Female collective aims to revive traditional Najdi building styles in Riyadh

A performative intervention by Um Slaim on a crumbling mud structure south of Um Slaim that explores the temporal aspect of displacement. (Supplied)
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A performative intervention by Um Slaim on a crumbling mud structure south of Um Slaim that explores the temporal aspect of displacement. (Supplied)
Female collective aims to revive traditional Najdi building styles in Riyadh
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Existing traditional Najdi buildings in Um Slaim neighborhood. (Supplied)
Female collective aims to revive traditional Najdi building styles in Riyadh
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Existing traditional Najdi buildings in Um Slaim neighborhood. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 January 2022

Female collective aims to revive traditional Najdi building styles in Riyadh

A performative intervention by Um Slaim on a crumbling mud structure south of Um Slaim that explores the temporal aspect of displacement. (Supplied)
  • Saudi female collective aims to revive traditional Najdi building styles in the capital

RIYADH: Newcomers to Riyadh who visit At-Turaif, the historic district in Diriyah and the original home of the Saudi royal family, are invariably enchanted by the many mud brick buildings made in traditional Najdi architectural style.

These eye-catching structures, with their geometric motifs, triangular windows and golden colors that echo the desert landscape, rise from At-Turaif’s narrow streets, offering a reminder of the Kingdom’s origins.
Even amid Riyadh’s drive toward urban growth — in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic reform program — Najdi architecture can still be found in certain areas of the Saudi capital.
The traditional architectural style found throughout the limestone plateau of Najdi, the geographic center of Saudi Arabia, is in many ways a focal point of Saudi heritage.




The traditional style found throughout the limestone plateau of Najdi, the geographic center of KSA, is in many ways a focal point of Saudi heritage.

Now, as Riyadh steps up its urban development, a new design and architectural collective called Um Slaim, led by Saudi female architects Sara Alissa and Nojoud Al-Sudairi, aims to preserve and maintain Najdi architecture.
The collective, launched in early December, is named after the historic neighborhood of Um Slaim in Riyadh, known for its Najdi-style buildings.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Now, as Riyadh steps up its urban development, a new design and architectural collective called Um Slaim, led by Saudi female architects Sara Alissa and Nojoud Al-Sudairi, aims to preserve and maintain Najdi architecture.

• The collective, launched in early December, is named after the historic neighborhood of Um Slaim in Riyadh, known for its Najdi-style buildings.

• The collective collaborates with other artists and architects to investigate the displacement of Najdi architecture as contemporary designs and styles gain precedence in Saudi Arabia.

“The Um Slaim project stems from the urgent need to protect the identity and social history of this part of the city in the face of redevelopment and gentrification,” Alissa told Arab News.
“We named ourselves Um Slaim as it was our first site of research into early Najdi architecture.”




Existing traditional Najdi buildings in Um Slaim neighborhood.

The collective collaborates with other artists and architects to investigate the displacement of Najdi architecture as contemporary designs and styles gain precedence in Saudi Arabia.
The pair opened their “research lab,” situated between Al-Murabba and Al-Futah, in early December.
Many residents in the area, mostly migrant workers, continue to live in the original adobe structures found there.
“During the 1970s, many people left these buildings and moved north in Riyadh during the urban expansion of the city,” said Alissa. “We wanted to understand this architectural shift, not just the sociocultural shift, but architecturally. What happened? How did we move from mud-brick construction to concrete structures?”
The pair believe that a contemporary Najdi language is needed in Saudi architecture today.
“To establish this, we needed to understand what Najdi is,” said Alissa.
For the launch, artworks and film were shown at the Um Slaim lab. These included “Tamwenat,” a wall installation by Saudi female artist Maha Malluh that features everyday items collected from local markets to showcase the various ethnicities in central Riyadh.
“My Mother’s Map,” a short film by Tarfa Fahad, tells the story of the artist’s mother, revealing the urban landscape through her early life and childhood memories in old central Riyadh. The film takes viewers into her home and along the main roads planned by her father, known as “Riyadh’s engineer.”
Najdi architecture’s regional variations can be seen in domestic, religious and administrative Najdi buildings, with major stylistic aspects shared by all structures.
“Najdi architecture combines three main factors that solidify its harmony with the natural environment and influences its urban morphology: The need to respond to the hot desert climate, the need for privacy in residential buildings, and the need to use locally available materials such as mud brick, stone and wood,” Alissa said.
In contemporary adaptations, Najdi buildings are characterized not only by traditional materials, but also their use of thermal and environmental elements.
“We have always been passionate about the essence of materials, where they are found, our natural surroundings, and the context of an architectural site,” Alissa said.
As well as examining the effects of urban expansion in central Riyadh and celebrating the cultural diversity in the capital’s old neighborhoods, the Um Slaim Collective is determined to explore the relationship between architecture and its surrounding environment, with new research into the preservation of architectural heritage through sustainable constructions.


