Ithra celebrates and reflects on a busy and award-winning 2021

Update Ithra celebrates and reflects on a busy and award-winning 2021
Ithra presented more than 7,000 programs and initiatives in art, knowledge, culture, creativity and society this year, and welcomed more than 500,000 local and international visitors. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 31 December 2021

Ithra celebrates and reflects on a busy and award-winning 2021

Ithra celebrates and reflects on a busy and award-winning 2021
  • The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture presented more than 7,000 programs and won five local and international awards this year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, presented more than 7,000 programs and initiatives in art, knowledge, culture, creativity and society this year, and welcomed more than 500,000 local and international visitors, the organization said.

In addition, about 4,000 male and female volunteers participated in the center’s local, regional and international events and activities, contributing 13,000 hours of work.

Ithra won five local and international awards in the past 12 months, including the 2021 Cultural Institutes Award in the private sector track by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture. Ithra was also recognized with three prestigious accolades from MarCom, one of the largest and most respected creative competitions in the world. Among 6,000 entries, Ithra achieved platinum in the ‘Team Achievement’ and ‘Pro Bono’ categories, and gold in the ‘Social Content’ category for its efforts on World Book Day.

The center was also recognized locally by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development with numerous awards, including the first volunteer unit to implement the national volunteering standard, the first center to introduce volunteering in the private sector, and a Gold “Mowaamah” certification, for the accessible ecosystem that the center provides to support those with special needs, in accordance with their required standards and needs.

Another research initiative that Ithra launched is its flagship digital wellbeing platform that highlights the researches and conversations related to digital wellbeing. Sync, a project commissioned with an extensive global study exploring the role and impact of technology on the daily lives of the general public. Canvassing 15,000 people in 30 countries, the results of the study inform Ithra’s Sync project, in addition to being a resource for all stakeholders, including the public, social researchers, content producers and providers, and policymakers. The project includes a yearly summit with international and local speakers which will inaugurate early 2022.

This year, Ithra also piloted its inaugural Creative Solutions program with over 1,000 local applicants, launched to boost Saudi’s creative economy through empowering digital content creation in immersive technologies.

Ithra’s annual flagship creativity festival, held under the theme Tools — Crafting Creativity, Tanween 2021 attracted more than 25,000 visitors over the course of three weeks. The festival featured international and local experts in 30 talks, 10 masterclasses, 7 workshops and 4 big experiences. One of the main features of Tanween was the Smartphone Orchestra, which sorted the public based on the data they provided themselves in this interactive and immersive activity. Another highlight featured mass drone swarms that interacted with the audience in one of the largest co-created drone/human light paintings ever made.

Currently on display at the first Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, Ithra Art Prize-winner Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s piece underlines the new Pan-Arab direction of the prize. This is the first year one of the most significant art prizes in the region is open to regional artists, while simultaneously representing a homecoming for the award which was presented at Art Dubai for its first three editions. Consisting of 19 canvasses nearly 20 meters long together, E Pluribus Unum – A Modern Fossil is described as a metaphor for modern times.

Ithra’s investment in the future saw the announcement earlier this month that the F1 in Schools program is coming to Saudi Arabia. Formula One’s global educational initiative will see some of the Kingdom’s brightest young minds join peers from 26,000 schools in 51 other countries as they showcase their creative skills and compete to reach the Aramco F1 in Schools World Finals in 2022. The world’s largest science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) challenge highlights Ithra’s mandate to champion creative potential and inspire innovation among Saudi talent and youth.

Challenging visitors to channel their creativity towards Islamic heritage, Ithra and the Abdullatif Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture launched an opportunity for people to reimagine masjids during its recently concluded three-day conference The Mosque: Innovation in Object, Form and Function. The first conference of its kind, the three-day gathering featured global experts exploring the history, art and architecture of Islamic cultures and culminated in the announcement of the Mosque of the Future challenge.

