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In Copenhagen


I'm in Copenhagen for a few days. I'm here to visit a few exhibitions, but I also found out there's a small film festival whilst I'm here, so needless to say, will be spending time watching films too.

Will report back when I have time to write. In the meantime, here are some photos from my first two days.





All photos © Hind Mezaina.


Wanderlust Found - Yemen


The Wanderlust Found is a video and photography site by a collective called Noavi. They recently launched a video titled Yemen is a Feeling which looks at a side of Yemen we don't get to see or read about in the news.

It's a beautiful video accompanied with the following words to describe the feelings it's trying to invoke. 

Yemen is a feeling / An ancient culture / That has perpetuated for generations / With vices + virtues / With style + grace / Where generosity is second nature

Yemen is a feeling / Of welcomed immersion of adaptability / Where new generations are thriving + a bit bravery can lead to breathtaking beauty / In villages that time forgot / What you find / May surprise you

Yemen is a feeling / Of wisdom over centuries / Of ingenuity + determination / Being welcomed into someone’s home / When food is shared / Where detachment has its benefits / When we stop taking electricity for granted / When nature chooses to connect with us

Yemen is a feeling / Of affection / Of simple pleasures / A quality of life + joy / Of self-sufficiency / Exploration + wonder / The things that unite us / Are stronger that those that divide us



The video is in conjunction with 
an exhibition Wanderlust Found: Yemen at the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. The exhibition is on till 22nd April 2014. Additionally, there is a limited edition of 100 hand-numbered custom boxes of the smaller versions of the 20 analog photographs that from the exhibition.

The boxes are lined with woven fabric sewn in Yemen and every image is embossed. Each box costs USD 110 and a portion of all sales will be donated to a Yemeni girl’s scholarship fund to attend university. You can purchase the photographs here





Exhibition: Language Arts by Slavs and Tatars 

Language Arts, 2014 - Installation view at The Third Line, Dubai

Language Arts by Slavs and Tatars is the latest exhibition at The Third Line, it opened last month and there's one week left. It's a fun exhibition that looks at language and "an exploration of alphabet politics". 

It's on for one more week, till Thursday 17th April. If you are in Dubai, don't miss this. 


Slavs and Tatars’ recent work turns to language as a source of political, metaphysical, even sexual emancipation. With their trademark mix of high and low registers, ribald humor and esoteric discourse, the collective addresses the thorny issue of alphabet politics and attempts by nations, cultures, and ideologies to ascribe a specific set of letters to a given language.

The march of alphabets has always accompanied that of empires and religions: Latin script along with the Roman Catholic faith; Arabic with Islam and the Caliphate; as well as Cyrillic with Orthodox Christianity, and subsequently the USSR. Within this body of work, it is not peoples or nations that are liberated, but rather phonemes, from attempts to restrain and rein them in.


Slavs and Tatars 0 Kitab Kebab (Mexico, I), 2012 | Books, glue, metal skewer, 50x50x50cm


Slavs and Tatars - To Beer Or Not To Beer, 2014 | Vacuum formed plastic and Acrylic Paint, 64 x 91cm


Language Arts celebrates language in all its polyphonic glory, with original works in Persian, Russian, Turkish, Georgian and English. A new series of sculptures, installations, textiles and printed matter address a range of subjects: from name changes, in Love Me Love Me Not, to the orality of language, with Rahlé for Richard. The Trannie Tease vacuum forms present transliteration ­– the conversion of scripts ­–as the linguistic equivalent of transvestism: a strategy equally of resistance and research in notions of identity politics, colonialism, and liturgical reform. The Love Letters carpets address the issue of manipulation of alphabets across Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic, through the Russian Revolution’s most well-known, if conflicted, poet-champion, Vladimir Mayakovsky.


Slavs and Tatars - Dig The Booty, 2009 | Vacuum formed plastic and Acrylic Paint, 64 x 91cm


Slavs and Tatars - Love Me, Love Me Not (Iran Ahvaz), 2014 | Copper mirror, reverse-glass acrylic paint, 85x60cm


Slavs and Tatars often collide those things considered opposites, or incompatible — be it Islam and Communism, metaphysics and humor, or pop culture and geopolitics. From their first publication Kidnapping Mountains (Book Works, 2009) to the more recent Khhhhhhh (Mousse/Moravian Gallery 2012), the collective has consistently turned to language as a tool for disruption, humor, and unexpected meaning. By challenging an understanding of language as exclusively rational or semantic, Slavs and Tatars emphasize its potential to be affective and sensual, concealing as much as it reveals; even becoming a platform for sacred wisdom, rather than a mere vehicle for secular knowledge or profane, everyday use.  


Language Arts, 2014 - Installation view at The Third Line, Dubai




Event details
Date: Till Thursday, 17th April 2014 | Sat-Thu: 10 am To 7 pm | Fridays closed
Venue: The Third Line, Street 6, Al Quoz 3 (location map)
Free entry.  