US artist Grimanesa Amorós to present light installation in Riyadh 

US artist Grimanesa Amorós to present light installation in Riyadh 
Updated 16 August 2022

US artist Grimanesa Amorós to present light installation in Riyadh 

US artist Grimanesa Amorós to present light installation in Riyadh 

DUBAI: US artist Grimanesa Amorós, famous as the Light Sculptor, is bringing her work to Riyadh. 

The Peruvian-born visual artist will present her latest monumental art installation titled “Scientia” in the Diplomatic Quarter Cultural Palace at the Noor Riyadh festival from Nov. 3 to 19.

The installation is titled ‘Scientia.’ (Supplied)

The installation addresses fundamental questions about the impact of a rapidly shifting environment on the mental, psychological and emotional well-being of individuals living in fast-paced, modern societies.

Her light sculpture was previously showcased at the Azkuna Zentroa Center of Society and Contemporary Culture in Bilbao, Spain.

Amorós, famous for her large-scale light sculpture installations, explores human emotions and connections to the social environment using an elemental understanding of the world involving nature’s basic elements: fire, water, earth and light.

The artist has exhibited her work in multiple locations around the world including Mexico, Beijing and New York City.


Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund
Updated 16 August 2022

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund

Finance for new Saudi filmmakers announced by Red Sea Fund
  • Winning ‘Lithium’ movie tackles bipolar disorder
  • Over $100,000 set aside for 23 individual MENA projects

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s support for the film industry continues with the Red Sea Fund’s announcement of its second-cycle winners, which will mean financial resources to bring their projects to fruition.

The fund, administered by the Red Sea Film Foundation, has allocated about $100,000 for 23 individual projects that will cover production, distribution and screening.

The aim is to provide a more diverse set of movies to global audiences and better serve both Saudi and Arab filmmakers.

“It means a great deal to us that the Red Sea Fund believes in this story enough to fund it. It’s both an honor and a responsibility,” Saudi filmmaker Talha B. told Arab News. He will be co-directing the winning project “Lithium” along with fellow creative Amro B.

The feature film tackles the subject of bipolar disorder and the silent suffering of individuals with mental health issues in the Arab region.

“It is a great responsibility to present this subject in a positive yet honest way, and we intend to do it the justice it deserves … It tackles a subject that we rarely admit we have in our society. We hope that more bold stories like this are told candidly because, like physical health, mental health too matters,” Talha said.

The film is currently in development and is set to premiere at the 2023/2024 Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah.

The rest of the 23 selections include shorts, documentaries, animated films and documentaries, with five submitted from Africa, 11 from the Arab region, and seven by Saudi directors.

The aim is to support young and ambitious filmmakers to carve a niche for themselves in the industry.

“It’s very fresh and exciting witnessing the great things Red Sea films are achieving and presenting to the filmmakers in Saudi Arabia and the world. The funded films speak a lot about the amount of understanding for both the creative process and the craftsmanship behind the walls of their visionary team and their out-of-the-box thinking,” Anas BaTahaf, the filmmaker and upcoming producer of the selected film “Hayat Yousef,” told Arab News.

BaTahaf is teaming up with long-time collaborator Sarah Taibah who will be joining as a screenwriter on the upcoming project that features meaningful character arcs, quirkiness, blended-genres, and “high voltage” absurdity, all packed within a contemporary dark romcom.

“Taibah’s knowledge and thorough understanding of romance — from her various art projects on studying love as a feeling and theme during a wide range of art residencies around the world — is another quality that grants her my full trust when it comes to telling this story,” BaTahaf said.

The aim to tell unconventional stories is the reason for the selection of “Red Eye,” set to be directed by filmmaker Mohammad Jastaniah.

“After so many trials, errors, and rejections it’s nice to see once again that persistence pays off, let alone being supported by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation — a place I call home. It feels special,” Jastaniah told Arab News.

