Tag Archives arts

What a day!

Woke up at the usual hour of 5am to a promise of rain, but what rain it poured about and hour or so later! A typical thunder shower that thankfully didn’t last too long, otherwise my garden would have suffered yet again, not to mention the lake outside our front door getting bigger.

Little did I know that even with that rain we would have a drought inside the house. The small riser pump refused to work; and as there was no warning, the main house water tank ran completely dry. That meant that the only water available was that in the pipes, and it would be fun trying to have a shower with that quantity. I ended up having the same shower in THREE bathrooms, including the pool changing room, and without the benefit of hot water, I was like a frozen popsicle by the time I finished!

Worse, our usual plumber who by now knew the complete water installation in the house started a new job that he couldn’t skive off until early afternoon… that means, well, the drought will continue until he makes an appearance.

In the mean time, Frances was complaining that her car was hunting and the idle speed was just not what it should be. The car almost stalls whenever she reduces speed. We decided that she would use my car to take the kids to school, and that we would take her car to the garage as it was nearing it regular maintenance time anyway. Because we didn’t take an appointment, Ford decided that they’re just too busy to take it in and said that they will only work on it in a couple of days.. fair enough. We hired a car for her for the time being. But when I drove to the Ford garage in Sitra to pick up my guy who delivered the car, the bloody doorman at the service entrance refused to let me in saying that he is only allowed to let Ford cars in! I was furious and asked him incredulously if he was joking; “no” he said, “those are my instructions and I’m not going to open the gate for you to go in.” No matter how much I explained to him that I do have a bloody sick Ford that my driver took in and I was just there to pick him up would change his mind. I had to drive around and park at the front to wait for my guy to finish the checking in procedure.

With that stupidity, Ford most definitely lost a customer. There is no way in HELL that I would EVER buy a Ford again. And the bloody Windstar is up for sale for the first reasonable offer. It’s a 2001 model, lady owned and dealer maintained (if that is going to make any bloody difference) and registered in 2002. It’s only got 150k on the clock. Leather seats, man, they must be worth something. It’s got to go. Any offers?

That out of the way, the plumber thankfully did appear in the early afternoon and found that the fault lay in the pressure switch which he replaced. He also mysteriously found that the main shuttle-cock in the main riser line was almost completely switched off, which means that there would have been very little or no water going up to the main tank! He opened it up and assured me that everything was hunky dory.

Okay, so everything is sorted now, I wanted to go and visit my uncle this afternoon. His office is located at the back of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, and it being a Sunday, I knew that area would be busy, to say the least. It took me a whole hour to drive about 10 kilometers from my office to his, but ironically I found a vacant pavement about 100 meters from his office which I immediately used to park on! I wasn’t going to miss that opportunity. The alternative is parking a couple of kilometers away and hiking it to his office.

I spent a nice 45 minutes talking to him, a pastime I really relish. The kind of stories he has of the old days are thrilling. I always look forward to spend some time with him, he’s really cool!

Artists Bassem Mansour & Fritzi Metzger at Al-Bareh

It was approaching 6pm and I wanted to go to the opening of the Flying Carpets and Fish Don’t Apologize art installation and exhibition at Al-Bareh Art Gallery by Fritzi Metzger and Bassem Mansour and decided to take the kids with me to get exposed to some culture. The opening was at 7 and as I had to pick up 2 girls, the time would be really push them to get ready on time. I wanted to get out of the house by 6.30 to reach Adliya in time for the opening. Although the kids go ready on time, the rest of the world decided to make us late. Everybody was on a Sunday drive, literally! After a lot of full/beam-flashing, some got out of the way, others did a Moses on me (drive fast behind someone which some people get intimidated by and thus get out of your way!) and we got to the exhibition just a few minutes after 7.

The exhibition was weird. Good weird. You walk through an installation of suspended sardine cans as you enter the exhibit! How fantastic is that? You navigate through that and you’re faced with two television screens, one showing a bath-tub with dead colourful leaves and dead fish being thrown in it, while the other is showing the artist’s attempt at stringing a bunch of dead fish to make a beard out of them! It takes him 20 minutes to do so, but I tell you, those are riveting 20 minutes! I was ludicrously watching the twit stringing the fish through the gills, the eyes, and other body parts to make a beard out of them! What a very very weird person. But certainly well worth watching.

I had a little chat with him and asked him why he named his exhibit Fish Don’t Apologize? To which he replied that if a fish bumps into a neighbour while they are shoaling, they don’t mind and just carry on; while in a crowd of people one bumps into another, they would apologise.