[all images courtesy of the artists and The Third Line] 



Film Screening - Traitors


Sharjah Art Foundation will be hosting a screening of Traitors by Sean Gullette on Saturday, 19th April at 8.30pm.

I watched this film last December at the Dubai International Film Festival and really liked it. And it also has a great soundtrack (lookout for "I’m So Bored with Morocco", a Moroccan version of "I'm So Bored with the USA" by The Clash sung by the lead actress Chaimae Ben Acha). 

The free screening will take place in the outdoor Mirage City Cinema in the Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces. Earlier this month, I wrote about the current Sharjah Art Foundation exhibitions, so if you will go to watch the film, make sure you have a look at some of the exhibitions. There's some very good work there. 

About Traitors:

Malika is the leader of the all-female punk rock band Traitors, with a strong vision of the world, her hometown of Tangier, and her place in it. When she needs money to save her family from eviction, and to realize her dreams for the band, Malika agrees to a fast cash proposition: a smuggling run over the mountains for a dangerous drug dealer.

But her companion on the road is Amal, a burnt-out young drug mule, who Malika decides to free from her enslavement to the dangerous drug dealers. 

The challenge will put Malika's rebel ethos to the test, and to survive she will have to call on all her instincts and nerve.





Event details
Date: Saturday, 19th April at 8.30pm
Venue: Mirage City Cinema, SAF Art Spaces, Behind Al Zahra Mosque, Sharjah (location map)
The film is Arabic with English subtitles and 83 mins long.  


Exhibition - Encounter: Listening to the City

Encounter: Listening to the City (image courtesy of Maraya Art Centre)

Encounter: Listening to the City
 is a sound and video exhibition running in conjunction with Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals. It's in the Maraya Art Park in Sharjah (walking distance from Maraya Art Centre), featuring work by seven artists (including yours truly) curated by Alexandra MacGilp.

It opened last month, on the same day as Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals and is on till 12th May 2014. 

The sound and video installations are in shipping containers and various points across the park. It's very refreshing to have an outdoor exhibition in a public space as it allows a wider audience to engage with the artist's work.  

Encounter: Listening to the City looks at how "sound, music and the spoken voice can create spaces of nostalgia, belonging and reflection".

Sounds, like rituals, can become a space where private meets public. The public can weave their individual beliefs into the fabric of the city they inhabit. Present and past meet aurally; a snatch of tune or a once familiar sound can trigger a memory. Using our auditory sense can make us more aware of ourselves, it can feel, intimate, almost covert or solipsistic.

The artists in this exhibition conduct research into belief systems, vernacular and popular culture, observing culture’s propensity towards transmutation. They are interested in elements that can be arranged or eroded by the individual within state-controlled parametres to create moments of joy, community, nostalgia, homesickness, contemplation or peace.


Below is the list of participating artists, and I've included extracts from the exhibition catalogue, which describes each work. The catalogue is co-joined with Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals catalogue, so two in one and worth getting. 

This exhibition has to be experienced in person, so block some time in your calendar and go to Sharjah for this. 


Maitha Demithan 

Maitha Demithan - To the Moon (2009) | Scanography 180 x 122 cm | Photo projected on water, image courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Maitha Demithan - Ajyal (2012 ) | Scanography 90 x 76 cm | Photo projected on water, image courtesy of Maraya Art Centre
Maitha Demithan
has two installations; one has her scanography works (Still Waters, Ajyal and To the Moon) projected onto the fountain on the lagoon in the park everyday at 8pm till 12th May 2014. 

Her second installation is a video.

Maitha Demithan's video Windows documents her family's summer travels in France and Switzerland. Looking out at scenery of greenery and cows the family elect to listen to Bedouin music, such as you would listen to driving to the desert. The longer they are abroad, the louder and more patriotic the music becomes. The Bedouin culture of nomadism now extends overseas but the lush landscape cannot dampen a yearning for home. 


Ala Ebtekar 


Ala Ebtekar's project began life at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on the occasion of its borrowing  of the Cyrus Cylinder from the British Museum. This 2500-year-old clay cylinder contains the decree of Cyrus the Great, Kind of Persia and it has been interpreted as the first declaration of human rights. 

In an initial series of workshops, young people were asked "If you were king or queen of the universe, what message would you inscribe on a cylinder like Cyrus' that would become your legacy for centuries to come?". The children's answers are poignant. Free of the pragmatism adults develop, they tell us we should treat others as we would like to be treated, feed the hungry and protect the environment. Their responses were worked into a sound composition by Ata Ebtekar (Sote). Its seven movements were recorded onto wax cylinders to be played on an Edison phonograph cylinder, one of the earliest technologies to record sound. 

The culmination of the project is a performance through a multi-channel sound and video installation using the phonograph cylinders within an extended electronic acoustic work. 


Kapwani Kiwanga 

Kapwani Kiwanga - Tongue (2007) | Sound installation, 25 minutes loop

Kapwangi Kiwanga explores how culture mutates through its transmission. In Kiwanga's sound work Tongue, the artist repeats proverbs in Swahili, a language she does not speak, after her Swahili-speaking brother. She stumbles and hesitates over the pronunciation of the unfamiliar words and the proverbs are deformed as they pass from one person to the next.

