Friday, July 15, 2011

Nasrallah Pretty in Pink: Zena el Khalil

It takes a special kind of artist to to take subject matter like Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah and surround him in a cloud of pink with golden hearts. That artist is Beirut's queen of mixed media Zena el Khalil. El Khalil combines her skillful painting with a notable talent for craft in her mixed media masterpieces combined materials as varied as toy soldiers, fake fur, beads, fabrics and paints.

Hassan Feeling Pensive. 2009-2011
From the series Queens and Kings
Mixed media installation
Dimensions variable

Zena uses the mixed and often contradictory materials in her artwork to call attention to the existing contradictions in the subjects she portrays. Her bright, playful pieces have a way of catching the eye that not only makes you linger, but also makes you consider the effect of showing each of an image's elements in its particular context.

Praise Be. | 70x125 cm | mixed media | 2008

Lebanese Superstars

El Khalil doesn't restrict herself to only visual art either, she dabbles into the fields of performance and installation art setting up this discotheque-ready Allah statue to be danced around.

I've never really considered myself a writer and I don't think my explanatory prose can add anything to El Khalil's work, I just hope I can lead at least a few more people to her. So check out her website to keep up with this fascinating artist's works. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paint the word: Nihad Dukhan

Arabic calligraphy: a tradition that goes back tens of centuries in the Arab culture, often practiced by religious scholars and used to represent Quranic verses. While classical calligraphy is beautiful it's about time for an update and Nihad Dukhan, a calligrapher from Gaza is just the person to make it happen. Nihad got his Ijazah in 2009 from Istanbul's Master Calligrapher Hasan Celebi and since then has  been turning out calligraphy of a new style.
Dukhan mostly does away with the dense intertwining aesthetic of classical calligraphy in favor of a more modern minimalist style. His compositions are pleasing to eye and well balanced.

In an interview on Radio Tahrir, Nihad spoke about his devotion to both the Arabic language and calligraphy since his childhood. While training under Master Hasan Celebi he worked one sentence for three years. Nihad speaks of calligraphy as visual poetry and about his desire to match the beauty of literary and visual poetry.
Check out his website for more information on Mr. Dukhan. All the images represented in this post are the property of Nihad Dukhan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Still Going Strong: Tania Saleh

Tania Saleh has been around the Lebanese music scene for a long time and she has remained consistently good. Her latest album is no exception. Wehde continues Saleh's notable mix between East and West in another one of her albums that's difficult to classify. Some call it folk but I wouldn't go that far because of the prominent presence of jazz, funk and rock in her tracks. However I digress, genre is the last thing to worry about in music, it's about the good sound and that is certainly something that Salah captured in Wehde.

It's also nice to see that she developed a memorable graphic and style to go along with the album. Her website is its ultimate incarnation and we see it in the music video for Wehde as well. This vintage mixed media collage does her album and concept justice as she sings of themes like nationalism and unity with undertones of personal stories within this.

At this point let me apologize for having a disproportionate amount of Lebanese art so far, its just that I have more exposure to it. I'll also be trying to get more visual art, architecture and design on the blog, its just that music and film is more accesible online.

Enjoy the Wehde music video and you can find the download at Pirate Beirut.

Tania Saleh-Wehde from Amin Dora on Vimeo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Something to be happy about: 12 Angry Lebanese

In a country with an overcrowded prison system that can often miss the mark on the rehabilitation aspect of prisoner detention, there's a sparkle of light. That sparkle is Twelve Angry Lebanese. After years of pushing, actress Zeina Daccache finally got the Lebanese authorities to allow her to teach drama therapy classes in Roumieh. Spending over a year in production, Ziena and her cast and crew of over 40 Roumieh inmates put on a Lebanese rendition of the classic 12 Angry Men. The good news is that the whole process, beginning to final performance is captured in the documentary film Twelve Angry Lebanese.

I'll admit that when I first heard about a documentary covering the acting classes of prison inmates I wasn't sold. Unfortunately the trailer did little to sway me over. However, I was wrong and I urge everyone who is able to see the film. After I came out of the screening at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival I was taken aback by how uplifting the film had been. In her the process of production, Zeina Daccache was really able to touch the lives of these inmates and we saw the best aspects of their personalities come out.

I'll include the trailer here even though it doesn't quite to the film justice. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to watch this film and see how effective prisoner rehabilitation can be. Check out the facebook page for more info.

12 Angry Lebanese-the documentary from Mosaic Rooms on Vimeo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I love goldfish, but how about Orange Dogs?

There's a fun little web series I started watching a while back that has really brightened my day a few times and I think that it's time to share. Orange Dog Productions, a production group working out of Beirut originally made a great 10 minute short called Beirut, I love you (I love you not) which they then transitioned into a web series. New episodes are posted to their youtube channel.

Here's one of the episodes that really drew me into the web-series and showed me how well these guys are able to portray truths about both Beirut and the Arab World.

I invite everyone to also check out the original Beirut, I love you film which you can find on their facebook page along with more information about Orange Dog Productions and their other endeavors.


Round Two: Toufic Farroukh

People say Farroukh plays jazz, but that descriptions is a bit limited. If you like jazz you'll probably dig Toufic Farroukh, but if you like Arabic folk, or even experimental electronic music I would press you to give him a listen. Really regardless of what you like, give him a try.

Farroukh is a Saxophonist hailing from Beirut who now does most of his work in France, but that doesn't mean that he has forgotten his Arab roots. His sound is a wonderful mixture between Western jazz and Eastern folk. You'll hear funk beats behind the classical melodies of an Oud.

I'll point you to Pirate Beirut (a site near and dear to my heart), where you can download one of his most recent albums.

For those interested check him out:

Toufic Farroukh Ft. Yasmine Hamdam - Lili S'en Fout from kiya on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let's kick it off: The Narcicyst

Welcome to 3rab Art. I'll be bringing you Arab art, design and music from the Middle East and the Arab diaspora. This isn't the only source for it (check out my links for more) but I'll try to make it one of the better ones. If you're looking for Nancy Ajram this isn't the place to be. I'll be trying to explore and expose artists with a little more social consciousness and a little less plastic surgery. 

Let's begin with a bearded brother from from the diaspora. He resides in Canada and he spits fire. He's a stylish guy and he knows it because he's The Narcicyst. You can tell from his website that the name is no joke, the man loves himself, but then again why shouldn't he? When you've got talent like him and you're using it to make real hip-hop you have every reason to. Narci is fond of collabs and you'll often find him in cahoots with Omar Offendum, Shadia Mansour and others of the like spreading the oh-so-important messages of social awareness that need to be spread in and about the Arab world.

I invite you to bob your head to his beats along with me and check out his downloads page.

His songs speak about not only the injustices that plague the Arab World, but also about everything that confronts Arabs overseas who are born into foreign homes.

Check out Hamdullilah, featuring Shadia Mansour.

The Narcicyst + Shadia Mansour "Hamdulillah" by RidzDesign from Ridwan Adhami on Vimeo.