Nour Zantah – Nahla Ink Artist of the Month (March 2020)

March 2020 brings the works of the talented Syrian artist Nour Zantah to Nahla Ink, to coincide with her latest solo exhibition titled ‘ATAX|A’ that will take place at the P21 Gallery in London from 12-21 March.

Biography courtesy of the artist.

Nour Zantah is a London-based artist who was born in Homs, Syria in 1989. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus in 2011 and a Master’s in International Contemporary Art & Design Practice from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Malaysia in 2014. Currently she is completing a PhD in Fine Arts at The University of Northampton, United Kingdom. She has exhibited widely in countries including Syria, Algeria, Jordan and the UK.

Following the start of the Syrian revolution, Zantah’s work came to focus on violence and war, with a particular interest in the aesthetic and expressive qualities that can be achieved while depicting aggression, as well as addressing the complex interactions and inspirations evident in how artists respond to modern media images of violence.

Referring to the medical term which means the loss of full control of bodily movements, ATAX|A will feature Zantah’s complex collages of images from the revolution, interspersed with her painting, offering an immersive and troubling experience that reveals the deep emotional and personal impacts of war. Transcending barriers of language, race, age and nationality, her work bears witness to the torments experienced by Syrians, both in war-torn Syria and in the diaspora.

Khan Shaykhun Chemical Attack (2017) Mixed Media on Canvas)

In reference to the painting named ‘Khan Shaykhun Chemical Attack’, Zantah has said: “The inspiration for this was a screenshot I took of a video that was published on YouTube on 4 April, 2017. The video showed sisters and brothers who had been killed in the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack that day. I incorporated a number of written statements into the painting’s over-arching composition which are related to the chaos of thoughts and imagination that was seething inside me. The flood of colours spills out onto the painting which begins with the word ‘war’ at the right-hand side and culminates with the word ‘theatre’ on the left-hand side of the painting.”

Untitled (2019) Mixed Media on Canvas

Sharing her thoughts also on the ‘Untitled’ piece above: “This painting represents the emotions associated with the revolutionary moment, reflecting its ups and downs, and growth and fading of enthusiasm. I sought to express the impact of the sounds of war on myself and other Syrians at the moment of isolation, loneliness, nostalgia, fear, loss of hope, despair. There is an expressive dimension that is almost akin to a musicality, both in terms of its composition and what it is seeking to communicate. There is also a harmony arising from the repetition of the parallel lines of the figures in this painting.”

The Echo (2019) Mixed Media on Canvas

Many more of Zantah’s pieces address further aspects of the Syrian war with telling names such as ‘Under the Rubble’, ‘The Echo’, ‘The Void’, ‘The Sniper’, ‘The Wounded’, ‘The Migrant’, ‘Siege of Homs’, ‘He’s Not Coming Back’ among others.

Solitude (2019) Mixed Media on Canvas
Under the Rubble (2019) Mixed Media on Canvas

To view Zantah’s powerful artworks in person, the ATAX|A exhibition, curated by Tarek Tuma, will be open from 12-21 March at the P21 Gallery.

For more on the exhibition: http://p21.gallery/exhibitions/exhibition-atax-a/

For more about the artist: https://www.nourzantah.com/

To follow the artist on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nourzantah/

Houda Terjuman – Nahla Ink Artist of the Month (February 2020)

Nahla Ink is super proud to feature the stunning artworks of the visual artist Houda Terjuman for the month of February 2020.

Born in Tangier, Morocco to a Syrian father and Swiss mother, Terjuman’s parents had embarked on a new life in the 1970s after having lived in Italy and Mali. Whilst growing up in Tangier, Terjuman was exposed to a diverse environment with people belonging to different cultures, languages and religions living side by side in peace and mutual tolerance.

Self taught as an artist – because her parents had preferred for her to do a BA in Management at the American College of Switzerland in Leysin – her signature materials are sponge cardboard, wire and wood plaster for her delicate sculptures and oil on canvas for her paintings. For the artist, each piece is a little tale about the themes closest to her heart, be they of migration, resilience, open-mindedness, roots or a flip side of anxiety and insecurities.

Terjuman has had solo shows in Madrid (Spain) at the Casa Árabe, Paris (France) at the Institut du Monde Arabe, London with Arts Cabinet Research, Lisbon (Portugal), Dubai (UAE), Tunis (Tunisia) and extensively in Morocco; whilst participating in international group exhibitions in more European cities and being represented in contemporary art fairs, including the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Marrakesh.

A big highlight of her career is being part of the current touring exhibition organised by the Aga Khan Museum in collaboration with the Italian Imago Mundi, which addresses the subject of identity for migrant art practitioners and cross-cultural artistic realities. Bringing the works of 15 artists whose backgrounds involve 25 different countries, it is a travelling project that started in Italy and will continue by visiting Canada, the United States, Europe and the MENA region.

Terjuman has provided an artist statement: “The history of my practice is overwhelmingly informed by my status as hybrid migrant, a condition associated to second generation migrants. The transient nature of my evolution as a person and as an artist opened up fascinating ways of playing with representation in art. My father as a first generation migrant used to tell us that we had no safety net and the integration in another country was necessary. However, I chose to refuse the concept and the practice of assimilation and instead, I cherished the status of hybridity which to me, offers a rich mix of backgrounds, voices, and belongings.

“Even though I will eternally feel foreign and possibly always displaced, I have earned through my experience an incredible strength which comes from the power of mobility, and the sense of freedom brought to me through the multitude of roots, languages and cultures I have grown up with. It is precisely in this fine space between the ideal that a new life in a new place can offer, mixed with the regret of loss and nostalgia that is carried through the process of migration, that I have chosen to situate my practice and through which I work to represented feelings of floating freedom, but also of fear and insecurity.

“My sculptures and paintings are little familiar objects that weave stories. These small objects act as bearers of hope and bridges making the link between cultures. An empty chair symbolises what we left behind and keeps us connected to our roots. A lonely boat, is a bearer of hope. A floating bridge invites us to build connections and empathy towards the unknown.”

