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.


Misk Global Forum: Panelists spoke about future skills, AI and social intelligence on the first day

Updated 15 November 2018
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Misk Global Forum: Panelists spoke about future skills, AI and social intelligence on the first day

  • Princesses and politicians, entrepreneurs, an Olympian and football legend joined forces to power a skills revolution

“What does the future look like, in a world where everything is changing?” This question rang out as a video montage played at the “Skills for Our Tomorrow” Misk Global Forum on Wednesday.

From the vantage point of  the third annual forum in Riyadh, the future buzzed with possibilities as more than 3,500 delegates were treated to sessions with political ministers, princesses, inventors, entrepreneurs and athletes. They had all assembled to share their vision of what is needed to deliver the skills that will be needed in future.

Weam Al-Dakheel, the first woman to anchor the main evening news on Saudi Arabian TV, introduced the forum’s executive manager Shaima Hamidaddin. “We want you to be inspired, not just by our speakers, but by your fellow guests,” said Hamidaddin, as she welcomed delegates. 

Hamidaddin asked for a show of hands from different parts of the world, showing that there were delegates from every continent except Antarctica — the forum would work on that for next year, she promised. She then asked for a show of hands for those under the age of 35 to demonstrate that this was the youngest Misk Global Forum yet.

She added that thanks to technology, we are already more connected than ever before, but urged people to interact with the speakers and guests from different cultures. “We must seize the opportunity for uniquely human collaboration,” she said.

As the moderator of the first session, “It’s All About Skills,” Arab News’ editor in chief Faisal J. Abbas began by holding up the morning’s newspaper: “Two years ago people used to read the news like this,” he said.

But as he pointed out, the news industry has changed drastically, with digitally connected audiences increasingly using online platforms such as Twitter.

With media tweeting out his comments, Abbas introduced his guests: Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the Kingdom’s minister of labor and social development; Shaima Hamidaddin; Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka, the UN Secretary-General’s envoy on youth and Sue Siegel, chief innovation officer for General Electric.

Abbas asked Al-Rajhi how the government was tackling the challenge of finding jobs for young people. “With Vision 2030 programs ... we have a lot of initiatives and there is potential,” the minister said. “We all need to work together and collaborate with the education system, employers who create the jobs and the ministry to give a clear direction of where we are going today.”

Arab News Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas hosted a panel on skills. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)

Asked whether job creation is considered to be an issue worldwide, the UN youth envoy said: “It is not a national or regional issue but a global one: Our world is younger than it has ever been before.” 

Wickramanayake said that by 2030, South Asia and Africa will supply 60 percent of the world’s workforce. “We have a large majority of young people who are working but still live in poverty,” she said, adding it is important to invest in them. “If we are serious then this is the time to make those investments to be productive citizens and employees and employers.”

A group that has been making just this sort of investment in Saudi Arabia is the forum’s organizer, the Misk Foundation, which. was founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2011. 

Abbas asked the question that is on everyone’s minds these days: Are machines going to take our jobs? Siegel answered that while everybody looks at artificial intelligence and has this fear, actually AI will create new jobs and be used for more mundane tasks. 

AI was the topic of another session later in the day. Julia Glidden, general manager, global government industry for IBM Corporation in the US, said it is really important to know what AI is not. “It comes back to you and what you bring to your societies, which is your humanity, your passion, your vision and creativity, because machines will never replace that,” she said. 

Another panel on the topic of social intelligence stressed that technology could sometimes hinder people from interacting with the world around them.  Adeeb Alblooshi, the UAE’s youngest inventor, said it is important to develop social intelligence. 

He advised young people: “You have to start simple by understanding little things people do and that’s how you can gain experience. You don’t need to have the best equipment and the latest technology to develop. Just don’t give up ... always have faith.” 

Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy of planning and development at the Saudi General Sport Authority. (Basher Saleh/Arab News)

The day wasn’t just about skills and intelligence. Athletes led the afternoon sessions, including a panel on the Future of Sport moderated by Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy of planning and development at the Saudi General Sport Authority. 

Lubna Al-Omair, the first Saudi female Olympic fencer, interviewed Amir Khan, the Olympic medalist and light-welterweight world champion, who appeared wearing traditional Saudi clothes. He said that he hoped to help the next generation of Saudi boxers to become Olympic champions, and the only way to do this is by opening academies here. 

British boxing legend Amir Khan. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)

Khan said he believes there is a reason Saudis are good boxers: “Maybe it is in their blood — they are warriors.”

Winding up the day, Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho appeared on stage to a chorus of cheers and gave a talk entitled “The Discipline — and Fun — of Teamwork. ”

His advice for the audience? “Prepare yourself and help your colleague or team member,” he said. “Humility is important. Try to stay humble.”

He also said to train hard, read as much as you can and don’t fear failure. “I failed a lot of times,” he said. “Football is like that. You can’t always win. You have to seek lessons from the defeats and not lose hope.” 

Now retired, Ronaldinho is more concerned with giving back. “After I stopped playing, I have soccer academies. That’s what I’m proud of, and it has given me pleasure. To give something back (as a) thanks to football and everything it has given me.”

The forum was continuing at Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Center on Thursday.

Brazilian soccer great Ronaldinho. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)