The conference complemented the ongoing exhibition Shatr Al-Masjid: The Art of Orientation. Featuring the largest collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever displayed in the Kingdom, it is the result of unprecedented partnerships on international and national level, including with the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities. In another first, this year marked the opening of Ithra’s most international art exhibition yet. Featuring 26 artworks by 20 artists, including site-specific installations and commissioned pieces created specifically for and at the center, Seeing & Perceiving explores how observers perceive artworks in different ways. Testament to Ithra’s support of local talent, Saudi open call winner Walaa Fadul’s piece Light Upon Light, a composition of six hologram fans and 3D holographic visuals, is exhibited alongside some of the biggest names in the contemporary art world, including Carsten Höller, Aisha Khalid and Robert Irwin.

Using contemporary art to serve a bigger purpose, Ithra partnered with environmental sustainability leader Arcadia Earth for its Terra exhibition. The exhibit harnessed the power of art to create memorable experiences while taking a localized view on global challenges such as water scarcity, air quality and plastic pollution. Another first in Saudi, the exhibition aligns with the Kingdom’s environmental goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

While Ithra’s two-day Learning Beyond conference highlighted best practices in the education sector by harnessing innovative, accessible and diverse resources to deliver a tangible impact on students’ development, the center also organized the scientific communication program PiCon in its first edition in conjunction with the celebration of the International Pi Day to provide an opportunity for innovators and those interested in science and technology to meetup with local and international speakers and experts, aimed to elevate the scientific movement for all ages.

Ithra also cemented its reputation as a leading Saudi film producer with roadshows at the 74th Cannes International Film Festival and at the Red Sea International Film Festival, the Kingdom’s first international film fair. Produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, celebrated Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy’s Sea of Sands and Saudi award-winning independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s Valley Road are both scheduled for release in 2023. The feature-length documentary film Anti-Cinema, meanwhile, is currently in post-production and is expected to hit the international film festival circuit shortly. Winner of the Ithra Content Commission Initiative, Ali Saeed and Hassan Saeed’s film brings Saudi Arabia’s film history to the big screen.

Furthermore, Ithra is excited about the opening of registrations for Sea of Sands’ shadowing program, linked to the center’s commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries. The training program is designed to take Saudi’s film industry to the next level, and will see 10 aspiring filmmakers joining the production of the film and learn from well-established filmmakers and crew.


Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
Updated 8 sec ago

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
  • Speaking as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for an official visit, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said bilateral relations are characterized by friendship, trust, cooperation and coordination
  • Xi is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development

RIYADH: Three summits due to take place in Riyadh in the coming days reflect the shared determination of the Kingdom, the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations and the wider Arab world to strengthen cooperation and enhance strategic relations with China in pursuit of greater growth and prosperity for all of the countries and their peoples, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“The relations between the Kingdom and China are strategic and close in light of the international developments and changes taking place,” he said.

He added that the bilateral relationship is characterized by friendship, mutual trust, cooperation and continuous coordination, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

His comments came as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening for a three-day official visit, during which he is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.

Prince Faisal praised the contribution made by a high-level Saudi-Chinese joint committee to the development of relations between the two countries in many fields. He said the bilateral economic relationship is progressing rapidly against the backdrop of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which offer promising opportunities for cooperation, sustainable development and mutual benefits.

He added that China has ranked as the Kingdom’s top trading partner since 2018, and that the value of bilateral trade in 2021 was SR309 billion ($82.1 billion), an increase of 39 percent compared with the previous year.


Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
Updated 19 min 39 sec ago

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
  • Prince Badr met with a number of his counterparts on the sidelines of the forum
  • A number of agreements were signed during bilateral meetings to enhance cultural cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, on Wednesday organized the 23rd Conference of Arab Culture Ministers in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, was attended by ministers and officials from 20 Arab countries, as well as representatives of the Arab League, and regional and international organizations.

The minister of culture, who is also president of the 23rd session, said: “This year’s session, whose main theme is: ‘Culture and the green future,’ aims to make the cultural sector more sustainable, as we seek to make it the starting point of international efforts involving the cultural sector with its various branches, extending to cover all elements of its value chain.”

He added: “The utilization of culture toward the green future contributes to instilling culture in the global development debate, which receives the full attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the Kingdom’s participation in global cultural platforms, where the ‘Culture and the green future’ theme conforms to the goals of the Kingdom Vision 2030.”

He said that this, in return, highlights the Kingdom’s support of collective efforts to enhance knowledge, skills and practices related to making the cultural sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

During the conference, ministers focused on the role of culture in achieving sustainable development, while working to develop effective sectorial policies that bring added value to collective efforts to move toward a more creative and sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Prince Badr met with his Egyptian counterpart Nevin Al-Kilany on the sidelines of the forum, where the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the cultural field.

The memorandum included cultural fields, such as heritage, visual arts, performing arts, literature, books and publishing, Islamic decoration and other creative tracks.

It also included work to enhance the participation of Saudi and Egyptian intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to joint cooperation in training and qualifying local artistic cadres, and benefiting from experiences in the two countries in the fields of museums, urban heritage and handicraft industries.

Prince Badr praised the strong strategic relations that link the Kingdom with Egypt in all cultural fields. The two parties also discussed cooperation in the field of registering intangible heritage files with UNESCO, and cooperation in the field of exchanging expertise through cultural scholarship programs.

Prince Badr met with the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid where another agreement was signed to enhance cultural cooperation in various fields, including literature, publishing and translation, heritage, architecture and design, museums, theater and performing arts.

The memorandum also included enhancing the participation of Saudi and Moroccan intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to exchanging expertise in organizations and cultural policies.

He also held similar meetings with the Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Salem Al-Malik, and the Director-General of ALECSO, Mohamed Ould Amar, where they discussed the most prominent current cooperation programs between the organizations and the Kingdom, and memoranda of understanding were signed.

He also met with his Tunisian and Djiboutian counterparts, and the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.


Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 
Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met Director General of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization Mohamed Ould Amar in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The meeting was part of the Saudi minister’s bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the 23rd session of the Conference of Arab Culture Ministers, which was held in the Saudi capital and organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with ALECSO.

During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministry and ALECSO to enhance cultural cooperation through a range of items, including registering natural sites and heritage elements in UNESCO lists.
 


Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit
Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday participated in the work of the 154th session of the preparatory ministerial council for the 43rd session of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was held at the headquarters of the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh.
The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, who is also president of the council’s current session, with the participation of Gulf foreign ministers, and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf.
During the meeting, the ministers discussed ways of enhancing the process of joint cooperation and coordination between the GCC countries, and the developments of the situation in the region.
They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and the schedule of the work of the Chinese-Gulf Summit for Cooperation and Development that will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and GCC leaders.


Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks
Updated 07 December 2022

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

Swedish envoy, OIC chief in cooperation talks

RIYADH: Sweden’s envoy to Saudi Arabia recently met with the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for talks on ways to further strengthen cooperation links.

During their meeting in Jeddah, ambassador Petra Menander and OIC chief Hissein Brahim Taha also discussed other issues of mutual concern.

In a tweet, Menander said: “Excellent discussion with Hissein Brahim Taha, secretary-general of @OIC_OCI on topics of common interest — need to increase global levels of humanitarian support, women, and youth empowerment, and more. Looking forward to continued dialogue.”

While visiting the Red Sea port city, the Swedish envoy also met with Saudi doctors trained in Sweden and now working in the Kingdom.

In a separate tweet, she said: “In Jeddah, catching up with Saudi doctors with specialist training from top university hospitals (in Skane/SUS, Sahlgrenska), now all leaders in healthcare.

“Great discussion on primary healthcare, workplace conditions, and other topics of common interest. Great to see you all — greetings to absent friends,” she added.

The new Swedish ambassador submitted her credentials to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September.

On behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, deputy minister for protocol affairs, Khalid Al-Sehli, received a copy of Menander’s credentials.

In October, Menander held a meeting with Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim to discuss topics of common interest and areas to develop cooperation.

The Saudi-Swedish Business Council was launched in October 2021 and inaugurated in Sweden’s capital Stockholm by Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi and Swedish Foreign Trade Minister Anna Hallberg.

Al-Qasabi said the council acted as a mainstay in stimulating and encouraging the private sectors of both countries while helping in the development of bilateral relations, exchange of expertise and knowledge, and the coordination of investment planning and related partnerships.

He added that Saudi Arabia was, “keen to enhance trade cooperation, facilitate exports to Sweden and Scandinavian countries, and exchange expertise and knowledge.”

Saudi Arabia is Sweden’s most significant economic partner in the Middle East and the No. 1 trade partner among Scandinavian countries, with the volume of trade exchange in the past five years reaching more than $6 billion.