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Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amin questions colonial narratives in new Berlin exhibition – Arab News

https://arab.news/yqgxq
LONDON: In the early 1960s, France conducted a series of nuclear tests near Reggane in central Algeria. The first, called Gerboise Bleue, took place on the morning of February 13, 1960 and was four times more powerful than Hiroshima. A second, named Gerboise Blanche, followed nearly two months later, while a third, Gerboise Rouge, was detonated on December 27. A photograph of the latter, showing two rows of dummies propped up against the forthcoming blast, caught the eye of the artist Heba Y. Amin.
A miniature reconstruction of that image is at the heart of the Egyptian artist’s new solo exhibition. Confronting the painful topic of France’s nuclear experiments in Algeria, “Atom Elegy” emerged from a poem of the same name by Yvan Goll, which Amin discovered at the Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen, Germany. “(It) was a sort of love poem to atomic energy, but written before we understood the full devastation of what an atomic bomb could do,” she says.


Artist Heba Y. Amin confronts acts of imperial violence through her art. (Supplied)

It was never published in its original form, but when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War it was rewritten and edited by Goll. “I was interested in this shift of perception around what we deem to be progressive technologies, and the ways in which we aren’t trained or accustomed to questioning them. The image on which my work is based does the same thing for me. It captures a very specific moment in time before the atomic bomb test is conducted, so you see these dummies propped up in strangely surreal detail and are somehow suspended in this moment.”
It was through the photograph’s reconstruction that Amin “better understood how cynical and disturbing this image is” and the extent to which the dummies were be made to look like humans. “There’s this kind of violence and gore that one imagines would have been the aftermath of the bombing at that site. It’s that one moment in between that I’m interested in, which was what was also somehow captured with Yvan Goll’s poem.”
Amin confronts other acts of imperial violence, too. With “The Devil’s Garden — Marseille’s Pyramid,” she focuses on a “region in northern Egypt where the Battle of El Alamein took place — a sort of turning point in the World War Two narrative.” She researched an area that was “dubbed the ‘devil’s garden’ by (German field marshal) Erwin Rommel because his forces implanted millions of landmines in the region. To this day the region remains the most landmine-infested territory in the world.” The pyramid is a reconstruction of one erected by the Nazis in the area in memory of fighter pilot Hans- Joachim Marseille.

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Both works are part of Amin’s exhibition “When I see the future, I close my eyes: Chapter II,” which runs at the Zilberman Gallery in Berlin until July 30. An exploration of the technologies of colonization, the solo show features a selection of new and ongoing work, including “Windows on the West” (2019) and an interview with the German singer and actor Roberto Blanco. The former is a hand-woven reconstruction of the first documented photograph taken on the African continent, while the latter questions Blanco’s role in “Der Stern von Afrika,” a biopic of Marseille.
First launched at the Mosaic Rooms in London in 2020, the second iteration of “When I see the future, I close my eyes” reflects on technology’s role in shaping what Amin refers to as “Western visuality.” In particular, the technologies of image-making and how they “emerged out of a colonial agenda.” She also investigates “the way in which that colonial narrative is inscribed within the tools of image-making.”
“As a person from the Global South, I’m hyper-aware of the structures that have been imposed through a colonial context,” she says. “So I’m interested in relaying the ways in which science and technology are often immediately associated with progress and in fact are imbedded with disparities in power and hierarchy.”


Heba Y. Amin, ‘Windows of the West.’ (Supplied)

She also questions “our techno-optimism” and the ways in which “we’ve been sort of ‘trained’ to use technology to solve problems” without thinking of the long-term consequences.
The nature and scale of Amin’s work, with its extensively researched examinations of ways in which contemporary society engages with technology, often necessitates collaboration. For “When I see the future…,” she worked with academic and researcher Anthony Downey.
“Collaboration is integral to my work,” she says. “I can’t acquire knowledge without collaborating with others. So I do a lot of fieldwork — gathering material, gathering content, taking video footage, doing interviews… and it’s really important for me to have an understanding of the content that I’m dealing with.”
For this exhibition, Amin and Downey looked at the ways in which their methodologies can bring different kinds of knowledge to the fore. She previously stated that the exhibition was being used as a “tool through which we produce knowledge with others”.