For more on the artist Houda Terjuman: https://www.houdaterjuman.com

For more on Social Media:

https://www.instagram.com/houdaterjuman/

https://twitter.com/HTerjuman

Nadia Osi – Nahla Ink Artist of the Month (January 2020)

Nahla Ink is super thrilled to begin the New Year 2020 by featuring the works of the Iraqi artist Nadia Osi.

Biography courtesy of the artist. 

Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, Nadia Osi currently lives and works as an artist in London. From early childhood, she was fond of drawing; and, her passion for the human figure and attention to detail gradually became the basis for her future creative career.

In 1988, Osi studied Graphic Design at the Academy of Fine Arts, Baghdad University. She later moved to London and studied at the American College where she got her BA in Commercial Art in 1995. She spent the next ten years working as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator in several design companies, when her illustrations and drawings featured in ‘Al Jameela Magazine’ at the Arab Press House in London and several other magazines.

Nadia Osi

Since 2007, Nadia has participated in several art shows and exhibited in the UK, Belgium, USA, Jordan and UAE. Her distinctive painting style is highly sought after by private art galleries and art collectors. She also does commissions for clients around the Middle East, USA and Europe. She paints in oil, acrylic on canvas and sometimes in watercolour. She finds the painting experience to be “a total immersion in a sea of lush paint and colour which hopefully evolves into a pleasurable and meaningful experience for the viewer”.

Inspired by her hometown of Baghdad, Osi’s work explores Iraqi heritage, culture and traditions. One finds the old streets, the urban life, the coffee shops and the people in her paintings, in addition to her joyous use of colour and attention to detail.

Nadia Osi

She said: “The concepts behind my work come from the memory of my hometown Baghdad. Like most of my paintings, I pick subjects that are bright and beautiful and which reflect the good times of my country decades ago; where and when love, peace, beauty and colours existed. As a society or way of life this is now becoming extinct. My paintings express the nostalgia and archive the Iraqi legacy of the social life and its beautiful human values, true friendships and warm neighbourhoods.”

Nadia Osi

Although her focus has been on this journey connected with Iraq, Osi also loves to paint other subjects, as well as mastering landscape, portraits and still life. Recently her corporate and individual art collectors’ base has increased due to positive social media exposure and online coverage.

For more on Nadia Osi on Social Media:

In Conversation With Patrick Altes: The French-Algerian Artist Advocates‘Tolerance’ In His Latest UK Solo

Patrick Altes is a UK-based French-Algerian artist with a highly nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the word ‘Tolerance’, the title for his latest solo exhibition currently taking place at Gerald Moore Gallery in South East London. Mostly, he uses the word in the geopolitical context to refer to the types of relationships that can be forged between different peoples, nations and civilisations; and, also, looking at the concept as an ethical value to be cultivated, akin to compassion and empathy or the golden rule to treat others as one would wish to be treated.

Advocating and rooting for tolerance Altes challenges narratives that demean, debase or dehumanise ‘the other’ and bravely calls out some of the underlying racism, bigotry, resentment and intolerance that exist in our splintered world today. In so doing, he questions Eurocentric post-colonial discourse, feuding between religions, the worrying current trends towards far right politics and nationalism in Europe and the United States, the deep divisions that have been created by Brexit in the UK as well as tackling the negative attitudes towards migrants.

Born in Oran, Algeria in 1957 into a family of French-Spanish descent – they had lived in Algeria for three generations before leaving just prior to independence in 1962 – Altes was always keen to examine the complex and sensitive relationship between the country of his birth and that of France, the country in which he grew up. Not content with the view that excused French dominance and didn’t acknowledge the wrongs that were wrought upon the colonised people, he points out that there are consequences to that historical chapter that need heeding in order to mitigate the existing tensions between the two people.

In conversation with Nahla Ink, Altes said: “The French invaded Algeria for 130 years and did some pretty terrible things there, that were definitely not right; but, at the end of the day, we share a common history and common language that can be used to bring the countries together. It is important to me that this kind of antagonism between France and Algeria stops; and I quite like the idea of mending the links and building bridges between them.”

Another life experience that hugely influenced Altes was his stay in South Africa between 1981-1983. It was at the height of apartheid and he was teaching French in the University of Fort Hare, where a number of African National Congress members had gone to do their studies, including Govan Mbeki, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

Altes: “It was a hot place of radicalism and an eye opener. I was a bit of a political person before, but this experience was something that showed me that politics really is the fabric of society and the fabric of life that you can’t live without. It is why I became interested in the plight of people. I also met many artists in SA and realised I enjoyed being in their company.”

Originally self-taught as an artist Altes then spent six years in Ecuador before returning to France and taking his training further. He enrolled in external life drawing classes of the Beaux Arts in Toulouse and undertook etching workshops for a couple of years, before coming to the UK in 2006 to take an MA in Fine Arts at the University of Brighton. Most recently, in 2012, Altes completed an Leverhulme Trust Arts residency at the University of Portsmouth. He is now based in St Leonards-on-Sea in Hastings where he has been living for the past seven years.

Typically exploring themes of identity, history and politics, Altes said: “You always put something of yourself in your work, it is about you and how you relate to the world. To me, art is a dialogue with people and a way of talking about identity, in the sense that it gives me an idea of where I stand in terms of my work and position in life, society, my political ideas and social ideas. It is almost like a manifesto all the time but not really at the same time.”

‘Tolerance’ Paintings & Signature Technique

Truly a grand solo show, there are altogether 70-plus pieces displayed on the walls over the two floors at the gallery. Some works date back to 2004, whilst others have been newly created, many specifically for the exhibition. They have been organised so that the ground level gallery features paintings and the top level holds the digital prints and collages.

One set of paintings that stands out due to their dark-heavy tones and disturbing imagery, tackles the subject of the Second Gulf War in 2003 and how the US channelled cleverly edited news commercials that became “almost pleasurable to watch” but completely covered up the cost of war on the Iraqis and the horrors they endured. One sees soldiers near to skulls and defaced humans coming out of TV monitors, relaying the artist’s take on the dangers of American war propaganda.

