In London, a contemporary art exhibition is giving voice to a ‘new generation’ of Saudi talent

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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (AN Photo)
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A traditional Saudi music band performing at the opening of the show. (AN Photo)
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The event runs from March 7-9 from 10am to 6pm in the Phillips building in Berkeley Square, London. (AN Photo)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (AN Photo)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (AN Photo)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (AN Photo)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (AN Photo)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)
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The program features art exhibitions, film screenings and music performances. (Ziyad Alarfaj/Arab News)
Updated 08 March 2018
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In London, a contemporary art exhibition is giving voice to a ‘new generation’ of Saudi talent

LONDON: A new generation of creative talent transforming Saudi Arabia’s art scene unveiled its work in London yesterday.
Short films and photography by some of the Kingdom’s most promising artists went on display at a major new exhibition in Berkeley Square, in Mayfair, which runs until March 9.
One of the event’s organizers, Ahmed Al-Maziad, hailed the exhibition as the “beginning of an international era” for Saudi creativity. “There is so much talent that hasn’t been shown,” he said.
Some of the biggest names in contemporary Saudi art are represented through exhibits on two floors of the Phillips gallery and salerooms. Their works are featured alongside traditional pieces that convey the breadth of creativity in the Kingdom.
“What better way to give people a true sense of the real Saudi Arabia than through its artists?” said Raneem Z. Farsi, one of the exhibition curators. Speaking to Arab News, she said the display is one of the first in a series to promote Saudi culture in Europe.

 “People are looking at our contemporary arts scene like it’s a new trend, but we have a deep-rooted culture of creativity, and art is a very important part of that. 
 “We have so much talent, so much to offer, and this is just the beginning.”
The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until March 9, is organized by Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority (GCA) in cooperation with the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation. 
 A large section of the exhibition is given over to examples of Alqatt Alasiri art, one of Saudi Arabia’s most distinctive handicrafts. Used by the women of the southern Assir region to decorate the walls of their homes, this historical art form, which dates back several hundred years, was added to the UNESCO list for intangible cultural heritage in 2017.
 Ali Moghani, whose wife runs a small Alqatt Alasiri museum in their hometown of Rijal Almaa, said: “We have been working for 20 years to show the world this kind of art and now, with the GCA’s support, we hope it will become a school of art in its own right.”
 The exhibition’s three-day program features music performances by Saudi bands in a variety of genres, as well as film screenings that include the award-winning Saudi movie “The Bliss of Being No One” as well as “A Colorful Life,” a documentary produced by the GCA exploring female empowerment, which will be shown on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. 
 With new tourist visas opening the Kingdom up to visitors, the exhibition also offers insights into some of the country’s most extraordinary attractions via virtual reality tours of famous Saudi sites, including Makkah, Mada’in Saleh and the historic village of Al Diri’yah.
 Other highlights include a photo exhibition chronicling a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1938 by Princess Alice, the youngest granddaughter of Queen Victoria and the first member of the British royal family to visit the Kingdom.


From telegrams to digital services: IT has traveled a long way in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia established a wireless network in 1925. (SPA)
Updated 11 min 49 sec ago
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From telegrams to digital services: IT has traveled a long way in Saudi Arabia

  • Telecommunication system has always been vital for the country, and will continue to play a key role in future

JEDDAH: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always paid great attention to the communications and information technology (IT) sector, which is one of the oldest governmental sectors. Since the era of founder King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the postal and telecommunication services have been an essential link between the Kingdom’s sprawling regions, separated by great distances. An order was issued in 1926 to establish the Directorate of Posts, Telegraph and Telephones (PTT), to take care of all the postal and telecommunication services. In 1934, 22 wireless stations were opened to link 22 cities and villages in the Kingdom through telegraph services.
King Salman also showed great interest in the sector and launched in 2016 the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which was adopted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The vision focuses on developing the sector in the Kingdom in accordance with international developments.
With the flourishing economy, Vision 2030 reflected the state’s concern to develop its digital infrastructure, as this is vital in building advanced industrial activities, attracting investors and improving the competitiveness of the national economy.
Therefore, communications and IT infrastructure will be developed through partnerships with the private sector, especially high-speed broadband technology, to increase coverage in cities and outskirts and optimize the quality of the calls. The Vision aims for a coverage of more than 90 percent of houses in densely populated cities and 66 percent in other areas.
The state will promote the governance of the digital transformation through a national council that supervises the process and will also support the transformation at the governmental level.
The communication and IT sector in the Kingdom has seen important changes, including the first negotiations with companies abroad to buy wireless devices and establishing a wireless network in 1925. The state then worked on expanding the international telegraph service through submarine cables across the Red Sea between Jeddah and Port Sudan, where the Port Sudan Conference was held in 1926 for this purpose.
Up until 1934, when the telephone service was first introduced to the country, the phone lines linked to the manual telephone exchanges in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Taif did not exceed 854 in number.
During this era, the magnetic phone was used, which was dry-cell powered. This phone operated within the same neighborhood or city, through operators working around the clock to connect calls through a manual switchboard.
In 1984, a royal decree was issued to build an international wireless station in Jeddah. The state’s great interest in the sector led to the creation of the Communications Ministry, led by Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz. The Directorate of Posts, Telegraph and Telephones (PTT) became part of the ministry in 1953. King Saud Al-Saud inaugurated the first phone calls between the Kingdom and Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain in 1955.
King Al-Saud also introduced the first “telex” teleprinters, the Loren 2133 and the Siemens T37h with Arabic alphabets.
Telegraph remained the main means of communication until phone services were developed.
The state established the Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone (PTT) to handle the sectors of telegraph and communications in 1975, at a time when phone lines did not exceed 130,000, with revenues of SR250 million ($66.7 million).
In 1984, the first optical fiber cables were used, and call centers were established in all the regions of the Kingdom.
In 1987, King Fahd Satellite Telecommunications City was launched between Makkah and Jeddah. In 1995, mobile telephones were introduced in the Kingdom.
To provide trusted and developed services, the Communications Commission was established in 2001, to handle the organization of this sector and the issuance of licenses for companies. Information Technology was added to the commission’s missions and it became the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) in 2003.
CITC has developed a strategic plan aiming to organize the sector to take it to high levels of competitiveness and ensure a suitable environment for investors. The Communications and IT Ministry is looking to extend the fiber optic system to 2.1 million houses in urban areas by 2020, to develop the infrastructure of communications, speed up the transfer toward the cognitive economy and match the goals of the National Transformation Program 2020.
The ministry has linked 400,000 houses with fiber-optic networks and 110 thousand houses with broadband wireless networks, and is also working on covering 70 percent of the remote houses with broadband wireless networks by 2020.

In 2016, more than SR130 billion ($34 billion) were spent on communications and IT services, where the sector’s contribution in the GDP reached 6 percent, and 10 percent in the non-oil domestic product.

The expenditure allocated for communications and IT is expected to increase due to big investments by the governmental and private sectors, and to become compatible with the National Transformation program 2020, as one of the main programs supporting the Vision 2030.