At least 32 people were killed and 53 wounded when an explosion hit a Shiite mosque in the Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, a doctor told AFP.
“Thirty-two bodies and 53 wounded people have been brought to our hospital so far,” the medic in the southern city’s central hospital said.
The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, a Taleban official said.
“Our initial information shows it was a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside the mosque,” a local Taleban official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding an investigation had been launched.— AFP
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British soul diva Adele on Friday released comeback single “Easy On Me”, in which she shares with the world details of the traumatic six years she has endured since last releasing a record.
In that period, the 33-year-old megastar said she suffered a “year of anxiety” in which her marriage fell apart. While her voice has lost none of its power, the new single’s lyrics reveal a deeper vulnerability, with every chorus opening with the soaring refrain “go easy on me, baby” sung over a simple piano riff.
The multi-million selling singer has not been forgotten, despite her years out of the limelight, with fans racking up more than 18 million views of the song on her official YouTube page in the 10 hours since it was released.
Her much-anticipated new album “30” will be put out on November 19, the “Hello” singer announced on Wednesday.
Recording began three years ago, she wrote on Twitter, at a time when her life was “a maze of absolute mess and inner turmoil”. – AFP
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KUWAIT: The Kuwaiti Cabinet has instructed its Public Services Committee to urgently remove all obstacles impeding the execution of Sulaibikhat and Jahra coastline development projects. The decision was taken Wednesday at a meeting chaired by His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
At the advent of meeting, head of Kuwait Municipality Ahmad Al-Manfouhi briefed the Cabinet about masterplans of the 38-kilometer-long Sulaibikhat coastline project and the 7.3-kilometer-long Jahra Corniche project, said Foreign Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Dr Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah in a statement following the Cabinet’s meeting. According to Manfouhi’s presentation, Sulaibikhat project comprises a sports area and creativity center.
The Jahra project incorporates shopping centers, entertainment and sports facilities, an environment village and a garden, he noted. The Cabinet also reviewed the procedures taken by the national fund for small and medium sized enterprises, in coordination with relevant state agencies, to allocate a plot of land in Al-Subiya city for trucks of the small and medium size businesses. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah met yesterday with the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini during his official visit to the country. The Head of His Highness the Prime Minister’s Diwan Abdulaziz Al-Dakheel, and the Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organization Affairs Abdulaziz Al-Jarallah attended the meeting.
During his meeting with Lazzarini, Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad expressed Kuwait’s appreciation for UNRWA’s efforts by providing educational, health, relief and protection services to more than 5.7 million Palestinian refugees. Meanwhile, Lazzarini valued Kuwait’s firm position in supporting the agency, expressing his deep appreciation and gratitude for the distinguished humanitarian and pioneering role played by Kuwait to stand by the Palestinian refugees and everyone in need.Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah meets the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA in the Near East Philippe Lazzarini.
Kuwait’s National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem also met with the UNRWA Commissioner-General in the Near East and his accompanying delegation. During the encounter, they addressed a host of key issues and subjects pertinent to the humanitarian conditions of Palestinian refugees and how to ease out their woes and facilitate UNRWA activities.
Meanwhile, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) and UNRWA signed a couple of grant agreements in Kuwait yesterday. The grant deals were signed by UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini and KFAED Director-General Marwan Al-Ghanem. Under the agreements, KFAED will provide a grant worth $1.5 million for UNRWA’s health program in Lebanon, targeting continuing health care services for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Ghanem said.
It is also meant to offer health care services and cover hospital treatment expenses for about 2,936 patients in need of medical care, including treatment for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, intensive care, burns and other specialized services, he said. The other grant valued at $20 million aims to support the agency’s program budget for 2021 and 2022, he said, adding that this extraordinary financial support will help the Agency continue to provide vital humanitarian services to Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he added.
The fresh grants are part of Kuwait’s pledge during the Third Ministerial Strategic Dialogue on UNRWA, which was held on October 15, 2020 to support its objectives of protecting Palestinian Refugees and ensuring access to aid. Meanwhile, the UN refugee official voiced thanks and appreciation to the State of Kuwait for this generous donation, saying that this aid extended by an Arab country gives a message that the refugees would not be left alone. He underlined the significance of this support from the Kuwaiti government, through its development arm (KFAED), noting that this timely aid would contribute to providing continued services to Palestinian refugees this and next year. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Minister of Commerce and Industry Dr Abdullah Al-Salman gave orders to suspend Director General of the Public Authority for Manpower Ahmad Al-Mousa for three months, or until the end of investigations concerning his decision to stop issuing or renewing visas for residents over the age of 60 who do not have university degrees, Al-Rai Arabic daily reported yesterday. The government’s Fatwa and Legislation Department annulled the decision on the basis that Mousa was not authorized to issue such an order.