Coming close up to the works, one also discovers Altes’s signature layering technique. Beginning with the notion that the canvas is more like a wall, he can then write on it, scratch it, blend it with paper or paint over it. One good example is ‘The Hanging Gardens of England’, a three piece set where one can decipher the graffiti in the background- with the words ‘democracy’, ‘tolerance’, ‘freedom’ and ‘Stephen Lawrence’ – in contrast to the top painted image of pretty little flowers in the British flag colours of white, red and blue.

About these, Altes said: “I created something similar to an earlier work called ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’ that first challenged post-colonial narratives with a bit of irony. In this set you start with the graffiti that refers to Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in nearby Eltham in 1993 and then you see the overlaid pictures with the flowers. It is a way to express how sometimes you can hide underneath beauty and you can hide the reality that is a bit less beautiful.”

He also explained: “We live in polarised times where nationalism is becoming   strong again and I believe it is time for people to take a step back and realise that we are all living on one planet and that the main problems are maybe not between nations but at the global level and our survival on the planet. We need to talk to each other regardless of differences of opinion.

“We have seen this with Brexit too, as the Brexiteers hate the Remainers and vice versa. At the end of the day, England will go one way or another but we will still be living in the same country. The idea is not to agree on everything but to listen to the other person, agree to disagree but have both opinions expressed. If we then go beyond that, the highest form of tolerance is love!”

Distinctive of the artist’s practice too are his roughly drawn figures that represent human beings and other recurring shapes like that of fish, pelicans and snakes. About these playful bodies and the animals, he said: “These are my way of representing people in all their quirks and differences, and yet showing we are all the same. They relate to the archetypical shapes that I have in my mind and conscience.”

Another significant group of paintings have been inspired by the hopscotch children’s game, offering a message about destiny. With a reference to the artist’s Catholic upbringing – the state of always being between earth, heaven and purgatory – and a line that signifies a mysterious link between the conscious and the unconscious, fate is seen to be beyond one’s power and control; wherein the weight of one’s family and country of birth, for example, influence who we become and what we might believe in.

 

On the other hand, the hopscotch works as a metaphor for the cultivation of higher values and the potential to evolve beyond basic human instincts – that are usually tribal, hating, distrustful of others and seeing the world as the enemy to be feared – to acquire a higher state of being.

Digital Prints & ‘The Ultimate Mediation’

Upstairs the digital prints and collages reflect a unity in terms of colours and many seem to elaborate on the theme of the futility of conflict or the uselessness of holding grudges and resentments, as humanity must change and progress over the millennia. It is to point out also that empires, no matter how powerful or menacing, must all come and go or rise and then fall.

In ‘Ultimate Mediation’, for example, Altes makes a reference to the Mexican and Druid tradition of the ‘Day of the Dead’ and employs the icons of the three Abrahamic faiths of the cross, star of David and Muslim crescent. He said: “I quite like the idea that for one day, the spiritual world and the real world mix together. So whilst we think about the conflict of religions, this kind of succession of life and death or the cycle of life and death from the beginning of time is probably something more important.

“I am trying to also talk about how these conflicts are actually not that important if you look at the bigger picture. Monotheistic religions -whether Catholic, Jewish or Muslim – are a relatively recent phenomenon and in view of what humanity has been through, they are not insignificant, but they don’t deserve to be fought over; in the sense that they should be bringing love and harmony rather than anything else.”

Another wall considers the concept of ‘fundamental British values’ with the display of colourful amateur drawings made – not by Altes but by vocational students at the East Sussex College in Eastbourne and the East Sussex College in Hastings. These were the interesting result of workshops recently conducted by Altes to help the schools fulfil their Ofsted obligations to familiarise the students with the meaning of these terms.

 

He said: “These values for me mean the respect for democracy, respect for personal freedom, right to your own sexuality, right to your own religion or absence of religion, and tolerance. I would in fact rather have them be called fundamental human values.”

The Installations: On Migration & Crossings

Last but not least, two powerful installations deal with the current plight of the African migrants who have been crossing the seas and enduring suicidal journeys in the faint hope of landing on European shores. One is set up poignantly with uprooted dead trees, blood stained trunks and broken branches coming out of travel cases, with little delicate potted green palms trees placed nearby.

On this piece, Altes said: “Behind the word ‘migrants’ are real people who often don’t want to come to England or France, but have been driven by circumstances beyond their decision level. If anything they have been cut off from their environment and the uprooting is a bloody and dangerous process. Whilst the little plants here symbolise that once people have moved to a new place, they try to recreate, however fragile this is, a life of their own; and that, by so doing, they contribute to their host country.”

Whilst the second installation called ‘The Crossing’ features a rudderless wooden boat that looks more like a raft made out of driftwood. Placed in the middle of an Africa (that is represented by a wooden statue) and a Britain (represented by a teapot painted with the Union Jack), it seems to be lost at sea and unable to move in any one direction. And around this too are little clay pots filled with different coloured soils which Altes has collected throughout his travels.

Altes: “I’ve tried to show that the people on these boats don’t choose the trip in the way that you might choose to go to France tomorrow for a visit. There is something a bit more primal and more difficult for them, as they can end up as floating and drowning bodies. Again the clay pots show how easily things can break and crumble whereas the soil represents the little something that one may find essential to take on a long journey as a reminder of home.”

In terms of the wider conversation on migration, Altes pointed out: “The world is founded on migration as we can trace the origin of humanity to Eastern Africa. Migration I believe can be seen either as a threat to identity or as a way to enrich identity; and, actually, you fear what you don’t know. So once you are exposed to the other, the fear disappears and you realise you are not that different; and, indeed, that the real differences that exist are quite interesting and make life better.”

The Fragile Flower

Marking the end of our interview, I asked Altes what would be the main message he would like for people to take with them when they come and visit. He robustly replied: “Tolerance to me is a fragile flower that has to be tended, cherished and exercised; in the sense that you have to be tolerant, otherwise there is the danger that it can decrease or even disappear. So we have to be vigilant about that.

