Three women go solo with artwork at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery
Event comes as part of the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale 2023 at the Western Hajj Terminal in Jeddah
Updated 03 February 2023
JEDDAH: The Athr Gallery is showcasing three independently curated solo shows, sponsored by the Cultural Development Fund, until April.
The work of two Saudi nationals, Daniah Al-Saleh, Asma Bahmim, and one Kuwaiti national, Farah Behbehani, is being featured at the gallery.
Al-Saleh’s show is titled “Keep Smiling,” which addresses the use of non-verbal symbols in modern communication in an increasingly digitized world. “Our method of communication might have changed from a clay tablet to a smart tablet or smartphone. It seems that we as a society have accepted emojis as part of our daily life,” she told Arab News.
“We have collectively evolved by using a digital version of hieroglyphics in the form of pictographic codes and emoticons that offers the recipient insights on the possible mood of the sender.
“It addresses the context of emojis and ubiquitousness and the usage of the pop culture and its usage of emojis in everyday text, everyday communication. In here, I’m questioning the use of emojis. Is it a sort of mask, is it sort of proxy for our emotion or mental state? Or does it really help in exploring our emotion and relating to the other — communicating better messages? I leave the answers to the viewer,” she said.
Bahmim’s work, titled “Fantasia: A World Between Reality and Imagination” is also attention-grabbing.
Her work encapsulates the essence of the Islamic Arts Biennale spirit. She uses animals to generate fictional dialogues and highlights the importance of the tradition of storytelling.
“Fantasia was definitely a passion project for me. The medium and technicalities of it serve an essential role in the message I wanted to bring out, which was a culmination of a lifetime of exposure and research in storytelling,” Bahmim said of her solo show at ATHR.
“I wanted to bring to life the daydreams that crossed my mind going through a story in a book. I wanted the viewer to be lost in the fantasies, not just in the story but the backstory of the elements of these stories,” she told Arab News.
Behbehani’s elegant work, transcending time and space, is aptly titled “And Make Me Light,” inspired by words that she has masterfully re-interpreted.
“The concept of the show is returning back to light through spirituality. One of my biggest works is based on a dua (prayer).”
“Basically for this entire poetic verse, I took the words of this verse and I incorporated it into the geometry design; each word has been transformed in square Kufic calligraphy to fit within the geometry of this work,” she told Arab News as her young son stood by, his eyes alight with pride.
Behbehani has been using Islamic cultural forms and Arabic words as inspiration for decades.
Using Qur’anic verses, poetry and prose, her intricate calligraphic designs are enveloped into each of the seven administration buildings at Kuwait University.
The buildings served as “stoic structures” for her art as “an ephemeral play of light and shadow through a maze of letters that draw upon references from Islamic literature.”
Behbehani’s exhibitions and shows are displayed both in the MENA region and worldwide. She is the author of the 2009 book “The Conference of the Birds,” based on the 12th-century Sufi allegorical poem. Her book interpreted the classic text through illustrations in Jali Diwani script.
Behbehani is also participating in the Islamic Arts Biennale this month with her “Path of Light” three-paneled kinetic piece, which was inspired by a poetic verse from writer Ahmed Shawi’s tribute to Prophet Muhammad.
The opening of the three solo shows comes as part of the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale 2023 at the Western Hajj Terminal in Jeddah.
Athr gallery issued this statement exclusively for Arab News: “Our relationship with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation has been strong since the inception of the foundation and its first edition in 2021.
“Many artists have been showcased at the biennale, with artists such as Ahmed Mater being in both editions. In the current edition (Islamic Arts Biennale 2023), we have seven artists featured, again highlighting the diversity of our roster and their practices.”
“We have aligned with DBF to be included on their schedule and to have the openings of our exhibitions to coincide with the opening program of the biennale as a way to reinforce the importance of a holistic approach to supporting the arts.
“Athr has been established since 2009, and we are now glad that newly established entities like DBF and their activities amplify the efforts of the private sector.”
For more information on hours of operation and to book an appointment, visit Athr’s social media channels and the Diriyah Biennale page.
Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Art Prize 2023 open for submissions with $100,000 up for grabs
Award created by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture now in its fifth edition
Artists from across Arab world have until April 1 to submit entries
Updated 03 February 2023
DHAHRAN: Arab artists around the world are being invited to submit their proposals for the fifth edition of the Ithra Art Prize and the chance to win $100,000 to bring their idea to life.
Created by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, the competition is open to contemporary artists and art collectives from the 22 member nations of the Arab league.
Those are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen. Non-native artists who have lived in one of these countries for at least 10 years are also eligible to apply.