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Why is this production of knowledge so important? “Because ultimately we’re dealing with systems of power, systems of oppression,” replies Amin. “But it’s also a process by which I try to understand the constructs of what we’re living today. Oftentimes when we’re dealing with global politics and the media, the contextualization of these narratives only goes so far, so I’m interested in looking at these systemic issues and looking at them historically, but through a lived experience, or an embodied experience. In that sense, the production of knowledge is important because it’s not just about observation or raising questions, it’s about revealing and presenting untold stories, unheard voices — different historical narratives that have not been addressed in the archives — and as a way to sort of complicate a contemporary narrative.”
Born and raised in Cairo, Amin is currently a professor of digital and time-based art at ABK Stuttgart. She is also the co-founder of the Black Athena Collective, curator of visual art for the Arab American journal Mizna, and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Digital War. She is arguably best known for her hacking of the US TV series “Homeland,” which saw her, Caram Kapp and Don Karl (known collectively as the Arabian Street Artists) pepper the show’s set with graffiti that criticized the show’s depiction of the Muslim world.
Hired to add authenticity to street scenes for the second episode of the fifth season, the artists instead wrote phrases such as “Homeland is racist,” “Homeland is not a series” and “#blacklivesmatter,” leading to an international media storm. The graffiti project was designed, says Amin, to reveal the ways in which Hollywood “dominates through cultural soft power”, and how the narratives of its popular films and series “impact international politics and political discourse.”

