Riyadh street art festival transforms abandoned building into gallery

The RSH Street Art Festival displays the work of more than 30 international, regional, and local artists. Inset: The Art of the People area to unleash creativity is open to all from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Supplied)
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The RSH Street Art Festival displays the work of more than 30 international, regional, and local artists. Inset: The Art of the People area to unleash creativity is open to all from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Supplied)
Riyadh street art festival transforms abandoned building into gallery
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A mural by Egyptian painter Aya Tarek (right) facing the site-specific immersive work of Indian artist Pranav. (Supplied)
Riyadh street art festival transforms abandoned building into gallery
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People of all ages and backgrounds gathered at an abandoned building in the Kingdom's capital to witness its art renaissance. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 November 2023
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Riyadh street art festival transforms abandoned building into gallery

Riyadh street art festival transforms abandoned building into gallery
  • The RSH Street Art Festival organized by Visual Arts Commission will run until Dec. 6

RIYADH: A building that stood abandoned in Riyadh’s Al-Mughrizat District for 15 years was transformed on Nov. 15 as crowds attended its rebirth.

The annual RSH Street Art Festival, which is organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission and runs until Dec. 6, displays the work of more than 30 international, regional, and local artists, and aims to build communities around art while helping to beautify the city of Riyadh.

Basmah Felemban, co-curator of the festival, told Arab News: “The festival puts on stage the works of artists from Saudi Arabia and all over the world, and that diversity really reflects on the different flavors in the works.




The RSH Street Art Festival displays the work of more than 30 international, regional, and local artists. Inset: The Art of the People area to unleash creativity is open to all from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Supplied)

“It creates a great environment to discuss deeper questions about street art as a practice through workshops, lectures, and discussions for both curious artists and more advanced individuals and collectives.”

Two of the works, one by ST4 Collective and another by Saudi artist San Shyn, are to be repurposed and permanently relocated to Municipal Square and Sunset Park, respectively.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The RSH Street Art Festival aims to build communities around art and beautify the city of Riyadh.

• Two of the works, one by ST4 Collective and another by Saudi artist San Shyn, will be permanently relocated to Municipal Square and Sunset Park, respectively.

• Saudi artist Bolotron’s work ‘Bolotron 808 — Cyber Vision’ is a futuristic cyborg-obsessed take on the Kingdom.

Shyn said of the work: “I was inspired by the location. The park is a place for families and children to gather, play, and enjoy their time, surrounded by trees and grass. I chose colorful and vibrant flowers as the main element while the character runs in the middle.”

A large black and white collection of headshots of various members of the community hits the senses just before the entrance. The work is by the Inside Out Project, a platform that amplifies voices through public art and highlights street communities.




Basmah Felemban, RSH Street Art Festival co-curator

To enhance their presence in the space, visitors can listen to the experiences through testimonies and the voices of the people themselves.

Walking through the interior, Saudi artist Zainab Al-Mahoozi’s mural reels in visitors with tempting visuals of an ice cream truck. Emerging from the blacked out window is a stranger’s arm handing awaiting children the frozen dessert. She uses her dedicated space to tackle social issues, in this particular case concerning children and vulnerable members of society.

The festival puts on stage the works of artists from Saudi Arabia and all over the world, and that diversity really reflects on the different flavors in the works.

Basmah Felemban, RSH Street Art Festival co-curator

She told Arab News: “Not everything that looks outwardly pleasing is the same on the inside.

“I chose to exemplify this notion through children since they’re the most impressionable, but this also applies to everyone.”

Others choose to platform the new Saudi and its promising future. Saudi artist Bolotron’s work “Bolotron 808 — Cyber Vision” is a futuristic cyborg-obsessed take on the Kingdom, while Fouad Alghareeb showcases a Saudi Lego character running toward the 2034 World Cup in one mural and nods to the country’s first-ever car manufacturing facility in another.




The RSH Street Art Festival displays the work of more than 30 international, regional, and local artists. Inset: The Art of the People area to unleash creativity is open to all from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Supplied)

Iraqi artist Wijdan Al-Majed’s “Landmarks of Iraq in Riyadh” is an impressive interpretation of an imagined space. The mural pays homage to prominent Iraqi figures and the country’s deep-rooted history and identity.

Photojournalist Martha Cooper played a pivotal role in documenting graffiti culture in the 1970s and 80s in New York City, and her collaborative 1984 book “Subway Art” has quickly become a street culture bible. A collection of her photos is displayed digitally at the festival.

