Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

April 2006
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Arts & Crafts

UK Artists Paint Peace in Middle East
By Indlieb Farazi

In a time of violence and the uncertainty of war in the Middle East, two British artists brought their imagery of peace to the region.

Juxtaposing modern British street art with ancient Islamic creativity, graffiti artist Mohammed Ali and photographer Peter Sanders chose the United Arab Emirates for their show “Salam,” last month. “Salam” is the Arabic word for peace. It is the first time Ali, 27, from Birmingham has exhibited outside the UK. “Dubai seemed like the perfect venue because of its strange urban mix,” says Ali. The urban Islamic artist collaborated with Sanders, also a Muslim, to show their work in the hi-tech environment of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Ali’s colourful words of peace, love and knowledge - the core teachings of the Islamic faith - and Sanders’ classical photographs, capture contrasting angles of the Muslim world. “In the hustle and bustle of city life, people need to take time out for religion, for deen. The two are not in opposition, but can fit quite comfortably together,” says Ali.

Ali believes his exhibited artwork is a response to the recent negative portrayal of Muslims in the media. “I am trying to show the other side. We have to remember what Islam is about. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has been vilified, but we have to remember he was a Prophet of love,” he said. But why choose graffiti art to push forward the renaissance of Islamic art? “I use a modern-day spray can, to display words that came down 1400 years ago to glorify God,” he says.

Sanders, on the other hand, captures the diversity of Islamic societies through his camera lens. “There is a saying by an African Shaikh. He said, “the river is crystal clear … it reflects the colours of the river bed”. That is how I see Islam - in Africa, Islam is African, in Britain, it is British and in China, it is Chinese. Islam is fluid and adopts the culture of the country,” he said. Sanders started his career photographing rock bands, including the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. In 1971, when Sanders was 25, he embraced Islam. “My heroes now are people who spend their time devoted to prayer,” he says. Sanders has travelled around the world photographing children attending prayer classes in China, Turkey’s magnificent mosques, Bedouins in Arabia and forgotten African realms.


First Saudi Feature Film

The film is a social comedy-drama depicting the Saudi lifestyle as it is in reality.

Kaif Al-Haal (How are you?), the first big budget Saudi film will be released this summer. The film has been produced by Prince Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz’s Rotana Audio Visual. But it will not be shown in Saudi Arabia which does not have cinema theatres.

Contrary to some critics, the feature film is not only sponsored by a Saudi, but is also produced by Saudis. Three out of five of the production line staffers are Saudi nationals along with Saudi actors and one female Saudi actress, said Monsour, the assistant director.

The film is a social comedy-drama depicting the Saudi lifestyle as it is in reality, contrary to any misconception of Saudi society. The film focuses on social issues affecting young people in Saudi. “We are proud to support the production of the first feature length Saudi film with a Saudi cast,” said Prince Al-Waleed.

Due to the lack of cinema theaters in the country the film will be screened in neighbouring Gulf countries and eager Saudi nationals will have to flock to Bahrain and Dubai to watch the first Saudi feature film. However, those who are not able to travel will have to wait for six months after the movie is released in cinema theatres to watch it on DVD.

While Kaif Al Haal is the first big-budget Saudi movie, most Saudi filmmakers have focused on documentaries capturing Saudi culture, its people and society through a Saudi perspective.

Although a couple of Saudi films have emerged on the international stage, but they were short documentaries lasting from three to 45 minutes.

These few Saudi film makers are faced with many obstacles ranging from social ignorance to the lack of funding, logistical problems, lack of professional technicians, editors and the lack of female Saudi actresses. However, they have overcome many of these obstacles.