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Art English Blogs التدوينات العربية سيرة لوحات

Stories by Helen

13 نوفمبر، 2016
By Helen Zughaib

By Helen Zughaib

Our life is a series of endless stories, which overlap and intersect one way or another,  this intersection is what brings us closer to others.  We share a human experience with someone when we find that this experience permeates deep down inside us and directs our memories to something we’ve come across before .Documenting our experiences  perhaps helps another person to move forward in life and therein we sense the power of stories, which have been a lifeboat for me.

I sincerely believe that behind everything we do there is a story that somehow directs us along the way no matter what is this thing we are doing: painting, a sculpture, an article, the way we choose what to wear in the morning, or the color we choose. I can see stories in numbers and financial reports. The important thing is learning how to tell your story.

I often find myself analyzing paintings and when I’m wandering in the Virtual world, or during my visits to galleries,  I dig deep into my thoughts trying to figure out what was the artist trying to tell this girl before it freezes in the panel ? What secret did this painting tell the artist when it was luring him to be drawn? Where would this person in the painting go if he\she found themselves alive in this world? Imagine how would the scene be if the painting became a short video clip? Is it a result of happiness or sadness? Or is the artist through this painting trying to figure out his feelings? What was he thinking when these details were added? It is a language in itself. Many questions apply to all paintings because I care about the hidden messages more.


Saying Goodbye By Helen Zughaib

Saying Goodbye By Helen Zughaib

And when the artist gives me what I’m looking for on a  golden platter , inevitably it will be a unique experience. Helen Zughaib with her calm and charming voice enveloping nostalgia, helped me to build bridges to her paintings, by not letting me think and analyze. She was telling the stories behind her paintings at the workshop “Art in Diplomacy and finding your own story” she took us through a journey to view her work. I would say that it felt like a trip on a flying carpet, which took us across time, moving between past and present, going to America, Beirut, Palestine and Damascus, sometimes we stood by the river and we bid farewell to those who are leaving and other times we stood humbly before a mosque with Almanarah (minaret) rising from behind.

What really helped build those bridges is the Arabian touch that we sense from her artwork, you can tell that her identity as an Arab-American can appear through a unique style , I felt that what the storyteller was referring to was there in her stories and I’ve always been fond of this since I was a kid. It’s like the stories our grandparents used to tell us on Friday when we gathered for a dinner.

The details merge in her paintings as if it was a piece coming out of wonderland. Simple and deep. The cherry on the top of the cake is her passion for her work, her family stories that she got to document in her artwork.

Nostalgia appears in the higher stages when Helen talked about returning to Lebanon. She was talking and when our eyes crossed many times, I sensed the spectrum of grief. She tried to encapsulate this feeling with a smile and some jokes from time to time.

I have to refer to the artwork which was modeled on tiles from Damascus. They were beautiful tiles with the details that Damascus is famous for and some of them were broken. It is her way to say that war destroyed everything. I felt tears flowing from my eyes for this simple and profound work had made me feel emotional in a way I cannot describe.

I should not forget to thank the Saudi Art Council for organizing a group of art events such as these. It is wonderful that they tried to connect local art and world experiences.


Crossing Thelitani By Helen Zughaib

Crossing Thelitani By Helen Zughaib

الحياة عبارة عن سلسلة من القصص اللانهائية، التي تتداخل وتتقاطع بشكل أو بآخر وهذا التقاطع هو ما يقربنا من البعض حينما نجد فيما يرويه فكرة خطرت لنا وحاصرتنا يوما ما، حينما يلمس شعورا تغلغل في أعماقنا ذات تجربة، ومن هنا نشترك في تجربة إنسانية مع شخص دون آخر، إذا ما حاولنا يوماً ما توثيقها، ربما تلامس شخصاً آخر وتعينه على المضيّ قدما في حياته، وهنا تكمن قوّة القصص، التي طالما كانت قارب نجاة بالنسبة لي، وخلف كل عمل نقدمه لوحة أو تمثال مشهد تمثيلي أو مقال نكتبها، خلف كل عمل نقوم به من إختيار مانرتديه بالصباح حتى طريقة رؤىتنا للعالم،  حتى التقارير المالية، والأرقام، كلها مبتدئها قصة طالما نعرف مانريد قوله وكيف، ستصل حتما بالطريقة التي نرغبها.

