Saudi arts institute to highlight national identity, support talent
Updated 01 October 2021
RIYADH: A new institute will enrich traditional arts in the Kingdom, according to an official, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Khalid Al-Baker, who is the chief delivery support officer and acting chief marketing and communication officer at the Quality of Life Program, said the Royal Institute for Traditional Arts would highlight national identity and encourage and train talent.
“The institute is part of the Quality of Life Program initiatives and will act as a connection between our prosperous present and glorious past,” he said. “The institute will provide courses in the museum sector, traditional performing arts, and studies of the traditional visual arts.”
He said the support of Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan would revive and enhance national identity and work on heritage in an institutional way.
The institute’s inauguration ceremony was held recently in the presence of Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed Fayez, institute director Suzan Al-Yahya, and the Quality of Life Program CEO Ahmed bin Hassan Badhris.
At Jeddah’s Qasr Khuzam, Argentina art event BIENALSUR enthralls with sight, sound and shadow
More than 30 creative contemporary artworks, including 5 by Saudis, highlight a wide range of themes
Updated 03 December 2021
JEDDAH: BIENALSUR 2021, the second edition of the cultural event of contemporary art from Argentina to the world, arrived in Jeddah, and residents are in for a breathtaking cultural experience.
Twenty artists from 13 countries are showcasing their work at the exhibit that opened its doors on Dec. 1 at Qasr Khuzam. Hosted by the Ministry of Culture, the exhibition titled “Echoes: A World Between Analogue & Virtual” is composed of immersive works, which play with the visitors’ shadows, the echo of their voices, and the reverberations of the surrounding sounds.
Qasr Khuzam served as the first residence in Jeddah for King Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The palace is characterized by its unique architectural style featuring art nouveau and art deco influences, with large entry halls and symmetrical staircases succeeded by interconnected wings. These attributes serve as a striking backdrop for the exhibition, addressing the acoustic phenomena of echo and reverberation, utilizing them as metaphors for how people naturally move in the world between analog and virtual situations.
With more than 30 works by artists being showcased, including five by Saudis, the display deals with themes ranging from environmental awareness, artistic politics to transit and migrations.
Organized by the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires under the direction of its rector and passionate art collector, Aníbal Jozami, and the event’s creative director, Diana Wechsler, the second edition of the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of South America was based on a global network of institutional collaboration that erases distances and borders, as well as upholding singularity in diversity.
Both Wechsler and Jozami told Arab News that its presence in Saudi Arabia is part of the dialogues for peace and international integration through art and culture, which BIENALSUR contributes to.
It will be the first time that an exhibition of visual arts, designed to converge with other ways of thinking, is presented to the Saudi public.
“We want to change the art map of the world, the paradigms. We believe that there are cultural and artistic expressions that have always remained,” said Jozami. “BIENALSUR is the proof that there’s still space for surprising and innovative ideas.”
Wechsler added: “The exhibition seeks to convey to the viewer a reflection on this way of inhabiting the present. This varied selection of artists and works aim to recreate such a flow of the contemporary individual from a poetic dimension.
“We invite visitors to explore spaces that are not fully acknowledged and to identify images that will arouse surprise and reflection.”
The exhibition “recovering stories, recovering fantasies” occupied most parts of the restored Jeddah Regional Museum architecture building — considered one of the best museums in Jeddah — with works by Saudi artists Ahaad Al-Amoudi, Lina Gazzaz, Felwa Nazer, Muhannad Shono, and Daniah Alsaleh.
There are also works by Tony Oursler and Chris Larson from the US, Darren Almond from Britain, Argentina’s Matilde Marin; Carola Zech, Hugo Aveta, from Spain. Daniel Canogar and Tanja Demanrom will feature from Croatia. From Switzerland, there is Sève Favre, and from Mexico, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Polish artist Angelika Markul will attend alongside French artists Anais Lelievre, Cecile Bart, and photographer Valérie Jouve. From South Korea there’s Sujin Lim, and Joel Andrianomearisoa from Madagascar.
Among all those international artists, Darren Almond’s work offers two altered modalities of one of the latest ways to display hours as a mode of expressing time digital clocks.
