Bahraini artists showcase their talent at London’s V&A

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Noof Alrefaei — A Bicycle Bench.
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Faika Al Hassan’s artwork.
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Amina Alabassi — Rebirth II.
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Nabeela Al Khayer.
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Mayasa Al Sowaidi — Untitled.
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Sumaya Abdulghani — Threads of Knowledge.
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Lulwa Al-Khalifa — Blue Psychedelia.
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Amina Alabassi.
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A painting by Omar Al Rashid.
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Hamed Al Bosta.
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Marwa Al Khalifa’s painting.
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An artwork by Jamal Abdul Rahim.
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Taiba Faraj —Dancing Letters.
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Miriam Fakhro — A Beautiful Time.
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Taiba Faraj.
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An artwork by Ghassan Muhsin.
Updated 09 June 2016

Bahraini artists showcase their talent at London’s V&A

Bahraini artists brought a striking range of images to the Victoria & Albert Museum for the launch of Bahrain Art Across Borders’ (BAABs’) inaugural international exhibition held in association with Art Select and Tamkeen.
The exhibition was held under the patronage of Bahrain’s Ambassador for the United Kingdom Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa. Speaking at the event, the Ambassador said: “It is truly fitting that this 2016 exhibition should take place in the United Kingdom as our two countries celebrate two centuries of friendship and cooperation. Over the decades, this historic relationship has proved its value and we can look with confidence at the future of our bilateral friendship.
“Indeed, I am convinced that art is an area of tremendous potential for those ties, bringing our countries still closer, deepening our mutual understanding and expanding our horizons through a shared appreciation of art’s depth and beauty.
“I am pleased and excited that so many talented Bahraini artists are part of this exhibition, including established artists and relative newcomers — representing such a diverse range of styles and materials.
“This is a good opportunity, especially for our young artists, to mingle with the crowd here and gain experience — and maybe sell a few!”
Guest of Honor at the launch was the Rt Hon John Whittingdale, MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who said: “I love art and in my job I get the opportunity to go to lots of exhibitions. Bahrain clearly has a lot of talent.”
“I believe very strongly in cultural exchange. We have a very good friendship and strong ties with Bahrain as it is — and this exhibition will strengthen that further.
“In other countries, where we perhaps have political differences, maintaining cultural dialogue is also very important. Giving people the opportunity to see examples of culture from another country helps to build understanding and friendships and closer links. We do a lot of work through the British Council in taking our British culture overseas, and it is great to see Bahrain having this opportunity in London.”
Tamkeen’s Chief Executive Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, stated: “Art and Culture form the cornerstone of any country’s identity and heritage. It also plays a key role in driving forward economic activity, especially as it is one of the primary gateways for anyone who deals with a country. It not only plays a key role in encouraging tourism, but also assists in enhancing a country’s visibility and reach to a wider global audience. As such, Tamkeen, which is a semi-government organization that seeks to contribute toward making Bahrain’s private sector the key driver of economic growth, is proud to be supporting this initiative which provides a group of hard-working, talented artists, who demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to grow and develop, to reach markets beyond Bahrain and showcase their unique art collections to a multinational audience.”