Unless we speak Swahili, we cannot understand the words the artist attempts to get her tongue around. This inability to gauge the meaning of the words allows us to concentrate on the artist's attempts to emulate her brother. 

Kiwanga invites us to meditate on the transmission of culture through oral traditions as well as the importance of language to culture, and the pitfalls inherent in translation. 

You can listen to a few seconds of this sound piece here.



Hind Mezaina 

Hind Mezaina - An Encounter with the Past (2014) | A visitor enjoying one of the seven video installations, image courtesy of Alexandra MacGilp


For her installation An Encounter with the Past, Hind Mezaina draws on memories of the music she listened to and watched on television during her childhood in the UAE. At that time, watching television was a shared family activity with only a handful of channels to choose from. Mezaina has selected Arab music videos from the 1970s and 1980s, as that was the avenue through which she enjoyed music from the region. Meanwhile, she developed her love of Western music from listening to the radio and buying bootleg cassettes. 

The videos will provoke smiles of recognition and pleasure for those over a certain age, as they offer a moment of intimacy and nostalgia. 

Mezaina's personal selection embraces traditional Khaleeji singers in shiny thobes and majlis settings performing folk songs and pop groups in flares fusing Eastern and Western influences. It offers a cultural snapshot from the beginning of an era of rapid change in the region that has never really slowed down. Television would take on the role of transmitter and preserver of culture as a more settled and sedentary lifestyle evolved. 


Here's one of the seven music videos featured in the exhibition, Al Bariha (Yesterday) by Saqr Al Saleh. 


Joe Namy 

Joe Namy - Beneath Our Feet (2013/2014) | Installation: Container, wallpaper, 1m x 1m touch/sound sensitive dance floor + sound mix (56 mins) | Image courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Joe Namy - Half Step (2013) | Image from the opening night courtesy of Maraya Art Centre.

Joe Namy - Half Step (2013) | A visitor trying to follow the dance steps | Image courtesy of Alexandra MacGilp

Joe Namy has two installations in this exhibition, Beneath Our Feet and Half Step. Half Step is one of my favourite installations, so I was glad I got to see it again at this exhibition. 

Beneath Our Feet is inspired by a mixtape phenomenon mkataa (مقاطع) that is distinctive to the UAE. Preview tracks on bootleg CDs with photocopied covers are a mash-up sampler of all the songs on the disc, sped up and mixed with sound effects such as cars revving and snippets from popular TV and radio shows. The songs themselves span genres and time periods, from Khaleeji (Gulf) songs to the latest Bollywood hits, via Persian and Egyptian classics. Namy's sound collage is constructed from excerpts of such music purchased. These mixes reveal the cultural fabric of the UAE, with its jumble of cultures and histories and Namy's remixing of these remixes adds a new voice to the conversation. 

The installation consists of a one-person interactive dance floor, covered with an image of clouds. The viewer is invited to step onto the floor and activate the light sequence, or simply observe it from afar as it responds to the music... Although today music is often used as an escape that detaches us from our environment, it is a shared isolation. The mixtape DJ, although separated by distance and time from his listeners, still influences them in a one-on-one relationship. 


In his performance and installation Half Step, Joe Namy brings together two seemingly opposed dance forms; traditional Emirati folk dance and breakdance. Namy juxtaposes the static nature of folk dance, which preserves the memory of what has happened over hundreds of years with breakdance, which is concerned with innovation and improvisation. 

On the opening night last month, there were two groups, the folk dancers and the breakdancers and they simultaneously performed to the live soundtrack of musicians playing a traditional rhythm called Al Harbeya. The floor installation, which framed the live event "consists of vinyl graphic signalling a basic step pattern, known as a two step shuffle, that is found in both dance forms. The performance activates the floor installation where "dance is a time-based medium and the footprints left by the dancers form the memory of the performance". 


Hans Rosenstrom

Hans Rosenstrom - In Dependent Structures (2012/2014) | Text based sound installation for a single viewer | Duration 4’30’’ min | Container, headphones, sensor, lights, light dimmer, DMX controller, Arduino | Image courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Auditory perception makes us aware of our bodily presence in space and time. Listening to something is an ambiguous event, interpreted according to our individual memories, experience and imagination. In his poetic installations, Hans Rosenstrom constructs narratives within spatial experiences in public and private domains. He creates intimate encounters that can change perception of the moment and the individual occupation of it, questioning the relations between a subjective presence and the surrounding circumstances. 

In Dependent Structures is about presence, a situation where your senses are heightened and eventually through the illusion of another person you become aware of yourself and your body in the moment. 


Deniz Uster 

Deniz Uster narrates myths of an unknown future. For her film Beyond is Before, Uster was inspired by the nomadic history of the UAE and its Bedouin oral culture that she sees as an intangible logbook with many voids left for her to fill imaginatively. 

