Saudi Comic Con creates showcase for buried talent

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Naif Alkhairallah working on the Black Bonds novel.
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Naif Alkhairallah working on the Black Bonds novel.
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Naif Alkhairallah working on the Black Bonds novel.
Updated 08 April 2017
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Saudi Comic Con creates showcase for buried talent

JEDDAH: The literary world’s most legendary writers – Herman Melville, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf among them – all had day jobs. Chekhov worked as a tutor and caught and sold goldfinches. An Italian insurance company employed Kafka.
Toiling through a mundane existence by day and allowing the creative juices to flow late into the evening is often the lot of a writer. And Riyadh-based Naif Alkhairallah, 37, has a lot in common with his literary forbearers. He is a banker by day and author and comic artist by night. He is also a prime example of the many Saudi night owls who answer the call of creative writing.
Alkhaiallah’s debut novel “Black Bonds” is one of the few books at the Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) written in Arabic. Comic Con opens today in Jeddah
“MEFCC is the reason ‘Black Bonds’ is out,” Alkhairallah told Arab News in an exclusive interview prior to the launch of the first Saudi Comic Con (SCC).
“It was the event that ignited the dormant energy/skills that helped me to come up with ‘Black Bonds,’” he added.
As a child, Alkhairallah got to know about superheroes through Sesame Street, where they used to feature a sketch of Spider-Man.
“Since then, I became fascinated by the world of superheroes and comic books,” he said.
He prefers the term fan over geek, as the later means – at least to Alkhairallah — an unfashionable or socially inept person, which is unjust for art and story enthusiasts.
“Black Bonds” is about witchcraft, but is not inspired by a certain comic character. Rather it is the horror genre that fascinates Alkhairallah. “Most of the horror stories/movies usually take place in foreign countries,” he said. “Nothing would fit a Saudi horror/thriller story more than magic and witchcraft,” he added.
Digging into the novel’s concept, a dark future awaits “Sager,” the main character, in a story that takes place in Saudi Arabia with an unexpected turn of events.
“Black Bonds” is about the choices people make that might seem right and appealing but whose results might be disastrous.
According to Alkhairallah, the idea of magic that exists in the Arab world is huge, but no one ever talks about it. “It’s like a taboo, but this is the subject that I’m covering.”
One of the names that helped in the making of his debut novel is Abdulrahman Al-Tamimi who, he said, is an excellent scriptwriter and adds value to the story line.
Enthusiasts of the genre Alkhairallah explores say that illustration and storytelling are two skills the Saudi artist possesses. The artist said that he cannot judge which skill is better than the other, as the journey will reveal which of them he excels at more.
Alkhairallah said that there are some interesting ideas popping up for future projects but for now he is keeping them on the side. He is fully occupied with his day banking job and the book.
Alkhairallah joined Dubai’s MEFCC in 2013, where he was inspired yet shocked by the amount of talented Arabs making their own comics.
As the SCC unfolds today, Alkhairallah was lost for words to describe his excitement to meet the local comic fans in Jeddah.
“The country is appreciating the buried talents –- creating a venue that would give them the courage to show the world their abilities,” he said. “Such young talents will definitely feed the industry not only in the Kingdom but also in the whole region.”
Three announced celebrities: Mads Mikkelsen, Julian Glover and Giancarlo Esposito will bring a western touch to the Saudi event. The somewhat cross-cultural pollination in Thursday’s SCC is only showing Alkhairallah the beginning of a new era in the Kingdom’s entertainment industry.
The three-day event promises Saudi-based fans an exceptional weekend. Saudis, according to Alkhairallah, are not only into Marvel/DC comics, but they are fond of the Japanese animations, either Arabic dubbed or subtitled.
The artistic gene runs in Alkhairallah’s family who, he said, is blessed to have their support.
Alkhairallah’s passion for superheroes started in childhood. “I remember tightening the bed sheet as a cape.” His favorite superhero of all time is Batman.
A translated version of Go Nagai’s Japanese manga “Grendizer” was the first comic book Alkhairallah laid hands on.
Believing in oneself and practicing are two major tips Alkhairallah gives aspiring talents. “If you can dream it, you can do it,” he concluded.
The inaugural SCC, organized by Time Entertainment and supported by General Entertainment Authority, runs through Friday at the Take Off Center, the commercial hub of Saudi Arabia. 


Elite leaders and inventors gather in Riyadh for global youth forum

This year’s schedule is being kept under wraps until Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 2 sec ago
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Elite leaders and inventors gather in Riyadh for global youth forum

  • Keynote speakers at previous events have included the UAE Minister State for Youth Affairs, Shamma Al-Mazrui, Queen Rania of Jordan and Microsoft founder Bill Gates
  • The foundation will present the Global Youth Index, covering youth trends across 25 countries

RIYADH: The Misk Global Forum will open in Riyadh on Wednesday with an eye on the future, reflected in the theme for the third annual event: “Skills for Our Tomorrow.” 

The theme is very much in keeping with the aim of the Misk Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2011 to develop and empower Saudi youth to become active participants in the future economy.

Also at this year’s forum, the foundation will present the Global Youth Index, covering youth trends across 25 countries.

Since its first year in 2016, the forum has become an anticipated event for young Saudis, who get to connect with leaders and innovators from around the world in a series of workshops and panels.

“In addition to hosting an elite group of speakers, the forum also offers a unique opportunity for young leaders, inventors and creators to interact with renowned global leaders and inventors,” Shaima Hamidaddin, the forum’s program lead, explains on the website.

“Throughout the interactive sessions, youth from all over the world can discover, experience and experiment new concepts and insights to meet the challenge of change.”

Each year, MGF chooses a different theme. In 2016, it was “Young Leaders Together,” aimed at empowering a generation of entrepreneurs in the region, while in 2017 it was “Meeting the Challenge of Change.” 

Keynote speakers at previous events have included the UAE Minister State for Youth Affairs, Shamma Al-Mazrui, Queen Rania of Jordan and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. 

This year’s schedule is being kept under wraps until Wednesday, but workshops and panels will address three key points: Thriving as adaptable individuals, adjusting to the human-machine partnership and revamping uniquely human collaboration. 

These are broken down into five core skills that will enhance the way young people live and work in the future: Novel thinking, social intelligence, judgment and decision making, adaptability and resilience, and initiative and self-direction.   

More than 3,500 delegates and 100 speakers are expected to attend this year’s forum at Four Seasons Riyadh on Wednesday and Thursday.