Saudi Arabia’s megaprojects in spotlight at Riyadh International Book Fair

The fair continues until March 23 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center. (SPA)
Updated 19 March 2019

Saudi Arabia’s megaprojects in spotlight at Riyadh International Book Fair

  • UN-recognized Saudi cultural heritage showcased
  • The Red Sea gate shows a virtual image of the Kingdom’s coast in the future

RIYADH: Visitors arriving at the Riyadh International Book Fair 2019, one of the region’s largest cultural events, enter through four main gates bearing the names of the Saudi Vision 2030’s megaprojects: Neom, Qiddiyah, Red Sea and Amaala. The aim is to introduce visitors to the Kingdom’s hopes, ambitions and future plans.

The first gate leads visitors to virtual photos of the Qiddiya project. This is a cultural, sports and recreational project in Al-Qidiyya city, southwest of Riyadh. The city was named after the Aba Al-Qid road (Camel Trail) that used to connect Al-Yamama to Hijaz.
The second gate, Neom, contained a large electronic chip, alternative energy-based lighting and photos of Neom future projects. Neom is based in three countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, with a half-a-trillion-dollar investment and the support of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
Located in the northwest of the Kingdom, the project will stretch across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders. Neom aims to transform the Kingdom into an international pioneering example, through the introduction of value chains of industry and technology.
The origin of the name is a combination of the word “neo” — Latin for “new,” and the first letter “m” of the Arabic word “mustaqbal” which translates as “future.”
The Red Sea gate shows a virtual image of the Kingdom’s coast in the future. This is a touristic project that includes more than 50 islands located between the cities of Umluj and Al-Wajh. It covers a number of the Red Sea’s untouched islands, as well as the archaeological site of Madain Saleh and a nature reserve containing regional flora and fauna.
The Amaala project displayed at the fourth gate of the fair will offer an ultra-luxurious touristic experience focused upon wellness, healthy living and meditation, thanks to the site’s moderate climate. The project will be within the Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve in the northwest of the Kingdom, to the south of the Neom project.

Cultural heritage
Saudi cultural heritage, that has been officially recognized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is being celebrated with an exhibition at the fair. The display includes official UNESCO certificates awarded in recognition of the importance of Arab and Saudi culture and traditions such as the mizmar flute; Arabic coffee; the majlis; Al-Qatt Al-Asiri interior wall decorations; the Ardeh, the Saudi folkloric dance; and falconry.
Falconry has been on UNESCOS’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2012. The Ardeh, which was added in 2016, combines poetry, swordplay and drums, and is one of the most prominent performing arts in the Kingdom.
Arabic coffee, added in 2015, has been an important part of life in the region for hundreds of years and has its own deeply rooted customs and traditions. Majlis, a gathering place for social events, discussions of social issues and honoring guests, was also added in 2015.
The mizmar flute, registered by UNESCO in 2016, is one of the best-known musical arts in the Hijaz region. Al-Qatt Al-Asiri was the most recent Saudi addition to the list, in 2017. It is a traditional form of art that women use to decorate the interior walls of Asiri homes.


Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

We hope visitors would be inspired by the works they see, says Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 29 January 2020

Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

  • The seventh ‘21,39 Jeddah Arts’ event addresses the global environmental crisis under the title ‘I Love You, Urgently’

JEDDAH: The seventh 21,39 Jeddah Arts is back in town, addressing the global environmental crisis under the title “I Love You, Urgently.” Based at the Saudi Art Council’s hub in Jeddah, it parades the work of local artists.

Muhammad Hafiz, vice-chairman of Saudi Art Council, emphasized the importance of art in complementing societies, and how it is now being carried out by the state. He said: “This year we’re supported by the Ministry of Culture, who have kindly reached out to support us.”
Maya El Khalil, the curator of “I Love You, Urgently” paid tribute to Frei Otto, the masterful architect who has painstakingly contributed to memorable sights in the Kingdom and has been the inspiration for this year’s concept.
“In our part of the world, for the time being, these concerns (sustainability of the environment) aren’t a priority,” she said during the press conference to launch the exhibition.
 “It was interesting to see the artists go through a long process of research and study, building their awareness of their surroundings,” she said.
Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council, said that they hoped visitors would be inspired by the works they see.
He thanked the curator for choosing Frei Otto, one of the pioneers of biomimicry — the imitation of nature.
“With that humane concept, the artists started expressing their feelings about how they see nature; some went into architectural forms, filming, music; it’s really diverse,” he said.
Visual artist Marwah Al-Mugait is one of 21 artists who have participated in the main exhibition this year, making her third appearance thanks to the Saudi Art Council.
Al-Mugait’s creation can be sensed upon entry to the cavernous venue, where women’s chants can be heard. Upon inspection, behind a lavish white curtain, a video filmed in Riyadh is playing across a curved wall where a group of women come together in self-expression and self-preservation, before they huddle against an ancient tree and embrace it.
“This year is exceptional because of the theme; I’m so happy and honored to work with Maya El Khalil, who presented the concept of biomimicry,” Al-Mugait told Arab News.

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The exhibition hosts visits from schools organized by the Ministry of Education.

Al-Mugait began to work toward unseen elements to display “multi-layered emotional details” in her work in order to depict the senses rather than what meets the eye. Initially, the Riyadh-based artist felt anxious about applying this new concept to her background in film and performance.
 “Throughout my research, I was driven towards the topic of the defense mechanisms of species, plantations and human beings, specifically Mimosa pudica, which closes in on itself whenever a predator is trying to touch it,” she explained.
Al-Mugait also drew inspiration from the way bees deal with predators who attack their hive, during which they perform a shimmering wave collectively.
As she struggled to translate these mechanical moves into a body language that conveys how humans can defend themselves from inner and outer harm, psychological harm and abuse, she came across Movers in Riyadh, and two of their choreographers helped her shape her performance.
Al-Mugait chose 14 female dancers to depict empowered women, two Jamaican-British and 12 Saudis. “I wanted to trace that power which you cannot see with my camera, along with their interaction with nature. That moment when they hug the tree at the end is similar to the one you would get from a mother.”
During the first week of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, a forum will be held with talks and panel discussions by the curator El Khalil and the artists of “I Love You, Urgently.”
The exhibition is open to the public, and also hosts visits from schools as part of educational trips orchestrated by the Ministry of Education, said Hafiz.
The event will run from January 28 to April 18, with further exhibitions taking place besides “I Love You, Urgently,” including “Architecture of Tomorrow: Frei Otto’s Legacy in Saudi Arabia,” which pays tribute to the inspiration behind this year’s theme, and “Sculpting Spaces — Architectural Desert Dwellings for AlUla”.
The Saudi Art Council is a non-profit initiative founded in 2014 by a number of art enthusiasts, and has been supportive of local artists and art movements in the Kingdom.