“Also, I have created works that are ambiguous in nature so that people can superimpose their own narrative on the one I intended, either very consciously or not so consciously!”

Curated by Janet Rady Fine Art and supported by the Arts Council, ‘Tolerance’ is on until 25 January, 2020 at Gerald Moore Gallery, Mottingham Lane, London SE9 4RW.

Encompassing outreach and public engagement activities, school pupils and the public will be encouraged to reflect on values and ideas, bringing concepts such as the rule of law, diversity, democracy and individual liberty into the conversation.

There will also be a free panel discussion on 11 January 2020 at 2pm on ‘Tolerance, Migration and Identity’ with the artist Patrick Altes, writer and broadcaster Nadene Ghouri and writer and black British historian S I Martin.

For more on Patrick Altes: http://patrickaltes.com/

For more on Janet Rady Fine Art: https://www.janetradyfineart.com/

For more on Gerald Moore Gallery: https://geraldmooregallery.org/

Ahmed Lesi – Nahla Ink Artist of the Month (November 2019)

 

November month on Nahla Ink features the works of the Egyptian artist Ahmed Lesi, to coincide with his first sole exhibition at the Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo, Egypt.

A visual artist, Lesi is interested in pop art and describing daily Egyptian life in his paintings from a satirical viewpoint. About his solo show titled ‘Please Enter My Inner Space’, Lesi has provided the following statement, published with kind permission from the gallery.

 

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“The place is not the place where I live, but it is the soul of the people I meet, as if it were a real reservoir of thoughts, emotions, and intuition, and I interacted with them to leave a mark or to make them affect me. Gaston Bachelard says: ‘The place that attracts imagination cannot be an apathetic place with its geometrical dimensions, but a place where people have lived not only objectively but with all their personal imagination, which is what attracts us to it’.

 

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“In this project I took up this concept to create a space that connects me with where I work and the events that affect me during my work.  The scenes that I produced are based upon photographs of social events, which are part of a personal archive of photos that I collected myself, and which directly affected me visually. I worked to reproduce them anew in the form of commemorative paintings, all linked to each other as they are pictures of friends, families, and quasi-familiar spaces of this kind, which occurred in Ard El Lewa. By doing this, I was able to tell my experience or impressions of the place, whose dimensions I deal with the most, in the attempt of highlighting the visual point of view of this place”.

 

 

The Mashrabia Gallery is a contemporary art space that was established in Cairo in the mid-1970s. Since the 1990s and under the management of Stefania Angarano, the gallery has played a pioneering role in the diffusion of Plastic Arts through the presentation of non-Egyptian artists in Egypt and the promotion of young Egyptian talents on both the local and the foreign scene.

Breaking with the dominant artistic tradition, the preference for innovative languages free from any decorative components as well as originality and power of the art pieces have always been the criteria for the rigorous selection of the artists and their works. The continuous promotion of established artists and the search for new talents has enabled the creation of a rich and diversified permanent collection.

The gallery organises temporary exhibitions on a monthly basis, both at the gallery and in other venues in Egypt and abroad. Acting as a vibrant cultural incubator, the gallery also regularly hosts various artistic performances, lectures and discussions.

For more on Mashrabia: http://www.mashrabiagallery.com/

To follow Ahmed Lesi on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ahmed.lesi95/

BFI London Film Festival 2019 – The List of MENA-Inspired Films!

Get your popcorn ready! It is that time of year again, when one happily turns to the big silver screen for the celebration of the newest and most exciting films sourced from across the globe, and presented to a London audience. It is of course the BFI London Film Festival 2019!

Taking place 2-13 October in cinema venues across the capital, this year there will be in total 345 films (including features, shorts and documentaries), with much to explore, discover and to simply enjoy. Categorised as always under Strands, I searched the comprehensive programme to identify the films relevant to the MENA region.

Of this year’s selection, BFI Curator for MENA Elhum Shakerifar said to Nahla Ink:

“I am delighted that this year sees a notable number of Arab films in the LFF programme, particularly because two thirds of these are are by first and second time filmmakers – directors whose bold, distinctive and boundary pushing cinema are set to make significant waves.

“I look forward to seeing London audiences meeting such brilliant talents, on screen and for many in person through the many Q+As that will run throughout the festival”.

Without further ado, here they are listed, with the BFI blurbs provided.

For the link to the BFI website and tickets, just tap or click on the images provided for each film.

The Cave (Syria-Denmark) 

Oscar-nominated Feras Fayyad’s (Last Men in Aleppo) essential film tells the harrowing story of an underground Syrian hospital and its extraordinary staff.

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 18:00

BFI Southbank, NFT1

Showing: Tuesday 08 October 2019 17:50

Vue West End, Screen 6

More information and tickets:

The Perfect Candidate (Saudi Arabia-Germany)

Celebrated Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda, LFF 2012) returns to the Festival with an inspiring drama about a young doctor unexpectedly becoming an electoral candidate.

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 20:30

Vue West End, Screen 7

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 21:00

Vue West End, Screen 5

Showing; Tuesday 08 October 2019 12:30

Vue West End, Screen 7

Showing; Tuesday 08 October 2019 13:00

Vue West End, Screen 5

Scales (Saudi Arabia-UAE- Iraq)

The story of a fishing village in thrall to mysterious sea creatures makes for a spellbinding feature debut from Shahad Ameen.

Showing: Wednesday 09 October 2019 18:30

Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Thursday 10 October 2019 13:00

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Saturday 12 October 2019 18:45

Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs ScreenBottom of Form

Noura’s Dream (Tunisia-Belgium-France-Qatar) 

Directed by Hinde Boujemaa: Noura and Lassad’s delicate love story turns into a nightmare when Noura’s husband Sofiane is unexpectedly released from prison, days before their divorce is finalised.

Showing: Friday 04 October 2019 20:45

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 18:15

Vue West End, Screen 4

A Son (Tunisia-France-Lebanon-Qatar)

Challenging your emotions at every turn, Mehdi M Barsaoui’s debut is a riveting ride in which the euphoria of a family trip quickly turns into a nightmare.