Yeah, okay. But it is the weirdest art exhibition I have been to, and it is well worth the visit, if just to experience it.

His wife, a German living in Italy (while he is Lebanese living in Kuwait) does carpets with her photography. The prints are quite nice if very much saturated colours. She arranges the pictures ingeniously using Photoshop into a kaleidoscope of images the end result of which looks like a large rug or small carpet! She doesn’t have a website to show her images at the moment, but she is considering making one.

She’s quite an accomplished artist and her limited-run prints are for sale. They would look good in large spaces which require a good splash of colour to bring that space to life. Unfortunately for me, they’re not much my cup of tea.

The exhibition runs only until February 8th, very short time indeed, so it would be well worth your time to go visit soon.

The other highlight of the visit is that I met bint battuta as well as The Outsider in the flesh! Which was a real treat. We shot the Sh&t a bit about blogging and the missed monthly meeting for Feb, and I told them my plan of becoming a dictator in that department as we couldn’t get any consensus in that regard. So I declared that the meetings will continue starting from March, and they will be held on the first Thursday of the month, from 8pm – 10pm in Al-Bareh Cafe, I’ll be there and everyone is welcome to join me.

Bint Battuta told me that there is another art exhibition in town, this one is a repeat and it is showing Phoebe Boswell’s paintings and sketches again at Al-Rewaq Art Gallery and she suggested that it would be worth going to that one too. I consulted with the children and they decided to give it a go. We went and enjoyed being there too. Phoebe’s style is quite evident in every painting and sketch she made. I particularly liked Shaikh Isa Al-Jawdar’s painting, quite intricate work, that and an old bearded and bespectacled gentleman I don’t recognise. Those were Hanan’s favourites too.

Bahrain being too bloody small, I also met one of my late father’s friends, the respected actor Mahmood Al-Mulla and we talked about the current issue of Bahrain Culture magazine which featured my father and his paintings and reminisced a little. We also met with Tariq Khonji and Ali Al-Saeed there. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the artist as she was rather busy with a lot of fans around her. It was a good exhibition and well worth a visit too.

On the way home, I get a call from the wife panicking that we have a FLOOD from the main roof water tank! I came home and deduced that it was a stuck float switch in the main tank, and after shoogling (technical term) the float switches, they behaved themselves and the riser pump did not come on again.

We monitored the pumps and the tank for a while and all seemed to be okay so far. I called the plumber and asked him to grace us with his presence tomorrow so that he can go over the installation again, and this time, I’ll get him to draw a diagram of how he understands the operation and connections of the system. This – I hope – will stand us in good stead when something else in the plumbing goes wrong.

Well, all of these events are enough for one day… It’s more than an hour past my regular bed-time, so excuse me while I go hit the sack.

I just hope that another disaster doesn’t occur while I’m asleep!



Spring of Culture is back!

Bahrain's Spring of Culture 2007

Amal alerts us that the schedule for this year’s Spring of Culture has been announced! This is the second year this excellent event is being held in Bahrain, and my goodness, the roll-call this year is for a month of complete immersion into art, music, dance, poetry, painting, theatre, recitals, and sculpture. What else can a person hope for?

The very first event is the excellent Lebanese musician Marcel Khalifa on both March 1st and 2nd, and I can guarantee you if you don’t arrive early (of if you don’t have enough pull for a front-row seat) you will not get a place. And that condition is probably the same for every single event declared so far, with a “surprise” – I think and hope – is still to be announced for the Arad Fort event, one that we really enjoyed last year was a Jazz festival.

I’m looking forward to a month of much needed brain food!


‘Women without Shadows’ tonight at BCC

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Haifaa Al-Mansour's Women without Shadows documentaryHaifaa Al-Mansour will be showing her much acclaimed film Women without Shadows tonight at 6PM at the Bahrain Cinema Club.

The film and its director both received various local and international accolades, some of which are:

    1. The Golden Dagger in Muscat Film Festival for best documentary- 2006
    2. The Critics Golden Dagger for best film- Muscat film festival- 2006
    3. The Best Documentary in the Gulf region: Emirtes Film Festival 2006
    4. Special Mention: Beirut International Film Festivals for Docs- Docdays-2006
    5. Special Mention: Rotterdam Festiaval for Arab Films- 2006

The Saudi Arab News said about Women without Shadows:

Many who disagree with the Al-Mansour believe that the film doesn’t reflect reality; others are angered by Al-Mansour’s lack of knowledge about Islam. Norah, an Islamic culture teacher, asked, “What gives her the right to pass judgment on such matters? She isn’t an Islamic scholar; she’s a film director!”

