‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96

Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis speaks during a concert in support of Palestinian people in Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece, April 10, 2002. (EPA)
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Updated 02 September 2021

‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96

  • It was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ ‘Zorba the Greek’ in 1964, and the slow-to-frenetic title score by Theodorakis that made him a household name
  • He spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and more recently in opposition to an agreement to end a name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia

ATHENS, Greece: Mikis Theodorakis, the beloved Greek composer whose rousing music and life of political defiance won acclaim abroad and inspired millions at home, died Thursday. He was 96.
His death at his home in central Athens was announced on state television and followed multiple hospitalizations in recent years, mostly for heart treatment.
Theodorakis’ prolific career that started at age 17 produced a hugely varied body of work that ranged from somber symphonies to popular television and the film scores for “Serpico” and “Zorba the Greek.”
But the towering man with trademark worker suits, hoarse voice and wavy hair also is remembered by Greeks for his stubborn opposition to postwar regimes that persecuted him and outlawed his music.
“He lived with passion, a life dedicated to music, the arts, our country and its people, dedicated to the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, social solidarity,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement.
“He wrote music that became intertwined with the historical and social developments in Greece in the postwar years, music that provided encouragement, consolation, protest, and support in the darker periods of our recent history.”
Born Michail Theodorakis on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on July 29, 1925, he was exposed to music and politics from a young age.
He began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. During the war, he was arrested by the country’s Italian and German occupiers for his involvement in left-wing resistance groups.
Some of those same groups bitterly opposed the government and monarchy that led immediately Greece after the war, leading to a 1946-49 civil war in which the Communist-backed rebels eventually lost.
Theodorakis was jailed and sent to remote Greek islands, including the infamous “re-education” camp on the small island of Makronissos near Athens. As a result of severe beatings and torture, Theodorakis suffered broken limbs, respiratory problems and other injuries that plagued his health for the rest of his life. He suffered tuberculosis, was thrown into a psychiatric hospital, and was subjected to mock executions.
Despite the hardships, he managed to establish himself as a respected musician. He graduated from the Athens Music School in 1950 and continued his studies in Paris on a scholarship in 1954.
A prolific career as a composer began in earnest, as he worked in a huge range of genres from film scores and ballet music to operas, as well as chamber music, ancient Greek tragedies and Greek folk, collaborating with leading poets including Spain’s Federico Garcia Lorca and the Greek Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis. A music series based on poems written by Nazi concentration camp survivor Iakovos Kambanellis, “The Ballad of Mauthausen,” described the horrors of camp life and the Holocaust.
But it was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Zorba the Greek” in 1964, and the slow-to-frenetic title score by Theodorakis that made him a household name.
The movie starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates and Irene Pappas picked up three Academy Awards.
As Theodorakis’ fame grew, political turmoil in Greece continued, and his compositions were banned by a military dictatorship that governed the country between 1967 and 1974 — turning his music into a sountrack of resistance that would be played at protest ralies for decades. Tireless in later life, Theodorakis continued to work with emerging artists and compositions that included music for the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and maintained an active interest in politics.
He was a member of parliament for the Greek Communist Party for most of the 1980s but later served the cabinet of the conservative government. He spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and more recently in opposition to an agreement to end a name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia.
His defenders saw him as a unifier, willing to take bold decisions to try to heal the country’s bitter and longstanding political divisions, many rooted in the Cold War. Fans who disagreed with him looked past his politics, and tributes to Theodorakis Thursday came from all of Greece’s political parties as well as his fellow artists.
“He was a giant and we were all proud of him. His music, his life, he was unique,” singer Manolis Mitsias, who worked extensively with Theodorakis said. “Greece was orphaned today.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared three days of national mourning, posting a photograph with Theodorakis at his home following a recent hospitalization.
“I had the honor of knowing him for many years ... and his advice has always been valuable to me, especially concerning the unity of our people and overcoming divisions,” Mitsotakis wrote.
“The best way to honor him, a global Greek, is to live by that message. Mikis is our history.”
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.


Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris

Updated 01 July 2022

Museum of the Future unveils bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow during event in Paris

  • Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, described the new museum as the latest addition to the list of world’s most celebrated cultural landmarks
  • He was speaking during the 26th International Trade Show for Museums, a prestigious three-day event that took place at the Louvre Museum this week

PARIS: The UAE’s Museum of the Future has unveiled its bold vision for the Dubai of tomorrow. It presented its ideas during the 26th International Trade Show for Museums, a three-day event at the Louvre Museum in Paris that attracted many of the world’s leading cultural institutions.