Beyond Before is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a freezing cold Dubai, with neither water nor oil. The protagonist is a lone Pakistani survivor travellng with his pet kitten. Fortunately, the liquid of a spongy pink plant that grows beneath the desert provides both liquid sustenance fuel and a fish-plant can also be excavated to eat. 

The film will be screened on Thursday, 8th May 2014. 





Here's map of where you can find each installation in the park (click on the map to see the see enlarged version or you can see the larger version here). 



You can walk to the park from Maraya Art Centre (around 15 minutes), or you can ask for a complimentary ride on one of the gallery's buggy. It's a fun and scenic ride. 




Exhibition details
Date: On till 12th May 2014 
Venue: Maraya Art Park, Al Majaz Waterfront, Sharjah  (location map)
Free entry.    






Exhibition - Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals

Nilbar Güreş - The Grapes from the series trabZONE (2010)


Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals is an exhibition curated by Livia Alexander and Nat Muller which opened last month in Maraya Art Centre in Al Qasba, Sharjah and on till 12th May 2014. 

The exhibition looks at everyday rituals which "breathe identity, belonging, community, and a sense of order into our daily lives. We practice them in public open areas, as well as in private intimate spaces behind closed doors.". 


Artistic engagement with everyday rituals provides a fascinating looking glass onto contemporary society’s changing landscape, conferring a wealth of stories, bestowing individuals with the power to carve out not only autonomous spaces of agency and self expression, but also to forge new communities of belonging in a rapidly changing urban and globalized environment.

The MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia) region in particular has undergone major transformations in the past decades, witnessing rapid urbanization, changing economies and new political alliances. The artists in Customs Made incorporate quotidian practices and everyday rituals in their work and blur the boundaries between art and life, between the prescribed and the personal. If rituals offer order and sequence, then what happens when artists re-shuffle and disrupt this ritual opens a space for them to explore how to weave their individuality, beliefs and practices into the fabric of the societies they inhabit.

In many of the works in this exhibition, ritual is intertwined with a broad spectrum of everyday practices, reinforcing the comfort of the familiar, from spiritual meditative routines, daily physical activities, superstitious repetitions, to mundane but necessary household chores.

Customs Made seeks to explore the interstitial spaces where past meets present, where the contemporary experience in its ever-expanding human mosaic finds its muse and inspiration, and oscillates between the repetitive structures of ritual and that of self-expression.


It's a fascinating exhibition and strongly urge my UAE readers to attend this. Below is the list of participating artists, and I've included extracts from the exhibition catalogue which describes each work. The catalogue is worth getting because it includes a conversation between the two curators, plus an essay by Stephanie Bailey, Managing Editor of Ibraaz. I do love exhibition catalogues with good content. 


Taysir Batniji 

Taysir Batniji - Hanoun (1972-2009)

Hanoun by Taysir Batniji, a performance/installation that comprises of red pencil shavings scatted on the floor like flower petals. The title of the work means 'poppy' in Palestinian dialect--the flower that forms an integral part of the Palestinian landscape, both physically, literally and figuratively (often used as a symbol of freedom fighters).

The installation draws inspiration from Batniji's memories as a student at school, when he would escape the processes of reciting and copying out large swathes of text by insisting on sharpening his pencil obsessively which also constitutes the performance of producing this installation. 

The act of recreating this childhood act takes place in a space in which a photograph of Batniji's studio in Gaza is hung. This juxtaposition of the studio image and the installation marks the void--symbolised by this field of 'petals'.  Stephanie Bailey



Cevdet Erek 

Cevdet Erek

In Cevdet Erek's iteration of Week, a 2011 sound and LED installation that has been modified and reproduced for this exhibition. The artist takes one of the most basic things that shape our quotidian practices, the ritual of measurements, from the measurements of space (metric system) to time (calendar and clock) and musical tempo.  

These are all measured as a steady number of beats per minute in an installation that consists of a totemic, Turbosound, a sound system column often used in clubs and for outdoor rock concerts. From these speakers, the beat of an acoustic frum is composed as an aural 'grid' - seven beats based on the division of the week into seven units, or days, are played in several different versions and combined in one loop. These drumbeats are followed by a male voice naming the days of the week from Monday to Sunday, cited in Arabic and taking into account the Islamic weekend. Stephanie Bailey


Shilpa Gupta 

Shilpa Gupta - 100 Queues (2008)

Shilpa Gupta's 100 Queues looks at the density of Mumbai's population. 

The images, taken over a period of six months, present 98 instances of people waiting in queues across the city, from a bus stop to a railway ticket counter, to a ration shop. The images are presented as spools that can be turned, all connected in a row, as if a singular shot of a never-ending queue, and thus, a never-ending wait. Stephanie Bailey

I liked Livia Alexander's take on this, in her conversation with Nat Muller.

Capturing the vicious dead-end movement of individuals going about their prescribed daily need to wait in line again and again, Gupta's piece unfolds a particular social working class whose time is deemed both valueless and invisible.  

