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The Culturist won Best Blogger Award in the second du Social Media Awards. List of all the winners.

Official Honoree of the 2012 Webby Awards

The Culturist was selected as an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Blog - Cultural category. List of all the honorees.

The 2011 Bloggies

The Culturist won Best Asian Weblog in this year's Bloggies. Thanks to everyone that voted. List of all the winners.


A Journey Through Vietnam by Leon Visser

A Journey Through Vietnam
is a beautiful short video by Leon Visser following him and his friends on a summer holiday in Vietnam. I am also loving the music, Recurring by Bonobo.

I want to go to Vietnam.  

Leon Visser on Vimeo 


Tokyo Slo-Mode by Alex Lee

I really like this Tokyo Slo-Mode video by Alex Lee. Tokyo is one of my favourite cities and watching this video brought back some good memories. 



Trailer Tuesday - Connected

by Tiffany Shlain is an "autoblogography about love, death & technology". 
Have you ever faked a restroom trip to check your email? Slept with your laptop? Or become so overwhelmed that you just unplugged from it all? In this funny, eye-opening, and inspiring film, director Tiffany Shlain takes audiences on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride to discover what it means to be connected in the 21st century.

From founding The Webby Awards to being a passionate advocate for The National Day of Unplugging, Shlain's love/hate relationship with technology serves as the springboard for a thrilling exploration of modern life...and our interconnected future. 

Equal parts documentary and memoir, the film unfolds during a year in which technology and science literally become a matter of life and death for the director. As Shlain's father battles brain cancer and she confronts a high-risk pregnancy, her very understanding of connection is challenged. 

Using a brilliant mix of animation, archival footage, and home movies, Shlain reveals the surprising ties that link us not only to the people we love but also to the world at large. A personal film with universal relevance, Connected explores how, after centuries of declaring our independence, it may be time for us to declare our interdependence instead.


Twin Tower Cameos by Dan Meth

Twin Tower Cameos
 is a video edited by Dan Meth, a cartoonist and director from New York City.  It shows the iconic towers in movies over a span of three decades. 

Ten years ago, New York's skyline changed drastically in a few minutes. Over the past few days leading to today's 10 year anniversary of 9/11 there have been many analysis, recounting and remembering. 

I won't get into any of that here. Instead, I invite you to watch this wonderful ode to the Twin Towers.

From 1969 to 2001, the Twin Towers made countless cameos in Hollywood films. Sometimes featured prominently in the foreground, sometimes lurking in the distance. This montage celebrates the towers' all-too-short film career with songs that capture the passing decades. Man, I miss them.  Dan Meth 
World Trade Center in Movies 


Sahara Surreal at The Empty Quarter

Dynamics of Dust - (from left to right) Bibi, Al Hussein, Mohamed and Akli, are part of a Touareg Rebels rock band, settled by the MNJ in order to spread their message all over the Sahel Region. In the 90’s already, as the first rebellion took place, such a group was created and became famous up to Europe. Northern Niger, 2008 © Philippe Dudouit

Sahara Surreal is a new exhibition that opened at The Empty Quarter on 7th September and will be on till 14th October 2011. It's a group exhibition that includes photography and design projects. The gallery describes the show "trails the bandwidth of 21st century life in the Great Desert, unhinging stereotypes along the way". It touches upon injustice, empowerment, displaced people and environmental solutions. Please don't miss this exhibition. It makes you observe, think and question. 

Here's a small selection of work from this exhibition.

The Dynamics of Dust by Philippe Dudouit  
Philippe Dudouit is one of the few to visit the Tuareg rebels of Mali and Niger dwelling in zones off-limit to tourists due to unsettling political changes. His photos are eerie but beautiful. 

The Tuaregs have always gone through the Sahara without asking anything to anyone. For a long time, they would lead tens of thousands of western tourists into the most beautiful places of the desert. For a long time, these areas were a racing track for the caravan of cars, dune buggies, motorbikes and trucks in the Paris-Dakar rally.

But now, the game has changed. At first glance, the rise of Islamic terrorism is to blame: it would have transformed the balance of the Sahara. But looking at things closer, the reality is much more complex. The area is now facing a cocktail made out of the local population, armed Salafists groups, drug traffickers and smugglers, topped off with international interests jockeying to win mining rights.