Suleiman, a Saudi man, agrees with Norah. “I would advise the director to leave such sensitive issues to qualified individuals in order to prevent our children becoming infected with doubt about our religion.” He accused Al-Mansour of projecting her own perceptions of Islam on the public at large and is concerned about how damaging this might be.

Al-Mansour answered some of her critics by saying, “I didn’t try to force my personal opinion on the public or influence the public in any way. I simply wanted to convey the experiences and opinions of many women here in the Kingdom.”

Al-Qarni Retracts Statement on Hijab
Sheikh Ayed Al-Qarni has retracted an earlier statement in which he said the hijab was the covering of hair, not face. He once again fell in line with the rest of the scholars in the Kingdom with regard to the need for women to cover their face in public.

The International Herald Tribune also wrote about Haifaa and her movie; here’s a snippet of that article:

The movie, which looks something like an Egyptian musical, but with a Saudian context, was shot in Dubai and stars the flashily handsome Saudi Hicham Abderrahman, winner of the local “Star Academy” TV show. It touches on conflicts between Western liberal and Saudi conservative values. “It’s like a big studio film,” said Mansour, “and a hit throughout the Arab world.”

Her own first film is a more modest proposal. “These days, you can make a documentary that has impact,” she said. “Documentaries have become big.” She started out interviewing women street vendors: “They are free and aggressive because they have some economic independence, so they can express more.

“So many women are afraid to express anything,” she added. “It’s not just a question of religion, but of men taking advantage of the system: within the old tribal system, women didn’t have a chance. But today, things are opening up. I’m lucky: I got help from his royal highness, who is supportive of women,” she said, referring to Prince Talal.

Mansour interviewed women who speak their mind, and women who hide, invisible beneath their garb, fingers tugging nervously at their dark gowns. “I have nothing against marrying a married man,” says one young girl. “I don’t mind being a second wife.”

Mansour said, “Many don’t even realize they are unhappy. They are afraid of showing their feelings, of showing anything. With this movie, we wanted to change the reality for Saudi women because this is a critical and important moment. The times are changing and now there is an opportunity for all women to be more active. If they lose this chance, it would be sad.”

As for the sheik who said there was no Islamic rule ordaining women to veil their faces, he had to recant. “His interview made the Muslims nervous and angry, so they pressured him. It wasn’t so bad for me because of course they hate me but I’m not one of them; he is one of them. He even had to say that I had manipulated him. I didn’t. But he’s a good man and I still like him.”

After reading this, are you sure you would want to miss this documentary? This is an excellent change to try to understand some of the dynamics of Saudi, especially that it exposes such a thorny subject. It is a glimpse into some of the most secret depths of Saudi society and psyche.

I’ll be there at 6. I hope many of you will join me too.

If you are a blogger, please mention this in your blog too so that we spread the word. This is very short notice I know, but together we can ensure that many people attend this rather important showing.


Happy Festive Season!!

Happy Festive Season!!

Happy Festive Season!!, originally uploaded by malyousif.

Christmas is here again, and these are part of the tradition in our household, gingerbread cookies!

These were made, baked and decorated by my daughter Hanan.

We wish you all a very happy festive season, and this time, all three great religions celebrate their own happy occasions almost at the same time: Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid Al-Ad’ha and New Year!

May God bless you all.


Flashmobs, Saudi Style

Not accepting defeat, the extremists became violent, started beating the actors and whoever stood between them and between achieving their goal of destroying the night, including audiences and students.

Gun shots in the air, the security officer decided put an end to this mess and bring back order.
more on SaudiSphere

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what is awaiting Bahrain.

Prepare yourselves.


‘A Bahraini Tale’

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'A Bahraini Tale' film posterI’ve attended the premier of ‘A Bahraini Tale‘ last night at the Seef Mall cinema complex. It is the 3rd film by my friend Bassam Al-Thawadi whose film credits also include the first ever Bahraini film Al-Hajiz (the Barrier) and after a very long hiatus, Al-Za’er (the Visitor).

This event signifies the first production by the newly established Bahrain Film Production Company headed by two of the Bahraini advertising world’s leaders: Akram Miknas (of Promoseven) and Khamis Al-Muqla (of Gulf Saatchi & Saatchi) and knowing those two are behind such a venture, it should succeed, although I must confess that I am confused as to how those two hugely competitive beings actually found it in themselves to form a company in which both would serve on the board of directors! How I wish I was a fly on that wall during one of their meetings… sort of reminds me of the sad demise of Falcon Cinefoto… but that’s just being pessimistic.

