‘Refusing to Be Still’ exhibition ‘shows vitality of Saudi art’

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Art works are shown at one of the venues of the "Refusing to Be Still" art exhibition in Jeddah. (AN photo)
Updated 01 March 2018
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‘Refusing to Be Still’ exhibition ‘shows vitality of Saudi art’

JEDDAH: A groundbreaking art exhibition will give visitors a unique chance to meet visiting artists through a series of workshops, organizers said.

More than 30 Saudi and international artists are featured in the exhibition, called 21,39, which opened on Feb. 7 under the title “Refusing to Be Still.”

The exhibition, organized annually by the Saudi Art Council, is in its fifth year. Artworks explore the old and the new, the permanent and the temporary, the emotional and the aesthetic.

The display also highlights the growing cultural cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Germany, with Berlin conceptual artist Ilona Kalnoky among the exhibitors. Her work features cubes of clay brought directly from Germany and finished through the ancient process of pit burning in Jeddah.

Eight Saudi artists recently met Kalnoky during a study tour of Germany in the lead-up to the exhibition.

The German consulate is one of the sponsors of the exhibition.

The German Consul General, Holger Ziegeler, said: “By bringing the most creative minds of different countries together, we see how quickly they understand each other and spur each other on. They benefit mutually from the values, experiences and dreams of their peers.”

Kalnoky said: “I am surprised by the vitality and curiosity of the artists and the vibrant art scene in Saudi Arabia. The exchange with the Saudi artists was an enriching experience.”

A visitor to the exhibition, Abdul Aziz Al-Ghamdi, told Arab News: “I am amazed at this year’s exhibits. I come here each year. I like the diversity of art here.”

Al-Ghamdi, a law student, said he had started a project to promote Saudi Arabia’s little-known artists by collecting their social media accounts and artworks and presenting them in a single Instagram account.

Saleh Al Shehri, a Saudi fine artist who visited the exhibit, said: “The way that the artists applied their ideas on reality here is breathtaking. The selection of artists in this year’s exhibition is excellent.”

“Refusing to Be Still” is taking place in locations across Jeddah, including Gold Moor mall, Serafi mall and King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), and is open daily from 5-10 p.m. until May 5.


Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

Updated 21 January 2019
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Iraq says goodbye to its beloved archaeologist Al-Gailani

  • Al-Gailani was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage
  • After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Monday mourned the loss of Lamia Al-Gailani, a beloved archaeologist who helped rebuild the Baghdad museum after it was looted following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Al-Gailani, who died in Amman, Jordan, on Friday at the age of 80, was one of Iraq’s first women to excavate the country’s archaeological heritage.
Relatives, colleagues, and cultural officials on Monday gathered at Baghdad’s National Museum, the country’s leading museum, to pay their respects before moving her remains to the Qadiriyyah mosque for prayers and later interment.
A devotee of her country’s heritage, Al-Gailani lent her expertise to restore relics stolen from the museum for its reopening in 2015. She also championed a new antiquities museum for the city of Basra, which opened in 2016.
“She was very keen to communicate on the popular level and make archaeology accessible to ordinary people,” said her daughter, Noorah Al-Gailani, who curates the Islamic civilizations collection at the Glasgow Museum in Scotland.
“It is a big loss, the passing of Dr. Lamia Al-Gailaini, who played a great role in the field of archaeology, even before 2003,” said the deputy minister of culture, Qais Hussein Rashid.
The restored collection at the National Museum included hundreds of cylinder seals, the subject of Al-Gailani’s 1977 dissertation at the University of London. These were engraved surfaces used to print cuneiform impressions and pictographic lore onto documents and surfaces in ancient Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq.
Still, thousands of artefacts remain missing from the museum’s collection, and Al-Gailani bore the grief of watching her country’s rich heritage suffer unfathomable levels of looting and destruction in the years after Saddam’s ouster.
“I wish it was a nightmare and I could wake up,” she told the BBC in 2015, when Daesh militants bulldozed relics at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud near present-day Mosul.
Born in Baghdad in 1938, Al-Gailani studied at the University of Cambridge in Britain before finding work as a curator at the National Museum in 1960. It was her first job in archaeology, her daughter said.
She returned to Britain in 1970 to pursue advanced studies, and she made her home there. Still, she kept returning to her native country, connecting foreign academics with an Iraqi archaeological community that was struggling under the isolation of Saddam Hussein’s autocratic rule and the UN sanctions against him.
In 1999, she published “The First Arabs,” in Arabic, with the Iraqi archaeologist Salim Al-Alusi, on the earliest traces of Arab culture in Mesopotamia, in the 6th through 9th centuries.
She would bring copies of the book with her to Baghdad and sell them through a vendor on Mutanabbi Street, the literary heart of the capital, according to her daughter.
After the US-led invasion, Al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war.
At the time of her death, she was working with the Basra Museum to curate a new exhibit set to open in March, said Qahtan Al-Abeed, the museum director.
“She hand-picked the cylinder seals to display at the museum,” said Al-Abeed.