Nilbar Güreş 

Nilbar Güreş - Overhead from the series trabZone (2010)


In Nilbar Güreş' photography series trabZone, the artist brings us to the city of Trabzon, located in the region of the Black Sea, where the artist spent her summers as a child. Trabzon is a loaded site. It is known for its strong attachment to Turkish Muslim identity, yet was a centre of the Pontus during the Hellenic and Roman periods, with inhabitants known to have been the very first converts to Christianity.

In terms of its contemporary legacy, the story is far more changed. Trabzon is the hometown of young nationalist Ogun Samast - the teenage boy who assassinated the beloved Armenian journalis and editor Hrant Dink in 2007. Taking all this into account, Güreş produces images of Trabzon that reflect her intentions to produce open-ended narratives through an alteration of the constructions of her memories. Stephanie Bailey


In the conversation part of the catalogue, Nat Muller had this to say about this series which I also liked. 

Güreş' photo series trabZone shows a humourous critique of traditional gender politics and gendered labour in the rituals - or should I say the drudge - of housekeeping. The pictures at first glance show women shaking out a rug, picking grapes and making up a bed but a closer look reveals something quite uncanny. These women seem so consumed by their chores that their bed linens and rugs have gobbled them up. We never see their faces.

Mahmoud Obaidi 

Mahmoud Obaidi - from the series Confusionism (2013)

In his series of works grouped together under the title, Confusionism, the sword reflects on the domestic space and rituals--and memories-- contained therein. In the series, the sharp points of swords have been softened and blunted with household extensions--the head of a bathroom pump, a toilet brush, a series of cooking utensils, including a whisk, a hairbrush or a broom.

Here, custom is transferred from the community and community the domestic--the home as a space of quotidian ritual, or everyday practice, filled with objects custom-made for such a space. Stephanie Bailey


Obaidi's hybrid objects from the Confusionism series literally confuse genders: the heroic and combative symbolism of the masculine sword is brought back to the feminised space of the kitchen (whisks, cheese graters), the dressing table (hairbrushes) and the broom closet (brooms). Nat Muller


Mohamed Sharkawy 

Mohamed Sharkawy - from the series El Kehrita (2013)


El Kehrita series named after a healing ritual that is meant to encourage fertility or do away with physical and mental illness. The ritual is still practiced in the village in Upper Egypt where Sharkawy grew up (one of the few remaining places to do so). He went to witness sessions before he underwent the ritual himself and produced work that commemorated a fading custom, rendered in characteristic minimalist style: block colours, simple shapes and forms, flat image planes.  

The simplicity of his imagery--invoking, as many have observed, the wall paintings of ancient Egypt--reflects on this healing ritual in (literal) graphic detail. Clear connections are made between the healer and the healed; a black background presents white heads, all connected by fine, white lines, recalling the fact that those souls who have undertaken the El Kehrita ritual are thought to become spiritually connected afterwards, thus moving the ritual from a personal event to a collective engagement. Stephanie Bailey


Rayyane Tabet 


Rayyane Tabet - FIRE/CAST/DRAW (2013) 


Rayyane Tabet's FIRE/CAST/DRAW consists of 5000 hand-cast lead pieces, each unique piece created by pouring the weight of a bullet in molten lead (a few grams) from a stovetop coffeepot to a water-filled coffee cup. The process invokes the diving ritual Tabet's grandmother performed on him as a youth, called molybdomancy, designed to reveal, in each lead lump, the face of whoever it was who cursed Tabet with the evil eye.

Tabet has described the project as a crossed meeting between 'a superstitious practice, a common material used in ballistics and a utilitarian object of trade', a combination of which produces a work of interwoven contexts, from personal and familial, to the geopolitical. Stephanie Bailey


Raed Yassin

Raed Yassin - With Imad Hamdi and his twin brother - from the series Dancing, Smoking, Kissing (2013)

In Raed Yassin's work, it is the past that has abandoned the artist. Having been rooted and uprooted multiple times over the course of his childhood in war-torn Beirut, Dancing, Smoking, Kissing is a tribute tp his memorie of a lost photographic recored of his family and childhood. What is left in the absence of photos and fragmented stories, emotions and memories associated with them, re-told to Yassin by family memorie.

The embroideries themselves are mechanically produced off computer files on mass produced fabris. And yet these ephemeral fabrics and stitched over imagery of family scenes invoke stories of home bygone - curtains hung, pillows on sofa, patterns of furniture. The familiar practice of leafing through family albums or more commonly today, flipping through digital files, is tethered by Yassinto a new format where widening circles of personal memories (or lack thereof), story telling, and the mass production of imagery all bleed from one to the next. Livia Alexander 






Exhibition details
Date: On till 12th May 2014 
Venue:  Maraya Art Centre, Al Qasba, Block (E), Third Floor, Sharjah (location map)
Free entry.


The Carton - Jazz Manouche - Spring 2014

The Carton | Issue 9 Spring 2014 | Cover artwork by Tulip Hazbar inspired by Shahrazad's shopping list in One Thousand and One Nights

The Carton is an independent quarterly magazine that tells the story of Middle Eastern culture through its food. Founded by Jade George and Rawan Gebran, the magazine was launched in July 2011 and has been gaining a following and earning a reputation for its unique insight into Middle Eastern food and culture. 

