Tanzanian-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel Literature Prize

Abdulrazak Gurnah said he hadn’t planned to be a writer when he was living in Zanzibar, but once in England he felt overwhelmed by the sense of ‘a life left behind.’ (Getty Images)
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Updated 07 October 2021

Tanzanian-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah wins Nobel Literature Prize

  • Gurnah is best known for his 1994 breakthrough novel ‘Paradise,’ set in colonial East Africa during World War I, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction
  • Born in 1948, Gurnah fled Zanzibar in 1968 following the revolution which led to oppression and the persecution of citizens of Arab origin

STOCKHOLM: Tanzanian-born novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose work focuses on colonialism and the trauma of the refugee experience, on Thursday won the Nobel Literature Prize.
Gurnah, who grew up on the island of Zanzibar but who arrived in England as a refugee at the end of the 1960s, is the fifth African to win the Nobel Literature Prize.
The Swedish Academy said Gurnah was honored “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
“His novels recoil from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world,” the Nobel Foundation added.
Gurnah has published 10 novels and a number of short stories.
He is best known for his 1994 breakthrough novel “Paradise,” set in colonial East Africa during World War I, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.
The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work.
Born in 1948, Gurnah fled Zanzibar in 1968 following the revolution which led to oppression and the persecution of citizens of Arab origin.
He began writing as a 21-year-old in England. Although Swahili was his first language, English became his literary tool.
In an article he wrote for The Guardian in 2004, Gurnah said he hadn’t planned to be a writer when he was living in Zanzibar, but once in England he felt overwhelmed by the sense of ‘a life left behind’.
“If one way of seeing distance as helpful to the writer pictures him or her as a closed world, another argument suggests displacement is necessary, that the writer produces work of value in isolation because he or she is then free from responsibilities and intimacies that mute and dilute the truth,” he wrote.
Gurnah has until his recent retirement been Professor of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury, focusing principally on writers such as Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Salman Rushdie.
The Nobel Prize comes with a medal and a prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor (about 980,000 euros, $1.1 million).
Last year, the award went to US poet Louise Gluck.
Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Nobel watchers had suggested the Swedish Academy could choose to give the nod to a writer from Asia or Africa, following a pledge to make the prize more diverse.
It has crowned mainly Westerners in its 120-year existence.
Glaringly, 102 men have won and only 16 women.
The Academy long insisted its laureates were chosen on literary merit alone, and that it did not take nationality into account.
But after a #MeToo scandal that rocked the Academy — prompting it to postpone the 2018 prize for a year — the body said it would adjust its criteria toward more geographic and gender diversity.
“Previously, we had a more Eurocentric perspective of literature, and now we are looking all over the world,” the head of the Nobel committee, Anders Olsson, said in 2019.
Two women have since got the nod: Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk clinched the delayed 2018 prize, and little-known American poet Louise Gluck won in 2020.
Sandwiched between them in 2019 was Austrian writer Peter Handke — a hotly contested pick due to his support of Serbia’s former president Slobodan Milosevic, who died while on trial for genocide in 2006.
But at the end of the day, “literary merit” is still “the absolute and the only criterion” for the Academy, Olsson reiterated in an interview with The New Republic published this week.
The Nobel season continues Friday in Oslo with the Peace Prize, followed next Monday by the Economics Prize.


KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

Updated 20 October 2021

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.

From red carpet premieres  and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15.  It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.

The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent. 


Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

Updated 18 October 2021

Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

  • Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades

RIYADH: Saudi artists, academics and critics will take part in five discussion sessions as part of the Art Memento Exhibition being held at the National Museum in Riyadh until Nov. 6.

The dialogue sessions, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, will focus on the history of visual arts in the Kingdom and the factors that influence artistic development, along with the role of what was previously known as the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in supporting art and artists over five decades.

The first of the dialogue sessions will be held on Monday under the title “The Journey of Art Collections from Youth Welfare to the Ministry of Culture.” Dr. Suzan Al-Yahya and Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmed will take part in this session as panelists, while Dr. Maha Al-Senan will be the facilitator.

