Life preserver: Museum reveals secrets of keeping the past alive

Life preserver: Museum reveals secrets of keeping the past alive
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Ina Baumeister, a paper and photographic conservation technician at the Tate in London, gave a quick workshop to demonstrate how people can also preserve valuable documents or photographs in their own homes. (AN photo)
Life preserver: Museum reveals secrets of keeping the past alive
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The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies recently held a talk highlighting the crucial aspects of preserving, storing and archiving materials. (AN photo)
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Updated 03 August 2023
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Life preserver: Museum reveals secrets of keeping the past alive

Life preserver: Museum reveals secrets of keeping the past alive
  • King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies holds talk on caring for ancient artifacts
  • Event staged to mark center’s 40th anniversary

RIYADH: What we know today about ancient times came from deciphering petroglyphs and scriptures on leather, rocks and leaves, giving us an insight into those who came before us and the way they lived.

The modern variation of that comes in the form of books, artworks and artifacts.

The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies recently held a talk highlighting the crucial aspects of preserving, storing and archiving materials. It was titled, “Books, Boxes and Displays: Exploring Hidden Aspects of Paper Conservation.”

“If we’re speaking about preserving, then we’ve definitely had many procedures for conserving paper materials during our 40 years of experience,” said Rasha AlFawaz, director of the center’s assets and museums department.

“We also have a collection of Islamic arts comprising 580 items procured from across the Islamic world.”

On Wednesday, the center celebrated its 40th anniversary. It began its museum work in 1985 with an exhibition of Islamic arts. The largest of its six museum collections comprises 128,000 original manuscripts.

The center also has a collection of almost 680 pieces that commemorate the life and legacy of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz.

Its most significant collection of audio tapes celebrates the oral history of Saudi Arabia. The 900 tapes were collected by anthropologist Saad Al-Sowayan and showcase a variety of 1980s Nabati poetry, also known as Bedouin’s poetry.

“Museum collections go through many stages, not just what visitors see when they enter an exhibition,” AlFawaz said.

“They undergo various procedures of conservation and storage, varying in humidity and heat levels constantly through our specialized devices. Our decades of experience has given us insight into how to properly store, lend, transport and ensure the safety of our pieces.”

Ina Baumeister, a paper and photographic conservation technician at the Tate in London, said it was essential people spoke about the importance of preserving heritage.

“All of us working in this environment want this dialogue with as many people as possible,” she told Arab News.

“We need to do it with all of our colleagues, not just the conservators, but curators, exhibition designers, those behind the registrars, the archivists, the libraries, art handlers, those who make the displays.

“Here at the research center, there’s an incredible wealth of very old manuscripts, which is the reason I came, because I do not know them very well and I wanted to learn about them.”

Baumeister is also a bookbinder at the Book Works Studio, which offers specialist and bespoke bookmaking services for artists and galleries. She regularly gives bookbinding workshops in Riyadh, in collaboration with the Misk Art Institute.

Specialists have to keep up with new innovations and techniques, she said.

“Especially in conservation, there’s always things that we weren’t aware of or change, and the sciences have really helped us a lot recently to learn more about the artifacts we’re looking after.”

Reflecting on the quote by Gaston Bachelard that “memory is anchored space,” Baumeister said she believed manuscripts, books and artworks helped us revisit the past.

She also stressed the need for great care to be taken when precious items are moved, either to a museum for the first time, or from one place to another.

“Like children, we look after them very carefully: we pick them up carefully, and wrap them up so they stay safe,” Baumeister said.

“For everyone who wants to enjoy these collections, books and artworks, there’s nothing we like more than sharing them. The reason we’re looking after them is so we can share them with you and future generations.”

Many museums and libraries around the world, like the British Library, have a transparent archival space, fitted behind glass windows. This is partially to spread the knowledge that these pieces and manuscripts are available and invite the public to engage with this found history.

Preserving such materials is not only crucial for the museum and general public, but also for artists and the original owners of the works.

“Paper is very important for me,” said Fatma Abdulhadi, an artist at Misk Art Institute who recently led an artist book residency, said during the discussion.

“The way we print and work with paper is really delicate, but to also put this together in a book, then the artist presents it to the audience, that brings a unique experience to the table.”

Alongside the public discussion, Baumeister held a short workshop to show how people can preserve valuable documents or photographs in their own homes.


Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show

Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show
Updated 41 min 31 sec ago
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Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show

Dhahran Art Group presents diverse works at 70th show
  • Themed ‘Araaqa: Deep Rootedness,’ the artists presented works in various media inspired by their culture, heritage

DHAHRAN: For four days this week, the lavender carpet was rolled out in front of the iconic Ad Diwan Hall in the Aramco compound leading into the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2.

During the show, the Aramco community came together to listen to live piano, enjoy tasty hors d’oeuvres and mingle with local artists showcasing. This year’s theme was “Araaqa: Deep Rootedness.”

Among the participants was Jordanian artist Suad Sami, a familiar face in the local art scene. Armed with a degree in interior design and an insatiable desire to further her creative passions in every form and medium, she completed a jewelry design course 13 years ago, which inspired her to create a small collection of carefully-curated and thoughtfully sourced stones.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

After teaching art classes locally for a time and realizing she would rather make art than teach it, Sami took a leap of faith and invested in herself by become an entrepreneur.

Arab News spoke to Sami a decade ago when she was only a few years into her jewelry business. At that time, she was known for her horoscope pieces.

As an artist, you always want to sprinkle in a bit of your essence into your pieces, something that is distinctly you.

Suad Sami, Jordanian artist

“I design pieces that can be worn on an everyday basis which is simple yet extravagant, casual yet fancy, simple yet extravagant enough to complement women’s beauty and enhance their style,” she told Arab News in 2014.

Serene Rana. (AN photo)

Fast-forward to 2024, she feels she has evolved and improved on her craft — but her inclination to design elegant bespoke pieces in a sort of curated capsule collection remains. She unveiled two necklaces at the Dhahran Art Group’s annual fine art show.

Discussing one of her jewelry designs on display, she told Arab News: “The sword has been a well-known tangible symbol of strength for Arabs. I designed this one specifically for Founding Day and wanted to bring in something new to the table — not something already available in any shop.

“I always strive to design something timeless and unique, not something the eye has seen. As you know, the gold market in Saudi Arabia is huge so I needed to make something to stand out. As an artist, you always want to sprinkle in a bit of your essence into your pieces, something that is distinctly you.”

Art by Serene Rana. (AN photo)

Also, in an artful symbol of solidarity, Sami showcased a series of paintings she crafted showcasing tatreez, the Palestinian-style stitch. She also showcased paintings of birds perched on a bench.

The Dhahran Art Group show is a cornerstone of the local art community, and to Sami it is about more than just showcasing her works. “I love art in all its forms. My daughter is also a designer and used to display her work alongside me at this show in the past. She moved to Dubai now and became a mother and couldn’t be here today — but I’ll keep the tradition going,” she said.

Because of my heritage — I’m from Afghanistan — I wanted to make art that would reach people and would give meaning and change the way people think.

Serene Rana, Artist

Serene Rana, a towering eighth-grader, found out about the show through her mother, who bought her a small set of acrylic paints and a fresh white canvas a few summers ago. Rana found it to be a fun way to pass the time and to express herself.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

At 13-years-old, this was her first big show. She told Arab News: “I think I’m the youngest one here, so it’s kind of intimidating, but at the same time, it feels like I belong here.”

The self-taught artist proudly displayed multiple paintings as people stopped by to ask her about her process and what each piece meant.

“I had a dream and it kind of looked like this — it was in the galaxy so I painted that,” she said of one of her paintings.

Jordanian artist Suad Sami is among the artists who presented works at the 70th annual Dhahran Art Group show which concluded on March 2. (AN photo)

Her early works were mostly void of people but soon after, she started to insert more of her emotions into the pictures.

“I first painted a landscape; it was like a fairytale almost. But as I kept progressing in my art, I realized that because of my heritage — I’m from Afghanistan — I wanted to make art that would reach people and would give meaning and change the way people think,” she explained.

Her pieces, inspired by pop art and surrealism, represent her journey navigating the delicate and dramatic space balancing teen angst with female empowerment and everything in between.

“I was influenced a lot by the pop art style. I feel every color has a certain emotion, so when I want to convey sadness and when I want to convey anger, I use a different color,” she added.

It took Rana about a year to paint the canvases on display, and she is already planning for the next show.