Showing; Saturday 05 October 2019 15:30

Empire Haymarket, Screen 1

Showing: Sunday 06 October 2019 18:00

Cine Lumiere

Arab Blues (France):

Directed by Manele Labidi Labbé. In this provocative culture clash comedy, Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Paterson) plays a Parisian psychoanalyst attempting to set up a practice in a post-Arab Spring Tunis.

Showing: Sunday 06 October 2019 12:30

Vue West End, Screen 4

It Must Be Heaven (Palestine-France-Qatar-Germany-Canada-Turkey)

 

Acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman returns with another deadpan take on life in exile, typically assured and moving.

Showing:  Wednesday 09 October 2019 18:15

Curzon Mayfair Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Thursday 10 October 2019 18:00

Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1

The Unknown Saint (Morocco-France)

Alaa Eddine Aljem’s darkly comic feature debut is smart, refreshing, original and an astute reflection on the human need to believe in something.

Showing: Friday 04 October 2019 15:20

BFI Southbank, NFT2

Tlamess (Tunisia)

Ala Eddine Slim’s mesmerising second feature is as bold in its audio-visual wonder as it is audacious in its challenge to conventional narratives.

Showing: Wednesday 09 October 2019 20:35

BFI Southbank, NFT3

Showing: Friday 11 October 2019 15:00

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Talking About Trees (Sudan)

Directed by Suhaib Gasmelbari. A beautifully shot feature debut, winner of the Berlinale Best Documentary Award, that couldn’t be timelier for Sudan.

Showing: Tuesday 08 October 2019 20:45

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Showing; Wednesday 09 October 2019 15:40

BFI Southbank, NFT2

White Girl (Palestine)

Directed by British-Palestinian Omar El-Khairy, this short film will be screened as part of the ‘When You Think You Know How It Ends’ segment.

Sold Out!

Mother of Fire (UAE)

Directed by Farah Al Qasimi, this short film will be screened as part of the ‘New World Order’ segment. A confessional TV documentary, it follows an ancient Jinn called ‘Mother of Fire’ and her ruminations on the history of the UAE, colonial meddling and contemporary Eurocentric museum display practice.

In Vitro (Palestine-UK-Denmark)

Another short film, directed by Larissa Sansour. Decades after an eco-disaster engulfs the biblical city of Bethlehem, two scientists from different generations discuss memory, exile and nostalgia in this symbolic speculative fiction. This will be screened as part of the ‘New World Order’ shorts programme.

Sold Out!

September Note: Arab About London Events Highlights | Laila Shawa Is Nahla Ink Artist of the Month

Dear Readers

September has arrived with the Autumnal chill already in the air.

Of course, it is also the restart to the arts and culture season with plenty on offer that one is seriously spoilt for choice.

I can refer you as always to my ‘Arab About London’ events’ listing with some of the highlights below.

For the full listing that is regularly updated, all you need is to visit the Nahla Ink home page. If you wish to be in the super know, you can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

A Magic Realist Afrabia

Looking at exhibitions, one can head over to the P21 Gallery for the latest ‘A Magic Realist Afrabia’, a solo show for the British-Sudanese artist Rayan Elnayal. Curated by Mishelle Brito, it presents a series of digital prints to explore ideas on multicultural identities, hybridity, and the third space. Looking at Sudanese author Tayeb Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North’ for inspiration, Elnayal follows main character Mustafa’s journey from Sudan to London and his struggle with his contradicting, convoluted and evolving ethnic identity in her work.

For more: http://p21.gallery/react/a-magic-realist-afrabia/

Marcel Khalifé

In terms of music, one of the bigger occasions will be the Lebanese composer, singer and Oud master Marcel Khalifé, as he makes a welcome return to the Barbican. Stripped back from his Al Mayadeen Ensemble that he usually performs with, he will be joined only by his son Rami Khalifé on piano and French jazz drummer Aymeric Westrich, reinterpreting his familiar music in a new way as a trio.

For more: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/marcel-rami-khalife

Maya Youssef & Craig Ogden

One of my favourite instrumentalist Maya Youssef will also be performing this month. After her sold-out Kings Place concert in 2018, ‘Women of the World’ bring the award-winning Syrian Qanun composer and virtuoso guitarist Craig Ogden together in a concert exploring links with European, Middle-Eastern and South Asian music on plucked strings.

For more: https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/world/maya-youssef-and-craig-ogden/

The Paradox of Creative Constraints

If you are cinematically minded, there is an all day public symposium ‘The Paradox of Creative Constraints’ to be held at the Mosaic Rooms. Reflecting on the paradox of creative constraints in contemporary cinema from the Middle East, it will host a day of film screenings and panel discussions with filmmakers, funders and programmers, features innovative rising talents as well as established experts looking at freedom of cinematic expression.

For more: https://mosaicrooms.org/event/the-paradox-of-creative-constraints/

The Stances Festival

Now in its 2nd edition, the ‘Stances’ multimedia and performance festival dedicated to contemporary artists from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria will be taking place at Rich Mix. As they take daring and critical stances towards their ever-changing social and political landscape, either amongst their respective diasporas or across North Africa, this year’s edition showcases the latest urban endeavours that young and upcoming creatives have embarked on to disentangle complexities of perception, identity, belonging and self-worth.

For more: https://richmix.org.uk/events/stances-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%81-north-african-multimedia-performance-festival

Memory of Embers

If perhaps you are more into literature or poetry, Seagull Books and Exiled Writers Ink will be presenting ‘Memory of Embers’, an evening of poetry and discussion that platforms Iraqi voices and delves into themes of memory and exile, war and dictatorship, resistance and return. Featuring Salah Al Hamdani, Adnan al-Sayegh and Reem Kais Kubba – three remarkable Iraqi poets – the themes of displacement, loss and longing, as well as the spirit of revolt stirred up by their words have an increasingly universal resonance at a time where vast numbers of people are rendered placeless and precarious, seeking and being denied asylum by a North increasingly hostile to the ‘others’ that haunt its borders.