The second session, “Towards a Better Organization of the Acquisition of Artworks,” will be held on Tuesday, with visual artists Mohammed Al-Saawi, Sara Al-Omran and Abdulrahman Al-Sulaiman as panelists and Hafsa Al-Khudairi as facilitator.

The third session will be held next Sunday under the title “The Features of Saudi Visual Arts from Modern to Contemporary,” and will feature Dr. Mohammed Al-Resayes, Dr. Eiman Elgibreen and Faisal Al-Khudaidi as panelists and Dr. Khulood Al-Bugami as facilitator.

“Fostering Arts and the Extent of their Cultural Impact on Society,” the fourth session, will be held next Tuesday, with Ehab Ellaban as panelist and Dr. Hanan Al-Hazza as facilitator.

The fifth and final session will take place on Nov. 2 under the title “The Journey of a Saudi Artist Between the Local and International Scenes.” It will feature Dr. Ahmed Mater, Bakr Shaikhoun and Maha Malluh as panelists and Dr. Noura Shuqair as facilitator.

The Art Memento Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades, documenting the history of the Kingdom’s visual arts for public display.

Saudi artistic development is highlighted in terms of form, subject and ideas, while the exhibition also celebrates the efforts of leading artists and founders, preserves their history and presents their work to a new generation.

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Mickey Mouse meets manga at biggest anime cafe in Saudi Arabia

Updated 13 October 2021

Mickey Mouse meets manga at biggest anime cafe in Saudi Arabia

  • Guests arriving at the Geek Cafe are greeted by a life-size action figure of the character Zoro from the “One Piece” manga series

JEDDAH: Fans of Japanese animation are looking forward to the opening on Thursday of Geek Cafe, the biggest anime-themed cafe in Jeddah.

The venue has been designed as a dream location for admirers of anime and Japanese comics, or manga, as Arab News discovered during a sneak peek ahead of the official opening.

More than 1,000 anime action figures and 300 manga publications on display cater to the various sections of the otaku community — the Japanese name for those with an all-consuming interest in a subject, in particular anime and manga — while the cafe also includes a manga reading hall, a board game section and an action figure store. 

Guests arriving at the Geek Cafe are greeted by a life-size action figure of the character Zoro from the “One Piece” manga series. From there they have a number of seating options, including a bar-style area, couches, chairs and even bean bags for a more relaxed experience.

A huge 3-meter-high mural features famous characters from anime and manga hits such as “Pokemon,” “One Piece,” “Digimon” and “One Punch Man,” along with Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

Food and drink options on the menu are also Japanese-inspired, with names to match, such as Sakura, the cafe’s signature drink named after the manga heroine. The background music consists mainly of anime songs. 

“I was always into anime and games, and there was no place where people like us could gather, so I decided to create a place that connected the otaku community,” Mohammed Farahat, the owner of Geek Cafe, told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

• More than 1,000 anime action figures and 300 manga publications on display cater to the various sections of the otaku community.

• A huge 3-meter-high mural features famous characters from anime and manga hits such as Pokemon, One Piece, Digimon and One Punch Man, along with Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

“The vibe of the cafe is welcoming, like a stay-a-while environment where you can come alone and meet people with the same interests. We cater to all; we even have more than 100 board games for our board game society.”

One challenge Farahat faced when planning the cafe was tracking down limited-edition action figures to put on display, as in some cases that are only 100 of them available. Ensuring the figures passed through customs safely was another issue. 

The cafe plans to host workshops covering subjects such as cosplay, manga illustration and drawing for anime, along with special meet-and-greet events. Arab News was joined at the cafe preview by YouTubers, bloggers and other social media influencers.

“The cafe is very diverse,” Muhannad Hafiz, owner of YouTube channel Anime Ghost, told Arab News. “If you want to see action figures, play board games or just want to drink coffee and chill, you can do all that.”

