Getting arty in Saudi Arabia, a breath of fresh air

The work of the art community across Saudi Arabia is a breath of fresh air

Samar Fatany
Samar Fatany
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It is such an encouraging development to see art and culture widely appreciated around the country. In Jeddah, the Art Week included art exhibitions that explored modern and contemporary visual arts. It was organized by the Ministry of Information and Abdul Lateef Jamil, with artworks from local and international artists. For a whole week there was a rich program that included art and design exhibitions, a series of public performances, a one-day international conference on global visual culture, and highlights from an international contemporary art auction.

Princess Jawaher Bint Majid initiated the Saudi Arts Council’s ‘21,39’ debut, introducing works of graffiti artists and exhibitions of local and international contemporary artists to promote the culture of art within Saudi society. The initiative also included a most thrilling event that featured guided tours around Jeddah’s old town, “Albalad,” depicting hijazi culture and architecture. The event captivated the hearts of all visitors who were greatly impressed by the performance of the young and talented youth providing thrilling commentaries and stories from the past, adding grace and humor to the historic ambiance. The Ministry of Education was also involved in the initiative by organizing symposiums in academic institutions and workshops in schools to teach our youths to appreciate art at a young age.

In Riyadh, Saudi Design week was celebrated in various parts of the city. It exhibited design products by emerging local designers and international artists. The event was organized by Oasis magazine in partnership with the King Faisal Foundation for Research and Islamic Studies.

Meanwhile in Taif, residents were overjoyed with the news that the Arab Tourism Organization, (ATO) had chosen Taif as the Arab Tourism Capital. Taif qualified for the Arab Tourism Capital award because of its climate, tourist and archeological landmarks and cultural activities. The city holds around 10 tourist festivals every year, including the Souk Okaz Festival, Taif Rose Festival, Honey Festival, and the Festival of Fruits. There are also plans to celebrate occasions with a wide variety of more than 90 activities and programs. These include the Arab Tent, Gulf Nights, exhibitions, cultural programs, sports and games. It is so refreshing to see Taif regain its past popularity and emerge as a vibrant city for Saudis. Many of our elders still remember with nostalgia their summer vacations in the once famous summer resort.

The work of the art community across the nation is a breath of fresh air

Samar Fatany

Meanwhile, the holy city of Madinah has been chosen to be the Islamic Culture Center by The Rabat-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). Prince Faisal Bin Salman, the Emir of Madinah region, has ordered preparations for more activities to be held during the year-long celebration that started last March. The city is holding an exhibition in association with the British museum titled “Words and Illuminations” that includes art works of calligraphy and photography. The photography exhibition consists of commissioned works by Saudi artists with works that are focused on Madinah and include rare studies of the Prophet’s Mosque, people of Madinah, the Madinah region, archeology and the landscape. Moreover, during a conference held by the OIC to celebrate the occasion, the Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja, proposed plans to set up Madinah as an e-gate for the culture of the Islamic world and a bibliography for innovators in arts and literature in the Islamic world in order to reinforce the spiritual and historic position of Madinah in serving Islamic culture.

Breath of fresh air

The work of the art community across the nation is a breath of fresh air. It provided a different perspective on the various forms of art and highlighted the talented new generation of young artists and collectors of art. It was also refreshing to see how our young volunteers were well-behaved and acted in very professional and respectful manner. Young artists were inspired to express their creativity with tolerance and enthusiasm without censorship or restrictions that were previously imposed on their exhibitions and the sculptural displays. What added to the success of the nationwide cultural activities was also the absence of the self- appointed Mutawas and the rigid limitations that unfortunately spoil the harmony and joy of any celebration. It was exciting to watch the large turn out and one could feel the enthusiasm among the public during their tours, walking in a daze trying to grasp the beauty of the art scene.

The nationwide campaign to promote art and culture is a significant development that needs to be nurtured and encouraged to enrich the lives of our people and help them appreciate beauty more. We need to keep the momentum and encourage our young artists to participate in the vibrant art movement. The lively and beautifully organized cultural events that took place during the past month have truly raised the spirits of Saudi families. The exposure was educational, enlightening and entertaining. Indeed the beauty of art can spread calm, harmony and spirituality. It is time we encourage such values to bring love, inner peace and contentment to the average Saudi family facing many challenges today.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Feb. 14, 2014.


Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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