The seventeen artists selected for the exhibition include Amina Al-Abbasi, Balqees Fakhro, Ebrahim BuSaad, Faika Al-Hassan, Ghada Khunji, Ghassan Muhsin, Hamed Al-Bosta, Jamal Abdul Rahim, Lulwa Al-Khalifa, Marwa Al-Khalifa, Nabeela Al-Khayer, Noof Alrefaei, Omar Al-Rashid, Taiba Faraj, Sumaya Abdulghani, Mayasa Al-Sowaidi and Mariam Fakhro.
The selected artists responded to an open call to ensure equal opportunity for all in the competition. Their brief was to present work that showed their connection to Bahrain.
Janet Rady, one of the independent judges who selected the pieces for the exhibition, was delighted with the enthusiastic response to the range of work on display. “It’s been an amazing turnout — and the V&A is a wonderful setting — the works look wonderful,” she said.
The artists engaged in a full program of cultural activities during their stay in London including visits to prominent galleries, museums and art centers such as the Barbican Art Center and Tate Modern. There were also behind-the-scene tours of reputed auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s and a public panel discussion on Art and Globalization at the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, chaired by international industry experts with BAAB’s Ghada Kunji, Jamal A Rahim and Ghassan Muhsen as guest speakers.
Artist, Mayasa Al Sowaidi , who was showcasing thirteen artworks in the exhibition, has recently made art her full time occupation. What started out as a hobby has turned into something much more, she explained: “I have been practicing art for the past twelve years. I majored in mathematics and I am doing my PhD now in emotional intelligence in France. Maths has rules which are very strictly applied so I go to art to relieve my emotions — to relax and feel free. I didn’t know that art would become my profession as it started as just a hobby.”
Jamal Abdul Rahim’s pieces, displaying his diverse range of talents, included both beautiful prints and bronze sculptures. He spoke about how he approaches his work: “For my prints, in order to ensure their rarity and exclusivity, I do only one or two copies and then I destroy the plate.
“I love to play, and for me art is a kind of playing. Once you understand the basics, when you apply your attention and time to a stone or a print plate you can create good art. It is important to study, read widely and immerse yourself in culture; with this foundation you can then find your own way.
“Every day I work in my studio for hours and hours — up to ten hours. Today, I am running one of the biggest workshops for print making in the Gulf region.”
He gave some insights into how he goes about creating sculptures of animals, including the wonderful images of a cat and bull included in the exhibition, and the very different experience of working with stone and bronze.
“I do not try to copy the animal directly — instead I imagine the animal to create my vision of its form and character. I prefer working with stone because when you are sculpting stone it is as though the stone speaks to you to release the beautiful image it has within it. With bronze — it is different — it is not like the conversation you have with stone — instead you must impose your idea to create the image.
“So I rarely work with bronze — but in this exhibition I am showing my bronzes because they are easier to transport than my heavy stone sculptures,” he said.
Kaneka Subberwal, CEO and founder of Art Select (a brand of Art and Spice), commented, “Bahrain is renowned for its rich history, culture and heritage and this is further manifested in its creative talent. BAAB London is an ideal platform for our Bahraini artists to showcase their vision to a global audience and link them to art collectors and enthusiasts from across the word. The high-profile venues we have secured ensure this objective is fulfilled. We are very pleased with what we have achieved so far through the BAAB initiative with the support of our partners Tamkeen; it is a proud moment for us to be showcasing this side of Bahrain to the world, especially with a display of such a worthy collection.
The exposure that the BAAB initiative offers artists is instrumental in stimulating activity in the local arts scene and further position the country as a prime center for art investment on the world map.”
The BAAB London 2016 exhibition transferred from the V&A to Gallery 8, a newly refurbished gallery space housing prominent art talent situated in central London.