In other news, Deputy Director General of PAM Abdullah Al-Mutoutah said around 59,000 resident workers voluntarily left Kuwait during the coronavirus pandemic. In statements published by Al-Rai yesterday, Mutoutah said it is important to differentiate between the departee and those who could not enter Kuwait.
He said those who left Kuwait voluntarily were 59,000, not including the numbers in shelters who were in violation and were deported by the interior ministry. He said since the start of the pandemic, 95 percent of PAM services became automated. According to statistics from January 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, 666,000 renewal, 146,000 residency and 28,000 permanent cancellation of work permit transactions were processed online.
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KUWAIT: As part of ‘Safe Education’ awareness campaign, National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) visited Al-Wasem Kindergarten to ensure a safe return of students to their schools and a safe educational environment of the highest levels of prevention. The campaign came as a result of collaboration of the ministries of Education, Health, Interior and Information. It aims to raise awareness and encourage students and their families to support the governmental efforts for a safe return to the academic year 2021-2022.
Commenting on the school visit, Yaqoub Al-Baqer, NBK Public Relations Manager, expressed his sincere appreciation to the national efforts in this campaign and ensured that NBK will continue to fulfill its social responsibility and support to the government efforts in this initiative. “It’s a shared responsibility to make sure that resuming pre-pandemic normal is endurable. It requires a strong commitment of students, parents and the entire society to apply the precautionary and health requirements and procedures, from the moment we leave our house until we return,” Baqer noted.
“Today’s visit was important to meet the children and make sure that their safety is a top priority. This campaign aims to provide a safe educational environment of the highest levels of prevention after an absence of almost a-year-and-a-half due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
‘Safe Education’ campaign targets a safe start for the school year, making the school a place to learn and communicate with colleagues safely. It encourages students and teachers to abide by the health protocols put in place. The campaign comes from the keenness of the concerned authorities and sponsors about the health and safety of the students and an embodiment of cooperation, solidarity and coordination between the state ministries to provide a safe educational environment of the highest levels of prevention.
NBK maintains its leading position among the private sector institutions through its commitment to fully support social programs in the areas of healthcare, childcare, social, environmental, sports and education.
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KUWAIT: Firemen battled a blaze at the Khadeejs bint Al-Zubair girls high school in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh yesterday. No injuries were reported and investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fire, Kuwait Fire Force said.
Closed in 2020, desert camping will be allowed this yearTent makers and sellers ready for the upcoming camping season at the tent souq in Alrai near the Friday market. Desert camping is an elaborate affair in Kuwait with families often camping in groups, setting up several tents on a compound including tents for cooking and bathing/showering as well as playgrounds, relaxation and other necessities. – Photos by Fouad Al-Shaikh and Yasser Al-Zayyat
By Nawara Fattahova
The camping season starts in a month’s time, but registrations for setting up camp have not opened yet. In August, the Municipality announced that this year, the camping season will start from Nov 15. After the season was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the announcement led people to start buying camping equipment.
So far, no circular has been issued on the conditions for the new camping season or when registrations will commence. In previous years, campers were required to pay a deposit for a designated spot in the desert and to clean up the camping area, including all trash, equipment and other material when quitting the camping ground.
Municipality inspectors visit camping sites throughout the season, confirming registration permits and ensuring that camps adhere to regulations for safety and waste removal. A few years ago, after noticing the great damage to the desert environment and the negative effects on wildlife caused by camping due to the waste left over by campers, the government decided to organize the season by designating certain areas for camping.
By Nawara Fattahova
A group of young Kuwaiti gamers came together on social media and formed ‘Gamer Snack’ to provide gamers with information and news about new videogames, latest technologies, movies, youth activities and gaming conventions. Gaming has become a medium of entertainment the same way as movies, soap operas and other pastimes. Those interested in videogames can stay updated about everything related to gaming through the various channels of Gamer Snack.Mohammed Al-Mutairi
“We started as amateurs with a blog in 2013 founded by my brother Khaled Al-Mutairi. Later we thought of presenting the experience that we gained during these years to the public. When we started, only English blogs were available in this field,” Gamer Snack co-founder Mohammed Al-Mutairi, a computer engineer and graphics designer, told Kuwait Times.
Soon enough, Gamer Snack started getting popular. “Our team became influencers in GCC countries and the Arab world. Local and even international companies working in the technology sector started contacting us to give us updates on their new products exclusively to review them before they reach the consumers. They also invite us to their events, which we cover for the benefit of the public,” he said.
Gamer Snack gained public trust and a high number of followers on various social media networks. “We started on YouTube, on which we today have over 1.6 million followers. We then spread to other social media including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook. We received a subscriber award from YouTube when we reached 100,000 subscribers, and another when we hit one million followers,” Mutairi said.
