RIYADH: The Riyadh International Book Fair is the capital’s most eagerly anticipated literary event — but it is an artwork by a Saudi calligrapher and an Emirati artist that has become the major talking point among visitors to the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.
The book fair brought together prominent Saudi calligrapher Shaker Kashgari and celebrated Emirati artist Ashwaq Abdulla who collaborated on an acrylic painting of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
The UAE is the book fair’s ‘guest of honor’ country this year, and the artwork symbolizes the enduring relationship between the two countries.
“I handled the calligraphy, and Abdulla handled the portrayal by drawing the two crown princes with acrylic paint,” Kashgari told Arab News.
The book fair was opened by Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad on Wednesday and will run for 10 days.
“We were approached by the Ministry of Culture for this collaboration,” Kashgari said. “I have taken part in exhibitions in the UAE — the last one was an art and design exhibition in Sharjah, where I represented the Kingdom. With the two countries coming together for the book fair, we were approached to do the joint artwork, highlighting deep-rooted relations between the two countries.”
Abdulla said: “This is the first time we have worked together. We are happy to work in collaboration — it is a sign of the close relationship between the Kingdom and the UAE.
“It is an international book fair with a huge turn-up of people from different nationalities, so we decided to do this artwork to show how close relations are in art and culture, and people to people,” she said.
Abdulla said the artwork sent a message to youth to “chase your dream of doing good in life.”
The Emirati artist said all artists needed to share ideas. “Kashgari is a calligrapher and I am passionate about paintings. Our collaboration is a good learning experience for both of us.”
Kashgari, who is also a designer and graffiti artist, has worked with T-shirts and mobile stickers and is now focusing on posters and artworks in Arabic calligraphy.
The art form is a common sight throughout the Middle East on street graffiti and billboards.
Abdulla, who works mainly with abstract paintings and collage, was recognized for her artistic talent at the age of 7, when she won a local art competition. Her work now combines charcoal, pastels, oils and recycled materials.
Multimedia and art therapy are among her latest interests.
Abdulla said her dream is to have a big solo gallery or a space at Saadiyat, the UAE’s cultural center.