Colorful Pakistani ‘boat art’ rules the waves

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Closeup of artwork on a boat at the Ibrahim Hyderi fish harbor in Karachi. (AN photo)
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Closeup of artwork on a boat at the Ibrahim Hyderi fish harbor in Karachi. (AN photo)
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Artist Abdul Aziz paints a boat at the Ibrahim Hyderi fish harbor in the Karachi, Pakistan, on Friday February 12, 2021. (AN photo)
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Artist Shoaib Ali points to art on a boat at the Ibrahim Hyderi fish harbor in Karachi on Friday February 12, 2021. (AN photo)
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Updated 18 February 2021

Colorful Pakistani ‘boat art’ rules the waves

  • Artists in Karachi say the practice began in Ibrahim Hyderi, a fishing village in the Qur’angi district
  • A trained eye can distinguish vessels from Ibrahim Hyderi, or from nearby regions such as Keti Bandar, Gharochan, Badin and Somiani

KARACHI: In Pakistan, where traditional truck art adds color and humor to highways and roads, another unique form of ornamentation has emerged on the country’s coast — boat art, which lends beauty to fishing boats sailing the Arabian Sea.
According to Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, most of the 15,000 fishing vessels on the 350-kilometer coastline of Sindh province are decorated, but the local craft has yet to be acknowledged as art.
The origins of boat art — painting vessels with floral and marine patterns — are difficult to pinpoint, but artists in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi say the practice began in Ibrahim Hyderi, a fishing village in the Qur’angi district.
Some say that one man, Abdul Aziz, who has been painting boats for 50 years, pioneered the art form.
“My father used to paint boats for decades, and now I’ve taught the craft to my sons and apprentices,” the artist, affectionately called Ustad Aziz, told Arab News.
Aziz learned to paint when he was 12 and since then boat art has been his source of livelihood.
“The art of painting fishing boats started in Ibrahim Hyderi area, then other fishing communities also adopted it,” said Shoaib Ali, one of Aziz’s pupils.
Colors and designs are traditionally similar, but “some patterns act as geographical markers of their point of origin,” Ali said.
A trained eye can distinguish vessels from Ibrahim Hyderi, or from nearby regions such as Keti Bandar, Gharochan, Badin and Somiani.
Filmmaker and artist Sharjil Baloch said that while truck art also can be found in India and around the world, boat art is a uniquely Pakistani tradition.
Indian boats are simple and use only a basic matte coating to protect the wood from the climate and water, he said.
Boat art might appear similar to truck art at first glance, Baloch said, but it is actually quite distinctive.
“The shape of a boat is different, so the template is automatically different. Then you see truck art with landscapes, but here you’ll see seascapes.”
He added: “The way they decorate them and make detailed designs gives them their own identity.”
Jatin Desai, an Indian journalist and activist who has been working with fishermen, also said boat art was unknown in India.
In Gujarat or elsewhere in the country, “there is no artwork on Indian fishing boats,” he said.


Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

Updated 10 April 2021

Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

  • The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during Ramadan
  • On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst

DAMASCUS: In a busy market in Syria’s capital, 53-year-old Ishaaq Kremed serenades customers and agilely pours tamarind juice from the ornate brass jug on his back ahead of Ramadan.
The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during the Islamic holy month starting next week, during which many favor the drink to break their day-long fast at sundown.
But he says his trade of more than 40 years has also taken on new meaning since the war-torn country has been plunged into economic crisis.
“My main job is to make customers smile,” says the moustachioed father of 16, dressed in billowing trousers, a patterned waistcoat and red fez.
“What’s most important is that they leave me feeling happy — that whoever turns up stressed leaves feeling content,” adds the street vendor.
On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst, often taking pictures of him and his traditional get-up with their cellphones.
As he nimbly pours juice in long streams into plastic cups, he distracts them for a while with a song.
A surgical face mask lowered under his chin, Kremed intones lyrics for a mother and her two young daughters, before handing her a cup of the dark brown beverage.
He takes his fez off to collect his payment, then places it back on the top of his head.
Another man, dressed in a long white robe, joins Kremed in a song then gives him a peck on the cheek as he leaves.
Syria’s economic crisis has sent prices soaring and caused the national currency to plummet in value against the dollar on the black market.
In a country where a large majority of people live in poverty, Syrians have also had to contend with several lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“For three years, Ramadan has been different because of people’s financial worries,” Kremed says.
“When people come to the market, you see them bumping into each other as if they were in a daze.”
The Damascus government blames the economic crisis on Western sanctions, but economists say the conflict, the pandemic and the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon are also major factors.
Some state institutions have temporarily been closed over the pandemic and the economic crisis, but for now, markets remain open.
Although he does his best to keep up a cheery demeanour, Kremed says he too is feeling the effects of the economic crunch.
Tamarind and sugar are becoming increasingly costly, he says, and not everyone has enough spare cash for a refreshment.
“People’s priorities have become putting food and drink on the table, before tamarind juice,” he says.


Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city

Updated 10 April 2021

Egypt to unveil ‘portion’ of 3,000-year old city

  • Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had announced earlier this week the discovery of the “lost golden city”
  • Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks

LUXOR: Archaeologists near Luxor have unearthed just a portion of the “largest” ancient city ever found in Egypt and dating to a golden pharaonic age 3,000 years ago, officials said Saturday.
Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass had announced earlier this week the discovery of the “lost golden city,” saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings.
“We found one portion of the city only. But the city extends to the west and the north,” Hawass told AFP Saturday ahead of a press conference in the archaeologically rich area.
Betsy Bryan, professor of Egyptian art and archaeology at Johns Hopkins University, had said the find was the “second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” nearly a century ago, according to the excavation team’s statement on Thursday.
Items of jewelry have been unearthed, along with colored pottery vessels, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III.
The team began excavations in September between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Cairo.
Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates River in modern Iraq and Syria to Sudan and died around 1354 BC, ancient historians say.
He ruled for nearly four decades, a reign known for its opulence and the grandeur of its monuments, including the Colossi of Memnon — two massive stone statues near Luxor that represent him and his wife.
“It’s not only a city — we can see... economic activity, workshops and ovens,” Mostafa Waziri, head of the country’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.
Since the announcement, some scholars have disputed that Hawass and his team have succeeded where others had failed by locating the city.
Egyptologist Tarek Farag posted Friday on Facebook that the area was first excavated more than a century ago by a team from New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
But Waziri dismissed these concerns, saying previous digs had taken place further afield to the south the site.


March of the mummies: Egypt readies for pharaohs’ parade

Updated 01 April 2021

March of the mummies: Egypt readies for pharaohs’ parade

  • The 18 kings and four queens will travel in order, oldest first, each aboard a separate float decorated in ancient Egyptian style
  • Some have inevitably speculated on social media that the mummies’ looming disturbance has provoked them into unleashing curses

CAIRO: The mummified remains of 22 ancient Egyptian kings and queens will be paraded through the streets of Cairo Saturday, in an eye-catching royal procession to a new resting place.
Dubbed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade, the 18 kings and four queens will travel in order, oldest first, each aboard a separate float decorated in ancient Egyptian style.
They are being moved from a decades-long residency at the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo for display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.
The new museum, in the south of the capital, opened its doors to limited exhibits from 2017 and will open fully on Sunday, before the mummies go on display to the general public from April 18.
Upon arrival, they will occupy “slightly upgraded cases,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.
“The temperature and humidity control will be even better than it was in the old museum,” added Ikram, a mummification specialist.
Emblazoned with the name of their allocated sovereign, each of the gold-colored carriages will be fitted with shock absorbers for the 40-minute journey through Cairo, to ensure none of the precious cargos are accidentally disturbed by uneven surfaces.
Seqenenre Tao II, “the Brave,” who reigned over southern Egypt some 1,600 years before Christ, will be on the first chariot, while Ramses IX, who reigned in the 12th century BC, will be at the rear.
Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut, the most powerful female pharaoh, will also make the journey.
Beginning at 6:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Saturday, the procession will take place under the watchful eyes of hefty deployments of security forces.
The parade will be spurred on by music and performances from Egyptian artists, all broadcast live on state television.
Discovered near Luxor from 1881 onwards, most of the 22 mummies have lain since the early 1900s in the Egyptian Museum, on the capital’s iconic Tahrir Square.
From the 1950s, they were put on display in a small room, one next to the other, unaccompanied by explanatory blurbs.
Ahead of their departure onto Cairo’s streets, the mummies will be placed in special containers filled with nitrogen, under conditions similar to their regular exhibition boxes.
In their new home, they will be showcased individually, each next to a sarcophagus — and in some cases, a statue — in an environment redolent of underground royal tombs.
Exhibits will be signposted by a brief biography and, in some cases, copies of computerised tomography (CT) scans.
“The mummies will be shown for the first time in a beautiful way, for education, not for a thrill,” another Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass, told AFP.
The macabre appearance of the mummies has over the decades put off some visitors.
Among the most prominent was a fellow royal — Princess Margaret, sister to British monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
“I will never forget when I took Margaret to the museum,” said Hawass, a former antiquities minister.
“In the gallery was the mummy of Ramses II... (Princess Margaret) closed her eyes and ran away — she couldn’t stand” what she saw before her.
The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization was completed in 2010, and “I was planning to open this museum in 2012,” Hawass said.
“But because of what happened in Egypt we could not,” he added, referring to the country’s 2011 popular revolution and subsequent turmoil.
In the coming months, the country is due to inaugurate another new facility, the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza pyramids.
It will also house pharaonic collections, including the celeberated treasure of Tutankhamun.
Discovered in 1922, the tomb of the young ruler, who took the throne briefly in the 14th century BC, contained treasures including gold and ivory.
A so-called “curse of the pharaoh” emerged in the wake of Tutankhamun’s unearthing in 1922-23.
A key funder of the British dig, Lord Carnarvon, died of blood poisoning months after the tomb was opened, while an early visitor died abruptly in 1923.
With the planned parade coming only days after several disasters struck Egypt, some have inevitably speculated on social media that the mummies’ looming disturbance has provoked them into unleashing curses.
Recent days have seen a deadly rail collision and a building collapse in Cairo, while global headlines were dominated by the fate of the giant container ship the MV Ever Given that blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week.
Both Hawass and Ikram were at pains to dispell any notion of a link between the mummies’ parade and recent events.
“You know that everyone loves a story like this,” said Ikram. “It makes things far more dramatic.”

