The icon of Gulf art: His projects and battles

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

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These days, people are recalling the achievements of the late Abdulhussain Abdulredha. Al Arabiya television channel broadcast a documentary entitled ‘This is Hasininoh’ in two parts. The documentary recounted the history of the artist in line with the history of his country (Kuwait) which he did not leave and remained loyal to until the days of its invasion.

MBC did the same as it dedicated three hours to recall the glory of Kuwaiti art. The issue was not meant to just lament the late artist, but to remember the role he played and the battles he fought. For example, after the liberation of Kuwait, Abdulredha decided to stage a play about Saddam Hussein. He gathered a group of Kuwaiti theater figures and wrote ‘Saif al-Arab’, which was staged in 1992.

An artist who fought terror

Moments before his arrival to the theater, his car was peppered with a hail of bullets. He survived the assassination attempt, but kept defending his country till the last moment. In this sense, German poet Hölderlin has aptly said: “I have publicly pledged my heart to the great afflicted land, and I have often promised, in the darkness of the holy night, to love it to death, without any contempt to any of its mysteries, with all the burdens of fate, as such, I am linked to it with a fatal connection.” Life is really peculiar. Man escapes from inevitable death, and then he slowly dies.

Abdulhussain Abdulredha, also known as Abu Adnan, was known to be an artist with a vision, and this is rarely the case with comedy artists, since comedy becomes the purpose. However, Abu Adnan was not like that. He was an intellectual with clear perceptions and a vision.

He had his feuds with the House of Representatives, and he was what can be described as a conservative liberal on the political level. He chose security and stability above revolutionary struggle theories which led him to be different in some of his works than his contemporaries, many of whom were swayed by nationalist or leftist movements. Nevertheless, the late artist maintained a distance and did not involve himself in conflicts that would not have reflected well on his talent.

Very early on, the late artist took a position against terrorism. He is in the Gulf like Adel Imam is in Egypt. Both men have shown exemplary courage in discussing intellectual extremism and in shedding light on terrorism, takfir and accusing others of treachery. His plays, especially the ones he wrote, covered important issues that conveyed a message. Despite his conviction that art should be for the sake of art, in the sense that art should be the ultimate end, including a message didn’t inhibit the artistic function.

An enduring legacy

Art can be an end in itself without being the bearer of a message for societies that have transcended greater issues, such as Western societies. However, in a region riddled with chaos and intellectual confusion, art must bear a message that enlightens the minds of generations on dangerous moral, intellectual and social phenomena.

When Abdulhussain passed away he left an eternal artistic legacy. Artists are among the most capable of being immortalized in history. They etch on our souls impressions that are impossible to erase and that will not be forgotten unless the British forget Charlie Chaplin. The late artist turned his art into a legacy for the Gulf and Arabs, and his famous works are a testimony to the generations.

German philosopher Heidegger has delved into the subject of the immortality of art when he said that preserving the work of art does not make people relate to their own experiences but it calls on them to merge into a reality employed in the work of art, since the relationship between the artist and the audience does not negate the fact that the work of art is independent in itself and doesn’t need to be proven as truth establishes for itself. He added that the artist proves this truth for the viewer and the latter preserves it and concluded that art is the origin of work of art.

The late artist was keen on bringing new elements to humor. He fought to strengthen the theater as a daily feature of Kuwaiti society, against opponents who considered the theatre to be outside the scope of ‘Islamic art’. He fought, alongside Khaled Nafisi, Saad Faraj and others, to win over the haters of the art movement.

While it is true that the Kuwaiti theater is not the same as it was before the invasion, but the mere victory over the fundamentalist view of the theater was in itself an important achievement, since art has its own ways and weapons to fight hatred and darkness.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

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