Today, almost all of Mali, Niger and Mauritania have become a red zone.

Dynamics of Dust - Texaco’s drilling station abandonned in the 60’s because the oil was too deep under the ground. Northern Niger, 2010 © Philippe Dudouit


Dynamics of Dust - A Boeing 727 cargo plane, thought to have been carrying a large amount of cocaine torched by drug traffickersafter they had emptied it. The plane landed on an improvised airstrip in the middle of the Malian desert. In Bamako, the media called it 'Air Cocaine'. Norhern Mali, 2010 © Philippe Dudouit

Dynamics of Dust - Abandoned theatre in Agadez. Northern Niger, 2010 © Philippe Dudouit 


The Last Colony by Andrew McConnell
Andrew McConnell photographed Saharawis from all walks of life, creating a fascinating portrait of the disputed Western Sahara region which doesn't get any media exposure. His portrait series, The Last Colony won 1st prize in the portrait series category in this year's World Press Photo contest

The portraits are very powerful and reading the quotes attached to each portrait adds another dimension to the series. It makes it hard to forget what you see. Read more about The Last Colony series and the disputed Western Sahara region

Minatu Lanabas Suidat, 2010 © Andrew McConnell

Journalist, pictured in Tifariti, in Polisario controlled Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).

I was born in El Aaiún refugee camp in 1984. I thought when I was a little girl that it was the nicest place in the world because I don't know anything other than the camps. My childhood was very nice. We played all night, we never had anything to fear, even the darkness. When I was ten I went to Spain with the Vacations in Peace program, that is when I began to realise we were refugees but I didn't stop liking home. I think wherever I go I will always like this place, we are altogether here, we share everything.
I think the world has betrayed the Polisario. The Polisario wanted peace and had faith in the process and they gave a lot for the chance to create peace but I think the world didn't appreciate that, especially the UN and Morocco. The people are ready to sacrifice themselves for independence. The ceasefire had advantages in that the Polisario had the chance to organise everything in the camps and now the people are educated and we understand democracy but the negative is we are still here, without land, and relying on international aid. I hope the Sahrawi will have the chance for a referendum to decide their future, that's all. I hope the chance comes through peace.


Djima Elghalia, 2010 © Andrew McConnell

48, human rights activist, pictured near El Aaiún city, in Moroccan controlled Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).

In 1987 I was arrested along with five hundred others for trying to organise a demonstration on independence before a big United Nations visit. They held eighty including nineteen women. They interrogated me and used physical and psychological torture. They would put chemicals in my hair that made me faint. I was electrocuted on the arms and back and was bitten by dogs. Later they would laugh and say that there are no dogs and I must be imagining things. It was the same thing you see in Iraq but here we have no media attention to show it. I was released in 1991 along with three hundred and twenty four people, some of whom had been held since the invasion, seventy eight were women.

We have a conviction that we will achieve independence but it depends on international pressure, our case it very just and fair. It [pressure] will come from the allies of Morocco, like France, the US and Spain. We have no direct contact with Polisario but we share the same gaols. As a defender of human rights we are all about a peaceful solution. Whether the Polisario want to go back to war is up to them but as a civil society we are calling for a peaceful solution and this will come from international pressure.



Plastic Gold by Florie Salnot
Florie Salnot have designed a technique and some specific tools to enable the Saharawi refugees to produce pieces of jewelry with the very limited resources, i.e. plastic bottles and sand, which are available in their camps. The aim is to offer Saharawis a sustainable way for generating income and to reduce dependency on humanitarian aid, and to also provide them with an open-source technique and tools with which they can design their own pieces and invigorate their local craft traditions in an original way. 

Plastic Gold, 2011 © Florie Salnot  

You can read more about The Plastic Bottle project here, a project was enabled thanks Sandblast, an arts and human rights charity working with the indigenous people from Western Sahara, the Saharawis whose identity and culture is threatened by the impact of exile and Morocco's occupation. Sandblast wants to empower the Saharawis, to tell their own story, promote their own culture and earn a living through the arts. 

Here's a video where you can see the technique designed by Florie Salnot and the workshops she conducted.



