Kingdom of art dazzles at Athr Gallery

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Updated 08 May 2013
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Kingdom of art dazzles at Athr Gallery

The Young Saudi Artists (YSA) exhibition was initiated by Athr Gallery three years ago to serve as an incubation program for new artistic talents across the country to showcase emerging social attitudes in art. And in the same vein, each YSA term has no doubt progressed in bringing for the fresh names to the artist’s roster. But the important question remains whether the platform has been used in its full potential for those with a voice and an idea to share, if not sell.
A few artists must be credited for attempting to clearly delineate their social, national and cultural deliberations.
In a three-piece series titled “Tagged and Undocumented,” Huda Beydoun who had previously exhibited in YSA I, continued her signature feature-ridden “Mickey Mouse” bonce trend, represented in a series of three digital photographic prints, lending her subjects yet again, a sense of mystery, anonymity and generality.
Although the faceless caricature reminds me lightly of “Deadmau5’s” (progressive house musician) trademark insignia, the works have served as a seriously-intended tribute to the countless migrant “guest-workers” who have incessantly performed mundane grunt work, cleaned up the slough off the streets cared for children while busy mothers were away, or waited endlessly to sell a doll or two at the local toy store.
A reality far from its comic irony, Beydoun has addressed a social issue of relativity that speaks intimately to the generations of “foreign” citizens who have been in the Kingdom for decades, and whose merit although may have gone unrecognized has certainly not been dismissed.
“Borrowed Walls” by Noorah Kareem was a welcome gesture in addressing the rather notorious culture of unauthorized and indiscriminate graffiti spraying across walls around the city. Harsh and far from inspiring unless performed in an organized manner becoming of “artists with a cause,” such acts have long been an eye-sore in addition to serving as acts of vandalism of public spaces that most certainly must secure the concerned attention of city municipal authorities.
“Wasted Dreams” by Omama Al Sadiq resounded as a social lament much amusingly with a real stink on the culture of mere academic achievements which remain just so. Represented with a kitchen sink clogged by a wet and trashed mound of certificates, the installation raises two-fold questions. One of laundered certificates obtained through illegal means, a practice that has thankfully experienced a serious crack-down from the government lately.
The second point, to me, serves as an allegory to the current systems of education that issue mass titles and degrees without any relevance to true learning, questioning, understanding and hence a “real education.” The second part of the installation is an open refrigerator stocked with all manners of learning paraphernalia. A mocking analogy to the frozen educational tools of learning today, left open to thaw and rot, if not applied in the proper manner of instruction.
I can hear echoes of, “We don’t need no education.” Pink Floyd, anyone?
Ghada Al Rabea’s “Habeebaty” is a series of amorous illustrations created using waste candy and chocolate wrappers. Although the effort heavily appealed to me with its environmentally-friendly message of recycling waste into beautiful art, can someone also figure the twin references raised in whispering sweet nothings? Go figure.
A series of book pages enclosed in glass frames by Batool Al-Shamran are endearing pass over views for the lit-indulgent souls.
It was also a reminder of the dying print phenomenon, in reference to the declining reading culture and the dwindling print production, triumphed by the permeation of digital media. “Studies in Strange Souls,” allowed me to meditate on the installations a few seconds longer.
Rami Al-Qthami’s ready-made rotary telephone installation that keeps ringing at a pleasant interval was also a reminder that the old brings something new. When the time is right, you will hear your calling. And then, you just pick up the call. You got to go.
The exhibition Young Saudi Artists III is currently running at Athr Gallery.

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King Abdul Aziz Public Library showcases Arab, Islamic heritage

Updated 21 April 2019
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King Abdul Aziz Public Library showcases Arab, Islamic heritage

  • The library has 8,571 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts, documents, coins and rare maps
  • The library has an archive of photographs, one of the rarest collections in the world

RIYADH: King Abdulaziz Public Library provides a key index of Saudi culture, presenting the world with a rich legacy of cultural, historical and literary diversity.

On World Heritage Day, April 18, the library highlighted its efforts in preserving cultural heritage, which makes it one of the most important libraries in the Arab and Islamic world. It possesses a variety of heritage treasures in manuscripts, documents, rare books, coins and photographs. The library has 8,571 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts, documents, coins and rare maps.

The library has established a knowledge-based space to produce large collections of specialized books on the history of the Kingdom and in the Arab and Islamic worlds while continuing to use its knowledge system in line with Vision 2030 and the cultural strategy of the Ministry of Culture.