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King Abdul Aziz Public Library showcases Arab, Islamic heritage

Updated 21 April 2019

King Abdul Aziz Public Library showcases Arab, Islamic heritage

  • The library has 8,571 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts, documents, coins and rare maps
  • The library has an archive of photographs, one of the rarest collections in the world

RIYADH: King Abdulaziz Public Library provides a key index of Saudi culture, presenting the world with a rich legacy of cultural, historical and literary diversity.

On World Heritage Day, April 18, the library highlighted its efforts in preserving cultural heritage, which makes it one of the most important libraries in the Arab and Islamic world. It possesses a variety of heritage treasures in manuscripts, documents, rare books, coins and photographs. The library has 8,571 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts, documents, coins and rare maps.

The library has established a knowledge-based space to produce large collections of specialized books on the history of the Kingdom and in the Arab and Islamic worlds while continuing to use its knowledge system in line with Vision 2030 and the cultural strategy of the Ministry of Culture.

The library’s special holdings consist of manuscripts, rare books, rare documents, rare maps, rare photographs and coins. These form an integrated picture and are characterized by rare historical scenes that stimulate research.

The library established the Manuscripts Department in 1988 to contribute to the preservation of Arab and Islamic heritage and make it available to researchers and investigators. The department has more than (4,400) original manuscripts in addition to more than (700) photocopies and microfilms, including the charts of the Institute of History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences at the University of Frankfurt. More than 3,500 manuscripts have been indexed and filed in the computer system.

The library in Riyadh, the pioneer in publishing heritage, has digitized all of its manuscripts — more than two million of them — and stored them on CDs.

The library contains a collection of rare books of ancient and rare European editions, consisting of 78 books on the biography of the Prophet Muhammad. The collection also includes 113 translated books in ancient European languages of the Holy Qur’an, as well as 55 books on Qur’anic studies and 54 books on Islamic sources. This collection represents the beginnings of European interest in the Holy Qur’an and its studies. The library acquired a collection of Arabic editions printed in Europe in 1592-1593. These editions are part of the library’s interest in the original Arab and Islamic heritage. They include rare books such as The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna, Rhetoric Mysteries by Abd Al-Qahir Al-Jurjani, a commentary on the “Isagoge” by Abu l-Faraj at-Tayyib, The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’an by Jalal Al-Din Al Suyuti, as well as 8,271 rare Arabic indexed books.

The library hosts a number of private collections, including that of the American orientalist George Rantz. This collection has many books, manuscripts, maps and rare documents, containing books in Arabic and 3,265 books in foreign languages. It also has the collection of Hamza Boubakeur, dean of the Islamic Institute and former imam of Paris Mosque. It is an integrated collection with 17,170 titles of 19,821 volumes of periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, documents, newspaper clippings, rare books and books in Arabic, French, English, German and Russian. It includes books on scientific and religious sciences, and tourist literature that describes countries, their heritage, customs and traditions, and is linked to Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Gulf and the Islamic world.

The library has an archive of photographs, one of the rarest collections in the world, with a total of 5,564 single original photographs or collections in albums, taken by the most famous photographers of the East and the Arab world since the beginning of photography in 1740, as well as photographs taken by travelers, sea captains, military personnel, envoys, consuls and politicians who visited the region from the middle of the last century until the beginning of this century. This archive of photographs is one of the most unique in the world.

The library has 365 photographs of the two Holy Mosques with previously unpublished negatives. These photographs were taken by the Egyptian international photographer Ahmad Pasha Helmi, who was commissioned by King Farouk to photograph the two Holy Mosques during the visit of King Abdul Aziz to Makkah and Medina, in addition to a collection of albums depicting the Hijaz railway and other parts of the Kingdom.

Official and non-official documents are important scientific materials in the writing of history. Nations rely on collecting their documents, archiving them and making them available for study. The library in Riyadh has been keen to acquire rare documents and books, especially on the history of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the history of Saudi Arabia, and to allocate a special section for them. These documents include:

George Rantz records: in English, French and Arabic, covering the period from 1930 to 1960.
Documents of the Egyptian and Arab press on the visit of King Abdul Aziz to Egypt.
Documents of the American press about King Saud’s visit to the US.
Documents on oil agreements between the Kingdom and some American companies.
Documents of the British press regarding the war between the British forces and the forces of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman against the forces of the imam of Oman, and the effects of this war on the region and the position of the Saudi state and King Saud of this war.
Abdul Rahman Azzam’s collection of documents (in Arabic and English) covering the period from 1925 to 1960.
Correspondence reflecting the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia to the Mosque of Paris and Makkah pilgrims.
The British collection of documents on King Abdul Aziz Al Saud (English), covering the period from 1800 to 1953. These are photocopies of the original documents and constitute one of the most important sources of the history of the Arabian Peninsula.
Khair Al-Din Al-Zarkali’s collection of documents: (in Arabic) covering the period from 1920 to 1975.
The library also has 700 rare maps, especially of the Arabian Peninsula, dating from 1482. The library has acquired more than 7,600 rare gold, silver and bronze coins, dating back to different Islamic times.

World Heritage Day was proposed by the International Council of Monuments and Sites on April 18, 1982 and approved by UNESCO in 1983 with the aim of promoting awareness of the importance of cultural heritage and protecting it.