Saudi-Japanese anime to premiere in 6 European countries

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A scene from the Saudi-Japanese anime, "The Journey”. 
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A scene from the Saudi-Japanese anime, "The Journey”. 
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A scene from the Saudi-Japanese anime, "The Journey”. 
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Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi-Japanese anime to premiere in 6 European countries

  • Koch Media is scheduled to begin distributing and showing the much-anticipated film to European audiences
  • “The Journey” by Manga Productions is the first Saudi film to present a movie experience in 4DX technology

RIYADH: Manga Productions, a subsidiary of the Misk Foundation, announced the signing of a cooperation agreement with Koch Media, a leading film distribution company, to distribute the “The Journey” in Germany and five other European countries: Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

The deal comes as part of the subsidiary’s strategy of becoming a global competitor in the film industry.

The signing took place digitally, in the presence of representatives from the two companies in Riyadh and Berlin.

Koch Media is scheduled to begin distributing and showing the much-anticipated film to European audiences, providing viewers with the opportunity to learn about the culture of the Arabian Peninsula and its rich and inspiring stories.

 

 

Dr. Essam Bukhary, CEO of Manga Productions, said: “We will continue in our mission to create inspirational content for all audiences and our heroes in the future. Let us reveal our Saudi creativity to the world.”

Stefan Kapelari, managing director of Koch Media and Koch Films in Planegg, Germany, said: “Koch Media always seeks to attract original and high-quality content. From this point, we are happy to release ‘The Journey’ as the first anime from the Arab market, as we view it as a high-quality movie in terms of drawing, animation and story. We hope that this partnership will be the beginning of a long-term relationship with Manga Productions in the creative content industry.”

Manga Productions, a subsidiary under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Charitable Foundation, produces animation projects and video games aimed at conveying the Saudi message globally through professional works that include distinguished creative content.

The company also provides training opportunities for Saudi talent in partnership with Japan’s Toei Animation, with the aim of transferring knowledge and localizing the creative industry in the Kingdom.

“The Journey” is the first Saudi film to present a movie experience in 4DX technology. It is one of the milestones in the journey of Manga Productions, which seeks to be a pioneer and global leader in the production of creative content in the Arab world and beyond.

Directed by Shizuno Kobon, the film tells an epic tale about the ancient civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, and establishes a historical fantasy for future generations.

 

 

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Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

Updated 03 August 2021

Iraq gets back looted ancient artifacts from US, others

  • The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi
  • Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD: Over 17,000 looted ancient artifacts recovered from the United States and other countries were handed over to Iraq’s Culture Ministry on Tuesday, a restitution described by the government as the largest in the country’s history.
The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered from the US in a recent trip by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Other pieces were also returned from Japan, Netherlands and Italy, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said in a joint press conference with Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim.
Nadhim said the recovery was “the largest in the history of Iraq” and the product of months of effort between the government and Iraq’s Embassy in Washington.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead in this matter. There are still thousands of Iraqi artifacts smuggled outside the country,” he said. “The United Nations resolutions are supporting us in the international community and the laws of other countries in which these artifacts are smuggled to are on our side.”
“The smugglers are being trapped day after day by these laws and forced to hand over these artifacts,” he added.
The artifacts were handed over to the Culture Ministry in large wooden crates. A few were displayed but the ministry said the most significant pieces will be examined and later displayed to the public in Iraq’s National Museum.
Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected owing to lack of funds.
At least five shipments of antiquities and documents have been returned to Iraq’s museum since 2016, according to the Foreign Ministry.


Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector

Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector

  • Authority will work to establish partnerships to create advanced theater industry that meets goals of Vision 2030

RIYADH: Saudi performing arts chiefs on Wednesday raised the curtain on an ambitious new strategy to create a thriving theater industry in the Kingdom.

The Theater and Performing Arts Authority has unveiled plans aimed at promoting Saudi talent, job opportunities, and standards of entertainment in the sector.

The authority’s chief executive officer, Sultan Al-Bazai, said: “Our main mission is to stimulate the development and growth of the theater and performing arts sector by empowering Saudi talents to build successful careers and create content that inspires audiences.”

Alongside an employee awareness campaign about the strategy, he pointed out that the authority would be working to establish partnerships in the sector to create an advanced Saudi theater industry that met the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Ministry of Culture.

The initiative, backed by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, was launched in the presence of Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, Al-Bazai, and other prominent figures.

Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez

Fayez said: “This strategy has been set, among its objectives, to provide support in different models, care for infrastructure, and societal and geographical access to each city, in addition to a comprehensive development of the sector with all its components, on top of which is the development of talents and capabilities that abound in the Kingdom.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us until we reach the establishment of a great theatrical industry that perpetuates our culture, documents our stories, expresses our concerns, our arts, and our ambitions.

“We also have a lot of challenges to overcome in providing empowerment opportunities for all fields that fall within the scope of theater and performing arts, in order to achieve the goals and outputs that everyone aspires to,” he added.

The strategy will cover all forms of performing arts including theater, dance, circus shows, stand-up comedy, street and motion performances, and opera. It will also encompass venues, content, production, and the prevalence of the culture of performing arts in the Kingdom.

Sultan Al-Bazai

The authority’s vision, according to its website, was “to create inspiring performances with exceptional talents on every stage.”

Its key aims were to enhance the quantity and diversity of content, increase the number and variety of local productions, improve access to the theater and performing arts sector, raise appreciation levels among members of the public and practitioners, and generate audience demand.

In meeting the objectives, the authority would be looking to create an effective theater space for Saudi talent, strengthen the sector’s contribution to economic growth, promote culture as a way of life, and boost levels of professionalism and creativity.

A total of 26 initiatives to develop the sector will be implemented in stages through to 2030. They will include talent development involving education, training, talent-spotting, school theater, traditional dance, cultural business incubators, theater academies, career development schemes, graduate recruitment, and sector awards.

Work to upgrade the country’s performing arts infrastructure, national theater, and Riyadh theater district will also be undertaken, and funding will be made available to help support local productions, the staging and hosting of shows, and the financing of events and content.

On modern technology, the strategy will introduce an innovation support program and multi-screen initiative. And to drive audience figures, the authority intends to subsidize ticket prices, carry out audience satisfaction surveys, promote critical reviews of theater performances, raise awareness of local and international works, and encourage community participation and cultural tourism.

Through the provision of educational and training courses, officials hope that around 4,500 graduate performers and 4,200 qualified trainees will emerge.

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Saudi sculptor spends 8 years carving words of Qur’an onto 30 marble slabs

Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi sculptor spends 8 years carving words of Qur’an onto 30 marble slabs

TABUK: A Saudi sculptor who spent eight years carving the words of the Holy Qur’an onto 30 marble slabs hopes his feat will be recognized by Guinness World Records.

Husban bin Ahmad Al-Enizi’s passion for the art started 20 years ago after he developed an interest in the Arabic language.

He went on to sculpt a stone encyclopedia of basmalah (the opening part of the Qur’an) on blocks and granite sourced from his base in the Tabuk region.

Husban bin Ahmad Al-Enizi used Ottoman calligraphy to create his Qur’an sculpture on green marble slabs. (SPA) 

The artist has taken part in numerous craft events and festivals held throughout the Kingdom and he aims to establish a center to train young people in the art and produce the next generation of Saudi sculptors.

Al-Enizi used Ottoman calligraphy to create his Qur’an sculpture on green marble slabs and said that the Tabuk region, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, with its many castles and palaces, had inspired artists down through the centuries.

The region has been home to the Thamud, Aramean, and Nabataean people, among other tribes, and archaeological sites show human presence dating back several centuries B.C.

Ancient inhabitants of the area produced ploughs, boats, and even houses by carving in wood and stone and Al-Enizi noted that the Saudi government had helped to keep sculpting and other traditional arts and crafts alive through the establishment of the Heritage Commission.

Husban bin Ahmad Al-Enizi used Ottoman calligraphy to create his Qur’an sculpture on green marble slabs. (SPA) 

 

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Secrets of alidades revealed in latest 21,39 Jeddah Arts exhibition

Updated 08 July 2021

Secrets of alidades revealed in latest 21,39 Jeddah Arts exhibition

  • Exhibition reflects spirit of sailors using the stars to guide their journeys across uncharted waters

JEDDAH: The Saudi Art Council has launched its eighth edition of the 21,39 Jeddah Arts exhibition, taking visitors on a new interstellar adventure into “The Secrets of Alidades.”

The new 21,39 exhibition — referring to the coordinates of Jeddah — opened to the public on Thursday.

Curated by French academic Fabien Danesi, a doctor of philosophy in art history and university professor, “The Secrets of Alidades” alludes to the pointers found on astrolabes and other astronomical instruments that help us to observe distant objects and guide travellers. 

An alidade or a turning board is a device used since ancient times to sight a distant object. It was also used by surveyors as a pointer to determine directions or measuring angles.