Gamer Snack has other accounts on social media on movies and technology. “We present interesting and informative content for the youth. Unfortunately, in Kuwait, exposure is not very wide, and not many people here know about us, although we are popular internationally. The media in some countries in the GCC and the West have interviewed and carried reports about us, but in Kuwait they don’t pay attention to us,” he rued.
“We have organized many videogaming events and competitions. Our team has attended many local and international events and fairs, to which we were invited by the most famous tech and videogame companies. We have done professional coverage of these events that we presented to our followers, who lived the experience as if they attended it,” Mutairi said.
In Kuwait, almost every home has gamers. “We are specialized in all kinds of videogames including PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox. After this space got larger and social media became popular, companies in this field became more diverse in their advertising. We are more professional than other social media influencers, and this is the reason we receive invitations from international companies to cover their events and products. We do the coverage from an Arab perspective to reach our followers in Arabic. Videogames on mobiles are covered on Mobile Snack. This account specializes in mobiles, tablets and laptops and the games on these gadgets,” explained Mutairi.
“The team started with two people – me and my brother. Today there are 10 people working on a daily basis. We have more people working during events. Our team is available for the public anytime. We will answer any question by people related to our content. The content on Gamer Snack is in Arabic presently, but we have a new English Instagram account and are currently working on translating all the videos on our Arabic accounts,” he told Kuwait Times.
“We heard news that soon there will be an official team of gamers formed by the public authorities of youth and sports. This national team will include professionals of various games, similar to those in other countries,” Mutairi revealed. According to him, the cost of producing videogames today can reach the cost of producing movies. “Popular actors are starring in some videogames today. Even the shooting is done with cinema technology and design. Videogame accessories are bestsellers too,” he concluded.
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BEIRUT: Tank deployments and deadly exchanges of fire turned Beirut into a war zone yesterday after a demonstration organized by Shiite parties against the lead investigator into last year’s devastating port blast turned violent. Heavy fire rang out as ambulances rushed the wounded through the deserted streets, a few blocks from the Palace of Justice, where hundreds of black-clad protesters had gathered moments earlier to demand Tarek Bitar’s removal.
The judge has in recent days been in the sights of the Hezbollah and Amal parties in particular for insisting on subpoenaing top officials in his probe into last year’s deadly explosion in Beirut port. According to Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, at least six people were killed, all of them by gunfire. They included a 24-year-old who was hit in the head by a stray bullet while inside her home, a doctor at the Sahel hospital in Beirut’s southern suburbs told AFP.
The Lebanese Red Cross put the number of wounded at 30. AFP correspondents heard several loud bangs in the area, likely from heavy shelling, and saw plumes of black smoke rising from an apparent fire. A limp body lying on a main street was carried away by rescuers as gunfire rained around them, the correspondents said.
Residents cowered in corridors away from windows, as some were shattered by the gunfire. Some scurried outside, running towards ambulances as civil defense volunteers tried to evacuate civilians, including young children. Pictures circulating on social media showed children in a nearby school ducking under desks and gathering on the floor outside classrooms. “I’m with my cousin and my aunt, and we’re hiding in a two-square-metre space between rooms because we are afraid of stray bullets,” said Bissan al-Fakih, who lives a few hundred metres (yards) away from the clashes.
“We’re wondering if we could leave, but we’re not sure if there is a way out”. Another resident said he took shelter in a corridor for two hours before he managed to find a taxi to get him out. “I can’t handle these loud sounds, especially the RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades), its the trauma of the Beirut blast coming back all over again,” said the resident, who gave his name only as Samer.
‘Bursts of gunfire’
The army reported “bursts of gunfire in the area of Tayouneh – Badaro,” a largely residential area of the capital. “The army rushed to cordon off the area and deploy in its neighborhoods and their entrance. Patrols started as did the search for the shooters to detain them,” it said. In a follow-up statement, the army warned it would open fire at anyone firing live rounds, calling on civilians to evacuate the area.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm to be restored and warned against attempts to drag Lebanon into violence. In a statement, Hezbollah and Amal accused “armed and organised groups” of assaulting their supporters. “They were exposed to direct fire from snipers… followed by intense shooting,” they said in a joint statement.
They said the violence was deliberate and aimed to drag the country into violence, while calling on their supporters to remain calm and de-escalate. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV blamed the Lebanese Forces-a Christian party that is staunchly opposed to the Iran-backed group. AFP could not independently verify the claims.
Seen as a last hope for justice by many Lebanese but condemned as biased and corrupt by political leaders, Bitar has sparked deep divisions within the government between those who want to keep him in his place and those who are pushing for him to go. The Court of Cassation yesterday turned down a lawsuit filed by two ex-ministers demanding his replacement, a court official told AFP on the condition of anonymity. “Bitar does not fall under the court’s jurisdiction so it does not have the authority to consider requests for his dismissal,” the official said.
