Arts and Culture

Damascus art installation turns ceramic doves into war symbol

by Maher Al Mounes © Agence France-Presse DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) — Hundreds of ceramic doves are suspended over the streets of the Old City of Damascus, part of an art installation that had been set to debut before the start of Syria’s war. The lifelike figurines crafted by Buthaina al-Ali, a professor at Damascus University’s faculty of arts, had been gathering dust in a basement since the outbreak of Syria’s conflict in 2011. Eleven years […]

Boarding on an active volcano: Nicaragua’s tourism boon

LEON, Nicaragua (AFP) – It took Ana Muller half an hour to trek to the peak of the Cerro Negro volcano, a small effort given the reward on offer at Nicaragua’s top tourist attraction: volcano boarding. The active Cerro Negro is just 728 meters (2,400 feet) high, but sliding down its ash-covered slopes on a board is a 40-second thrill that allows participants to say they have surfed a volcano. “It is a unique experience,” […]

Uruguay’s century-old Russian colony troubled over war from afar

by Jordane BERTRAND Agence France-Presse SAN JAVIER, Uruguay (AFP) – Far away from Kyiv and even further from Moscow, residents of the small Uruguayan village of San Javier — an old Russian settlement — look on with dismay at the invasion of Ukraine. At a first glance, the community’s grid plan, low houses and surrounding fields resembles any other rural Uruguayan village — but a scratch below the surface reveals the history of a site […]

Sudanese women footballers tackle hurdles to play the game

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AFP) – Sudan’s women’s football team is yet to win a match, but members say they have scored a victory by overcoming challenges including discrimination and a coup to play the game. “The girls are still taking their very first steps in international football,” said coach Salma al-Majidi, training the team that was formed just last year. A few years ago, the prospect of a Sudanese women’s national team was inconceivable, given the […]

Saudi coffee legacy percolates through the generations

by Haitham El-Tabei Agence France-Presse JIZAN, Saudi Arabia (AFP) – For Farah al-Malki, growing coffee plants in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern region of Jizan is more than just a profession. It is a family tradition passed down from generation to generation. The 90-year-old patriarch has a long history with coffee, which spread from Ethiopia to Yemen and then to the rest of the Middle East around the 15th century. “My father inherited it from his grandfathers, […]

End of the road in Colombia for Escobar’s ‘cocaine’ hippos?

by Juan Sebastian SERRANO Agence France-Presse BOGOTA, Colombia (AFP) – More than 100 African hippos descended from fewer than a handful imported as exotic pets by drug lord Pablo Escobar, face an uncertain future in Colombia. After the government added Escobar’s so-called “cocaine” hippos Friday to a list of “introduced, invasive species,” experts say killing them may be the only viable option. From the few individuals once housed at Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles estate, the hippos’ […]

Japan proposes controversial mine in World Heritage bid

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) – Japan will seek UNESCO World Heritage recognition for a centuries-old network of mines on Tuesday, the government said, risking renewed diplomatic tensions with South Korea over forced wartime labour. The controversial gold and silver mine complex on central Japan’s Sado Island dates back 400 years and was once one of the largest of its kind in the world, according to authorities in the coastal region where it is located. But more […]

Start ups bringing Pakistan’s farming into digital age

by Yann SCHREIBER Agence France-Presse CHAK TWENTY-SIX SP, Pakistan (AFP) – Agriculture entrepreneurs are bringing the digital age to Pakistan’s farmers, helping them plan crops better and distribute their produce when the time is right. Until recently, “the most modern machine we had was the tractor”, Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a farmer and local councillor behind one such project told AFP in “Chak 26”, a village in the agricultural heartland of Punjab province. Even making mobile […]

The exiled sculptor of ‘all that is no longer there’ in Syria

by Lucie PEYTERMANN Agence France-Presse VANVESS, France (AFP) – A Syrian neighbourhood targeted by regime bombing lies in ruins, with bodies and broken toys poking out of the rubble; tall, grey buildings are reduced to crumbling, empty shells, their walls blown away or pockmarked by the blast. The scene, captured in devastating detail, has been created by artist Khaled Dawwa, a Syrian exile and prison survivor who now works in France. In his colossal work […]

Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban

by Anna MALPAS Agence France-Presse LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Homayoun Sakhi closes his eyes and runs his fingers along the long neck of his wooden instrument encrusted with mother-of-pearl. “I feel like I have my Afghanistan in my hand,” says Sakhi, one of the world’s most renowned performers on the country’s national instrument, the rubab. He is jet-lagged after flying in from California to perform at London’s Barbican concert hall to raise funds for […]

US artist, KAWS and London gallery launch first exhibition on Fortnite

by Charlotte DURAND Agence France-Presse LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – On a frosty morning in London’s Hyde Park, onlookers aim their mobile phones at the top of the Serpentine Gallery. The large sculpture of a blue man sitting on the roof is invisible to the naked eye but it is there — in augmented reality. The sculpture is part of an installation by the American artist Kaws at the gallery, reproduced for the hundreds of […]

Paris looks to recapture lost beauty after criticism

PARIS, France (AFP) – Paris city authorities unveiled a “manifesto for beauty” on Tuesday containing plans to spruce up the City of Lights where an online campaign highlighting ugliness and filth has piled pressure on mayor Anne Hidalgo. Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said that several recent initiatives from the Socialist-Green alliance that runs the capital would be scrapped, including allowing Parisians to plant their own gardens on public space. Under a 2015 scheme, locals were […]