The call for entries opened on Tuesday and closes on April 1. The winner will be announced on May 15 and the successful artwork will be unveiled in June as part of Ithra’s fifth anniversary celebrations. It will later become part of the center’s permanent art collection.
• Award created by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture now in its fifth edition.
• Artists from across Arab world have until April 1 to submit entries.
Launched in 2017, the Ithra is one of the most prominent art grants in the world. All of the entries are considered and judged by a global panel of experts, comprising artists, curators, academics and art historians.
The first three editions of the prize were organized alongside Art Dubai, while last year’s winning entry was unveiled in collaboration with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation at the Kingdom’s inaugural biennale.
“The Ithra Art Prize reaffirms Ithra’s commitment to developing the creative industries in the Kingdom, the region and the wider world,” said Farah Abushullaih, head of museum at Ithra.
“As one of the largest art grants internationally, we support artists from and based in the Arab world to develop important and meaningful work.
“The Ithra Art Prize aims to inspire creative thought, broaden cultural horizons and enable talent while empowering the art ecosystem,” she added.
Past winners include UAE-based Ayman Zedani, whose spatial installation “Mem” took the inaugural prize, while London-based Daniah Al-Saleh won in 2019 with “Sawtam,” a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language.
The third edition was won by Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif for his “Rakhm” installation, while Berlin-based Tunisian-Ukrainian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke won in 2022 with “E Pluribus Unum — A Modern Fossil,” which takes a reflective look at the effects of the pandemic on the travel industry and how humanity measures progress and economic growth.
More information about Ithra and the competition is available via www.ithra.com.
The forum was in line with Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program and Vision 2030
Updated 03 February 2023
TABUK: More than 15,000 graduates took part in a three-day employment forum at Tabuk University, which ended on Thursday.
The event, which attracted support from local and international companies, provided a platform for graduates in a range of disciplines from across the Kingdom to meet and talk with prospective employers.
The first of its kind for the university, the forum was in line with the country’s National Transformation Program and Vision 2030, and also sought to raise key issues about the environment and working practices.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s job numbers witnessed their strongest growth rate since January 2018, as non-oil companies witnessed a sharp expansion in business activity driven by robust market demand and business intake, according to a report.
US Mission expands interview waiver program for Saudis on tourist visa
The US Mission to Saudi Arabia has resumed immigrant visa and nonimmigrant visa processing for all categories
Travelers can schedule appointments for the range of visa categories on-line
Updated 03 February 2023
RIYADH: The US diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia have announced an expansion of the waiver program for Saudi nationals from attending personal interviews to obtain US tourist visas.
“Good news for Saudi citizens: We are pleased to announce the expansion of the Tourist Visa Renewal Interview Waiver Program to include certain applicants who are 40 years of age or older or 17 years of age or younger,” tweeted the US Embassy in Riyadh.
Sharing more information on exemption eligibility, it said the US Mission to Saudi Arabia has resumed immigrant visa and nonimmigrant visa processing for all categories.
Travelers can schedule appointments for the range of visa categories on-line.
“While the Embassy and Consulates General aim to process cases as soon as practicable, backlogs developed during the COVID pandemic and limited capacity due to COVID-19 mitigation measures will result in longer wait times for appointments. If you have an urgent matter and need to travel immediately, please follow the guidance provided at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/sa to request an emergency appointment,” said a statement on the US Embassy website.
“We understand that many nonimmigrant visa applicants paid a visa application fee (known as the MRV fee) and are still waiting to schedule a visa interview. The US Mission will extend the validity of this MRV fee until Sept. 30, 2023, to allow all applicants who were unable to schedule an appointment as a result of the suspension of routine visa services an opportunity to schedule an appointment with the already paid fee,” it added.
The consular sections of the US Embassy in Riyadh and the consulate generals in Jeddah and Dhahran are responsible for providing visa services to those seeking to enter the US for a temporary period and for those wishing to take up indefinite or permanent residence in the US.
The US missions last January exempted Saudi nationals aged 50 and above from attending personal interviews to obtain tourist visas, saying: “The US Embassy and Consulate General are happy to announce that interview waivers are now available for Saudi citizens at least 50 years old renewing a tourist visa.
“The new interview waiver program will ease the visa process for thousands of Saudi citizens who qualify as well as free up visa appointments for many others at a time when international travel is beginning to return to normal levels,” it said, adding: “It is a sign of the importance and strength of the ties between the US and Saudi Arabia.”
Welcoming the announcement, Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, a professor of law at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, told Arab News: “This waiver expansion announced by the US Embassy will further promote Saudi-US relations and make it easier to get a US tourist visa for those qualifying for such an exemption.”