For more: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/memory-of-embers-iraqi-poets-on-exile-war-and-resistance-tickets-69361848155

Nahla Ink Artist of the Month – Laila Shawa

The Nahla Ink Artist of the Month is the incredible Palestinian Laila Shawa, whose powerful artworks over the years have garnered great attention and worldwide appreciation. One of the most prominent and prolific artists in terms of revolutionary and contemporary Arabic art, many of her pieces have become iconic and unmistakably Shawa. She has been exhibited internationally with paintings, silkscreen printing, sculptures and installations, as well as having works displayed in many public and private collections, including the British Museum. Living in London, she has given kind permission to feature her artworks on Nahla Ink with five of her most popular series.

Hands of Fatima (Acrylic on paper 2004)
Walk In The Park (Acrylic on paper 1987)
The Impossible Dream II (1989)
The Zar (Acrylic on Canvas 1992)
Trapped (Mixed medium on canvas 2011)

For more: http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/artists/shawa/index.shtml

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, September 2019

Dema One: Getting To Know The Belgian-Moroccan Street Artist & His Exploring ‘REM’

His real name is Ahmed Ahamdi but he prefers to be called Dema One, just like the signature on his artwork, be it the graffiti on a wall, a painting in a gallery or an installation piece. Recently in London, I met up with the 48 years old Belgian-Moroccan street artist where his UK solo exhibition titled ‘REM’ was on display at the P21 Gallery.

Tireless and passionate he has dedicated most of his life to the ethos of a hip hop collective known as ‘CNN 199’, a crew in existence for over 30 years that originated in and around the city of Brussels. Wherever Dema travels and whichever urban projects he undertakes, he does so in his capacity as a founding member of CNN with its strong message of empowering disadvantaged youth and vulnerable others.

One directive of the counter sub-culture is for anyone disaffected by a society, a system or other oppressive force, to go beyond the limitations imposed upon them by thinking and acting outside the box and finding ways of assertive expression without losing one’s way to negative influences. In tandem with deep inner reflection, one can tap into and harness inner strength and transform toxic environments and energies into something constructive and powerful.

Dema knows what it is like to grow up in a deprived and poor neighbourhood, where the lure of drugs, gangs and violence is everywhere; and, when, the political and economic systems have failed you. The challenge becomes how you find a way out to avoid further disadvantage, criminality, trouble with the police or dying young from an overdose or an attack, as happened to some of his contemporaries.

He relayed to me a significant period during his teenage years when Roger Nols, the Mayor of his town of Schaerbeekin in Brussels, had instigated a vendetta and public harassment campaign against the local North African community, suggesting that they leave Belgium and go back to where their parents came from. He used billboards to insult them with images of camels.

Dema: “That was my first struggle to fight against this ultra-right Mayor and the police who sided with him because we were the sons of immigrants. We tagged all the buildings in the city with our graffiti to make a statement that he is no one to us and to tell him and the police to ‘f**k off! It didn’t’ seem fair that the Moroccans were being targeted and told that we’re not wanted.”

“It began like this until I realised that I could do more than just tagging or vandalising… I could use Arabic calligraphy. So for the first time in 1991, I wrote in Arabic the word meaning ‘brothers’ in a little local square; and, when all the white people came and asked me why are you writing in Arabic, I said because it is my roots and I want to show with this calligraffiti that we can live and grow up together and make something together. I painted everywhere in town in Brussels.”

With time Dema’s work has evolved with his brush strokes and spray paint becoming bolder, more confidant and vibrant, as well as drawing upon Arabic poetry and the art of storytelling. With it too he has developed a philosophic and practical approach to belonging to two different cultures and sensibilities, exploring multiple identities and how to resolve one’s sense of inner and outer exile.

Dema: “My work is a mix of East and West culture, about tradition and modernity, graffiti and calligraphy. I try to mix Latin and Arabic letters to have my way; not just a way, but my way and to fulfil my goal. I want to transmit and educate people to communicate with each other and not be afraid to confront and exchange ideas and philosophies. It is to have a better life and a better society.”

For the past seven years, in particular, Dema has been involved with youth organisations and charities in Belgium as well as worldwide commissioned urban assignments and artistic interventions. He is highly sought after for the way he conducts his workshops and engages with marginalised children and communities, schools and inmates too. He has led projects in the United States (Washington DC), Europe (Belgium, UK), South America (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil) Africa (Morocco, Benin), and Asia (United Arab Emirates). His next trip will be to Dakar, Senegal.

One notable experience for him was working with the youngsters of the Molenbeek Saint-Jean district in Brussels, which had become a notorious town due to the fact that the perpetrators and planners of several terrorist attacks in France and Belgium had come from there; including, those behind the November 2015 Paris attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, the March 2016 Brussels Airport attack and connections to Charles Hebdo attack.

Dema: “When there was an incredible amount of negative media coverage of the Muslim community within Molenbeek, I was contacted by the Youth Service who offered me a studio in exchange for working with the youngsters in areas that were predominantly North African.

“I tried to show these boys and girls that through graffiti and art they can have a new vision of life and emancipate themselves. I tried to open their minds to say there are many ways to achieve your goals, despite what schools might teach them. I open the space and say to them ‘Don’t worry if you fall once or twice, no matter what, you can get up again and succeed.”

Thus engaging with communities at the root level, Dema’s desire is to change the way people think and therefore how they might behave. He gives useful tools and offers plain honest motivation. He said to me: “If I can save one child, I will be happy.”

Exploring ‘REM’ (Resilience, Exile, Mutation) at the P21 Gallery

Turning to the exhibition at the P21 Gallery, it brought Dema’s take on the ‘REM’ concepts of resilience, exile and mutation, with reference to both his personal cross-cultural journey as well as that of the countless others who have had to traverse the earth alone and face the unknown. Curated by Zalia Zogheib, the works included his calligraffiti on the walls, with paintings and installations.

Set up so that viewers follow the psychological stages of embarking on a major journey, the display touched upon the mental and physical aspects of travelling and the risks involved. In the front room, for example, was the installation referring to a famous poem by the Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish on the state of feeling and thinking that you don’t belong.