I first featured The Carton last summer to promote an event they were hosting to launch their ice cream issue. The Carton does not see itself as a “reviews and recipes magazine”, 

The idea behind The Carton was to capture the essence of our complex, hot-topic culture through something that makes up the foundation of its every tradition. We wanted to tackle aspects of this culture be it sociopolitical or anthropological from a lighter angle. And to do this, we chose food. 

In The Carton, you’ll find memoirs, tales and even poems of food culture in the Middle East or from the Middle East. 

You’ll realise that we make it a point not to have titles on the cover to leave room for the reader to make what they want out of the issue, making it a timeless collectible. The only place you’ll see our internal theme stated is on the spine (have a lookie!).


And the theme for their latest Spring 2014 issue is "jazz manouche". 

This issue isn't about how simsmiyyeh is both a gooey sesame treat and an awkward Middle Eastern musical instrument to which most of us were oblivious. Spring can really hang you up the most as Fitzgerald once said, so we felt that things could use a little jazzing up. No matter where you're spending your April and whether chestnuts are in blossom or not, it's time you've turned your players back on. Shall we listen to our grumblings now?


The cover story for this issue by Razan Al Zayani is set in Cairo where she interviewed and photographed food historian Anny Gaul who conducted a Masters research at Georgetown about a shopping list that appears in one of the first few stories of One Thousand and One Nights.

I was fascinated when I heard about this shopping list and bought the magazine right away.

An extract from the cover story: 

By cross-referencing the items, she (Anna Gaul) discovered their medicinal uses in Greek pharmacology textbook written in the 13th century by Ibn Al-Baitar. The Material Medica was on the herbal and medicinal uses of food. And when Gaul glanced at the food items in the text, she found an incredibly rich history within one of Shahrazad's enchanging bedtime fables: 

"...The story supposedly takes place in a market in Baghdad, so you see the convergence of these trade toutes and people, and it really brings the story to life... A woman goes to one shop and buys like 10 flowers. At the next place she buys fruits and vegetables, and from the next she buys all the pickled things, then all the nuts, then goes to the buthcher... Part of why I liked this is that I've lived in a couple of places in the Arab world and this is how I do my shopping. It's really fun to read the parts in the stories that I can visualise in my own life. I love being in a place where I can shop for food that way." 


Here's a lovely animated version of the cover by Tulip Hazbar inspired by Shahrazad's shopping list in One Thousand and One Nights.



And here are photos I took of some of the pages from the same issue. Get yourself a copy now, to "experience, read, touch and smell it".




Every issue of The Carton can be ordered online for worldwide delivery. If you are a foodie, or just interested in an alternative look at food, especially from the Middle East region, then this magazine is for you. 


Film Screenings - Abu Dhabi Film Festival at The Space in April

Abu Dhabi Film Festival is back at The Space this month
 with a line up of emotionally charged films. The theme this month is "Mother and Son". 

Directors Andrey Zvyagintsev, Juan Antonio Bayona, Keisuke Kinoshita and Lynne Ramsay create remarkable experiences in these films about mothers grappling with their own feelings of grief, love and responsibility.

These four films feature stunning performances from actresses Nadezhda Markina, Naomi Watts, Kinuyo Tanaka, and Tilda Swinton as mothers facing impossible choices when it comes to their sons. 


Below is the line up of films. All screenings are free, but you must RSVP in advance. Screenings start at 7pm at The Space in Abu Dhabi


Monday, 7th April 2014 
Elena, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (2011)
15+ | 109 minutes | Russian with English subtitles 

Elena and Vladimir have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena's son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir's daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father.

A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where a brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth.  

Monday, 14th April 2014 
The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (2012)
G | 114 minutes | English 

Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are on a family Christmas vacation in Thailand, enjoying their beachfront resort when their world is suddenly turned upside down.

Unbeknownst to them, a huge earthquake across the ocean has triggered a massive tsunami ... one of the most devastating natural catastrophes on record. It is based on the real experiences of María Belón and her family in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This is their story. 

Monday, 21st April 2014
The Ballad of Narayama, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita (1958)
G | 98 minutes | Japanese with English subtitles 


This haunting version of a Japanese folk legend is set in a remote mountain village where food is scarce and tradition dictates that citizens who have reached their 70th year must be carried to the summit of Mount Narayama and left there to die.

The sacrificial elder at the center of the tale is Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka), a dignified and dutiful woman who spends her dwindling days securing the happiness of her loyal widowed son with a respectable new wife. 

Monday, 28th April 2014  
We Need to Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay (2011)
15+ | 112 minutes | English 


Eva (Tilda Swinton) puts her ambitions and career aside to give birth to Kevin (Ezra Miller). The relationship between mother and son is difficult from the very first years. When Kevin is 15, he does something irrational and unforgivable in the eyes of the entire community.