Desert Cities by Aglaïa Konrad  
Aglaïa Konrad  focuses on the programmed "concrete-ization" of the desert in Egypt's struggling satellite cities. This reminded me of some of the projects in Dubai, where supply exceeds demands and some of the large scale constructions of projects that will always look at odds with its surroundings.

Aglaïa Konrad discovered the Egyptian 'Desert Cities' during a brief visit to Cairo in 1992, becoming intrigued by the vast scale of this long term project. The project she instigated, explores the application of modernist principles to the architecture of the new cities that have been emerging over the last 15 years, but still seem hardily occupied.

Aglaïa Konrad focuses a direct gaze on cities like New Cairo, Golf City, Utopia or Badr City, spotlighting an improbable dialogue between imported models and vernacular elements, constructions and sites, desert and communities, modernity and tradition.

© Aglaïa Konrad - Desert Cities - Obour City


Dune by Magnus Larsson
Architect Magnus Larsson proposes a fascinating landscape project which I think many in this region should listen to.

He proposes a 6,000km long wall of artificially solidified sandstone architecture that would span the Sahara Desert, east to west, offering a combination of refugee housing and a "green wall" against the future spread of the desert.

Architects create spaces that accommodate human activity. As opposed to many of its contemporary counterparts, Dune is not so much focused on the styling of that activity, as on the supporting of it. While designed to visually seduce, Dune is not primarily a formal exercise, but a social, ecological, cultural one. How are we to live with the desert, in the desert, within the desert?

Dune (virtual rendering of lanscaping progress based on bacillus pasteurii) © Magnus Larsson


Here's Magnus Larsson's TED talk, Turning dunes into architecture from November 2009 



Solar Sinter by Markus Kayser
In his desert manufacturing experiments, Markus Kayser focuses the raw energy of the Saharan sun in laserbeams that cut wood and make glass from sand.


In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.

In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.

Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world's most efficient energy resource - the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.



Exhibition details
Date: 7th September - 14th October 2011
Venue: The Empty Quarter, Gate Village, Bldg 2, DIFC Dubai, UAE 
Phone: +971 4 323 1210


September 11 Animated Shorts by Story Corps

I'm a huge fan of Story Corps and how they share and preserve stories of ordinary people (I've already featured their work twice before). Although it is an organisation that aims to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs an opportunity to record their stories, I find it so universal and living halfway aross the world, I'm always moved by the stories I hear.  

For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Story Corps has put together the following three animated shorts to remember and honour the lives lost on that day. 

Always a Family


On the morning of September 11th, Michael Trinidad called his ex-wife, Monique Ferrer, from the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower to say goodbye. In the wake of his death, Monique tells the story of Michael's lasting legacy—the family they built together. 

She Was the One 


When Richie Pecorella met Karen Juday, she captured his heart and changed his life. They were engaged and living together in Brooklyn when Karen was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, where she worked as an administrative assistant. Here, Richie remembers Karen, his love and inspiration. 


John and Joe 

John Vigiano Sr. is a retired New York City firefighter whose two sons followed him into service—John Jr. was a firefighter, too, and Joe was a police detective. On September 11, 2001, both Vigiano brothers responded to the call from the World Trade Center, and both were killed while saving others. Here, John Sr. remembers his sons and reflects on coping with his tremendous loss.


Substations by Sinisa Vlajkovic and Mohamed Somji

A new photography exhibition called Substations by Sinisa Vlajkovic and Mohamed Somji portraying some of the last remaining diesel stations in the United Arab Emirates will open next week at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai.  

Based on the few photos I've seen so far, I am really looking forward to this exhibition.


Substations is an intimate reflection on the character and experience of community in Dubai and the UAE; in the background hover questions of invisible economies, urbanity versus wilderness, and changing social values. Sinisa Vlajkovic and Mohamed Somji’s direct, minimalist approach yields rich emotional texture on a decidedly human scale. Illuminating the outskirts of Dubai like flickering candles, their subjects – small diesel stations – provide a respite from the city's dizzying lights and imported glamour. 