Getting back to the film itself; I did enjoy it actually. It’s a nice story, good enough acting, very good cinematography and lighting and I wholeheartedly recommend you go and watch it and buy the DVD if and when it is released.

There are a few things which bothered me about the film; however, and I hope that the guys will take the following as constructive criticism (Warning: Spoiler ahead! if you intend to watch the film, please do not read beyond this point):

There were far too many plots to follow the story coherently; I didn’t know what to concentrate on and what the writer (Fareed Ramadan) wanted to actually impart at times. The underpinnings of the movie is the ubiquitous Arab Nation’s struggle to find a leader to fall behind. The film concentrated on the Jamal Abdulnasser era of the late 60s, and more importantly as far as the movie was concerned is how the Bahraini community interacted with those events. The writer and director, I think, wanted to show the struggles of individual Bahrainis mirrored in the larger Arab world’s and how they – all – as far as the film is concerned, ultimately resulted in failure!

That time period also happen to be just before the independence of Bahrain from British rule, and was typified by various political and labour demonstrations, put all of that into a pot and you would be forgiven to have described Bahrain then as a powder keg. That was touched upon in the film, but the story failed to develop sufficiently to deserve the viewer’s empathy.

The second storyline touches about the interwoven nature of the Bahraini society at that time which had underpinnings of sectarianism, and also due to the Arab/Israeli conflicts, the mistrust and even the blame of the Bahraini Jews at Abdulnasser’s failure. However, again I just don’t get why this has so haphazardly been used. This, I think is a whole story by itself and having a Bahraini Jew struggling with a “do I stay or do I escape” question is just bizarre. The story would have been built and developed in a much more germane fashion had the writer and director concentrated on (or completely ignored) the Shi’i/Sunni split, which, as it happens, was treated too far into the film and without the good and deep treatments which this subject deserves. Both of these factors were distracting and unnecessary.

The other plot of course is family abuse. The father, ably played by Mubarak Khamis, was a low-wage labourer with 4 daughters, one son and two wives, one in Muharraq – where the film was based – and the other (divorced) in Riffa. The father can’t make ends meet so he pours his scorn and anger on his family and has no hesitation to slap and beat and kick his children and wife about.

The director and writer did a good job in making him look like an ogre, but unfortunately only developed his character in a single dimension: cruelty, ignorance, and sectarianism, I would have loved to see him smile or show at least minimal kindness in any situation as that would have paradoxically strengthened the tough and cruel character. However, he wasn’t even shown shedding a single tear nor show remorse even at his daughter’s funeral.

The wife was excellently played by Mariam Ziman; she portrayed the down-trodden, but ambitious wife who connects with and takes pride in Arab world’s issues, albeit in a very superficial and naive way. She also portrays how a wife in such a situation acts as a shield between the abusive father and their children, even providing succour to his children from another marriage, thus inculcating the stereotype of the “good mother” against all odds, but ultimately tastes disappointment not only in her own situation, but that of the Arab nation as well with the defeat of the ’67 war.

In between all the shouting and beatings, we were treated with the sadness that arranged marriages might bring, and the longing of forbidden love. In this case, it ultimately led to a suicide as a sacrifice to true love, which – unfortunately – was rather farcically portrayed: an unloved wife (the eldest daughter played by Fatima Abdulrahim) forced into marrying her first cousin whom she despises pours an unending stream of kerosene on her body from a single one liter bottle in front of an abusive and pleasantly smoking husband, strikes a match, looks directly into the husband’s eyes, drops the match and an inferno ensues while the husband continues to hold the unfinished cigarette in hand and continues to stare with gaping mouth at the human torch in front of him!

I have no idea where the person who put out the fire came from, but it wasn’t the husband!

There were also very weird things in the movie which had no connection with anything at all; what’s the story with that “crazy” guy walking around continuously saying “Allah, Al-watan, Gulf Air” (God, the Nation, Gulf Air – the local airline company)? I’m not sure if he was put there as comic relief, I found him annoying and again does not contribute anything to the storyline.

In conclusion about my opinion regarding the story itself, I would have liked the script to have developed the characters much more and concentrated on a fewer plots and would have loved to be presented with a twist, this would have incalculably added to the drama – even if it was based on a true story. That would have been much more enjoyable to me.