“I think a lot of these pieces hanging here were influenced by my culture — the cultural richness — but I want to go back to solidifying that one idea. I think in my next painting, I would want to go to my heritage more,” she added.

There were also a wide variety of artists on display of both genders, some seasoned figures like Sami and others new-time artists, like Rana. The diverse works ranged from paintings, large and small sculptures to accessories and mixed-media pieces.

As in the previous 69 iterations, the group show was curated locally by the Dhahran Art Group and each participating artist had the option to include a for-sale sticker on their displayed work.

 


Saudi Arabia’s antiques museum in Tarout unlocks bygone eras

Saudi Arabia’s antiques museum in Tarout unlocks bygone eras
Updated 42 min 10 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s antiques museum in Tarout unlocks bygone eras

Saudi Arabia’s antiques museum in Tarout unlocks bygone eras
  • Mahdie Maylw told Arab News: “At the age of 15, I started collecting paper currency and amassed notes from up to 190 countries around the world

RIYADH: Visitors to Al-Dirah Asalah Museum on Tarout Island, Eastern Province, can travel back in time and admire Saudi Arabia’s rich history and cultural legacy.

Mahdie Maylw, the museum’s owner, took a chance when he built it, as the space once used to be his grandfather’s house on the verge of collapse.

Today, the museum is licensed by the Ministry of Culture and stands tall as a renovated building designed in a traditional Saudi style.

Visitors to Al-Dirah Asalah Museum on Tarout Island can explore rare and valuable items that provide insights into past civilizations and cultures. (Supplied)

Maylw says he grew up with a love for vintage items that reflect his heritage. He told Arab News: “At the age of 15, I started collecting paper currency and amassed notes from up to 190 countries around the world. I continued this hobby for 15 years, before shifting my focus to collecting traditional artifacts that delve into the lives of our ancestors. I have acquired some rare pieces, such as manuscripts and ancient items used by sailors.”

His museum has a range of documents from manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an to vintage newspapers and notes.

I present heritage for educational purposes, to teach generations to preserve the heritage ... I haven’t even started yet, and the best is yet to come.

Mahdie Maylw, Museum owner

Maylw buys his collection of antiques through auctions across the Kingdom, including Dhahran, Al-Ahsa, and Riyadh. He also exchanges valuable items with collectors, and sometimes he even buys from eBay.

The museum is divided into several areas, including a pottery corner, an electronics room, a book and text corner, a vintage watch corner, and a toy room, among others.

Visitors to Al-Dirah Asalah Museum on Tarout Island can explore rare and valuable items that provide insights into past civilizations and cultures. (Supplied)

The “Bride’s Room” is one of the museum’s most popular sections, displaying various items used in preparing a bride prior to her wedding. The room contains Indian-made furniture as well as a collection of cosmetics ranging in age from 50 to 100 years.

The “Divers Room,” or tawashin in Arabic, is dedicated to the ancient method of pearl extraction. The area contains vintage instruments such as a rope box and a compass which were once used to dive for pearls. The tools are about 70-150 years old.

“The tawashin are pearl traders who, after a journey that may last up to three months, return and open the shells to extract the pearls. They then gather in gatherings to exchange buying and selling,” the museum owner explained.

To preserve the museum’s antique items, Maylw ensures that they are stored properly in climate-controlled and secure facilities, “We make sure to preserve the pieces and do some maintenance on them, and I myself do a complete cleaning of the museum,” he said.

Visitors can also explore a collection of rare and valuable items, such as traditional pottery, manuscripts artworks and household items that provide insights into past civilizations and cultures.

Maylw added that the museum has seen visitors from all over the world such as Spain, Azerbaijan, South Africa, and more. “Within a year, the number of visitors reached 6,000. I receive visitors from all over the world. This is an achievement for myself and for the people of the region.”

Speaking about his future plans, he added: “My ambition is greater than this work that I have done. I present heritage for educational purposes, to teach generations to preserve the heritage ... I haven’t even started yet, and the best is yet to come.”

 


MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2024
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MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem
  • Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts

RIYADH: MDLBEAST, the leading Saudi music entertainment company, on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh.

As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem. This includes boosting production capabilities, empowering talents, and curating immersive musical experiences globally.

Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts.

The club includes a cutting-edge recording studio, production rooms, designated spaces for workshops and music seminars, and a versatile stage for concerts and musical events.

