Saudi Arabia’s first art book fair comes to Jeddah

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Updated 10 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s first art book fair comes to Jeddah

JEDDAH: Art Books Jeddah opened its gates to visitors on Thursday at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery. The fair will run until Sunday, acting as a focal point for those passionate about art publishing in Saudi Arabia.
Misk Art Institute (MAI), founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, collaborated with Crossway Foundation, Fully Booked and Bricklab to create Saudi Arabia’s first art book fair. MAI supports Vision 2030, empowering the art scene in Saudi Arabia and particularly women, as they make up 50 percent of the fair’s exhibitors.
Athr Gallery’s pavilion has hosted independent creative publishers, artists and designers working on printed art. It has provided a cozy space for people to explore local artists’ books and design publications, and brought together diverse individuals and collaborations. The comfortable ambience and rooftop space allowed for discussions between exhibitors and the public about the works on display.
Hamza Serafi, Athr Gallery founder, told Arab News. “The book fair is our latest event, along with The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen, in collaboration with Misk; it’s a traveling show and this year it started in Jeddah, while later it might go on to other places.
“The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen is part of 21,39, which is a local initiative of the Saudi art concept to promote art in Jeddah,” he said. “It searches the identity of reality, what it is and isn’t, and the diversity of reality. It raises questions, not depending on collective memory, but on looking and searching to challenge reality. In addition to that, we have video art and some installations.”
Nada Al-Tuwaijri, head of media and communications at Misk, told Arab News: “The purpose of the Misk Art Institute is to shed light on the arts and culture scene in Saudi Arabia, which was always underground. Today, we can proudly say that we have a platform supported by the government that we can work within. We’ve got plenty of partnerships and collaborations with international institutions in the pipeline. We launched our international program at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and we appreciate the support we had from these partnerships. In a short period of time we managed to prove how powerful the scene is, hence the acceptance of these grand institutions to support us.”
On MAI’s upcoming projects, Al-Tuwaijri promised a number of impressive acts such as Art Dubai in March, followed by the Venice Biennale: the first Saudi pavilion, a first for the Kingdom.
France’s former Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, spoke to Arab News about the importance of such events. “Saudi Arabia is a fabulous country, rich in art and culture. I hope to establish Arab artists in France, and vice versa, bring French artists here. After all, art is universal. This is my third time in Saudi Arabia, and the art scene is exciting, changing and is very creative. The atmosphere is marvelous. People are living, and they’re kind and open.”
Fatima Al-Banawi, actor and the brains behind The Other Story, told Arab News: “I started The Other Story in 2015, when I began asking people to write down their stories, anonymously and handwritten.”
Al-Banawi set out looking for people in small companies, universities, cafes, bazaars, festivals and places where she could connect with people. She approached people openly about the purpose of her project: to engage on a human level, which is why the stories are anonymous and handwritten. She wished for people to connect with these stories rather than judge based on name or occupation or race, to connect outside a person’s background.
“They’re very intimate, and I wanted them raw and imperfect, taken on the spot, because that’s human nature and we tend to forget,” Al-Banawi said.
“The moment I see people crying, connecting, hugging, I feel like the project is going somewhere,” she said.
She hopes to publish The Other Story by April, with seven different themes with additional biographical introduction followed by people’s letters. “I’ve written so much in it, by connecting the stories about family, love and relationships, travel and the universe, art and career, self-reflection and growth, loss, growth and resilience and moments in life.”
Other featured exhibitors include: Basmah Felemban, Destination Jeddah, Kartt & Co, Radwan Brothers, Thinktank, Mazin Maimani, Sarah Taibah, Design Magazine, Nur Taibah, Zahra Dar, Omar Hashani, Shoes & Drama, Zainab Almashat, WTD Magazine, Tribe Magazine, Finjan by Daveeda Shaheen, Raheem Bukhari, Abeer Bajandouh and Sarah Ali.


Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Updated 18 February 2019
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Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

  • Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy
  • Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major transformation is underway in Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with Pakistan, according to Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, a former ambassador to Islamabad.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the former envoy said greater interaction between business and the private sectors in both countries will take the historical bond “to a new level.” 

Asseri, who spent nine years in Islamabad and was the second-longest serving Saudi ambassador to the country, said: “We know that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed an incomparable level of understanding and friendship based on religion, culture and values. There is a historical bond between the two countries. 

“I have no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking a cohesive approach to strengthen the relationship and take it to another level.” 

Asseri said that while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperated closely on security matters, bilateral trade between the countries remained limited to about $4 billion. 

“We need to ... encourage the private sectors to interact more. We can help Pakistan’s industry and we need to become more involved in the trade sector. There are advanced industries and firms in Pakistan, and they have raw materials — it’s a good environment for investors.”

Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy. The Kingdom is also making billion-dollar direct investments in the country in line with the China-Pakistan economic corridor. 

“I am happy to see a major transformation underway in Saudi-Pakistani economic relationships with our leadership and government deciding to invest in the economic development of Pakistan,” he said. 

The former ambassador said frequent official visits between the two countries were important. 

“I came back recently from Pakistan, and the vibe of the media, government and people was so optimistic. Pakistanis were excited about the crown prince’s visit. People hope it will bring great opportunities for the economy as well as strengthening the political and social ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asseri said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had faced many challenges together in recent decades.

In 2001, during Asseri’s first year as Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York led to greater cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in dealing with terrorism.

The Kingdom had been closely involved with Pakistan since its independence, he said. “King Abdul Aziz sent King Saud and Prince Faisal to Pakistan at that time. So if we go back through history, we can see that this relationship is truly unique.” 

Asseri also highlighted the ties between the two countries on humanitarian issues, security and military issues, saying: “Pakistan has suffered serious security and humanitarian consequences of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, besides housing millions of Afghan refugees.

“Together Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have worked for peace in Afghanistan and will do whatever it takes to achieve this long-desired goal.”

Asseri said Pakistanis were quick to show their appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s assistance in the past regardless of the change in Pakistani leadership over the years. 

“The relationship is unique because it is between people. Such a relationship (will) keep growing with every generation.

“When Pakistan was in a difficult position in 2005 after a devastating earthquake, Saudi Arabia went out of its way to provide the support it needed. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and eight ministers visited Balochistan. Field hospitals were created with Saudi doctors treating people and performing surgery there.” 

Pakistan also has a deep loyalty to Saudi Arabia, Asseri said. “Pakistan has military expertise, and through cooperation between the two countries, it helped the Saudi military during its development.” 

“The Kingdom’s recent appointment of a Saudi commercial attache in Pakistan will also bolster the economic links between the two countries,” he said. 

“There are good minds in Pakistan and good products that could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia.”

Asseri said he is also optimistic that Saudi plans to build a major oil refinery in Gwadar will help create an “economic hub.” 

The former envoy said the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan will add to the relationship between the countries. 

Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom. 

“Young Pakistanis who are advanced in the IT and industrial sectors are looking forward to helping and cooperating with Saudi Arabia, and sharing their experiences and knowledge,” he said.