غالبا ما أجد نفسي أحلل اللوحات التي أصادفها في تجوالي الافتراضي، أو خلال رحلاتي للمعارض الفنّية، ماذا كانت تقول هذه الفتاة قبل أن تتجمد في لوحة؟، بماذا أسرّت لرسامها حينما كانت ترواده لرسمها؟، وإلى أين ستذهب لو قدر لها أن تخرج لهذا العالم؟ ماذا لو أصبحت هذه اللوحة بشكل مفاجئ مقطع فيديو قصير؟ كيف رسمها الفنان؟ عن أي ألم كان يعبر؟ وهل يمكن أن نرهن لحظة سعيدة في لوحة؟ بماذا كان يفكر حينما أضاف هذه التفاصيل؟، هي لغة بحد ذاتها وحديث من نوع آخر، تساؤلات كثيرة تنطبق على كل اللوحات التي أصادفها، بكل التفاصيل التي يحويها الإيطار. لأنني أهتم بالماوراء أكثر من كل شيء ظاهر.
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English Blogs رفوف المكتبة - Books

Dance First Think Later

13 يونيو، 2016


I was thinking about the title of this book for a long time “Dance First, Think Later”. I have no doubt that thinking before doing
anything is important -at least for me- but the title made me shift my thoughts a little to the other side of the whole thing and I asked myself: Is It necessarily a good thing? To think before everything? Sometimes you have to just act–whether it’s dancing or writing or jumping. I realized that some of the achievements in my life were made completely spontaneously– I did not think, I just wrote or just reacted based on my feeling.

I read several quotes a day. Some of the quotes are often related to things I am thinking about at the time. I like to read these kind of books in the morning with my coffee, thinking about each quote. Sometimes it only takes one line to open up a lot of ideas for me.
.It was a great gift from a dear friend who knows me very well, and knows not to give me an ordinary book of daily reflections

English Blogs سينما - Movies

The Revenant

21 يناير، 2016


I found myself facing two questions when I finished Leonardo DiCaprio’s new movie “The Revenant”. It took me more than 2 weeks to write this. The questions were :
-Is it Leonardo’s best movie? -In my opinion- ?
-How do I feel about revenge?

To answer the first question, I think Leonardo had more amazing movies before that took my breath away, or made me think and try to dig deep beyond the questions that I’m asking myself. I remember that I saw Inception more than two times, and still feel like I could watch it again. The role that he played on “Django Unchained” was one of my favorite acting performances ever. And the list goes on. I just want to remind you of The Great Gatsby, Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road, all were brilliant and he owned every single character.
But, if I move the story to the side for a minute and try to think about Leonardo in “The Revenant “, he was a real star that could force you to not move your eyes away. Every part of his body was IN the character. I was not even paying attention to any other element as much as what Leonardo was doing. And I really hope that he gets his first Oscar this year, but I wish that when he wins it, he earns it with one of his greatest movies, and I do not think this movie, on the whole, is his greatest.


The second question, hmmm, is what this movie made me think about. This idea is what took me so long to finish this blog. I’m facing the ultimate issue that I asked myself about revenge because if I looked at it from the victim’s perspective, I can not say I understand what it is -the main character at the movie was going through losing his son in front of his eyes. It’s one of the Unimaginable things that no one could possibly understand until it happens to you, but I could try to understand. I do not believe in revenge as much as I believe in punishment; everyone has to answer for what he does.

Sometimes, even in stories that I come across in real life I cannot give advice to the victims that revenge is or isn’t an answer to your suffering – no matter what is the story- I just find it so hard to make a decision about things I did not face and I hope that I never have to.

I read somewhere that someone said “this violent movie will encourage people to seek revenge ……..etc” but it’s a human experience and any type of art for me is what pushes us to face reality, with all it’s ugliness, and think about things We’d never think about.

I might never write about “Revenge” if I did not read a book or watch a movie like this. And throughout the movie we saw someone’s experience and someone’s choice– how did he chose to deal with what this life made him face, and it’s our choice to agree or disagree with him.

It is amazing how much we can experience through books and movies– seeing someone suffer is not easy and we can feel it and see it, that helps us understand more about the human experiences that we may never face. It’s not necessarily something that encourages us to be violent, rather it could make us see how people suffer if they face a violent situation or when they become victims. Each one of us decides for him/herself -Individually- what kind of a person do you want to be? It’s totally your choice. Continue Reading

English Blogs يومياتي - Diary

Facing the fact

19 يناير، 2016

It was OK… the room filled with people, all kinds of talk was going on, like if nothing had changed. They started to leave until there was no one except for me and him. He called for someone -anyone- to help him move to the other side. At that particular moment I realized how much I’m denying that he is sick, how much I’m running from facing the fact, how I keep telling myself he is not that sick, he is going to be just fine. I realized,too, that I did not look in his eyes for months now. I had to now. I’m going to be close to him to help him move his legs, hands and body. I was keeping a distance, watching him from far away as if I did not care.