The film was too long – 96 minutes. It should have been at least 25% shorter, but that’s due to the (please forgive me Bassam!) crappy editing and the loose and lazy way it was done.

Technically, I loved the cinematography and lighting, both were superb which worked extremely hard at setting the theme, the atmosphere and mood of the shots. However, when it came to put these shots together there were far too many frames at their heads and the tails, which makes me think that the editor (sorry Osama!) was far too much in love with the material, rather than with getting his job done in making the film flow. That, I think and the really bad quality of the sound ruined the film for me more than anything else.

I would have happily put up with the script’s deficiencies, but having those jump-cuts, those weird sound jumps – full middle, to full left speakers or the opposite rather than making those too flow naturally with the lens movement, the obviously wrong levels of audio between and sometimes within the shots – were extremely irritating.

Why would anyone just hang for a few seconds at the start of a shot before some action happens? And why were we subjected to even unnecessary footage which did nothing to develop the story? Did we really need to see someone putting on his slippers? Taking off or putting on their thobes and the like? If those extraneous scenes were cut, the production company would have saved the price of 25% of the footage with all of its attendant costs too. Even more important, it would have made the film much more enjoyable.

But enough negativity. It was an excellent attempt at film making, and Bassam Al-Thawadi as well as the whole crew should be lauded for their efforts. It is, after all, only the third such film that the director undertakes, and I think probably the fourth or fifth film overall which was done by Bahraini talent in Bahrain, we still have a long time ahead of us to actually arrive at a space where our film industry would compete with the likes of Bolly- and Hollywood, or even Egypt or Syria. Directors like Bassam should be wholeheartedly embraced and given every chance to excel.

To put things into perspective as far as budgets are concerned, this film by world standards would be classified as “micro” as its budget was just one million dollars, but the effort overall was quite good.

Well done to all involved for this movie and I look forward to many more Bahraini productions in the very near future.

My rating? I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars.


Goodbye Abbas

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Bahraini artist Abbas Saeed Al-Mahroos who passed away on 2 August 20062006 doesn’t seem to want to become a good year for us on a personal as well as global level. Yesterday, we bid good bye to another of Bahrain’s great artists: Mr. Abbas Al-Mahroos, who was one of my father’s life-long friends. I remember Abbas coming to our house and sitting with dad, sketching and painting with him, talking, laughing and going on art field trips together. Abbas was also the loyal friend who always asked about my father’s health and continued to visit him until illness unfortunately caught up with him too.

Abbas was one of the founding members of the Bahrain Contemporary Art Society. But probably the most impact he has left in his memory is his diligent work at the Ministry of Education where he was responsible for the Art curriculum where he designed and oversaw it right from the start. At his hands, generations of young artists got their first touch of the love of art. They will surely remember him with love, as I will.

God’s peace now Abbas, you too have suffered from a long and debilitating illness, rest now and be sure that your memory will flourish and not be forgotten.

My deepest condolences to Khalid, Abbas’ eldest son, and his family for this very sad loss.


Nasser Al-Yousif

Nasser Al-Yousif

Nasser Al-Yousif, originally uploaded by malyousif.

My father passed away this morning after a long illness. He leaves behind a family with rich memories of a good father, an excellent friend, and a world-class artist. Through him, his sons Mahmood, Jamal, Kamal and Hani, as well as his daughters Abeer and Maha, and his loving wife Badriya totally indebted to him for the vision, the tolerance and the humanity he inculcated in each and every one of us.

We shall remember you for ever my father. You were a giant.

Rest in peace now, for you have also suffered enough.

Good bye.

We are accepting condolences at the Ma’atem Al-Ihsa’iyeen in Manama until Sunday evening 18 June, 2006.

Nasser Sayed Mohammed Al-Yousif, 1939 – 16 June 2006


Vlog #23: A glimpse of Iraqi art

Visiting art galleries is mostly a good (and new) experience for me and last night’s visit to Albareh Gallery to view the creations of Ahmed Al-Bahrani did not disappoint. It was the last night for the exhibition, so it was pretty fortunate that I actually took the brief time to visit, just before joining my fellow bloggers for our 17th bloggers’ gathering.

Mr. Al-Bahrani’s work is amazing, and very painstaking to say the least, with great attention to detail as you will see from the following vlog, with excellent technical discipline and more importantly truck-loads of creativity.

I envy whoever buys any piece from his exhibit; they will treasure it for life and get a lot of enjoyment just for looking at it once in a while, regardless of whatever brainfarts the grand mufti explodes out of his blessed mouth.