Eva grapples with her own feelings of grief and responsibility as this suspenseful and gripping psychological thriller explores the fractious relationship between a mother and her son. 




RSVP here.




Sharjah Art Foundation exhibitions between April and June 2014

Holly Hendry, Homeostasis, 2014, installation, metal pipes, pillows, wadding, meranti wood, fan, initial 3D drawing (part of March Projects exhibition)

Now that art season in Dubai is over, it's time to focus on Sharjah. Currently, there are several exhibitions organised by the Sharjah Art Foundation on between now and mid June. They all opened a couple of months ago and I have not yet had a chance to go.

All of the exhibitions are within walking distance from each other (look at the maps here), with several outdoor installations. There's a lot to see, it's like a mini Sharjah Biennial, so block a day over the weekend or go and spend the afternoon/evening there. I promise you it will be quite an experience. 


Exhibitions on till 22nd May 2014 

Eduard Puterbrot: Between my East and my West 
Building J, SAF Art Spaces 

Eduard Puterbrot - Red Mountain, 1989, oil on canvas, 55.5x70 cm
Between my East and my West, presents a selection of works by the late Dagestani artist, Eduard Puterbrot, tracing the artist’s journey and work spanning two decades. While central to his work are Dagestani folk tales and culture, Puterbrot depicts the balance between East and West and uses various styles and techniques, including theatre and stage design to portray these differences.

Abdallah Al Saadi: Al-Toubay
Bait Hussain Makrani and Bait Hassan Mukhtar 

Abdullah Al Saadi, Camar Cande’s Journey, 2010–2011 Installation, video, 151 watercolour paintings, dimensions variable | Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation
This exhibition focuses on a few works from Abdullah Al Saadi’s long history as an artist. Some of these projects, which he has just completed were works in progress for a decade. Companionship is at the very centre of his long journey and has contributed to this exhibition in many ways. 

From his donkey in Camar Cande’s Journey (2010-2011), to the animals in The Comparative Journey (2013), to his mother in My Mother’s Letters (1998-2013) and The Watermelon Series (2013) each of these companions has had a profound influence on these projects. His more fantastical works, like The Comparative Journey (2013) explore how the need for companionship can even lead to relationships with inanimate objects, such as stones, which represent the various animals that later became companions on yet another journey. 

The hardships of these travels reflected in the Stone Slippers (2013) and the diaristic accounts and drawings reflect the life of a gypsy or nomad continuously travelling and searching for something.

Ahmed Mater: 100 Found Objects
Building F, SAF Art Spaces 
Ahmed Mater, 100 Found Objects, Policeman whistle, Makkah Al Mukarramah, 1924, dimensions variable
Ahmed Mater, 100 Found Objects, Alkaram Makkah viewmaster, 1980-2000, dimensions variable
100 Found Objects includes images, videos and research material that Ahmed Mater has collected which chronicle Makkah’s past to its present identity. Throughout his research, Mater has gathered a rich archive of conversations.

They include personal references and continuous recordings of the urban developments and expansion of Makkah, some of which are presented in this exhibition. This unique archive draws on wider political and familiar histories of communities that once lived in Makkah’s vicinity. Along with distinctive pilgrims' tales, both the intimacy and the anonymity implicit in mass congregations of peoples from all over the world is revealed.

We are taken on a passage that encompasses individual recollections of broad social and political events. Personal and collective dreams and ideologies are reflected through symbolism associated with a site that draws on the visions of every man, woman and child interconnected by a shared religious faith.

100 Found Objects is an ongoing work which will be completed once the entire expansion and development of Makkah is accomplished.

Exhibitions on till 13th June 2014 

Wael Shawky: Horsemen Adore Perfumes and other stories
Building P, Bait Al Aboudi, Bait Gholoum Ibrahim; SAF Art Spaces 

Wael Shawky, Al Araba Al Madfuna II, 2013, black-and-white video projection with sound, installation shot

Wael Shawky uses a range of media to explore issues of history, religion, culture and the effects of globalisation on society today.  In video, photographs, installations and performance, he mines traditions of entertainment and performance through multilayered works that force viewers to navigate the territory of truth, myth and stereotype.

Religion and the tradition of storytelling – both oral and written – play a central role in Shawky’s aesthetic. His work often captures settings and social practices that present unexpected moments of irony: significant texts are translated into different languages; age and authority become inverted; and the separation between religious and social rituals is blurred.

Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation Director Hoor Al-Qasimi, this exhibition highlights Shawky’s interest in how history is rewritten, documented and interpreted through a series of videos, installations, sculptures and drawings, including his new work Al Araba Al Madfuna II, co-produced by the Wiener Festwochen and Sharjah Art Foundation.

Rasheed Araeen: Before and After Minimalism
Building I, SAF Art Spaces  

Raheed Araeen, Boats at Keamari, 1958-1959, watercolour on paper, 6 paintings, dimensions variable. Araeen Family Collection, Karachi

Rasheed Araeen: Before and After Minimalism presents sculptures, paintings and drawings created during the more-than 50-year career of this influential Pakistani-born British artist.