Cut out from a blue translucent plastic material with the words in Arabic, the quote says: “I am from there, I am from here but I am neither there nor here. I have two names which meet and part, I have two languages, I forget which of them I dream in.” This is the beginning of the existential angst that will determine whether or not you decide to leave.

Moving on to the next wall, one encountered three sets of triptychs and two paintings to reflect mainly on the idea of resilience when one is in the midst of danger; and, also, when there is a need to overcome anger or rage at injustice or unfairness. Here the issue becomes how do you go forwards without turning into further victimisation and violence; and, also, how do you address the symptoms of a lived trauma. Among these triptychs was a tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire with a dedicated poem by the Nigerian writer Ben Okri.

Offering some more insight into this wall, Zogheib, who was with us on the day of the interview, said: “These triptychs represent the mental preparation that you might go through before you start your journey. These are all the fears and why we refer to the Grenfell Tower disaster. Also, we have the idea of one’s hopes and dreams prior to departure and one’s expectations of what will happen at the end.”

Walking further along was another installation called ‘Borders’, formed by a collection of nineteen Arabic words that have been cut out of translucent pink plastic and which hang from the ceiling. Some of the words were: Escape, Survive, Die, Cross, Love, Violence, Border, Illusion, Constraints and Identity.

Dema: “This is when you set foot somewhere new and must undergo a process of transitioning. This is the most intense phase because it also means you have overcome the many hurdles to reach your destination. All the words try to convey the ‘in-between’ phase”.

In the lower space of the gallery there was another installation titled ‘REM’. This was an unusual four-sided structure made of translucent white felt material, where one finds a play of lights, shadows and reflections on the inside; and, where, also, one sees the word ‘Human’ written in four languages (Arabic, English, French and Amazigh) and then on the ground, the words ‘Resilience, Exile, Mutation.’

Dema: “When you cross the mountain, the sea or the borders, you achieve your way when you find yourself; and, that is reflected in the eyes of others and how they see you as a human, and not like an immigrant, escapee or survivor. You may be a survivor, escapee or immigrant, but the people see you with your name. It is about tolerance, resilience and sharing”.

Zogheib: “Throughout the journey and the inherent pain, the loss and loneliness, you get to a point when you realise that at the end of the journey, well I am resilient, I am adaptable, I mutate. It is a reference to how when you leave your country, even if you come back, you have changed. Whatever you do, you change. And that is all inherently human. We are human. We adapt. We are resilient.”

There were other items in the exhibition, including a video covering Dema’s trip to Benin in West Africa, and an installation titled ‘The Wisdom of Knowing Where I Come From’. This latter, in fact, offered the best image to leave with in one’s mind, as it incorporated photos of Dema’s Moroccan family (originally from Targuist and emigrated to Europe circa the 1950s and 1960s) on the one hand, and photos of his young Belgian CNN crew on the other, at the start of his journey 30 years ago. It perfectly sums up the wisdom he has acquired over that time and why he is now on a mission to impart his knowledge and skills to others.

Note: The ‘REM’ exhibition was sponsored by La Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles in Brussels, the Watan Foundation in London and other private sponsors. It took place at the P21 Gallery 2-24 August, 2019.

Note: Dema One has been to London before and held workshops and mural paintings for children and adults in collaboration with Global Street Art, the Migration Museum, the Faith & Belief Forum and King’s College London.

For more information about the P21 Gallery: http://p21.gallery/

For more information about Dema One: https://demaone.org/

August Note: Exhibition Picks | Music Picks | ‘Obliterated’ Play That Never Was | Dema One Is Nahla Ink Artist Of The Month

Dear Readers

August has arrived with Londoners taking their holidays abroad for some guaranteed sunshine.

As in town we don’t know with the weather, this still ought not to discourage or dampen the spirit to go out and enjoy some the wonderful MENA-inspired arts and culture events available.

Below are some picks of the exhibitions and music on offer as well as mention of the ‘Obliterated’ play that never was – with a message from the award-winning British-Palestinian Ahmed Masoud – and more on Dema One, the Nahla Ink Artist of the Month.

Exhibition Picks – If You Haven’t Already Been To View

Michael Rakowitz at The Whitechapel Gallery (Ends 25 August): https://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/michael-rakowitz/

Seeing Through Babel (Kevork Mourad) at The Ismaili Centre (Ends 15 August): https://the.ismaili/united-kingdom/seeing-through-babel

Amma Baad (Nasser El Salem) at The Delfina Foundation (Ends 10 August): https://www.shubbak.co.uk/amma-baad/

Hicham Berrada Dreamscapes at the Hayward Gallery (Ends 18 August): https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/hayward-gallery-art/hicham-berrada

Raw Queens at the Mosaic Rooms (Ends 14 September): https://mosaicrooms.org/event/raw-queens/

Resilience Exile Mutation (REM) at the P21 Gallery (Ends 24 August):

http://p21.gallery/exhibitions/resilience-exile-mutation/

Music Picks – You Can Still Book

Silk Moth (Bushra El-Turk) at The Arcola Theatre (9-11 August): https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/silk-moth/

Habibi Funk + Ladies on Records at The Jazz Cafe (9 August): https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1265163

Freedom Sounds (Presented by Humanity for Palestine) at Brixton Electric (16 August): https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/humanity-for-palestine-presents-freedom-electric-brixton-tickets/9676625

SAMA’ (DJ and Techno Instigator) at Electowerkz (16 August): https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1293597

Flamingods + The Turbans at The Jazz Cafe (23 August): https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1265155

Theatre News: ‘Obliterated’ Play That Never Was

This month saw an unusual act pulled by the award-winning British-Palestinian writer Ahmed Masoud. There was supposed to be a new theatrical drama titled ‘Obliterated’ to be performed by the actress Maxine Peake and to be held on 9 August 2019 at the Amnesty International UK venue in Hackney. It was said the play would explore the complexity of Palestinian society that has lived under siege for over a decade, and delving deep into humanity’s most urgent social and political challenges with darkly satirical humour.

