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Why 56? Why?

Why 56? Why?

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To anyone who has spent even a little time in Bahrain recently, they would probably be familiar with, or have been taken to the now pretty famous closed shop in the old Manama souq to stand against it and take some pictures.

The abandoned shop’s door was taken over by Bahraini artist Ahmed Anan as an art installation. In the artist’s mind, he was asking the question “why” the shop was closed? The artist artfully depicts various characters tying to get the open the closed and shuttered shop; from one scaling the door to the air conditioning opening, to another trying to unlock the padlock.

This shop has become a landmark in the souq and many people make a point to try to find it to enjoy its art and take some pictures.

If you haven’t seen it, this is what it looks like:

I fell in love with the work the moment I stumbled across it a few of years ago. I had since taken many of my friends and visitors to that door to enjoy and take some pictures with it as a background.

I only recently discovered that the artist who painted it was Mr Ahmed Anan. However, I never had the pleasure of meeting him.

Mahmood Al-Yousif (l) and Ahmed Anan (r)
Artist Ahmed Anan who painted “Why 56” with me at my photography exhibition at Mashq Art Space on 15.4.’18

Lo and behold, he gets introduce to me at my photography exhibition at Mashq Art Space while he was admiring my picture of his door which is placed in the centre of my installation! That was such a nice surprise.

I wanted to know more about his work and asked him a few questions. I soon got immersed in his story and wanted to archive it for posterity. So I quickly whipped out my iPhone to video the interview. And here it is, enjoy:

You can buy my limited edition print of “Why 56” from artprints.me. Click here to get a framed and signed limited edition high quality art print.

 

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Scratching head and wondering if that is Art.

Scratching head and wondering if that is Art.

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Help. I’m confused. Is this really art?

This is an honest question. I have no answer other than being left wondering what is art in general, and if this “work” and others like it actually lowers the bar of what should be regarded as art.

To me, it a badly shot and edited video that would not have gain more than a few views on YouTube, yet, a whole section of Alrewaq – a well known and respected gallery – has been dedicated to it. The other parts of this “installation” is a few architectural and simple drawings of the steps in addition to a few photographs. Nothing that would draw people’s attention in a normal sense.

So what is it that classified this “work” as one of art?

Someone please educate me.

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Filming in Bahrain, dodging the hostility of permissions

Filming in Bahrain, dodging the hostility of permissions

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Filming in Bahrain is not always fun. Almost every time we go to film in cultural or a historic venue we get shooed off by a security guard or some other functionary with a perfunctory warning to go get permission first. We get faced with this especially when shooting cultural spots like the Bahrain Fort and the like. No one offered us an explanation why such permission was required and in most cases they wouldn’t know where or whom to apply to gain it.

The question is, why is permission needed in the first place. What is the cultural authorities afraid of? What will clips of a fort or other such structure threaten?

I know this is very tiresome and believe that the process is completely unnecessary. My view is that the government should welcome filmmakers – amateur or professional – to shoot to their heart’s content. What their footage will do is promote Bahrain’s culture and history and be a good pull for possibly the right kind of tourists. What they’re doing to us now with this requirement is at the very least delay our projects until such permission is procured.

For Bahrain’s sake we need less red tape, not more. So please, remove the restrictions on filming in the country, or at the very least in all cultural and historic locations. All we want to do is show the country, its history, culture and people in the best possible light through making films worth watching.

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Diving in Bahrain – Final PADI Open Water Diver Certification

Diving in Bahrain – Final PADI Open Water Diver Certification

What a difference a day makes…

On the first open water dive, we could hardly see beyond a meter or two. Just two days after that, the wind had dropped, the swells dissipated and the underwater visibility improved dramatically. This is diving in Bahrain, I’m told. Have a watch of this video to see what I mean.

We started the day earlier as we intended to perform three full dives in order to finish all the prerequisites of the PADI Open Water Diver certification. With the sea being a lot calmer, we also managed to get to our dive site much quicker. We anchored at a different location in the Fasht Alathum reef and proceeded with the required exercises during the first two dives of the day.