The delegation at the event, which concluded on Thursday, was led by Khalfan Belhoul, the CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation, and also included Lath Carlson, the executive director of the Museum of the Future, and Majed Al-Mansoori, its deputy executive director.

The museum, which is located in Dubai’s Financial District and opened in February, was invited to attend the trade show to share its ideas for incubating a new generation of talent and helping to build a better future for humanity.

By embracing the latest breakthroughs in advanced technology, its team also aims to offer unparalleled visitor experiences and help to stimulate the cultural economy of Dubai.

“Our presence here in Paris represents a golden opportunity to engage with like-minded peers and establish deeper ties as we create pioneering experiences in a museum focused on making history by perceiving the future,” Belhoul said.

He described the Museum of the Future as the latest addition to the list of the world’s most celebrated cultural landmarks and added that it has set new benchmarks in the design and development of cultural landmarks.

“Today, it serves as an incubator for bright minds to accelerate big ideas that can strengthen Dubai’s position as a place to address some of the world’s most complex challenges,” he said.

By embracing cutting-edge technology and the pursuit of innovation to drive social, economic and environmental growth, Dubai is helping to unify global efforts to build a better future for humankind, added Belhoul.


Saudi artist brings world pop culture into Kingdom's landscape

Updated 28 May 2022

Saudi artist brings world pop culture into Kingdom's landscape

JEDDAH: Imagine seeing Disney’s Princess Aurora in historic Jeddah, one of the titans from the Japanese anime “Attack on Titan” lurking behind the mountains of Taif’s famous Al-Shafa road, or international figures appearing in old alleyways. These are just some of the products of Hazem Al-Ahdal’s wild imagination.

I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality, says Hazem Al-Ahdal

The 26-year-old photographer and graphic designer draws inspiration from both visual art and cinematography, merging images of global figures and cartoon characters into landscape photographs and then using his graphic design skills to create realistic artworks.

HIGHLIGHT

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)

Al-Ahdal said that he has been interested in the visual arts since childhood.

“Because of this passion, I decided to start my own art world and realize it,” he told Arab News.

His personal favorite artwork imagines Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby, elder daughter of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia, in an old market in Tabuk.

“This is my favorite because of the integration of Western and Arab civilization in one work. Because of this work, other ideas began to come,” said Al-Ahdal.

“I love anything vintage or related to history. I loved her classical attire and thought it would suit the vision I had for the photograph,” he said, referring to the 20th-century Russian countess.

Al-Ahdal said that he chooses characters from a host of international figures or cartoons based on the site of the photograph, “and so the integration process begins.”

One of his preferred locations is Jeddah’s historical quarter, but the graphic designer said that he can let his imagination run wild in any location he explores.

“Of course, there are stories with many works of art, including when I was drinking coffee in one of the cafes and I was in front of an empty chair. My fantasies began with characters who may be sitting in front of me,” he said.

“I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality.”

Al-Ahdal converts his digital art into posters and even fashion items.

“I have no limits in art. I participated in many exhibitions with realistic works and paintings, I even participated in the field of fashion and I’m planning on participating in more projects,” he said

Al-Ahdal said that he loves ’90s movies for their content. “The best old classic works from the ’90s and before — these films contain stories and lessons in life,” he said.

“One of my favorite TV shows is the sitcom ‘Friends’ and one of my favorite distinctive films is the Italian film La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful),” he added.


Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi deputy culture minister assures Kingdom’s film industry of ‘brilliant future’ as he visits pavilion at Cannes

  • Hollywood director Brett Ratner reveals plans to visit Saudi Arabia to scout for shoot locations

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez visited the Kingdom’s pavilion during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, to show his support for the burgeoning Saudi film industry.

“Our role is to support the sector with everyone in it. God willing, we will see success soon. Thank you everyone and I wish you a happy opportunity,” he said to a crowd of Saudi and international actors as well as filmmakers who had gathered at the pavilion.

The Saudi pavillion at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. (Arab News)

The deputy minister was accompanied by Red Sea Film Festival Foundation CEO Mohammed Al-Turki, Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf and US director Brett Ratner, the face behind such hits as the “Rush Hour” film series and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also produced the “Horrible Bosses” film series, “The Revenant” and “War Dogs.”

The deputy minister praised the work being done by Saudi creatives in the Kingdom and their contribution to the expanding industry, before touring the pavilion and meeting with select industry professionals.

 

 

Following his tour, Fayez addressed the press and Saudi creatives directly, saying: “You will have a brilliant future and we are ready, present and supportive of you.

“With regional programs that will come together, there will be great opportunities for filmmakers, actors, actors and actresses,” he added.

For his part, Ratner teased a big announcement, before saying that the details were being kept under wraps.