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“My intervention in the ‘Homeland’ series was simply to poke holes in the way in which a show that is being produced in collaboration with the CIA obviously has an agenda, and I needed to make that agenda clear. I never imagined that the intervention would work as well as it did and, more importantly, aside from people being fascinated with how I pulled it off, I was more interested in the way the critique I was making made it into major news outlets and it became a sort of global conversation,” she says.
“And that’s kind of the intention behind a lot of my work: How do we bring forward these very difficult narratives to have a conversation about them?”
AMMAN: Palestinian composer Ahmed Abu Abed took first place at the USA Music Composition International Competition in June.
Abu Abed is a music teacher at the Modern American School in Amman, Jordan.
As a newcomer to the competition scene, he virtually attended the monthly event hosted by the International Youth Music Competition, which welcomed 110 musicians from 33 countries.
Abu Abed’s winning piece, titled “Suite of Palestine,” was a showcase of Palestinian folk music that highlighted the importance of preserving Arab identity, he told The Jordan Times.
As a composer for five years, he observed the dedication and time required to create music that represents heritage.
“I think heritage is one of the most important issues that people care about, especially as it constitutes an important base in preserving the personalities and spiritual value of these peoples,” Abu Abed said.
Because of the “lack of Palestinian composers in the field,” especially in an orchestral setting, he emphasized the importance of creating new folk music.
Abu Abed believes that his contribution to Palestinian folk music will increase opportunities for the genre to be played on orchestral instruments and developed further by other artists.
He described Palestinian folk music as “raw material” for an orchestral composition, adding that “it is an exceptional piece of inspiration for composers.”
Abu Abed said that his goal is to present Palestinian folk songs to the world and show how “beautiful and expressive” the music is in order to preserve traditional elements while refining the genre for the present day.
The composer will travel to New York City in early 2023 to perform “Suite of Palestine” for a live audience at a prize-winner recital.
DUBAI: Saudi artist Sarah Brahim is making waves with her multidisciplinary collaborative work — ahead of her showing at the Lyon Biennale in September, the Riyadh-based choreographer, dancer and artist discussed her contemporary art.
Brahim, 30, has studied dance since she was just three years old, an education that she says was a fundamental preparation for her career as visual artist.
“My background in dance allowed me to study the body in space, the body in motion and experiences of the body — how the body fits into architecture, into music and into silence,” she explained. “All of these experiences prepared me for my current modality of expression. My practice now is both experimental and research-based. I tend to find something that is powerful or strong or really important and then work with it within whatever medium is best fit to express it.”
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Brahim, who calls herself a performance and visual artist, studied, choreographed, performed, and taught jazz, contemporary, ballet, and tap dance. She attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and in 2016 she graduated from the London Contemporary Dance School with a bachelor’s degree in contemporary dance. 
Since then, she has collaborated with professional performers across the US, Europe and the Middle East, exploring various themes through her performances, film and installation work.
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The artist has explored themes of loss, identity, borders, veiling, migration, the experiences of women of color and those of individuals living a transnational existence. Brahim has shown her work around the world, including in Italy, Saudi Arabia, the US, and the UK.
In her most recent work, “Soft Machines/Far Away Engines” in 2021, commissioned for the first Diriyah Contemporary Biennale in Riyadh, screens showed individuals interacting with each other, moving, intertwining and embracing. Small gestures, says the artist, are “amplified through repetition and layering, conjuring up multi-faceted images of beauty.”
The way Brahim worked with the technological framework that brought her work to the viewer, in addition to her sensitivity to how the body is used to present ideas, thoughts and emotion, revealed a singular vision of a world that is both intimately and ethereally interconnected.
A post shared by sarah brahim (@sahrab)
In September, Brahim will show the same work at the Lyon Biennale, taking place from Sept. 14 until Dec. 31, which was originally slated to open in 2021. The pandemic-postponed edition, curated this year by duo Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, who have long worked with artists from the Arab world, tackles the idea of fragility.
“The installation will be changed slightly to be site-specific to the factory I am working in in Lyon,” Brahim told Arab News. “I am working to make certain elements of the piece more immersive through sound and visuals and for the overall experience. I want guests to feel that they are inside the performance that is being projected.”
Brahim is also showing 10 works in cyanotype print on cotton from her series “Who We Are Out of the Dark,” which she began in 2020 and is ongoing. Her dreamy, abstract and suggestive series explores the concept of generational grief through the idea of epigenetics, the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way one’s genes work.
“The works reflect different symbols for grief,’ she said. “Because I wasn’t finding symbols that resonated with the grief I was experiencing and I thought to research and make new symbols and externalize them so that I could better understand my pain and the subject with more depth.”
Brahim’s cyanotypes will be displayed at different museums in Lyon.
DUBAI: Moroccan Canadian singer-songwriter Faouzia is set to perform in Dubai on Aug. 21, organizers announced on Monday.