Saudi artist Ahaad Al-Amoudi tries to understand the correlation between light and darkness through her video. “In the piece itself, I am studying how sometimes light is projected to us whether through family or friendships or personal needs and how we stripe toward the light,” she said.
Al-Amoudi introduces the premises that give rise to her video installation, which are focused on how information is shared and at the same time defines us as subjects in society.
South Korean artist Sujin Lim explores the dimensions of change in the natural environment and, along with it, the landscape on another horizon from another island.
While entering her dark exhibition room, Saudi artist Lina Gazzaz’s project “Shadow/Light Room” explores and seeks to capture the action of light on the elements to activate ideas from these lights in different manners.
“The room is part of a larger study that includes different artistic applications such as glass, sculpture, drawings, prints and experiments are still ongoing. The room also is arranged according to the echo system between the 40 images and the number of woods around 2,000 slow careful movements which is part of the experience,” she said.
The exhibitions travel the world to countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay, and others.
Young Saudi Artists exhibition presents contemporary calligraphy works
Artists from across the Kingdom answered the open call for the event and the judging panel selected 19 artists to participate
Updated 03 December 2021
JEDDAH: The seventh edition of Athr Gallery’s Young Saudi Artists exhibition includes masterpieces by young artists and calligraphers showcasing the wonders of the written form.
The current edition is called “Contemporary Calligraphy” and was curated by Dr. Rawaa Bakhsh. The exhibition falls during the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Year of Arabic Calligraphy. “We thought it would be appropriate to join the celebration,” Bakhsh told Arab News.
Artists from across the Kingdom answered the open call for the event and the judging panel selected 19 artists to participate. Some already had original works ready to be exhibited, while the others presented their proposals and received help from experts at the gallery to develop and execute their ideas.
Artist Hind Alghamdi carved a wooden wheel-shaped sculpture decorated in Kufic script with the Quranic verse, “Guide us to the straight path,” and was inspired by driving around the Kingdom. “I chose this verse because humans will always be searching for the right path,” Alghamdi said. “This was my first time using this medium and my first time using Kufic script.”
Another participant, 37-year-old Sama Bahajri, exhibited a piece called “As Promised.” It consists of an embroidered textile that is bright white at the top and becomes progressively darker towards the bottom. The darkness, she explained, represents “evil thoughts,” while her embroidered circles reflect how such thoughts can gather.
“This is a visual interpretation of the verse where God promises Prophet Mohammad that He will protect him against the people who were plotting to kill him,” Bahajri explained to Arab News.
Not all the pieces on display were inspired by Quranic verses. An eye-catching work by Zainab Alshibani titled “1001 Nights” was inspired by anthropomorphic and zoomorphic Arabic scripts.
The YSA program, which began in 2011, aims to promote Saudi-based artists on the international stage. The program is designed to help young artists conceptualize their work and develop their projects while allowing them to exhibit in a professional context, collaborate with a curator, and expose their work to criticism and the marketplace.
“YSA has had many contemporary artists that are now big names in the art world. Our founders contributed in creating a beautiful batch of contemporary artists that are now internationally known,” Bakhsh said.
New restoration works shore-up Iraq’s historic Arch of Ctesiphon
The famed sixth-century monument, located around 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the capital Baghda
Updated 25 November 2021
MADAIN, Iraq: Iraq's 1,400-year-old Arch of Ctesiphon, the world's largest brick-built arch, is undergoing restoration work as part of efforts to return it to its former splendour, authorities said Wednesday.
The famed sixth-century monument, located around 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, is the last structure still standing from the ancient Persian imperial capital Ctesiphon.
Restoration work on the arch, also known as Taq-i Kisra from its Persian name, was carried out in 2013 after a massive slab fell off due to damp caused by heavy rain.
But the new bricks too have begun to fall following downpours last year.
A first phase of "emergency" works that began in March are due to end next month, said David Michelmore, a conservation expert working with a team of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania.
"What is falling down at the minute is not the original Sassanian construction, it's the modern repairs," he told AFP.