At that moment, I was thinking while I was helping him, “Am I lying if I said, ‘a thousand ideas are running through my mind at the same time.’“ I was looking at his eyes and not looking at the same time. I never thought I was going to face this, I always had this idea that my grandfather and my grandmother will be here forever. Every single thought about my future includes them, they are my main source of strength, they are the only thing that never changes in my ideas about the future, even if I did not say it.

My grandfather is sick. He is more than a grandfather to me, he is the supporting father I always dreamed of, the only man who never disappointed me for once, never asked me to change, was everything I needed when I needed it, was the singer to cheer me up when I was sad, the one who encouraged me to dance when I was standing shy at the room while people were clapping for me. I just looked in his eyes and danced. He was the first man who ever told me that I’m beautiful, the only one who looked at me with tears in his eyes and said you make me look old, you are a grown woman, the only one who told me that my future husband will be lucky to have me, the only one who fed me at the dinner table when no one was even paying attention that I’m too depressed to eat, the first one to love me unconditionally. My existence is enough reason for him to love me, I do not have to do anything. He is the only one who told me: “So what, who cares?!” Instead of “Are you crazy?”  He was the role model of a person who lives his life with simplicity. I remember hearing him say to people : “Life is already complicated, stop making it worse.” He is the only one who never stopped to be who he wanted to be. No matter what I’m doing he stood by my side.

I miss the chocolate milk he used to buy us -his grand kids- every time he went out, no matter how old Im I always get my chocolate milk he never forget me when I asked him once: “Don’t you think Im old for this?” He said “never older then Sedo”.

I never bought the chocolate milk again. It was his thing. I was waiting for him to get better and buy me one, but when I looked into his eyes, I realized that he is sick, and how much I’m scared to lose him and I do not want to be alone. Who is gonna have my back, Sedo?.

English Blogs Random thoughts يومياتي - Diary

All about Now

31 ديسمبر، 2015


“Did you ever wonder if the person in the picture is the same one you see when you look in the mirror?“ He laughed. “That’s the eternal question, isn’t it? Are we born who we are, or do we make ourselves that way?”

―Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

Sometimes life happens in a way that is more difficult to digest and understand right at the moment. Sometimes we can’t understand ourselves. I was trying to write my daily page about my feelings and I found out that I was writing about “the end of 2015” and I realized that I’m always obsessed with all different kinds of moments, but “right now” is not one of them. I’m either planning to do things or thinking about memories. I’m wasting “now”; I’m not trying to live.

There were still 2 weeks left when I started to write about 2016. I always have things I wanna forget. I wanna do things to improve. I’m always running towards something.
But what I found different this time is that I stopped to evaluate myself. I brought a pen and notebook and instead of writing what I want to do, I wrote down what I changed, what I thought about it and I realized how much I grew up – that’s not necessarily a good thing.
I made a lot of mistakes during the last year, as I did during the past 28 years. I said a lot of stupid things, I lied and let go of a lot of great people because I was too cowardly to live my life and I was too naive to admit that.

I realized how much I’ve accepted myself this past year– with all my mistakes, flaws and imperfections. I was always proud of myself, proud of being an Arab Bedouin. Yes, I’m the granddaughter of a woman who was living in a tent. I’m originally from the desert and I’m not afraid to hide that. I learned that the most important thing is that you still need to show “who you are” and that in your hand you are the only one who can shape your life. It’s like your own unique scepter in this life, every one represents no one other than themselves.

Last year I found myself going back to read a lot of my old books for the second time–the ones which amazed me one day, or changed my life or the way I think. Is it me trying to look for myself? Might I find my old self in some lines? or character!? It was something I never thought I would do especially since I have a long list of books “to read”. But it was a great experience that taught me a lot and shows me that reading is the only way to escape reality without being worried about the rules. It’s our own imagination; no one else is invited to judge us, doubt our ideas, criticize us, or compare us to others. It is a world where no one else has any business to ask us “what are you thinking about?” Even when we are reading with a group of people we can still do it our own way. I realize this now, that reading is the only ride I can take to escape my fears.
Hmmm now I’m ready to talk about 2016. I still believe in writing things I want to do. But this year I want to focus on each thing without making any plans or pressuring myself to achieve certain things or reach certain levels. I’m going to as usual read, write, dance and learn a new language. I’m not gonna say more than that. I’ll let myself explore my abilities and the level that I will reach without any promises. I’m just going to try and live NOW.