It is the second time this month that the judiciary has ruled in favor of the judge, who is hailed by human rights groups and relatives of blast victims as a symbol of judicial independence in a country where political impunity has long been the norm. The ruling, which goes into effect immediately, would allow Bitar to resume enquiries into the August 4, 2020 explosion which killed more than 200 people and destroyed large swathes of the capital. But the investigator’s fate is all but clear as Hezbollah and Amal press ahead with a campaign aimed at removing him.
Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah on Monday called for an “honest” judge to replace Bitar. Tensions spilled into cabinet with a meeting on Tuesday ending in a row as ministers affiliated with Hezbollah and Amal pressed the government to support their demand to replace Bitar. A follow-up session scheduled for Wednesday was postponed, signaling no agreement has been reached between factions in the cabinet, with some ministers arguing the government should not intervene in judicial matters. – AFP
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration hinted Wednesday it could resort to force if diplomacy fails on Iran’s nuclear program, rallying more closely than ever behind warnings by Zionists. Amid a standstill in negotiations with Iran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced growing frustration as he held three-way talks with the top diplomats of Zionist entity and the United Arab Emirates, US allies that established relations last year amid shared alarm about Tehran.
Blinken renewed Biden’s offer to re-enter a 2015 nuclear agreement, trashed by former president Donald Trump, in which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear activity in return for unfulfilled promises of sanctions relief. “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way,” Blinken told a joint news conference. “But it takes two to engage in diplomacy and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point,” he said.
“We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course,” he warned. He did not elaborate, but Zionist Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, without being contradicted, said of Blinken’s comments: “I think everybody understands – here in Zionist entity and in the Emirates and in Tehran – what it is that we mean.”
Lapid was more explicit, saying that both he and Blinken, as sons of Holocaust survivors, “know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil.” “If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make clear the civilized world won’t allow it,” Lapid said. “Zionist entity reserves the right to act at any given moment in any way. That is not only our right; it is also our responsibility.”
Enrique Mora, the EU envoy in charge of reviving the troubled deal, plans to visit Tehran on Thursday. He tweeted that he will “raise the urgency” of resuming talks. The Biden administration held six rounds of indirect negotiations with Iran, with Mora shuttling between the two sides in Vienna hotels, but talks broke off in June as ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi took over as Iran’s president. “We feel like coming back would still be the best outcome, but we’re realistic,” the US negotiator on Iran, Rob Malley, said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We know that there’s at least a good possibility that Iran is going to choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Zionists and with our other partners in the region,” he said.
After taking part in the talks with Zionists and the UAE, Malley said he would head in the coming days to the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. France, one of three Western powers that remain in the nuclear accord, on Wednesday joined the growing criticism of Iran. “Through its statements and actions, the new administration of President Raisi is sowing doubts on its intention to return” to the deal, a French foreign ministry spokesperson said.
No date by Iran
Iran has said repeatedly that it is ready to resume talks “soon,” but no date has been announced. Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon, which the clerical state argues is religiously forbidden. But Tehran believes it needs to defend itself in a hostile neighborhood, with memories still vivid of the brutal 1980-88 war launched by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with backing from the West.
An attack on Iran is likely to be only a very last resort for Biden, who ended the war in Afghanistan with vows to shift away from military solutions. But Zionist entity has already been engaged in a shadow war with Iran, targeting its military sites in ally Syria and carrying out a sabotage campaign inside Iran against its nuclear program. Zionist entity has also rejoiced at a breakthrough with Arab states, normalizing ties in quick succession last year with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in a signature achievement for Trump and then-Zionist prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In one point of continuity with Trump, Blinken promised to work to “expand the circle of countries” that have ties with Zionist entity. Lapid, a centrist who cobbled together a coalition to oust the veteran right-winger Netanyahu, has kept many of his priorities but promised a more collaborative approach with Washington, mindful of the backlash after Netanyahu openly campaigned against former president Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy. – AFP
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Between the frenzied rush of wardrobe changes and photographers readying for shoots, Iman Eldeeb’s agency is slowly breaking new ground for Egypt’s fashion scene by hiring a diverse line-up of models. Eldeeb forged an international career in European fashion capital Milan, where photographers told her she was “the first Egyptian model they had ever seen”. Seven years later, she returned to Egypt in 2018 and set about shaking up a fashion scene where old stereotypes prevail. In the Arab world’s most populous nation, modeling has long been dominated by “girls from Eastern Europe, with fair complexions,” said Eldeeb.