The singer, who has collaborated with US singer John Legend and French superstar DJ David Guetta, will hit the stage at The Agenda in Dubai Media City.
A post shared by faouzia (@faouzia)
Born in Morocco, but raised in Canada, the 22-year-old singer is known for such hits as “Tears of Gold,” “Minefields,” which features John Legend, and “Battle,” which was produced by David Guetta.
She has also worked with the likes of French rapper Ninho on “Money,” US singer Kelly Clarkson on “I Dare You,” and Swedish electronic dance music duo Galantis on “I Fly.”
With her distinct blend of pop, R&B, synth-pop and acoustic pop, the artist is known to seek inspiration from both English and Arabic music, and often shares behind-the-scenes snaps from her daily life and studio sessions with her two million Instagram followers.
“Faouzia is one of the biggest up-and-coming artists around and we are thrilled to be working with her and put on an amazing show,” Girish Bhat, CEO of the concert’s co-organizer Eventify, said in a released statement.
The upcoming show is a collaborative effort between Eventify, Eventim Live Asia and Dubai Summer Surprises.
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With over 790 million global streams to date, Faouzia has a combined social reach of over eight million followers, including over 3.2 million TikTok followers, two million Instagram followers and more than two million YouTube subscribers.
It won’t be the crooner’s first time in Dubai, however. In 2021, Faouzia attended Chanel’s Cruise 2022 show in the city in what was her first front-row experience. The rising star wore a Chanel monogrammed velvet look before she hit the stage with US singer John Legend wearing a version of the Parisian house’s iconic tweed suit.
In the 2021 video for her song with Legend, the artist paid homage to the Middle East by wearing a look from Saudi-helmed label Ashi Studio. The ethereal video for “Minefields” saw the singer wearing an eye-catching shirt-and-skirt set by the Beirut-based fashion label, which is led by Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi. In the video, the pair perform in an open field, with Legend crooning while playing a piano and Faouzia singing while walking through wheat-colored undergrowth.
The singer paired the billowing ensemble, with its rouched cuffs and oversized lapels, with romantic waved hair and pearl drop earrings.
DUBAI: Singer Jennifer Lopez and actor Ben Affleck have married in Las Vegas, media reported on Sunday, after the celebrity couple rekindled a romance almost 20 years after they first got together.
Lopez wore two gowns on the big day, and revealed in a newsletter to her fans that the second look was by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad, whom she has worked with on a number of occasions.
The dress by Murad featured long sleeves with an off-the-shoulder detail and a sweetheart neckline. It boasted a corset bodice and a long train, along with a veil trimmed with lace.
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The couple announced their matrimony in a newsletter from Lopez revealing that they flew to the desert city in Nevada to gain a marriage license and wed at a chapel late Saturday, according to People Magazine.
“Love is beautiful. Love is kind. And it turns out love is patient. Twenty years patient. Exactly what we wanted,” Lopez said in the newsletter, the outlet reported.
The newsletter was signed “Mrs. Jennifer Lynn Affleck,” The Los Angeles Times reported, denoting a name change for the award-winning entertainer.
A representative for Affleck could not immediately be reached for comment. Phones rang unanswered at Lopez’s talent agency Creative Artists Agency.
A marriage license was obtained in their name from Clark County dated Saturday, July 16, according to document details posted online by the county clerk’s office.
Lopez posted a photo on social media depicting her in a bed while sporting a silver wedding ring.
Affleck and Lopez, a glamorous duo widely known as “Bennifer,” got back together last year after almost 20 years. They got engaged in April of this year.
In 2002 Affleck gave Lopez a large 6.1-carat pink diamond engagement ring, but they abruptly called off their wedding in 2003 and split up a few months later.
Reuters contributed to this report.  
LONDON: Mastercard, a global payments and technology company, has partnered as an official sponsor of the Michelin Guide Dubai 2022.
“In a culturally rich and diverse market where the love of food has become a universal language, culinary is a natural passion point for consumers in the UAE,” said Beatrice Cornacchia, senior VP, marketing and communications, EEMEA, Mastercard.
“By partnering with Michelin, which is renowned for its industry-leading standards and constant quest for innovation and excellence, we are building on our legacy of providing culinary experiences to showcase the UAE’s extraordinary range of gastronomic experiences to the world,” Cornacchia said.
As the official payment technology partner of Expo 2020 Dubai, Mastercard unveiled its Cube installation at the site, which explored the future of digital payments.
The installation immersed visitors in a variety of multi-sensory experiences as they embarked on “priceless journeys tailored to their passion, including sport, food and music, plus being a ‘force for good’,” according to a statement issued by Mastercard.
“We are delighted to partner with Mastercard, whose passion for connecting people to culinary experiences matches our own. This partnership is another step in our ambition to provide the best recommendation and access to the finest dining experiences in Dubai by joining forces with other industry leaders,” said Nicolas Achard, managing director of the Michelin Guide Asia & Middle East.
Dubai is the most recent addition to the Michelin Guide, which now includes 37 destinations in North America, South America, Asia Pacific and Europe. The list of restaurants in the first Michelin Guide Dubai 2022 was finally released on June 21, 2022.
Gwendal Poullennic, the international director of the Michelin Guide, revealed the names at a ceremony held at Dubai Opera.
The inaugural edition featured 69 restaurants serving 21 different types of cuisine.
Two restaurants were awarded two Michelin stars, nine restaurants were awarded one Michelin star, and 14 restaurants were named Bib Gourmand.

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