is the classic Palestinian dabkeh.
It is about a number one rated artist in all music stores in the camps.
Have you heard about him?
In the microcosm of the camps, the perspective of a singer takes on a whole new dimension.
It is about a historical perspective: why are there Palestinian camps in Lebanon? Which year has it started? How many generations have been living in these camps?
It has a sociological aspect: In what conditions do these Palestinians live in Lebanon? How do they go about the basics of life: shelter, jobs, medical care etc..?
It is about the one major unanswered question: what is their hope of another tomorrow?
Mustapha Zamzam takes on the role of alleviating any deep question in the realm of songs and expression of joy. Music is fundamental to humans, they use it to make life a bit sweeter and Zamzam feels like a sugar coating even if he is far from competing with Nickelback or Ragheb Alemeh.