"There was quite a lot of reconstruction done in 2013-2014 and probably all of this will need to be taken down and replaced," he said.
Construction of the arch began in AD 540 during the Persian Sassanid dynasty's long wars with the Byzantine Empire. It formed part of a palace complex started three centuries earlier.
At 37 metres (122 feet) tall and 48 metres (158 feet) long, it is the largest brick-built arch in the world.
Iraqi Culture Minister Hassan Nazim said the works aimed to "consolidate" the site, which is near the bank of the Tigris River and is at risk of groundwater infiltration.
The current phase is financed thanks to a budget of $700,000 from the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), said Laith Majid Hussein, director of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.
He lamented "numerous mistakes" in the previous restoration, including the installation of a heavy "layer of cement on the arch".
The next stage would be a "total restoration" that would help strengthen the structure and prevent any collapse, he said.
In 2004, the Global Heritage Fund said that, as a result of disrepair, the arch was "in danger of collapse".
Those warnings proved prescient -- in late 2012, a slab about two metres (six feet) in length fell off.
Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts
The new body will provide an umbrella organization for performers while promoting new talent and expertise
Updated 27 October 2021
JEDDAH: The curtain is set to rise on a new era for Saudi performing arts with the establishment of a dedicated theater association.
As part of the Kingdom’s cultural transformation, the new body will provide an umbrella organization for performers while also attracting and promoting new talent and expertise.
Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi said the association would bring together professionals from the worlds of theater, folk arts, circus, stand-up comedy, and dance.
Headed by Saudi actor Nasser Al-Qasabi, the association’s board of directors will include academic researcher Sami Al-Jamaan, actors Rashid Al-Shamrani, Sami Al-Zahrani, and Fatima Al-Banawi, director Khaled Al-Baz, actor and playwright Yasser Madkhali, writer Fahd Al-Hoshani, kinetic arts performer Roaa Al-Sahhaf, comedian Yasser Bakr, and Saudi ballerina Samira Alkhamis.
Performing arts has been a part of human culture down the ages and was even used as a way to inform people about the negative impact of social practices.
However, although well-represented in the West, only recently have theatrical shows and their performers been supported in the Kingdom by official bodies such as the Ministry of Culture’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission, set up under the National Strategy for Culture framework.
In a tweet, association president, Al-Qasabi said: “I am honored to work with my colleagues in the new association to overcome difficulties and advance this lofty profession. In a few months, the work of the association will be launched, and we look forward to your participation in a new creative journey.”
Performing arts are considered to have benefits on a personal, social, and community level, with live theater helping to encourage social dialogue, highlight issues, and provide an outlet for society to find solutions to problems.
• The Ministry of Culture has been behind a number of significant initiatives and organizational developments that have taken place in the Saudi theater sector this year.
• These have included the establishment of the National Theater, and subsequently the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, and partnership projects with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to improve professionalism in the sector.
Mohammed Al-Subaih, director of the Jeddah-based Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, described the establishment of the new association as “a most welcome move” that would offer a strong voice for performers in Saudi Arabia.
He told Arab News: “It will definitely contribute to the work of actors and performers and also bring up the level of work of Saudi theater.”
Saudi actor Abdullah Al-Sinani said: “(The association is) a wonderful step that reinforces our permanent ambition toward the status of Saudi theatrical superlatives. I wish the association and its members success in enriching the local theatrical movement.”
In a tweet, Wael Al-Harbi said: “I was honored to be chosen as a founding member of the first association for theater and performing arts.”
And Sultan Al-Bazie, chief executive officer of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said: “We expect the association to be an active element in the development of the sector.”
The Ministry of Culture has been behind a number of significant initiatives and organizational developments that have taken place in the Saudi theater sector this year.
These have included the establishment of the National Theater, and subsequently the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, and partnership projects with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to improve professionalism in the sector.
In 2016, the General Entertainment Authority was formed, followed by the Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission last year. The current registration of the Cinema Society will represent the first specialized civil body of its kind in the Kingdom concerned with the film industry.
KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation
Updated 20 October 2021
JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.
From red carpet premieres and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15. It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.
With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.
The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent.