‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater
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Updated 05 July 2022

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

RIYADH: Contemporary artist Ahmed Mater’s first visit to Makkah sparked a magnetic attraction to the holy site that would shape his creative outlook on life.

Similar to many Saudis, his initial interaction with the city was as a child, but his most vivid memories of visiting Makkah came during his medical university years.

He told Arab News that on one trip, surrounded by construction cranes, he felt that his “imagination was more powerful than reality. Sometimes, we dream about change. And it happens because the power of imagination creates all of this movement.”

On his parents’ promise to take him to Makkah for the first time, he said: “They told me I would face something different when in front of the Kaaba, and that I would feel a magnet attraction.”

That moment stuck with him, and he continued building on it to inspire his work through his imagination.

One of Mater’s most popular artworks, “Magnetism,” was constructed using thousands of iron particles surrounding a magnetic cuboid, a symbol of the Kaaba, which becomes the center of attraction to the small particles. “I create most of my artwork based on attraction,” he added.

The viewer’s eye is drawn toward the contrast and simplicity of the color palette, with the black elements set on white canvas and all the specs attracting simultaneously to the center. The exhibit is surrounded by four glass screens, signifying the holiness and sanctity of the performance of Hajj that should not be disturbed by outsiders.

His work also plays with the idea of repulsion.

In an essay, British writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, said: “The Kaaba is magnet and centrifuge: going away, going back home, is the last rite of pilgrimage.”

Mater said: “I think it’s very important after the coronavirus pandemic that things come back to life. I spent more than four to five years attending Hajj as a photographer and researcher, and really, it’s one of the most beautiful scenes when you hear all of the people with one sound. And you feel it. It really cannot be described by words.”

While entrance to the city of Makkah and the Hajj performance itself is reserved strictly for those of Islamic faith, Mater caters to the curiosity of outsiders within the context of community and urbanism.

In his 2017 to 2018 exhibition, “Ahmed Mater: Makkah Journeys,” staged at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, he presented a series of multimedia artworks centering on working conditions, construction, and urban redevelopment that have characterized recent Hajj seasons.

“Sometimes it’s really about memory and about the way that our culture teaches about spirituality, imagination. Because we are a very spiritual culture, a very emotional culture, in our songs and our intimacy and families. So, I think that’s part of our life, and it’s created a lot,” he added.

In his work, “Leaves Fall in All Seasons,” a documentative on-ground video compilation, he focuses on the workers that contributed to the mass expansion of the metropolis. He noted that Makkah, as a city, had been nourished and built by Muslim immigrants and pilgrims of all backgrounds, bringing a lively and perplexing feel to the holy city.

“Everyone dreams about this Islamic world. It’s their dream to do it once in their life,” he said.

His care for the social well-being of individuals and communities, attributed to his background as a medical doctor, shows through his work as he provides audiences with a glimpse of what a journey to Makkah would be like for those unable to go.

“My opinion is that our work now represents our time now. Every time represents its moment. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s there were great artists. They represent their time, and they built this kind of beautiful history. We are now building our time and history,” Mater added.

The physician-turned-artist is a powerhouse in documenting untold stories, and he has played a leading role in establishing the Saudi art scene and legitimizing it locally and internationally.

In 2016, Mater became the first Saudi artist to hold a solo show in the US with his symbolic cities display at the Smithsonian museum’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

While most artists leave their work open to audience interpretation, Mater said he hoped the research and perception behind his art reached the viewer in some way. “My artwork has personal context, it’s personal. It’s my life,” he said.

The more the visual artist has delved into Islamic collective identity, the more appealing his work has become to global audiences.

“​​I think globally but act locally. We are in our timeline now, and it represents Saudi Arabia now,” he added.


Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake

Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake

Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake
  • Askar Al-Hajri was visiting Hallstatt with two of his colleagues when he saw young girl fall from a 5-meter-high fence into lake
  • Social media users praised the Saudi citizen as a hero

AUSTRIA, VIENNA: Meet Askar Al-Hajri, he’s a Saudi citizen who was holidaying in Austria, and he’s a hero.

Al-Hajri was visiting Hallstatt, a village in Austria, with two of his colleagues when he saw a young girl fall from a 5-meter-high fence into a lake.
Now the Saudi Embassy in Vienna has hailed him a “hero” for his courageous actions.


“The girl was sitting on the fence as her father snapped photos of her before she suddenly fell into the lake,” Al-Hajri told the Saudi news channel Al Ekhbariya.
Hearing wails and screams from the lake, Al-Hajri said he was first assured when he looked over and found that the father had jumped to his daughter’s rescue.
But Al-Hajri said the situation quickly worsened when both disappeared under the water.
“That’s when I had to take action and save them,” he said during the interview.
Al-Hajri jumped into the lake and with the help of his colleagues, he said he was able to get the girl and her father out of the water.
“I had the feelings of a father watching his daughter in the lake. I did not hesitate for one second to jump in the lake with the thought that we either live together or die together,” he explained.
A video, which appears to be shot by one of the three men, showed Al-Hajri and one of his colleagues in the lake as a group of passersby were comforting the young girl on ground. It widely circulated online with social media users praising Al-Hajri as “a hero.”

 


In a tweet, the Saudi embassy in Vienna acknowledged the Saudi citizen “for his brave act.”
“We offer our gratitude to this Saudi hero,” the embassy said.


KSrelief’s supervisor general meets Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, pledges $10m aid

KSrelief’s supervisor general meets Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, pledges $10m aid
Updated 26 min 12 sec ago

KSrelief’s supervisor general meets Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, pledges $10m aid

KSrelief’s supervisor general meets Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, pledges $10m aid

Abdullah Al Rabeeah, advisor to the Royal Court and supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief), met with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. 

During the visit Al Rabeeah said the charity would be providing $10 million in emergency health and shelter funds. 

This came during his visit to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Cash Enrolment Centre in Warsaw. 

The KSrelief Supervisor General was briefed on the Cash Enrolment Centre work mechanism and the services provided to meet the urgent material needs of Ukrainian refugees. 

He also praised the efforts of UNHCR in supporting and alleviating the suffering of refugees and internally displaced people.


Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials

Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials
Updated 11 August 2022

Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials

Bahrain tourism minister discusses opportunities in Saudi Arabia with officials
  • Both officials agreed to explore investment opportunities in the tourism sector in both countries

RIYADH: Bahrain’s tourism minister discussed expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the tourism sector during an official visit to the Kingdom, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

Fatima Jaafar Al-Sairafi met with Qusai bin Abdulla Al-Fakhri, CEO of Saudi Tourism Development Fund, in Riyadh where both reviewed ways to create diverse business opportunities in the tourism sector and promote sustainability in line with international developments.

“They agreed to explore the future prospects of tourism projects undertaken by the private sector in both countries, in addition to tapping into investment opportunities in this vital sector,” the BNA statement read.

The officials praised the deep-rooted historic relations between both kingdoms, highlighting efforts to strengthen the steadily growing ties.
Al-Sairafi highlighted Bahrain’s 2022-2025 tourism strategy, which aims to increase cooperation with other countries to boost investment in tourism infrastructure.


Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh

Saudi charity KSrelief launches medical program combatting blindness in Bangladesh
  • Thousands of people were examined in the new scheme

RIYADH: A new scheme combatting blindness and its causes in Bangladesh was launched on Monday by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).

The KSrelief voluntary medical team examined 6,600 cases, and performed 150 successful cataract procedures.
This latest scheme serves as an extension of projects combating blindness by the Saudi charity, for families with low incomes in a number of countries.


4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   
Updated 11 August 2022

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

RIYADH: A fourth group of health security trainees graduated from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday. 

A total of 4,291 male and female graduates will join the job market. 

Dr. Aws Al-Shamsan, secretary-general of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said that health security plays an important role in improving healthcare services.

The program includes practical and theoretical training for three months, in addition to two weeks of field training in one of the health sectors, allowing trainees to benefit from hands-on experience.

Health security graduates receive a diploma allowing them to work in the Kingdom’s health sector.