The 28-year-old said such “obsolete” standards have made it difficult for Egyptian and Arab models to break into the industry. “Beauty cannot be limited by the appearance and shape of a face and so on. I feel this is a misconception of beauty,” Eldeeb told AFP. “Hair color, eye color, all these things were part of a very old understanding of beauty and this is something we are moving away from as much as we can.” According to The Fashion Spot, a website specializing in the industry, “models of colour” accounted for more than 43 percent of those on global catwalks in fall 2021 — making it “the most racially diverse season on record”.Egyptian fashion model Mariam Abdallah poses during a photo session at the studio of UNN Model Management agency in Cairo.
Travelling the world as a model, Eldeeb said she sensed a new trend of more diverse faces and bodies was emerging. Back in Egypt, she and her sister Yousra then founded UNN Model Management-the name meaning “rebirth” in the language of the black Nubian minority. The agency offers a platform for budding talents in Egypt who lack support in the fiercely competitive industry. “The fashion industry is still developing in the Arab world,” said Eldeeb. Today, UNN oversees around 35 contracts with top brands including Louis Vuitton, Adidas and Levi’s, making it a leader on the nascent Egyptian scene.
Mohsen Othman, a freelance photographer also known as Lemosen who works with UNN regularly, praised the agency for its “daring” approach. In the industry in Egypt, “we have creative people but we lack the means, and training remains old-fashioned,” he said. For Sabah Khodir, an Egyptian activist against gender-based violence, UNN is a force for “decolonizing beauty standards” and “deconstructing internalized racism”.
“Being more represented in fashion, on-screen or elsewhere, can save lives. It humanizes you in the eyes of the world,” Khodir said of the situation for under-represented women. Adhar Makuac Abiem, a model from South Sudan, has long endured racial taunts and insults in the unforgiving streets of Egypt’s bustling capital Cairo. When she settled in Egypt as a refugee in 2014, she never imagined she would be hired by a local agency. Often she was told that she was “too black” or “too ugly” to get any work, she said. But since 2019, the 21-year-old has managed to build a career as a model working with UNN.
Egypt is similar to “the West where prejudices persist about dark-skinned” people, said Marie Grace Brown, a University of Kansas researcher who authored a book on women’s fashion in Sudan. But that has not stopped Abiem from trying to “become a positive role model” for young black women in the industry.
‘A form of healing’
Mariam Abdallah, 22, who was busy styling her hair before a photoshoot, said she has been doing more modeling overseas than in Egypt. “We’re not very interested in ‘exotic’ top models,” she told AFP. Beyond battling discrimination in a highly predatory industry, where there have been high profile cases of sexual misconduct, getting parental consent is another challenge in the conservative Muslim country. According to Eldeeb, three-quarters of parents fear images of their model daughters could be “misused” online.
There are also concerns about revealing clothing, as well as working “inappropriate hours” for young women. “Whatever the profession, parents always try to decide for the girls,” she added. The World Bank says that fewer than 20 percent of Egyptian women had a job in 2019. But Eldeeb has managed to secure work visas for some of her models in France, a first for home-grown talent.
Abdallah left Egypt for the first time recently thanks to the contracts she now has with around a dozen agencies in Europe and the United States, giving her a sense of independence and purpose. For the activist Khodir, the emphasis on developing Egyptian talent for global fashion houses is much more than just good business. “It’s a form of healing that we badly need,” she said. – AFP
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Britain’s prestigious annual art fair, Frieze London, reopened on Wednesday, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced it online. Staged in giant tents in Regent’s Park, as well as across the 410-acre (170-hectare) green space, the event showcases both contemporary art and earlier works, including Old Masters. The organizers cancelled the physical event last year because of the challenges thrown up by the pandemic, instead creating a platform for commercial galleries to show art online. This year, with the art market returning to physical shows, more than 150 galleries are involved, but visitors have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
“Everyone is just so excited and happy,” said Nathan Clements-Gillespie, artistic director at Frieze Masters. “It’s been nice seeing all these friendly faces, seeing the exhibitors back in the tent. “Everything about the last few years has been challenging,” he added, noting that enthusiasts had adapted “but equally people want to see and experience art in person”.Visitors look at artwork entitled Ru k’ ox k’ob’el jun ojer etemab’el (The Echo of An Ancient Form of Knowledge) by Guatemalan artist Edgar Calel during the Frieze Art Fair.
At Frieze Masters, the dapper, east London-based artists Gilbert & George posed in front of one of their prints. The besuited duo put themselves centre-stage in photographic works exploring the sometimes seamy sides of British life, often set in London’s East End. The Thaddaeus Ropac gallery, which has branches in London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul, is showing their works as part of a project recreating a groundbreaking 1982 show, which also includes photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.