English Blogs Random thoughts

The Nature of Humanity Good or bad ?

23 نوفمبر، 2015

    Humans are complicated creatures. That’s not my idea; I’ve read it and heard it from many different people and I do agree with it. We carry inside us both good and evil, but which is the stronger force?  I want to believe that the good within us is stronger than the bad, but does history and the world as it is today support this? let’s not go deep or far away like that.

       This subject is taking up a lot of my thoughts lately. I have not found the right answer–well, there are  no right answers, just answers that convince us more than others.  Sometimes people like to close their minds by believing that their idea is correct and the other person is wrong. As for me, I keep thinking about the same ideas until I become sick of them-haha. 

         Of course sometimes it’s better to not think at all, even though that may be the hardest thing to do. But, as I said, we are complicated, so I don’t stop thinking because I feel overwhelmed by the complexity. Instead, I read a lot about it and think: “Hmm, what If I solve this matter that no one has solved before?” Haha.

           Ok, let’s start from the beginning. This idea started bothering me when I was out of work and desperately trying to find something to fill my time with, even stuff I don’t usually like. I started watching a lot of TV shows.  Two shows that made an impact on me were “Revolution” and “The Walking Dead.” I thought: “Oh, are we really like this? Is the monster inside of us stronger than our humanity? Is our humanity just a lie?”, or we just talk about it when we do not have anything els to deal with!, but when it comes to the realty and we are facing the real deal, we go back to the nature of things “surviving” and we become animals?. 

             It shocked me how much people could be monsters, even in their imagination. I  saw 3 seasons of “The Walking Dead”. I broke down crying in one scene where people who were trying to survive passed by a man running and calling for help. They only thought about themselves and didn’t stop to help him. On the way back they saw the remains of his body, the Zombies had eaten him. I never stopped thinking about this scene. Maybe to some people this is just a TV show, but from my point of view it has strong messages that affect our minds. We all know how much power the media has over us. The ideas and violence we see on TV go into our minds until we actually accept them. 

            Basically, these TV shows are saying that the material world of our civilization is connected to our humanity. The message is that as we lose our technology, we lose our humanity. As the seasons progress, and the characters become further removed from civilization, they stop acting human. they forgot who to care about each other, everyone just thinking about surviving even if that means they will kill everyday to survive, they show us that even children could kill. 

          The message sent to young people is that they are nothing without the material civilization. This made me think: “Is it true?” I’m just asking questions. I really have no clear answers. I was thinking about all of this and then I saw the movie “Lucy”, which added more questions for me. What if we invented something–pills or anything else–that would increase our power.  What would happen? Would the good side in us win or the bad side?. And again is our humanity tied to this inventions?.  Continue Reading

English Blogs Random thoughts

I’m a Writer

27 أكتوبر، 2015

Sometimes I forget to be thankful for what I have or what I have accomplished in my career. I always look for perfection, I barely accept anything from myself. It might be good to push yourself sometimes and that is why I could push myself to do as much as possible with the best quality, but on the other hand that causes me to not appreciate the level I reach. Or it stops me from doing work at all because I feel like it is not good enough to send or post.

       I admit that I’m hard on myself and that I do not see what I have and my strengths. It might not be that much for other people who are different than me when it comes to priorities, but I’m thankful that I chose to be a writer and a journalist. I will always be a writer. This is who I am even if I like other careers, but I won’t change that any day.

      I’m going to treat myself differently and focus on what I can do. I’ll give myself a break from the pressure of perfection that I’m always looking for. There is no such thing as perfection, there is only “the best I can do” and “the most quality I can give”.

       I know it’s going to be hard to change my ways after all these years of striving for perfection, but it’s not impossible. I can start from today and continue every single day to try my best. I was thinking a lot and I realize that I love being a writer and journalist. I should say Hamdu le Allah and be thankful for my job.

English Blogs كان يا مكان - Stories


18 يوليو، 2015


    With  big eyes she has this look that makes everyone be careful around her, and sometimes no one talks to her, like an invisible person who walks around the city; without shadow, without scent, without existence.

     No one sees her hiding behind an angry look and a careless face, protecting herself from this world that she prefers to escape. She wants to live in her own inner world, in her books, or inside uncompleted stories that she tries to create.