Drawing of several alidade types. (Wikimedia Commons/Michael Daly)

In the exhibit, the ancient alidades guide you through the 33 artworks across a journey that reveals a world of new dimensions and systems, earthly or otherwise.

Danesi’s exhibition reflects the spirit of sailors using the stars to guide their journeys across uncharted waters. Amid the travel-limiting era of the coronavirus pandemic, 21,39 invites you on a mental voyage through the artworks.

“This allegorical perspective means that the show attempts to produce a representation with the potentiality of a journey. Just as sailors used the stars to navigate the seas, artwork can help us drift in our cultural field with the contrary winds and ocean currents,” Danesi told Arab News in a previous interview.

The exhibit is showing artworks by a huge range of artists, including Qamar Abdulmalik, Sarah Abu Abdullah and Alia Ahmad to name just a few.

A US Navy sailor using a telescopic alidade. (Wikimedia Commons/Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Anaid Banuelos Rodriguez)

“For this year’s exhibition, Fabian has drawn on his inspiration, interest and passion for the stars, the planets and everything else that forms part of our great expanse in light of the tragic pandemic that has changed our lives forever,” Nada Sheikh, director of the Saudi Arts Council, told Arab News.

The 21, 39 Jeddah Arts is a non-profit initiative organized by the Saudi Arts Council to highlight and maintain the city’s position at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene.

The 21, 39 Jeddah Arts is a pivotal opportunity for aspiring artists to engage in an internationally recognized platform that helps emerging artists to leap into professional work, Sheikh said.

Decoder

Alidade

An alidade or a turning board is a device used since ancient times to sight a distant object. It was also used by surveyors as a pointer to determine directions or measuring angles.

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Middle East’s creative economy to reap rewards of heavy culture spending

Updated 04 July 2021

Middle East’s creative economy to reap rewards of heavy culture spending

  • Some states have kept investing in arts, culture and heritage through the pandemic despite financial pressures
  • Cultural and creative industries generate global annual revenues of $2,250 billion, according to UNESCO

DUBAI: Given the financial pressures of the past 18 months, few would expect a hefty investment in the arts and culture to be high on any government’s agenda. And yet, as economies emerge from the pandemic gloom, several Arab countries are pouring billions of dollars into the creative economy — art galleries, heritage sites and museums — to entice visitors and reinvigorate long-term growth.

UNESCO says cultural and creative industries are among the fastest-growing sectors in the world, delivering annual revenues of $2,250 billion, generating 30 million jobs and contributing roughly 10 percent to global gross domestic product (GDP).

Recognizing the sector’s potential, the UN designated 2021 as the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are prominent among the countries investing in cultural megaprojects with the goal of diversifying their future revenue streams and benefiting from other positive impacts: celebrating rich natural beauty and heritage; educating young populations; and attracting international brands and visitors.

 

As in the rest of the world, the Middle East’s creative economy sectors have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But here too, public response to the crisis has underscored the importance of creativity and culture in supporting community resilience.

In Saudi Arabia, spending on cultural projects has been ongoing for several years. Most recently, the Kingdom has doubled down on its landmark Diriyah Gate project — a culture and leisure complex in the historic heart of Riyadh — which sets out to rival the pyramids of Egypt and the Colosseum of Rome.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News in June that his budget had been increased from $20 billion to $40 billion. The move to expand the project’s budget and scope was the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Inzerillo said on the “Frankly Speaking” show.

Diriyah was the seat of the first Saudi Kingdom in the 18th century and is regarded as a centerpiece of Vision 2030 — a collection of development and diversification initiatives launched in 2016, which include major investments in culture, leisure and tourism.

Old structures in Riyadh's Diriyah cultural district, the site of the first Saudi Kingdom in the 18th century, have been preserved. (Supplied)

One of Saudi Arabia’s most ambitious cultural projects is the Journey Through Time master plan — a 15-year project to develop the AlUla valley, home to Hegra and a multitude of other historical sites, into a living museum designed to immerse visitors in 200,000 years of natural and human history.

Additionally, the Saudi Cultural Development Fund has been created under Vision 2030 to support individuals, businesses and civil society groups working in the sector. It has already disbursed SR 180 million ($47.9 million) to projects in 2021.

“Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a pivotal cultural movement,” Reem Al-Sultan, CEO of Misk Art Institute, told Arab News. “The institute recently doubled its annual Misk Art Grant to SR 1 million, making it the largest arts grant in the region, and launched the Art Library, a new legacy initiative dedicated to documenting the work of seminal Saudi and Arab artists.”