“We hadn’t seen this picture for maybe 40 years,” said George, dressed in a rust-coloured suit with a yellow buttonhole, admiring a print called “Street Meet”. It features a heroic young male figure against the backdrop of the central Spitalfields Market. “We think it looks quite modern”, added Gilbert, wearing a green tweed suit. Despite the pandemic, the artists, who are both in their 70s, have been busy creating new work and staging solo shows around the world.
“We feel always guilty because there’s all this horrific bereavement all over the world, and during the same period we did London, Paris, New York, Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin,” said George. They are also building a gallery to show their art on London’s Brick Lane. “Full steam ahead. It’s going to be finished in February, I think,” said Gilbert. – AFP
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A partially shredded canvas of one of British artist Banksy’s most celebrated works is expected to sell for millions when it goes under the hammer yesterday. The artwork-now called “Love is in the Bin-will be offered by London auction house Sotheby’s at its contemporary arts sale. The work, formerly called “Girl With Balloon”, has an estimated selling price of £4-6 million ($6-8 million, 5-7 million euros). The original canvas sold for nearly £1.1 million at the same location in October 2018 when it dramatically passed through a shredder hidden in its frame moments after bidding ended.
The stunt, which poked fun at the staid world of fine art, is typical of the graffiti artist’s irreverent style after his work began appearing on the streets of Bristol in southwest England in the 1980s. It was the latest in a long history of unpredictable moves for the provocative guerilla artist, whose work has appeared across Britain and around the world. The partially shredded canvas shows a small child reaching up toward a heart-shaped red balloon. The original, which first appeared on a wall in east London, has been reproduced endlessly in prints and online, and appropriated by some of the world’s best-known brands.
It had been called one of the most significant artworks of the early 21st century in the British press, before the shredded version was granted a new certificate and date by Pest Control, Banksy’s authentication body, and given the new title. Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s contemporary art chairman, said Banksy’s stunt at its last sale “did not so much destroy an artwork by shredding it, but instead created one”.
“Today, this piece is considered heir to a venerated legacy of anti-establishment art,” he added, calling it “the ultimate Banksy artwork and a true icon of recent art history”. His latest works have appeared recently in several British seaside towns. Meanwhile in March, a work honoring caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic fetched a record £14.4 million at auction, which was donated to the state-run National Health Service (NHS).-AFP
It is not available in China but Netflix’s global sensation Squid Game has already built up a huge following in the country, with fans dodging strict internet controls to stream the show and snapping up merchandise such as its unique outfits. The dystopian South Korean thriller has become the most popular Netflix series launch ever, the streaming giant said Tuesday, but it is unlikely to pass China’s censors because of its brutally violent content.
Yet it is already a hit in cities such as Shanghai, where a crowd formed Tuesday at an eatery selling dalgona-the crisp sugar candy featured in one episode-with customers gathering at its Squid Game-themed sign to take photos. “People were sending jokes related to the show in group chats when I started watching,” a customer surnamed Li told AFP. “It’s rather fast-paced and therefore, quite thrilling,” the video producer said of the series.Customers waiting at a small shop for dalgonas, a crisp sugar candy featured in the Netflix series Squid Game, in Shanghai.
After buying the candy, Li and his friend filmed their attempt at a challenge from the show, where contestants try to cut shapes from the snack without cracking it. Squid Game features a group of society’s most marginalized and indebted people who are forced to compete in a series of children’s games until all participants are dead except one. The “winner” gets $38 million. As the show became an international hit, China’s ever-nimble manufacturers raced to tap into demand, with products-including the bright pink uniforms and eerie masks worn by anonymous guards-popping up across the giant online shopping platform Taobao.
Vendor Peng Xiuyang told AFP his sales had spiked by around 30 percent thanks to demand for Squid Game merchandise. He had never heard of the show when a customer asked last month if he sold the masks-a plain black full-faced covering printed with squares, triangles or circles. But now vendors like him and plastics manufacturers in the eastern hub of Yiwu are all rushing to meet demand-from both domestic and international buyers. “Our customers are those who have seen the series and want to join in the trend,” he added. With Halloween coming up, the spine-chilling masks have become his most sought-after product.
The lack of official availability has not stopped Chinese audiences from finding ways to watch the show-including easily available unofficial streaming sites or file-sharing. The piracy problem is so widespread that South Korea’s ambassador to China, Jang Ha-sung, recently told a parliamentary audit that he had asked Chinese authorities to take action. “Our assessment is that Squid Game, which is gaining global popularity, is being illegally distributed on around 60 sites in China,” Jang said, testifying remotely from Beijing.