However, he did reveal plans to visit Saudi Arabia in order to scout for shoot locations.

“I am very excited to come to your beautiful country to film. I am going to come next week with his royal highness and friends and I am going to scout the whole country,” the producer said.

“The film is going to be unbelievable. We will be able to create a big buzz,” he added.

 


WEF 2022: Head of Saudi Arabia’s AlUla project highlights importance of investing in arts, culture  

Updated 27 May 2022

WEF 2022: Head of Saudi Arabia’s AlUla project highlights importance of investing in arts, culture  

  • ‘Art creators as important as infrastructure,’ Amr Al-Madani tells Davos panel session via livestream

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s head of the Royal Commission for AlUla has praised the role of arts and culture in sustaining resilient and creative communities, saying that investing in art creators is important to economies and to the healthy growth of societies. 

Speaking during a livestreamed panel session called “Culture Shock” at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Amr Al-Madani described artists as “resilient,” adding that “art creators are essential contributors to the economy and healthy growth,” and “are as important as infrastructure and assets.”

He added: “For those who are in the investment world, your capital with the artists and creatives will always have much higher return than your capital invested anywhere else, in the long term.” 

The panel session was moderated by Jeanne Bourgault, president and CEO of Internews. 

 

 

Bourgault asked Al-Madani to outline cultural preservation initiatives as well as the economic development taking place as part of the regeneration of AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

“To me, culture is really a manifestation of who we are as a society,” Al-Madani said.

“If we use the expansive definition of culture, it’s an ever-evolving implementation of where we have been, and who we have been, and where we intend to be.”  

He said that this understanding is pivotal when working on a project that involves a World Heritage Site which has been “a capital of many ancient civilizations for thousands of years and a cultural capital of the world.” 

The panel also featured Platon, the photographer and founder of the People’s Portfolio, a nonprofit organization that uses portrait photography to highlight humanitarian efforts worldwide.

Anna Konig Jerlmyr, Stockholm’s mayor, discussed the significance of the arts sector and how those in the arts industry had been hit by restrictions introduced to contain COVID-19. 

Under the lockdown in March 2020, many theaters, cinemas, concert venues, book shops and museums were closed. This added to the burden facing artists struggling to make a living, and contributed to the revenue decline for cultural industries, she said.

However, the restrictions pushed artists to find more creative ways to reach those forced to remain home as a result of COVID-19 curbs.

Al-Madani said: “During the pandemic we believed that the loss of any creator was not acceptable.”

Throughout February and March, Desert X AlUla, a site-responsive, international open-air art exhibition, was staged in partnership with a California-based not-for-profit organization.

The event included works by female artists. More than half of the artists taking part were women, he added.

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Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Updated 19 May 2022

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

  • Skna Hassan’s artwork is colorful while Andrea Hulsbosch’s is mysterious with dark colors

RIYADH: For Europe Month 2022, Belgian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur invited visitors to an art exhibition titled “Belgian and Saudi Face to Face” at Lar’t Pur Gallery, which commenced on May 17 and will last for a week.

“The Belgian Embassy is delighted to collaborate with the EU and Saudi Arabia to hold an exhibition featuring Belgian and Saudi artists in conjunction with the European Union month,” Mineur told Arab News.

The exhibit features abstract women-centric art pieces by Belgian artist Andrea B. M. Hulsbosch and Saudi artist Skna Hassan.

“Both artists are portraying women in their respective contexts, and I think the dialogue between them is inspiring, and there is no better way than art to create links between two countries,” Mineur said.

Hassan’s artwork is colorful and showcases Arabian women dressed in traditional yet modern attires on large-scale canvases, while Hulsbosch’s artwork is mysterious with dark colors on small canvases. 

“I believe that Skna and I are very complementary. Her artworks are large and bright while mine are intentionally smaller and more sober. My work requires a symbiotic connection with my collaborators and a level of intimacy with the audience which generates a sense of mystery, while Skna’s art makes an immediate impression. But both focus on women, and I feel that’s what connects us — telling stories as women and about women transcends borders,” Hulsbosch said.

Hassan is known for her female representations in her artwork as she always shows traditions, especially Najdi culture in her artworks.

“My work represents the Saudi woman and her life and culture. I am glad they called me and that the Belgium Embassy chose me to represent the Saudi woman. I feel that it was convenient to do it with Andrea because her pieces are about women and their cultures,” said Hassan.

Europe Month celebrates the founding of the EU on May 9 to celebrate peace and unity in Europe and cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The celebration runs until June 9, and is centered around the exchange of cultural experiences and encouragement of further communication between Europe and the Kingdom to improve mutual understanding and strengthening relations.

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