Backdropping the festival’s miniature skate park is a colorfully contrasted artwork by SHN Collectivo, composed of Brazilian creatives Haroldo Paranhos, Edwardo Saretta, Marcelo Fazolin, and their crew. The silkscreen-printed neon mural features Saudi cultural elements like palm trees while also boasting tropical prints, stylized in printed letter stamps.




The annual RSH Street Art Festival kicked off with a bang as it displayed the work of over 30 international, regional, and local artists with an aim to build communities around the artform and beautify the city of Riyadh. (AN photo)

Ahmad Bawazeer’s RSH work is a self-portrait in which he is seen carrying a bouquet of flowers and boasting his beating red heart to surrounding faces. “I like giving out good vibes and happiness,” he told Arab News. “With all the suffering in the world, this is me just sending flowers to everyone through art.

“I think all this — skateboarding, street art, music — is part of youth culture and they all complement each other.

“In order for all of us to succeed we need to support each other and push further to become better. It’s all about boosting the culture.”

Bawazeer speaks of his early interaction with art when his mother would sketch out Street Fighter characters and he would then bring them to life with colors. To this day, characters are central to his work.




The Art of the People Area buzzed with visitors looking to unleash their creative expression with various materials, including paint and non-toxic chalk, on the building’s walls. By the end of the fest, the concrete will become a collective artwork. The zone is open to all, daily from 7 to 9pm. (Supplied)

But the event is not merely a display of captivating artworks. It works to actively educate and engage the public through workshops, lectures, street performances, skate classes, competitions, and film screenings.

The first night’s program began with a lecture from American artist Futura 2000, who was at the forefront of the early 1980s street art movement, in conversation with festival co-curator Cedar Lewisohn.

Other topics include “A Brief History of Graffiti Writing” and “The Community Mind Map,” while other discussions will be taking place throughout the month, as well as workshops for aspiring artists and children.




Graffiti work by Saudi artist Moath Alofi. (AN photo)

As the festival champions collaboration, collectiveness, and knowledge exchange, the halls of the abandoned building echo with discourse circles, music, and the rattles and hisses of spray cans.

The Art of the People Area buzzes with visitors looking to unleash their creative expression with various materials, including paint and non-toxic chalk, on the building’s walls. By the end of the fest, the concrete will become a collective artwork. The zone is open to all, daily from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Al-Mahoozi said: “We used to dream of something like this happening. Street art or graffiti used to be forbidden, and today artists are acknowledged and asked to present work to the community by the Visual Arts Commission.”

 


Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture

Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture
Updated 22 February 2024
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Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture

Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture
  • ‘We celebrate the long journey of a great nation,’ says Zean Alshirian, senior officer for cultural and historical validation at Diriyah Gate Development Authority
  • Founding Day, on Feb. 22, marks the establishment of the First Saudi State in 1727, while National Day, on Sept. 23, marks the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932

RIYADH: Saudis across the Kingdom will celebrate their lineage, heritage and national identity on Feb. 22 at events marking the third annual Founding Day, which commemorates the establishment of the First Saudi State by Imam Mohammed bin Saud almost 300 years ago.

“We’re celebrating rich and deep history … as Saudis, we celebrate the long journey of a great nation,” Zean Alshirian, senior officer for cultural and historical validation at Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News.

Founding Day, which was established as a national holiday by royal decree in 2022, is a celebration of Saudi identity, she said, a day that connects the nation’s people to their roots and heritage. As such, it honors the first step on a path that led to the modern-day Kingdom, she added.

The First Saudi State, or the Emirate of Diriyah, was founded in 1727 by Imam Mohammed. Known for his bravery, leadership skills and generosity, he brought security and stability to Diriyah and under his leadership it flourished, becoming a hub for culture, commerce and education.

“The first treasury of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was here in Diriyah, in At-Turaif, (which is now) a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Alshirian. “This treasury was built to allocate (resources to meet) the needs of the people here. And that speaks to the peak of where the First Saudi State actually reached.”

The First Saudi State, its development, which was advanced for the time, and its cultural, economic and humanitarian initiatives helped to shape embryonic beginnings of what would become the modern Kingdom we know today. Founding Day therefore gives Saudis a chance to remember the origins of their nation, its people and their traditions, and to celebrate this connection between past and present.

“We, as the people of the Kingdom, are ever so connected to our predecessors, we’re ever so connected to our ancestry,” Alshirian said. “So beginning to understand that our traditions, our cultures, date back to 300, 400 years ago, we can then understand how rich they are.”