As fascination with the show swirls among China’s tech-savvy youth, the hashtag “Squid Game” got nearly two billion views on social media, and related topics have been trending for weeks. Users discussed how they would pass the challenges featured in the show, and wondered what a Chinese version of Squid Game would be like. But one user said: “It’s not like it would pass censors if we made such a show ourselves… if it were too violent, it would just get taken down.” For now, fans just want to have fun. A customer in Shanghai surnamed Yang said: “I’ve seen (the snack) being sold online, but it’s my first time finding it in real life.” – AFP
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The much-anticipated new album from Adele, her first in six years, will be released on November 19, the British singer announced on Wednesday. The recording of “30” began three years ago, she wrote on Twitter, at a time when her life was “a maze of absolute mess and inner turmoil”.
Given that Adele has sold millions of albums around the world and won a slew of awards, including an Oscar and 15 Grammys, the release is arguably the most anticipated of the year. She broke a five-year silence with an interview for Vogue, published last week, that spoke of her “year of anxiety” and living like a recluse.
It began with two cancelled shows at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2017 due to problems with her voice, and led to her retreating completely from the public glare. It was also during this time that her marriage fell apart. “I’ve learned a lot of blistering home truths about myself along the way. I’ve shed many layers but also wrapped myself in new ones,” she wrote in the Twitter post.
“I’ve finally found my feeling again. I’d go as far as to say that I’ve never felt more peaceful in my life. “And so I’m finally ready to put this album out.” Adele’s last album, “25”, outsold every other entertainment product in Britain in 2015, including video games and blockbuster movies. – AFP
The Beatles are back this autumn with a new book, reworked final album and much-anticipated documentary that sheds new light on their fraught final days. “Let It Be”, released in 1970, has long been considered the legendary group’s breakup album. That is partly because it was the last album they released, and also because it was followed by a making-of documentary that showed deep tensions among the fab four. However it’s not that simple: “Let It Be” was actually recorded before 1969’s “Abbey Road” but sat on the shelf for a year because the band weren’t satisfied with it.
In fact, Paul McCartney was never satisfied, having been left out of the mixing sessions by fabled producer Phil Spector. A new remix of the album by Giles Martin-son of The Beatles’ usual producer George Martin-aims to bring it closer to the band’s wishes. But speaking to NME this week, Giles Martin admitted that “Paul’s main issue with what happened is that he normally had a lot of input into the arrangements, and he didn’t with Spector.”This file photo taken on July 4, 1964 shows (from left) Brian Epstein, English band The Beatles Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison speaking during the premiere of “Hard day’s night” in London.
‘Ups and downs’
More important to the band’s history may be the new documentary “The Beatles: Get Back” coming next month from “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson. He went through the many hours of outtakes from the original film to show a much more upbeat side of the “Let It Be” sessions. Ringo Starr is a fan.
“We had ups and downs, but even around all that-which you’ll see with the Peter Jackson edit-we were having fun, which (the original documentary) never showed, joy and fooling around and shouting at each other. It’s what four guys do,” Starr told Ultimate Classic Rock. Roger Stormo, editor of The Daily Beatle, said there were definite tensions, with George Harrison storming out for several days because he felt sidelined by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. “But they were having fun at the same time as being angry,” he told AFP.
“Because of the well-publicized argument between George and Paul in the original movie, people have interpreted the mood of the period as being a downer, but I never saw it that way. “They were having fun, especially at the rooftop concert.” That was the famous moment when the band gave an impromptu gig on the roof of their headquarters in central London-which ultimately proved to be their final performance. Conversations from the documentary have also been reproduced for a glossy new book.
Rock historian Michka Assayas said it should put the nail in the coffin of the idea that the group was falling apart at the time of “Let It Be”. “I was the first to believe in all sorts of myths like ‘Paul and John hated each other, didn’t speak much’. But what we see from the conversations is that they were extremely close… things were working well in early 1969,” Assayas told AFP. “Every band has arguments in the studio. It was just shocking (when the original film came out) because no one had seen them argue before,” he added.
It may also be time to re-evaluate who was responsible for the split, often pinned on McCartney since it was his announcement that finalized things in April 1970. But Stormo says John had effectively sounded the death knell the previous September. Paul was often the most demanding, and openly critical of Harrison’s songwriting.
But he was also the workhorse of the group, and the one who played on Harrison’s songs while Lennon largely sat them out. “If Paul hadn’t been in the band, we’d probably have made two albums because we were lazy buggers,” Starr told the BBC recently. “But Paul’s a workaholic. John and I would be sitting in the garden taking in the color green from the tree, and the phone would ring, and we would know: ‘Hey lads, you want to come in? Let’s go in the studio!'” – AFP
DUBAI: Virat Kohli will be looking for a fairytale ending to his leadership of India’s Twenty20 team as he chases an elusive first major title at the World Cup. The 32-year-old Kohli will step down as T20 skipper after the 16-nation tournament in the United Arab Emirates and Oman that starts on Sunday.
The prolific run-scorer has also quit as captain of Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bangalore and many have welcomed his decision to concentrate more on his batting. Kohli had been at the center of growing speculation in recent months as the wait for success grew.