However, days in advance of the scheduled event, all the people who had booked to attend the free performance (2529 in total) received an email from Masoud that read:

My dear friends,
Obliterated is Cancelled. There was never a play or a show, I didn’t write it and Maxine never rehearsed it.
I am not sure whether I will be able to write or do theatre again. They took our theatre, and with it our play.
Not even a year ago, on 09 August 2018, Gaza’s only theatre the Saeed Almishal Cultural Centre was bombed by Israeli warplanes and ripped to the ground in seconds.
A theatre turned to fire, rubble and dust. Expression lost to hate, for nothing sane.
I want to ask questions. Why is art so threatening? Who would find a theatre a danger enough for missiles? What’s going to become of the creatives, actors, writers, directors and audiences now?

I cannot write, but I still want to protest, to make my voice heard, to highlight what happens when art and theatre are stolen away. Maxine and I want to invite you, the audience, the 2529 people who booked, to be part of this experience, to be angry at this injustice.”

I was one of those who booked and wish to support Masoud by sharing his message!

For more:  https://www.ahmedmasoud.co.uk/

Dema One: Nahla Ink Artist of the Month

This month Nahla Ink features the work of the Moroccan-Belgian artist Dema One, whose incredible visual pieces are currently on show at the P21 Gallery in a solo exhibition titled ‘REM’ which stands for ‘Resilience, Exile and Mutation’. I recently met with the tireless 47 year-old Dema – who specialises in graffiti with elements of Arabic calligraphy mixed with Latin letters to create the hybrid ‘Calligraffiti’ – and he explained how he has been painting murals throughout the world for the past 30 years, alongside live painting at festivals and organising youth workshops to spread a powerful message to youngsters that promotes the positive values of the hip hop movement and philosophy.

     

Another strong and recurrent theme that comes up in his projects – be they murals on walls, paintings on canvas, paper or even work on cling film – is the dilemma of living with mixed Eastern-Western identities and utilising poetry and storytelling to depict and further explore the notions of belonging, internal and external exile, resilience and idea of mutation.

Do watch this space for the full interview-feature article to be published on Nahla Ink.

For more information on Dema One: https://demaone.org/

For more on the REM exhibition: http://p21.gallery/exhibitions/resilience-exile-mutation/

Last But Not Least: Arab About London Events

As always, I end by referring you to the full ‘Arab About London’ listing that is regularly updated with MENA-inspired arts and culture events in London.

Do check on a weekly basis for the latest; and, if you wish to be in the super know, you can also follow me on Twitter @NahlaInk or on Facebook.

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, July 2019

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July Note: Shubbak Is In Full Swing | Rima Djahnine Is Nahla Ink Artist of the Month

Dear Readers

The Shubbak Festival kicked off last Friday 28th June with the launch of the ‘Belonging, Sideways’ exhibition at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, followed by a spectacular ‘Kahareb’ party that went on until the early hours. It brought together electronic and underground artists from MENA who are experimenting with techno, folktronic, global bass, house, trance and more.

Every day since Shubbak has taken over London venues as the comprehensive programme unfolds with more exhibitions, music, talks, performances, theatre, installation, films, workshops and commissioned projects that are all scheduled for up until the 14th July, when the festival ends.

All I can do is direct you to the website where you can see the great variety and depth of what has been so carefully organised by the Shubbak creative-executive team and the amazing artistic collaborations that have been forged to make this festival a success and best edition yet.

For more on Shubbak: https://www.shubbak.co.uk/

Nahla Ink Artist of the Month: Rima Djahnine

Referring back to the ‘Belonging, Sideways’ exhibition – curated by Toufik Douib and that I highly recommend you visit – it is where I met Rima Djahnine. Her artwork is on display alongside that of four other Algerian contemporary artists as they explore identity and location.

Looking at cultural diversity, migration and the challenges of coexistence, the show offers work from different corners of Algeria and deals with complex histories, geographies and biographies. Having connected with her, she kindly agreed to be Nahla Ink Artist of the Month.

A visual artist born in 1979 in Bejaia, Algeria, it was the 1990s that profoundly impacted on Djahnine and determined her artistic course. In 1995, one of her sisters was the victim of an assassination and three years later, both of her parents died suddenly. Following these losses and in the midst of the Algerian civil war, Djahnine went to Paris where she began university studies and devoted herself entirely to the arts.

She graduated in 2009 with a Degree in Graphic Arts at the Paris School of Visual Art, and gradually turned to new artistic practices such as photography and video. Her work explores the different facets of exile and the painful issues of being torn away and losing loved ones.

Significantly in 2013 Djahnine received a grant from the Arab Fund for Art and Culture (AFAC) that allowed her to produce her first major artistic project – that same year she returned to live and work in Algeria. In 2016, she took part in a research residency at the MUCEM in Marseilles, wherein a project  would tackle the Algerian post-war and 1990s traumas in collaboration with Giulia Fabiano (anthropologist).

In the resulting ‘Return to Intimate Territories, What Remains’ series, the image of returning is conceived as a territory that has been constantly rocked by earthquakes as well as migration. Homecoming then charts the act of retracing memories and physical routes, where the reminiscing
of a place merges with sensorial memories.

One part of the series is also a cartography installation and film in which the captures, photos, notes and GPS tracks were collected from groups of people in search for various homes; emigrants who left before, during and after 1962 for economic reasons and the political exiles of the 1990s.

The ‘Belonging/Sideways’ exhibition is on until 14 July at Rich Mix.

For more on the exhibition: https://www.shubbak.co.uk/belonging-sideways/

For more on Djahnine: http://www.afterthefuture.care/home-lend-rima-djahnine-hazy-line.html

For more on Djahnine: http://www.imagomundiart.com/artworks/rima-djahnine-inclusive-skylight

Arab About London: MENA-Inspired Arts + Culture Events In London

As always, there is more to view, attend and join in. For the full ‘Arab About London’ listing that is regularly updated with MENA-inspired arts and culture events in our lovely capital, you can find it on Nahla Ink: https://nahlaink.com/

If you wish to be in the super know, you can also follow me on Twitter @NahlaInk or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NahlaInk/

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, July 2019