I did notice a change in me this time as I was much calmer and the fear I experienced previously had receded another couple of notches at least. I guess familiarity, the knowledge that I am more in control through the experience gained and the presence of experts around me increased my sense of safety. That led me to concentrate more on the technical aspects of the dive and on finding my buoyancy point. Though I am not very satisfied with my buoyancy yet, I understood that it takes divers twenty or more dives to find that magical point. Buoyancy is so critical to the enjoyment of a dive as it allows the diver to effortlessly glide through the water, stop and hover to enjoy the scenery and marine life and virtually become weightless. If you had watched the video above, you will have noticed how calm and effortlessly buoyant both Alex and Ant were. I aspire to be like them one day and I don’t mind putting in the work to achieve that.

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the exercises I did underwater under the expert leadership of Alexandra Pawson – though I must confess that fully flooding the mask and clearing it only to remove and replace it again weren’t very pleasant experiences. My eyes were smarting for quite a bit.

We achieved three full dives on that day; two were for all the remaining course exercises but the third was left to me to plan and execute from declaring the objective of the dive, pre-dive briefing all the way to returning onboard. I declared that dive for the sole purpose of enjoying the marine life and take some videos of the experience. I had taken with me the GoPro Hero 4 Black camera which succeeded in pleasantly surprising me with its video quality even at normal 1080p HD underwater. That third dive was at yet another location of the Fasht Alathum reef. Our dive master Ant found it earlier and guided us back there for the dive. This site which had richer coral presence and many more fish to see and enjoy. We even came across a baby prawn which proceeded to lodge itself into one of the coral crevices as we swam past it.

I was really happy to have witnessed the beauty of one of Bahrain’s reefs and its teaming life. Although I understand that what I had seen is a very much depressed version of what it had once been, the life returning to the area should encourage us to protect our seas and all life within it.

The sea evidently has the capacity for forgiveness, but it does take a long time to forget and restart its journey to splendour once again. I look forward to diving in an Arabian Gulf that is as beautiful as that I’ve seen around the Maldives and other spectacular dive spots around the world. This beauty rightly has a price; the environment must be protected not just by governments, but everyone who comes in contact with it. Ultimately, it is our own responsibility, each and every one of us, to ensure that the environment not just survives, but flourishes.

Some initiatives are easy to adopt: using reusable bags for our shopping is one of the easiest and possibly more effective environmental change that people can immediately adopt. It’s high time that plastic bags in particular be banned. Not littering is another. The amount of rubbish we came across – from a dead sheep carcass to soda cans and plastic containers just floating on the surface were mind boggling and very hurtful. This situation can so easily corrected. Common sense is required, really, and respect for what we have been entrusted with to leave for future generations in as good as or better state than we have received it. We need to own our own experience to achieve this.

To say that this diving experience was inspiring and wonderful would be an understatement. I now believe what Alex told us when we started in the pool on the first day of training, once done, we’ll be asking ourselves why we waited this long to start exploring the underwater world. My answer to that is to follow the Chinese adage which asks when it would be the best time to plant a tree. The answer is twenty years ago. The next question is when is the second best time to do so, which is of course right now.

I’d like to thank my diving instructor Alexandra Pawson for her patience, passion and quiet but determined demeanour in sharing her knowledge and experience, and knowing when to push to get us to believe in our own abilities. Thanks also go to the Environment Arabia and EcoArabia team for organising this course and providing enthusiasts the professional and safe environment to start the journey to explore the underwater world. Halel Engineer, Michael Arora, Anthony and Jaffar you are a star team.

Now that I have successfully completed the course and am an officially certified PADI Open Water Diver, I know that a new world of inspiration and wonder awaits. I can’t wait to continue my exploration of this wondrous world.

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MGS S01E12 – The Nursery, take 2

MGS S01E12 – The Nursery, take 2

The first attempt this year at a nursery failed and in this video I tell you why. I also take the opportunity to build on that gained experience and start the 2nd version of the nursery.

Here’s hoping for the best!

Do you have any experiences to share? I’d love to hear from you especially if you’re gardening in Bahrain or the surrounding area. Let’s exchange knowledge (and seeds!)

I look forward to your comments and feedback.

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MGS S01E11 – A Garden and Gardening Update

MGS S01E11 – A Garden and Gardening Update

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This episode is dedicated to my friend Fadi Fallaha who continues to encourage me to continue on with producing these episodes. Thanks Fadi!

So here you go, a quick update on the status of the garden after an absence of a couple of weeks due to work commitments. This update contains a gardening status check of the seedlings, letting more light into the garden by pruning big trees and preparing for spring and beyond with planting hundreds of bulbs.