The exhibition traces his evolution as a painter in Karachi to his shift towards Minimalism in London and ultimately to his international recognition and achievements as a post-Minimalist sculptor.

Trained as a civil engineer, Araeen is best known for his formal, geometric sculptures often created from simple, sometimes industrial materials. Eschewing traditional sculptural hierarchies and compositional concerns, Araeen’s works are informed by his social and political convictions.

Founding editor of important critical journals including The Third Text, Araeen has been at the forefront of the politically charged discourse between artists, institutions and audiences. This first major exhibition of the artist’s work in the MENASA includes early paintings and drawing, documentation of participatory and performance works, seminal sculptures from the 1960’s and a new sculpture specially commissioned for Sharjah. 

Susan Hefuna: Another Place

Bait Al Serkal, Arts Area, Al Shuweiheen  

Susan Hefuna, "4 Women - 4 Views", 2001, Photography, 130x200 cm. Courtesy of the artist

Another Place, exhibition space (image via

Installed in a converted traditional Emirati home, this major exhibition brings together a large selection of work by the German-Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna. Sculpture, drawing, photography and videos, created from the 1980s to the present day, reveal the artist’s focus on structure in her practice, both directly and indirectly, through these different mediums.

In the grid patterns of her mashrabiya works, the lines of her drawings, or the lattice-like structure of her palm-wood towers placed in the courtyard of Bait Al Serkal, Hefuna traces the intersections between identity, social politics and place. This exhibition includes drawings from Tokyo, Istanbul, New York and a new series titled Sharjah Ceilings created specifically for this exhibition.

The intimate setting of Bait Al Serkal underscores the tension between public and private that is central to Hefuna’s practice and offers a framework for understanding the links between the works the artist has created over the course of her career.

Exhibition on till 16th June 2014 

March Project
till 16.06.14
Bait Al Shamsi, SAF Art Spaces 
Noor Al Bastaki, Sawalef (Tales), 2014, installation, video, dimensions variable
Frank Harris, Spaceship Sharjah, 2014, installation, wood, lenses and paint

The March Project is an educational residency programme for young artists that provides opportunities to research, realise and present site-specific works through a series of professional development courses, seminars, exhibitions, site visits and talks led by art practitioners over a five month period.

Participants in this programme were chosen from the Gulf and abroad including recent graduates from institutions such as Slade School of Fine Art (UK), MASS Alexandria (Egypt), Al Riwaq (Bahrain), Higher Colleges of Technology (UAE) and Zayed University (UAE).

This exhibition features the work of seven young artists. The works realised in this exhibition draw upon the role of architecture, space and movement in the hybrid culture and society of Sharjah. The interactions in Sharjah between residents and its private and public spaces, as well as the occupation and use of these places, play a central role in these site-specific works installed throughout SAF Art Spaces and Bait Obaid Al Shamsi, in the Arts Area.


London Exposed by Julija Svetlova

© Julija Svetlova

London Exposed is a new solo exhibition showing you London through the eyes of Julija Svetlova, an old Lomo friend I've featured here a few years ago.

The exhibition will feature a series of double exposed photographs of London where you will see a different and multi layered side of London. And bear in mind, this work has been shot on film, so there's no digital manupulation, which I personally think makes the work special and unique. 

In Julija's own words, 

People always ask me, why do I double expose what I see. I always answer that I see too many things which interests me so sometimes making just one exposure is not enough. I want to create something out of my visual observations, not to just simply fixate it.



The exhibition will take place in London at Kaizo salon from 10th April to 10th May 2014. If you're London, please do go to this. 

© Julija Svetlova
Multi award winning photographer Julija Svetlova is holding her first London solo exhibition at Kaizo salon in Shoreditch. Working entirely on film, Svetlova shoots her photographs with a variety of cameras. She works with the double exposure technique that helps her to create dream-like photographs and shows London’s familiar landmarks in uncustomary ways. All works on show are signed limited editions and printed as high quality C- Type prints on Kodak Metallic paper mounted on aluminium.  

© Julija Svetlova 
Julija Svetlova is a freelance photographer based in East London. Her first experiments with photography began during her teenage years in Saint Petersburg when she discovered LOMO cameras. Influenced by the snapshot aesthetic, seriality and the spirit of collective creativity at the core of the Lomographic culture, she moved on to work with a variety of film cameras and techniques since that time. 
© Julija Svetlova 
© Julija Svetlova 
What remains constant in her work is her love for materiality of the photochemical process in image making. Taking everyday subjects and street situations as her point of departure, she never attempts to use these images as evidence to establish facts of this reality. Instead, she subjects them to transformation, imbuing them with phantasy- like qualities. If anything is “real”, it is not what we see, but the medium that we use to capture these impressions.
© Julija Svetlova

Event details

Dates: 10th April - 10th May,2014 Monday to Saturday 10 am- 7 pm. Private view on Thursday, 10th April 2014 from 7.30 till 9.30 pm.
Kaizo salon, 67-68 Charlotte Rd, London, EC2A 3PE
Event page on Facebook