     Those stories she tried to write once. But her problem with the uncompleted “things” is that she gets attached easily and this makes it impossible to  move on. The same thing happened with the stories. She starts to live the characters more than writing it. She gets attached to everything, she builds a connection. Once she fell in love with a time traveler who forgot which time he was originally in and kept wandering through the time looking for the woman he loved. She thought that she is  the missing lover that he left at some point that he can not remember and she keeps thinking about ways to bring him to her world, or maybe she feels that she is that time traveler! Maybe left herself at one of her books and keeps going back reading the old books looking for herself? Or what about the uncompleted story that had a dancer who lost her ability of doing any dance moves.  Is that related to her own problem when she found herself wandering in the world of words, losing the ability to write?  Maybe she is simply afraid of writing her own destiny by writing sad or unpredictable endings.

      She is trapped in her mind, starting to lose connection with the reality. It crossed her mind to ask: “what is real and what is her imagination?”…

       She always looks for perfection. She  feels like she hasn’t accomplished anything.  This inner world she is trapped in makes her compare herself to an unreal level which does not even exist.

      Always looking at what she did as a starter for everything, for being free of everything. But the question that she keeps asking herself between every single thought is: “What is that big thing she is waiting to accomplish or to have?” She always shakes her head while she mumbles, “I have no clue”.

          She never felt “the moment.” Her sense of time is not there. She never felt it no matter how much she tried. She’s always lost in the idea of “time”.

          Her days pass without reaching anything. She gets use to the idea that shows her how much she is living outside of this world and she will never be something. Her feelings, passion and desire of being alive are starting to vanish.  Since she is living inside her thoughts, she can not accept the reality anymore. Her mind always goes towards “The End” like if it is only another story of hers. The idea of vanishing, being nothing, captures her mind. “What will happen after the end? What will happen to us? They said we change, we become “something else” but that answer never convinced her.

        The person who thinks like her can’t enjoy anything that happens at the moment because the moment for her is “thinking about the future.” She thought of that while she was holding a cup of coffee, thinking “hmm this perfect cup of coffee will finish soon.” Maybe it’s better not to think at all.

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Art English Blogs


5 مايو، 2015


“SECTION 11”, Rashed Alshshai’s solo exhibition in Hafiz Gallery, was one of the most memorable exhibits I have ever attended. I’m not talking about the individual artworks as much as I’m talking about the whole concept–every single piece was a story related to another. It used contemporary artwork to talk about the traditions and ideas that changed in our area.  It forced me to go back and research in order to refresh my memory about the history of societal change in Saudi Arabia.

For example how religious misinterpretation and the way people think take over everything. The whole way of  life changed as a result of it, starting with people’s behavior.  One of the things I was curious about: how to take over peoples’ minds and control them by using religion and the current situations of people. For example, the young men who felt the world had let them down. They lowered their expectations of life and their minds became vulnerable to anything. The idea of “winning” something drove them to choose death instead of working hard to reach their goal.

I remembered a book I read previously that was written by Dr AbdulAziz Al Khider. The book analyzes the changes that happened in the way people think here.   It was one of the best books I have ever read about the societal changes in Saudi Arabia-maybe I will talk about it in another post one day. The exhibit took me back to think about all of this.


The exhibit “Section 11” is like a study and it focuses on education because the artist is a teacher and he tried to make the exhibit like a hypothetical class. The art piece which I spent the most time at was a collection of school notebook pages with drawings of students’ dreams, made when they were still young and innocent. The kids dreamed about achieving something, about helping people, about being doctors, engineers, or scientists. He used a reflection in the mirror to show the changes that happened to them when they grew up and how they changed their definitions of “achievement”. I loved how he tried to use objects from our everyday environment, such as the coffee cup display, to show how traditions can sometimes trap and imprison us.

I went to the exhibit twice because the opening night was crowded. I felt like I wanted to come back in order to spend as much time as possible looking at the artwork. The artist was smart to touch our minds in a way that makes us think, remember, and even imagine. It’s not easy to push people to ask existential questions.

Art is not always about creating beautiful pieces. Sometimes it serves as a message or a reminder. And sometimes it’s something that allows us to encounter ourselves or face our reality. That’s what Rashid did in this exhibit. It was a reminder about facing our past. People are good at looking away from their mistakes and repeating the past. I wonder why the artist chose this subject right now? Is it because of what is happening around us? Is he afraid that history will repeat itself?.

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The second day I went back to meet the artist– Rashid. We talked about many things. I was able to see the mind behind all the work revealed. We had a great discussion. I was alone at the exhibit and took another tour through the work. I saw a lot of things I did not see at the opening.

During our little discussion I asked the artist about the message of the art. I asked him, “What is the artwork, is it asking
questions? Or trying to give answers?” He said, “For me, I try to put the person who comes to see my work in a position where he or she will start to ask questions and to think. As an artist, I do not think our job is to fix anything. Rather we put a spotlight on the problems or what we think they are.”

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