Beast House provides four membership tiers, each with unique benefits. The studio membership, designed for creative individuals, grants access to recording studios and specialized programs to enhance musical skills, fostering engagement with the vibrant creative community.

Ramadan Al-Haratani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said: “Our aim is to establish innovative spaces and a supportive community that (empowers) musical talent and cultivates production capabilities, providing creative individuals with an inspiring environment to transform ideas into captivating music experiences.”

MDLBEAST will unveil new music venues, showcasing innovative ideas and pushing boundaries in the music scene while fostering creativity. In collaboration with NEOM, the company is creating a modern beach club on Sindalah Island, and additional venues are slated for 2024.


Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
  • Kingdom’s date exports hit $390m, marking a 14% rise in 2023

RIYADH: The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023, reaching SR 1.462 billion ($390 million), compared to SR 1.280 billion in 2022, according to a report released by the National Center for Palms and Dates.

By the end of 2023, the number of countries importing Saudi dates had reached 119. The total value of date and date by-product exports increased by 152.5 percent since 2016, from SR579 million in 2016 to SR1.462 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 percent.

The rate of increase in 2023 compared to the previous year and the market entry of about 120 countries “mean a lot to us,” while the cumulative annual rate (12 percent annually) — compared to the base year 2016 — indicates that “we are steadily entering global markets and expanding steadily as well,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the center.

Date exports to Singapore recorded an 86 percent increase in 2023, while South Korea saw a 24 percent increase, and France experienced a 16 percent increase.

Currently, more than 20 Saudi companies are approved by Chinese customs, and this is reflected in the expansion of the Kingdom’s exports of dates to China. There is a focus on East Asian markets more clearly than other global markets, Al-Nuwairan added.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the National Center for Palms and Dates. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is not limited to exporting dates only, “but rather the export extends to include date derivatives such as molasses, pastes, and others, which enhances the presence of exports from the sector outside Saudi Arabia.

“East Asian countries are receiving attention from Saudi exports of dates, especially to Singapore, situated in the heart of countries targeted for exporting dates and their derivatives, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and also China in particular. What supports this is the high demand for Saudi dates, which possess high nutritional values and production quality,” Al-Nuwairan added.

He expects the growth rate of date exports to increase, “or to remain stable at least,” in the next five years.

Al-Nuwairan pointed out that there is a significant trend from local and international partners to invest in the sector, especially concerning plastic wood derived from palm trees, and date products such as powder, molasses, pastes, and vinegar that can be derived from dates.

The date derivatives can be used in various products such as dairy, bakery, ice cream, and confectionery factories.

“We are currently engaged in serious discussions with large international food companies to include date derivatives in food industries,” Al-Nuwairan said.

He affirmed the concerted efforts between Saudi date producers, exporters, and government sectors to support marketing activities in targeted countries. This includes participation in local and international exhibitions, trade missions, facilitating export procedures, and collaborating with the private sector under a joint strategy, all under ambitious and supportive leadership.

Al-Nuwairan emphasized that efforts are ongoing to enhance the presence of Saudi dates worldwide, noting that Saudi date exports have witnessed significant increases in many countries. He pointed out that date exports to China increased by 121 percent last year compared to 2022.

Through its strategy and partnership with the private sector, the National Center for Palms and Dates aims to achieve its strategic objectives, with Saudi dates being the first choice for consumers globally, according to Al-Nuwairan.

The center implements several initiatives, including increasing national exports of dates and their derivatives, improving agricultural and industrial practices to enhance production quality, providing marketing services, and necessary information about the sector, and empowering the sector, he added.


Saudi minister meets Turkish trade minister

Majid Al-Qasabi receives Omar Polat in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Majid Al-Qasabi receives Omar Polat in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 2 sec ago
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Saudi minister meets Turkish trade minister

Majid Al-Qasabi receives Omar Polat in Riyadh. (Supplied)

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi on Sunday met Turkish Minister of Trade Omar Polat.

Al-Qasabi wrote on X that the two sides discussed “developing our trade relations and enabling the private sector to invest in promising opportunities in our two brotherly countries.”

Polat also met the Kingdom’s Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail. The Turkish minister later wrote on X that discussions had centered on “potential partnerships in infrastructure, particularly in transportation, as well as housing projects, recycling, waste management, and sustainable construction projects.”