A beacon of light to free minds from shackles of ignorance

When passing through a quite alley in the city of Jeddah, a small villa drew my attention and it evoked in me visions of the artistry Bahrain has long embraced — a place where art lovers reside in their own imaginary realms; an odd mélange of mad fervor and aesthetic excellence.

The villa had a low wooden wall and a large door from which one could catch a glimpse of a hastily furnished salon. This home of art — the Misk Institute — reminded me of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem ‘The Kurd has nothing but the wind’, when while describing the novelist Salim Barakat’s house, the poet says: “His house is clean as the rooster’s eye, neglected as the chieftain’s tent whose people are scattered about as feathers; a rug of creased wool, an abraded dictionary, hurriedly hard bound books, pillows embroidered by the needle of a café attendant.’

The spirit and serenity of art was palpable in the place and was conveyed by the sundry collection of paintings, photographs, movies, and books, as well as recordings and other collectibles. This collection of art and other curiosities acted to spark a constant need in me for discovering alluring realms.

Cherished stories

Inside the house was another space that my friend Mahmoud Sabbagh had allocated to film parts of his cinematic productions and works. Meanwhile, the artist Ahmed Matar was bent on narrating to us what he had caught with his camera about of the history of Mecca. He also narrated his cherished stories of the ancient city of Matar, before lapsing under the spell of his camera and its endless escapades and adventures.

The small gathering represented the perfect opportunity to engage in debate and discussion of the arts and their future in the Kingdom, as well as about the new generation that longs to express itself by using art through unconventional ways. These methods transcend the status quo, opening the door to a plurality of views that knows no limits and it is in fact our duty to embrace this cultural mosaic.

In its true essence, art refuses to be passive, or to be used as a means to promote a particular agenda, for it is wary of losing its spontaneity and beauty.

Art is not a collection of monotonous works, paintings, pictures or visual and audiovisual pieces with which to furnish a place and decorate streets, avenues or squares. It is not a mere piece of decoration to be overlooked as part of the background. Art is not a luxury that is disposable on a whim, but an integral part of the internal landscape that can only acquire its pertinence and meaning through life itself.

Art is a complete lifestyle and produces its own culture, its own liturgy and philosophy along with its methods and objectives. In its true essence, art refuses to be passive, or to be used as a means to promote a particular agenda, for it is wary of losing its spontaneity and beauty.

The Misk Institute, presided by Ahmed Matar, is an important creative space for hundreds of aspiring Saudi artists. It supports their projects and provides them with the opportunity of getting acquainted with new concepts and to interact and have different experiences with other cultures within and outside the Kingdom.

As eloquently expressed by Emil Cioran: “True contact between beings is established only by mute presence, by apparent non-communication, by that mysterious and wordless exchange which resembles inward prayer.” And this is precisely what arts aspire to achieve through invisible bridges of communications with which to interact with other beings, supplying the universe with energy and effervescence that so many other powers are incapable of providing. One can even venture to say that no other power can dethrone art!

This article is also available in Arabic.


Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:56 - GMT 06:56
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