The film is an “allegory” for the artist’s experience in Saudi, he said. “Red Eye” follows the story of a man navigating the stigma of being a rock star, fighting his own demons, and dealing with his relationship with his father.

“It speaks for those who stand out in the crowd, and there are so many of us out there, especially in these exciting times of change happening in the Kingdom. Pinch me because it feels like a dream,” Jastaniah said.

“I am very excited for our film and all the other films that won (backing) … Local filmmakers deserve all the praise and support,” said BaTahaf.

He said he was looking forward to his friends seeing the “great” films that were made.


Hollywood star Angelina Jolie speaks up for women in Afghanistan

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie speaks up for women in Afghanistan
Updated 16 August 2022

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie speaks up for women in Afghanistan

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie speaks up for women in Afghanistan

DUBAI: Hollywood star and humanitarian Angelina Jolie this week honored women in Afghanistan, “one year after the fall of the government.”

The 47-year-old actress shared on Instagram an op-ed she wrote for TIME and said: “It cannot end here.”

In the article, the Oscar winner said: “The daughters of Afghanistan are extraordinary for their strength, resilience, and resourcefulness.”

The actress said that one year ago, Afghan women worked in all fields — being doctors, teachers, police officers and politicians.

“To my Afghan friends, I have faith in you and your resilience and your strength,” wrote Jolie. “I dream of visiting with my daughters, making friends, traveling around your beautiful country, and seeing you free to determine your own future … I know it’s possible. This does not end here.”


Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
Updated 15 August 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022

Industry experts help shape XP Music Futures program for 2022
  • DJs, rappers, producers sign up to new advisory board
  • Innovation and diversity are key pillars of this year’s event, organizers say

RIYADH: XP Music Futures has created an advisory board of industry insiders to ensure maximum diversity and innovation when it stages its second festival in November.

Among those appointed to the so-called board of advocates and advisors are American rapper Kim Renard Nazel — better known as Arabian Prince — music producer and record label founder Saud Alturki, immersive audio specialist Marcela Rada, digital media expert Natasha Stambuli, and the regional head of A&R and marketing at Sony Music Middle East Karima Damir.

Mohammed Bajbaa, who founded Saudi clothing brand Proud Angeles and fashion consultancy Proud X, Saudi rapper Jara and DJ Space Boi, will also be on the board.

XP director Nada Alhelabi said: “83 percent of last year’s attendees loved XP because of its programming. Partnering with a diverse set of professionals means guests see representation they can identify with and relate to.

“Our trusted board of advocates and advisors serve as one way for us to stay connected to communities … and deliver another great edition of valuable cultural and music exchange, tangible progress and inspire unlimited innovation.”

With its Day and Nite program and focus on innovation through disruptive, forward-thinking methods, XP is the forerunner within the MENA region for the music and creative industries.

It will not only discover and discuss how new technology is the driver of change in the music ecosystem – exploring the fast-moving Web3, the new iteration on blockchain technology and Metaverse – but also bring technology for guests to experience in immersive installations.

Its other core pillars of talent, scene and impact will work to implement ways to flourish careers in the music industry, nurture the scene through workshops and panels, and initiate dialogue around music, mental health and well-being, and their role in creating a socially conscious industry.

“The ultimate objective of XP is to accelerate the development and transformation of the music landscape across the Middle East,” Alhelabi said. “We are grateful to be driving, crafting and optimizing wonders into our world.”

The festival runs from Nov. 28-30. Music professionals and enthusiasts can register at https://mdlbeast.com/events/xp-2022.


Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  
Updated 15 August 2022

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

Stolen Picasso painting found in Iraq  

DUBAI: Iraqi authorities announced this week that they found an original painting by the renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in the Iraqi province of Diyala on Saturday, Iraqi News Agency reported.

The painting, said to be worth millions of dollars, was seized from a drug group after a raid late July. 

Director of the anti-narcotics media office Colonel Bilal Sobhi told the publication: “The Anti-Narcotics Directorate carried out an operation in Diyala governorate, in which a network of three defendants who were involved in the trade and transport of narcotic drugs were arrested, and a painting belonging to the international painter Picasso was seized in their possession, estimated at millions of dollars.”

“It is a major operation that is calculated for the anti-drugs General Directorate,” he added.

Details of the artwork have not been revealed yet. The Pablo Picasso Foundation, responsible for promoting and managing the artist’s work, did not issue a statement either.