The library’s special holdings consist of manuscripts, rare books, rare documents, rare maps, rare photographs and coins. These form an integrated picture and are characterized by rare historical scenes that stimulate research.

The library established the Manuscripts Department in 1988 to contribute to the preservation of Arab and Islamic heritage and make it available to researchers and investigators. The department has more than (4,400) original manuscripts in addition to more than (700) photocopies and microfilms, including the charts of the Institute of History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences at the University of Frankfurt. More than 3,500 manuscripts have been indexed and filed in the computer system.

The library in Riyadh, the pioneer in publishing heritage, has digitized all of its manuscripts — more than two million of them — and stored them on CDs.

The library contains a collection of rare books of ancient and rare European editions, consisting of 78 books on the biography of the Prophet Muhammad. The collection also includes 113 translated books in ancient European languages of the Holy Qur’an, as well as 55 books on Qur’anic studies and 54 books on Islamic sources. This collection represents the beginnings of European interest in the Holy Qur’an and its studies. The library acquired a collection of Arabic editions printed in Europe in 1592-1593. These editions are part of the library’s interest in the original Arab and Islamic heritage. They include rare books such as The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna, Rhetoric Mysteries by Abd Al-Qahir Al-Jurjani, a commentary on the “Isagoge” by Abu l-Faraj at-Tayyib, The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’an by Jalal Al-Din Al Suyuti, as well as 8,271 rare Arabic indexed books.

The library hosts a number of private collections, including that of the American orientalist George Rantz. This collection has many books, manuscripts, maps and rare documents, containing books in Arabic and 3,265 books in foreign languages. It also has the collection of Hamza Boubakeur, dean of the Islamic Institute and former imam of Paris Mosque. It is an integrated collection with 17,170 titles of 19,821 volumes of periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, documents, newspaper clippings, rare books and books in Arabic, French, English, German and Russian. It includes books on scientific and religious sciences, and tourist literature that describes countries, their heritage, customs and traditions, and is linked to Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Gulf and the Islamic world.

The library has an archive of photographs, one of the rarest collections in the world, with a total of 5,564 single original photographs or collections in albums, taken by the most famous photographers of the East and the Arab world since the beginning of photography in 1740, as well as photographs taken by travelers, sea captains, military personnel, envoys, consuls and politicians who visited the region from the middle of the last century until the beginning of this century. This archive of photographs is one of the most unique in the world.

The library has 365 photographs of the two Holy Mosques with previously unpublished negatives. These photographs were taken by the Egyptian international photographer Ahmad Pasha Helmi, who was commissioned by King Farouk to photograph the two Holy Mosques during the visit of King Abdul Aziz to Makkah and Medina, in addition to a collection of albums depicting the Hijaz railway and other parts of the Kingdom.

Official and non-official documents are important scientific materials in the writing of history. Nations rely on collecting their documents, archiving them and making them available for study. The library in Riyadh has been keen to acquire rare documents and books, especially on the history of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the history of Saudi Arabia, and to allocate a special section for them. These documents include:

George Rantz records: in English, French and Arabic, covering the period from 1930 to 1960.
Documents of the Egyptian and Arab press on the visit of King Abdul Aziz to Egypt.
Documents of the American press about King Saud’s visit to the US.
Documents on oil agreements between the Kingdom and some American companies.
Documents of the British press regarding the war between the British forces and the forces of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman against the forces of the imam of Oman, and the effects of this war on the region and the position of the Saudi state and King Saud of this war.
Abdul Rahman Azzam’s collection of documents (in Arabic and English) covering the period from 1925 to 1960.
Correspondence reflecting the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia to the Mosque of Paris and Makkah pilgrims.
The British collection of documents on King Abdul Aziz Al Saud (English), covering the period from 1800 to 1953. These are photocopies of the original documents and constitute one of the most important sources of the history of the Arabian Peninsula.
Khair Al-Din Al-Zarkali’s collection of documents: (in Arabic) covering the period from 1920 to 1975.
The library also has 700 rare maps, especially of the Arabian Peninsula, dating from 1482. The library has acquired more than 7,600 rare gold, silver and bronze coins, dating back to different Islamic times.

World Heritage Day was proposed by the International Council of Monuments and Sites on April 18, 1982 and approved by UNESCO in 1983 with the aim of promoting awareness of the importance of cultural heritage and protecting it.