To fully understand the groundbreaking nature of Imam Mohammed’s historic achievements, one must be aware of the broader history of the Arabian Peninsula, Alshirian said. Prior to the founding of the First Saudi State, city-states were common but nation-states were not.

“When he (Imam Mohammed) founded the First Saudi State … this was a huge step forward. This was a momentous moment in history, something that signifies his character,” Alshirian said.

He founded the state at the heart of of the Arabian peninsula, in Al-Yamamah region, and by doing so enhanced local security, unity, education and culture, she added.

“So this huge step forward is something visionary from Imam Mohammed bin Saud,” Alshirian said.

The cultural history of the First Saudi State is revealed by the manuscripts of the time.

“We can understand it through their handwriting and the colors that they use. They were connected to their environment,” Alshirian said.

Some people might be confused about the difference between Saudi Arabia’s National Day and its Founding Day, which mark two pivotal, but distinct, events in the history of the Kingdom.

“National Day is Sept. 23, when we celebrate the unification of the (modern day) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Alshirian said.

“But when we talk about Founding Day, we are talking about the founding of the First Saudi State about 300 years ago.”

If we consider the timeline of the evolution of the nation, the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 was in a sense the final step on the path, while the founding of the First Saudi State in 1727 was the start.

“When we understand that, we understand the domino effect, the butterfly effect of how this great journey started. So we’re celebrating the beginning of a journey, in a sense,” Alshirian said.

“But the after is as important as the first, and vice versa.”

Alshirian added that it is her hope that Founding Day helps the Saudi people to better understand and celebrate their national roots and history.


KSrelief, UN officials meet to discuss aid cooperation

KSrelief, UN officials meet to discuss aid cooperation
Updated 22 February 2024
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KSrelief, UN officials meet to discuss aid cooperation

KSrelief, UN officials meet to discuss aid cooperation

RIYADH: Officials from Saudi Arabia’s aid agency and the UN met in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss ways to improve aid delivery across the world.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, royal court advisor and supervisor-general of KSrelief, met with Mohamed El-Zarkani, the UN’s resident coordinator in Saudi Arabia.

El-Zarkani praised Saudi Arabia for assisting the UN’s various humanitarian and aid agencies.


KSrelief distributes 950 food parcels to displaced people in Khartoum

KSrelief distributes 950 food parcels to displaced people in Khartoum
The assistance forms part of the humanitarian and relief projects it provides in Sudan. (SPA)
Updated 22 February 2024
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KSrelief distributes 950 food parcels to displaced people in Khartoum

KSrelief distributes 950 food parcels to displaced people in Khartoum

KHARTOUM STATE: Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief distributed 950 food parcels in Sudan’s Khartoum State, benefiting 7,566 displaced people as part of the project to support food security in the country.
The assistance forms part of the humanitarian and relief projects Saudi Arabia provides through its humanitarian arm in Sudan to alleviate the suffering of people displaced by the war.


KSrelief to provide equipment to Sudan children’s hospitals

KSrelief to provide equipment to Sudan children’s hospitals
The agreement aims to reduce mortality rates. (SPA)
Updated 22 February 2024
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KSrelief to provide equipment to Sudan children’s hospitals

KSrelief to provide equipment to Sudan children’s hospitals

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aid agency KSrelief signed a cooperation agreement on Wednesday with the Patients Helping Fund Organization in Sudan to provide essential medical equipment to the country’s children’s hospitals.

Ahmed Al-Baiz, KSrelief’s assistant supervisor-general of operations and programs, and Kamal Yaqoub Mohamed, director-general of the fund, signed the agreement in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The aim is to reduce mortality rates in the Kassala and El-Obeid hospitals.

The new equipment will directly benefit 100,000 individuals and another 100,000 indirect beneficiaries.

The agreement is part of the Kingdom’s ongoing efforts, led by KSrelief, to support Sudan’s health sector.


Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers discuss bilateral ties

Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers discuss bilateral ties
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers discuss bilateral ties

Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers discuss bilateral ties

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, held talks on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro.

They discussed the relationship between their countries and ways in which it might be enhanced in various fields, the Saudi Press Agency reported. They also reviewed the latest regional and international developments, particularly those relating to Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Saudi ambassador to Brazil, Faisal Ghulam, and the assistant director general of the foreign minister’s office, Walid Al-Smail, were also present at the meeting.