Gamer and YouTuber TMFaisal, said: “This place has three great features: Good food, cool decoration and many activities. What I like the most is the mix of activities that it covers, and it has everything a person needs. There is a section for manga readers that is really chilling.”

Bador Al-Hthiel, a gamer who live streams on Twitch, said: “I like how they went the extra mile by bringing limited-edition action figures to make the cafe special, and they put in extra effort when they commissioned a whole wall painting dedicated to our favorite heroes.”


Ancient Egyptian statues found in English garden

Updated 11 October 2021

Ancient Egyptian statues found in English garden

  • The 2 pieces, used as ornaments, were thought to be replicas
  • They sold at auction for $265,000

LONDON: Two stone statues of sphinxes dating back 5,000 years and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars have been discovered in a garden in the English county of Suffolk.

The statues, over a meter tall each, were thought to be 18th- or 19th-century replicas, but after they were inspected by an expert, the garden ornaments turned out to be genuine.

Despite their poor condition, having been left outside in the garden for years and secured to the ground with cement, they still sold at auction for £195,000 ($265,000).

Auctioneer James Mander told Metro newspaper: “We were contacted by a local family who were moving house and needed to dispose of stuff from their old garden, which did not fit their new home.

“The condition was quite poor with heavy wear and various losses. They had been repaired by the current owners, using concrete, to fill the missing part under the head of one of the statues.”

He added: “They had stood on a garden patio as decoration until last month, when they were consigned to the auction.

“There was some interest prior to the auction during the viewing, but really we had no indication of their value until the auction began.

“The bidding started at £200, and it took fifteen minutes to sell, with competition from four telephone bidders and numerous internet buyers.

“The bidding quickly went up to £100,000 and then seemed to stall, until the hammer finally fell at £195,000 to an international auction gallery, setting a new house record.

“Opinion was that they were genuine Ancient Egyptian examples, which had somehow passed through recent history as 18th century copies.”

Mander said: “This was an exciting day at the auction, and we were very pleased to inform the vendors who had purchased and enjoyed these as garden ornaments for many years, with no idea of their true value.”


Red Sea festival brings movies to the streets of Jeddah

Updated 11 October 2021

Red Sea festival brings movies to the streets of Jeddah

  • Screenings and masterclasses are part of community program to educate young Saudis on film business

JEDDAH: Can’t be bothered going out to the movies? No worries … in Jeddah, the movies are coming to you — and you can even be in one.

The Red Sea International Film Festival has launched film screenings and masterclasses as part of a community program to educate Saudi film enthusiasts on acting, directing, and producing.

The program has been launched in four Jeddah neighborhoods, with six screenings a day of films including “The Book of Sun,” “Baghdad Messi” and “Bekas,” chosen for their appeal to younger viewers.

And the program is not just about watching movies. Six directors and three actors from around the Kingdom will conduct masterclasses, shooting a scene in front of a live audience — some of whom will be selected to take part, as extras or as part of the crew.

HIGHLIGHT

Six directors and three actors from around the Kingdom will conduct masterclasses, shooting a scene in front of a live audience — some of whom will be selected to take part, as extras or as part of the crew.

The aim is to make the film industry accessible to people of all ages, specifically targeting young Saudis to inspire the next generation of filmmakers who might otherwise not have considered a career in the industry, said Edouard Waintrop, the festival’s artistic director.

“Saudi Arabia is rife with untapped talent, and it is among our priorities to enable our local talents to fulfill their potential,” he said.

“We have taken the film industry to the streets of Jeddah in an effort to educate, empower and spark an interest in youth by giving them the tools to succeed, and fostering their talent.

“Red Sea International Film Festival aims to be a pioneer in Saudi Arabia and globally, not just for the festival activities, collaborations and competitions, but also for the impact we leave on future generations with our community outreach programs.”

The new program is called Cinema Al-Hara, which roughly translates to alley or lane, and will run until Oct. 30.

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