I hope you enjoy this update. If you do, please subscribe to the channel and share your own experiences by entering a comment here. Many thanks for your time.

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MGS S01E10 – Inviting Birds into your Garden

MGS S01E10 – Inviting Birds into your Garden

There is nothing that brings a garden to life than birds and their chirping and singing and flitting around. We’re blessed to have several varieties who have made our garden their home.

To invite them into your garden doesn’t really take too much effort; at the very least, just provide them with water to drink and bathe in. What we do is provide them with food too. We freeze dates and put some out for them every morning in the winter. During the summer, we just provide some fruit. There are a couple of nesting boxes that the Silverbills use from time to time, but there are plenty of trees and thick bushes that they do use to nest in as well.

Unfortunately though, we have two active cats. George III is the major criminal and he does catch a bird (and generally eats it) occasionally 🙁

Anyway, to celebrate Eid – Eid Mubarak again – here’s this week’s episode about Inviting Birds into your Garden.

What kind of birds do you have visiting yours?

Eid Mubarak.

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Full timelapse video of the patio construction
The Sand and Ice Bucket Challenges

The Sand and Ice Bucket Challenges

You must have heard of the #icebucketchallenge by now, or you had been challenged to do it and got yourself drenched. Other than the feeling of shock that you have experienced – I know I have – you must have also wondered how this particular challenge started and hopefully you went online to find out more about the disease it is helping raise awareness and funds for.

How it started is in contention, apparently; however, CTV News relates this which seams plausible:

For months now, several groups, from athletes to Christian groups have been pouring ice-cold water over themselves and filming it, sometimes simply for fun. The challenge grew in popularity this spring among both pro and amateur golfers, but it wasn’t until former pro golfer Greg Norman challenged NBC anchor Matt Lauer to the challenge that it hit the mainstream.

Back then, the idea was to either take the bucket of cold water on your head or donate $100 to a charity of your choice. A minor-league golfer in Florida named Chris Kennedy may have been the first to dedicate his ice bucket challenge to ALS research, but ALS Canada says it was really Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player who has ALS himself, who really got the challenge going back on July 29.

Since that date, millions of videos of ice bucket challenges have been uploaded to Facebook and Twitter in the last month, growing exponentially in popularity in recent weeks, and creating what many could argue has been one of the most viral fundraising campaigns in years.

Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page which has more information too.

I did my part and got drenched in ice cold water this afternoon. Yes it’s still sweltering in Bahrain, but the shock of having that ice-cold water is still something!


Mahmood does the #icebucketchallenge
Quite refreshing. I hope that I’ve contributed a bit to the disease’s awareness through this, and raised more money for the research into its hopeful cure.

Some people though, must divert even a good thing by politicising it. Over the past few weeks, we started to see “Sand Bucket Challenge” which hopes through its participants to raise awareness of the situation in Gaza. Like this one:

I don’t have any issue with people raising awareness of the terrible situation in Palestine in general and Gaza in particular, but what possible reason is there to denigrate people who championed medical research by trying to raise funds for ALS research? I feel sick watching these Sand Bucket Challenges. To me, this is just taking the very Palestinian cause and hijacking it by trying to force people into shame for their good actions. “How can you live while children in Gaza die?”, “How can you smile while people in Gaza are destitute?” and all the other similar messages.

I abhor what has happened in Gaza. I don’t think for a minute it was called for and it is as far away from fairness as can be. There is no question in my mind about that. But trying to constantly guilt trip people isn’t that great for your cause either. People have to live and life has to go on. There is no reason whatsoever not to be creative enough to start one’s own viral campaign if they can. In fact, a viral campaign for Palestine and Gaza has been successful and is still going on in various cities around the world. Please don’t destroy the good will those campaigns created with such a narrow-minded stunt like this.

I do not agree with the premise of this Sand Bucket politics and its emotional hijacking.

Now go pour some ice-cold water over yourself and donate to ALS research.

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MGS S01E02 – The Seeds Selection

MGS S01E02 – The Seeds Selection

Welcome to the second episode of the Mahmood’s Garden Show. In this episode, I discuss probably every gardener’s passion for collecting seeds and plants in general and share with you some of my horde. I also ask for your opinions to help me design my flower beds this season. Feel free to respond to topics here. Thanks.

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