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Institute of Traditional Arts will promote Saudi cultural sector

Updated 01 April 2021

Institute of Traditional Arts will promote Saudi cultural sector

  • The institute is part of the Academies of Arts initiative announced by the culture ministry in March 2019

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Institute of Traditional Arts at the Royal Academy of Arts is intended to bring traditional Saudi art to the masses both locally and internationally through educational programs and talent development.

The cabinet has approved the plan, which was first announced by Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan in 2019.

The Acting Executive Director of Marketing and Communication at the Kingdom’s Quality of Life program, Khaled bin Abdullah Al-Bakr, said on Wednesday that the institute will be “a qualitative leap toward promoting the cultural sector” and will take interest in the Kingdom’s traditional arts to “another level” through comprehensive strategic institutional work.

The institute is part of the Academies of Arts initiative announced by the culture ministry in March 2019, and it will cover five different areas: The support of “living treasures” that preserve traditional arts and heritage; training and production; awareness; global communication; and research.

It will focus on “enriching traditional Saudi arts and promoting their exhibition locally and internationally,” and on providing artists and craftsmen with a platform to promote traditional Saudi arts.


DiplomaticQuarter: British envoy praises Saudi Green, Middle East Green initiatives 

Updated 01 April 2021

DiplomaticQuarter: British envoy praises Saudi Green, Middle East Green initiatives 

RIYADH: British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton praised the “Saudi Green” and the “Middle East Green” initiatives announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, stressing that these initiatives will help in protecting the planet.

“Fantastic to see the Crown Prince’s commitment to protect the planet and combat climate change through the ‘Saudi Green Initiative’ and the ‘Green Middle East Initiative,’” the envoy tweeted.

He posted the comment while retweeting Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli, who also applauded the initiatives for “protecting Earth and nature and achieving global goals.”

In another tweet, the British envoy, speaking of the UK and Saudi Arabia, wrote: “Building on the G20 and ahead of @COP26 we look forward to working together to deliver the vision of a cleaner, greener world.”

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow between Nov. 1-12, 2021. The COP26 Summit is expected to bring parties together to work toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and the British Embassy in Riyadh jointly hosted a virtual roundtable last week to mark the celebration of Saudi Arabia’s Environment Week. It was also part of the “Together for our Planet” campaign, which aims to build awareness on the urgent need for action in the lead-up to the COP26.

The crown prince’s initiatives aim to chart a path for the region in protecting the planet and achieving global targets in confronting climate change.

The region faces significant climate challenges, such as desertification, and an immediate social and economic risk — $13 billion is lost to dust storms in the region every year, while air pollution from greenhouse gases is estimated to have shortened average Saudi life expectancy by 1.5 years.

The Saudi Green Initiative aims to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, preserve marine life and plant 10 billion trees within the Kingdom in the coming decades. The initiative will also work to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4 percent of global contributions through an ambitious renewable energy program that will generate 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030.

Saudi Arabia will also work to raise the percentage of protected areas to over 30 percent of its total land area, exceeding the current global target of 17 percent.

Moreover, the Kingdom will start working on the Middle East Green Initiative in coordination with Gulf Cooperation Council states and Middle Eastern countries to plant an additional 40 billion trees in the Middle East.