Resembling the first stations that were built several decades ago and started the region's diesel trade, these isolated stations are a distinct contrast to the Middle East’s high-profile petroleum sector. It is an exhibit of vernacular architecture: constructed with scavenged materials, they are maintained with simple amenities and local hospitality. They challenge the city’s impersonal modernization with reassurance that there is always time for tea and an armchair conversation.


With its horizon of superlative heights and conspicuous wealth, Dubai is designed to eclipse everything else. Yet the mega-watt metropolis is newly-minted by history's measure, forged into the desert wilderness with an architectural frenzy. To gaze beyond the city limits is to remember that it has not always been so. It is here, at the geographic seams of Dubai's unbridled development, that Vlajkovic and Somji have paused to document the quiet moments of a vestigial culture. They photographed by night on the less-traveled roads, and listened to the stories behind each unique diesel station. 


Unlike their urban equivalents - sprawling corporate conglomerates that function as roadside cathedrals of consumer capitalism, complete with fast food restaurants, convenience stores, promotions, prizes, and uniformed staff - these stations are individually owned and frequented by truckers. Makeshift structures of found objects, colourful neons, and strings of festive lights, the diesel stations are some of the last remaining examples of a culture around which the Middle East evolved.



Exhibition details
Date: Opening is on 15th September at 7.30pm. Exhibition will run till 30th October 2011.
Venue: The Pavilion Downtown Dubai, Emaar Boulevard (location map)
Phone: +971 4 447 7025 
Substations website


Music Monday - NEOBYRD

I was listening's live online radio stream  the other day (which, by the way, is very good and a great alternative to our local radio channels) and I stumbled upon music by NEOBYRD. I heard My Sweet Heartless and it made me want to listen to more of his music. So for this week's Music Monday, I'd like to share NEOBYRD's music with you. If you like electronic music, then this one is for you. 

NEOBYRD is the stage name of Wael Alaa, an Egyptian electronic music producer, inspired by the 80's funk disco music, and a massive fan of Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode, Bee Gees, Brothers Johnson and French electro music. 

He started his solo career as a signed artist with his first minimal techno single 'Mad Jack' at the age of 15 with an English Label 'Community Records', the same track has been featured on 'Pulse Radio' Manchester and 'MLK Radio' Germany.  

In 2006 he signed his first EP 'Bumble Chords' with The German Label 'Kally Mile'. In 2007 he won 3rd prize, and the special award in a competition by the legendary music DAW 'Ableton Live'. In 2010 he released 'Naughty Boyz' an EP that included 'Madly In June', 'Naughty Boyz' and 'Colors In Love'.


Here are some of his tracks, but you can listen to all of his music here

Apollo 11 


My Sweet Heartless 


Ooh Oh 


Like 80s


Got Your Love

Sep032011 and Nokia E6 Film Competitions

Film still from one of the submissions, Avocado Juice by Richie, the Middle East’s first online content platform dedicated to giving a voice to home-grown creative talent, has teamed up with Nokia, to bring two new film competitions to its UAE users. 

Connect Me
The first competition, “Connect Me!” is focused on the film-makers at heart. Local amateur and budding film-makers are invited to submit a 2-minute original film or video based on the unimaginable- a life without mobile phones. Entrants are challenged to remember and depict life before the existence of mobile phones and today’s 24/7 connected world. For many young entrants, who have always known life with mobile phones, this process will be a good test of their imagination.

Staying Connected
The second competition, “Staying Connected” is aimed at the more casual film enthusiast and anyone with an interest in advertising. This competition takes its inspiration from the ad world of Don Draper and Mad Men, the hit television series, and calls for submissions to create an original 15-second commercial about staying connected with the Nokia E6.

Film still from one of the submissions, A Little Nostalgia by Shahid Azam

The competition has been running since late July, so I'm late in reporting this (sorry TripleW). But the competition closing date has been extended to 7th September, so if you are reading this and interested, hurry and submit your film. 

Visit to get more details and to upload your film.




Irene NYC 

It was bound to happen, here's a hauntingly beautiful video documenting Hurricane Irene in New York by Buffalo Picture House.  

Our own Brandon Roots and Felix Thompson hopped out during the storm last Sunday to document Irene. Drenched to the bone but not much worse, they came back with this lovely little video. They wanted to make something that was very different than what people were seeing on the news. We think they succeeded… 

-The Buffalo Team