Former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan said Kohli can go into the World Cup, that will start for them against Pakistan on October 24, with no pressure and that will be good for the team. “I think he will enjoy his cricket more now after taking this decision,” Pathan, who played a key role in India’s inaugural T20 World Cup triumph in 2007, told AFP. “India will do well with the side, the confidence and the experience they have.”
Kohli became captain across all formats after M.S. Dhoni relinquished his limited-overs leadership in 2017. But India have not won a World Cup or Champions Trophy since. Kohli will still have Dhoni by his side as the former captain, who led India to the T20 title in 2007 and the 50-over crown in 2011, is the team mentor for the tournament. Kohli was closing in on his India debut when Dhoni’s team created history by winning the first world T20 title in Johannesburg.
Competitive World Cup
The triumph triggered a T20 boom across South Asia and led to the birth of the IPL in 2008. After making his ODI debut in 2008, Kohli soon created his own brand of cricket but has faced pressure over his failure to win a global title. India, the hosts and led by Dhoni, lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners West Indies despite an unbeaten 89 by Kohli in 2016. India also bowed out in the final four three years later, under Kohli, in the ODI World Cup.
India remain one of the favorites to lift the T20 trophy in Dubai on November 14 alongside holders West Indies and Eoin Morgan’s England. Pitched against old rivals Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan and two other qualifying teams in Group B, India are hoping for a smooth path to the semi-finals. “I will always want India to win, but West Indies will be one of the favorites,” added Pathan. “England and Australia all have good attacks and you can never count out Pakistan. It will be a very, very competitive World Cup.”
All 15 Indian squad members, and three standby players, have been in the UAE for over a month with their IPL teams getting used to the pitches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Swashbuckling opener Rohit Sharma is widely tipped to be Kohli’s successor as T20 captain and will also be key to the team’s chances. The in-form K.L. Rahul and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant complete the top order batting spearhead while Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah will lead the pace attack. – AFP
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KARACHI: Shahid Afridi, the box office trailblazer of Pakistan white ball cricket, believes his “unpredictable” nation can summon the spirit of 2009 and win a second T20 World Cup. Afridi was man of the match in a nail-biting seven-run semi-final win over South Africa in the tournament 12 years ago where he made 51. He then starred again in the eight-wicket rout of Sri Lanka in the final at Lord’s where he smashed an undefeated 54.
Pakistan’s victory came just three months after the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore, an incident which sparked a shutdown of international cricket in the country. “We had that issue of the Sri Lanka attacks on our minds,” Afridi told AFP. “The whole nation was disappointed and frustrated so that win was very much needed. The win gave the whole nation happiness and some unforgettable moments.”
Afridi famously stormed onto the scene in 1996 when he broke the record for the fastest century in ODI cricket, reaching his hundred from 37 balls. It was a record which stood until 2014. Afridi, who played 99 T20 Internationals for Pakistan, thinks recent setbacks can again inspire Babar Azam’s team in the 2021 T20 showpiece.
A month before the mega-event, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned, apparently believing new board chairman Ramiz Raja would sack them anyway. Then New Zealand abandoned their tour of the country just minutes before the first ODI in Rawalpindi.
Three days later, England also withdrew its men’s and women’s teams from visiting Pakistan. “This is Pakistan cricket for you, never ever a dull day,” added Afridi ruefully. “Pakistan can surprise any team in the world. Rule them out at your peril.” In his 22-year international career, Afridi was at the heart of Pakistan’s “topsy-turvy” ride in limited overs cricket.
Heartbreak and drama
Afridi anchored Pakistan’s run to the final in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, taking 12 wickets which earned him the player of the tournament award. Pakistan, however, lost twice against arch-rivals India — including the final. “Pakistan gave the best entertainment in the first T20 World Cup,” insists Afridi. “We lost to India in the group match after a bowl-out, which was something very new for us.”
Pakistan then lost the final with Misbah-ul-Haq falling to an injudicious shot off the third ball of the final over, with just six needed for a win. “Misbah brought Pakistan into the game but then we lost by the barest of margins,” said Afridi. Under Afridi, defending champions Pakistan then lost in the semi-final of the 2010 edition in the Caribbean when Michael Hussey clobbered 39 runs in the last two overs to give Australia an unlikely win.
“T20 suits our character,” added Afridi. “We have the talent, approach and aggression required for this rapid format. It is a format which is loved throughout Pakistan. We won against every team and then every team adopted that style. Bowling is now full of variety and new batting techniques have developed.” Afridi insists Pakistan can once again spring a few surprises in the UAE. “The current Pakistan team is very talented although they lack experienced players. But, as we all know, never underestimate a Pakistan team!” – AFP
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