Misk Art Institute was established by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 to encourage grassroots artistic production in Saudi Arabia, nurture the appreciation of Saudi and Arab art, and enable cultural diplomacy and exchange.

“Providing support, infrastructure and opportunity for Saudi art and artists brings global awareness to the rich cultural heritage of the region, inviting greater international dialogue and enhancing our relationships with our cultural counterparts around the world,” Al-Sultan said.

Misk Art Institute designed the Masaha Residency as a way for artists to pursue new projects and ideas. (Supplied)

In neighboring UAE, Abu Dhabi announced in June that it would be investing $6 billion in cultural and creative industries on top of the $2.3 billion already pledged as part of its post-pandemic stimulus program.

“In terms of growth, we know the creative industries are going to be a major contributor to GDP in Abu Dhabi,” Mohammed Al-Mubarak, who chairs the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism, recently told the Financial Times.

Launched in 2019, Abu Dhabi’s Culture and Creative Industries Strategy (CCI) is a comprehensive five-year plan to accelerate business growth and job creation in the realms of film and television, visual and performing arts, gaming, e-sports, heritage, crafts and publishing.

It includes an overall planned investment of more than AED 30 billion ($8.1 billion) across the public and private sectors, with AED 8.5 billion already pledged to drive ahead monumental projects, including the Yas Creative Hub and Saadiyat Cultural District.

The Yas Creative Hub, a new media zone that includes a regional CNN newsroom, is expected to employ 8,000 workers by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Saadiyat Cultural District, which is scheduled for completion by 2025, will feature the Abrahamic Family House — an interfaith-dialogue facility comprising a mosque, a church and a synagogue.

Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

Some 20,000 people already work in Abu Dhabi’s creative and cultural sector. A further 15,000 jobs are expected to be created over the next four years — an ambitious goal that may not be achievable without a flexible visa system to attract outside talent, which is why Abu Dhabi is rolling out a special creative visa program, open to professionals endorsed by the Department of Culture and Tourism.

INNUMBERS

$6 billion - Abu Dhabi’s latest investment in cultural and creative industries

$40 billion - Enlarged budget for Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate Project

$1 billion - Egypt’s investment in the Grand Egyptian Museum

“This isn’t a new trend. Abu Dhabi has been investing in culture significantly for over a decade,” Dyala Nusseibeh, director of Abu Dhabi Art, told Arab News.

“There is already this key investment happening. What has been announced is the continuation and expansion of that investment. Why? Because the government has done its research and found that it is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The strategy is about finding ways to harness that growth locally.”

Already home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the emirate will also soon host the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. A further AED 22 billion will be released over the next five years to support new museums and creative activities.

The Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Supplied)

“The CCI is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors worldwide,” Saood Al-Hosani, undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism, told Arab News. “In Abu Dhabi, we have witnessed significant growth in the CCI, and today it is a key driver of social and economic growth, as well as diversification.

“More than 20,000 people already work in the sector, and we expect this to grow significantly over the coming years. In addition, the CCI has consistently shown considerable resilience and adaptability in the face of changing economic dynamics.

“So, as the world emerges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect its high-value products and services to help power economic recovery.”

Egypt has also jumped on the cultural spending bandwagon to help reinvigorate its lagging tourism sector. The Grand Egyptian Museum, a brand new 5.2 million-square-foot edifice at the edge of the Giza Plateau due to open later this year, is part of a $1 billion state investment in heritage and culture.

Once completed, the Grand Egyptian Museum, also known as the Giza Museum, will be the largest archaeological museum in the world. (GEMCC via Facebook)

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities says it aims to raise the standard of services provided to visitors at 30 of its key attractions, museums and archaeological sites, including Al-Moez Street in Old Cairo, the capital’s Citadel, and museums in Alexandria, Fayoum, Sohag and Luxor.

Egypt is also currently building a New Administrative Capital east of Cairo, which is expected to have several theaters, exhibition halls, libraries, museums and galleries. The first phase of the city is due for completion in 2030 at a cost of $58 billion.

It is not just the state that is sinking large sums of money into Egypt’s cultural reawakening. Orascom Investments, run by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, has signed a contract worth $12.7 million to develop and manage the sound and light shows at the Giza Pyramids.

Tourism is a huge source of revenue for the Egyptian economy, reaching $13 billion in 2019. However, just 3.5 million tourists visited the country in 2020, compared with 13.1 million a year earlier. Officials expect visitor numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022.

The hope is that once the pandemic is gradually brought under control and the global economy begins to recover, the return on the investments and other positive impacts will fully vindicate Arab governments’ decision to keep spending on culture.

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor