Artist pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s heritage, culture through diverse artforms

Abdulwahhap Otaif uses dried frond leaves as a canvas to create dotted paintings of prominent figures such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi elements such as coffee cups and camels. (Supplied)
Abdulwahhap Otaif uses dried frond leaves as a canvas to create dotted paintings of prominent figures such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi elements such as coffee cups and camels. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 February 2024
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Artist pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s heritage, culture through diverse artforms

Artist pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s heritage, culture through diverse artforms
  • Otaif has mastered multiple styles of abstract and realistic artforms using mediums such as clay, oil and acrylic on canvas

RIYADH: As a multidisciplinary artist, Abdulwahhap Otaif’s diverse artwork returns to one common denominator — a rich reflection of Saudi heritage.

The Saudi artist began his journey in his hometown, Abha, where he gained inspiration from the beauty of his surroundings, and guided by his sister.

“There is no doubt that the environment played a major role, in addition to the creativity of my older sister, who encouraged and nurtured me in the direction of the fine arts field until art became a pleasure and an outlet for me in life,” he told Arab News.

Otaif describes his upbringing as “a simple environment, filled with beauty and diversity, between the corn fields, the plains, the mountains, the scent of jasmine … the weekly popular markets, and the moonlit nights.”

The true artist is the one who deals with and raises in his works the issues and concerns of his society and environment.

Abdulwahhap Otaif, Saudi artist

He began drawing in elementary school and his hobby soon turned into a career.

“My passion for art continued in the middle and high school levels, then my university studies in history and civilization were a fertile field for learning about Islamic arts and architecture in different civilizations,” he said.

Otaif has mastered multiple styles of abstract and realistic artforms using mediums such as clay, oil and acrylic on canvas.

He is known for using dried frond leaves as a canvas to create dotted paintings of Saudi elements such as coffee cups and camels, and prominent figures such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the late King Abdullah.

“There is no doubt that the Saudi heritage is very rich and diverse, and it provides broad horizons for everyone who searches for it. My project, ‘Memory of the Fool,’ was to present the Saudi heritage in different stages and methods.”

Otaif’s most recent work is an interactive piece made out of clay painted with mosaic designs that aims to stimulate multiple senses: “I try to make the viewer enjoy the work with more than one sense. So, when I spray the clay with water it emits the smell of rain meeting with the clay after a long absence, and this is due to a special technique in shaping and burning clay.”

Otaif’s work is currently being displayed at the Diriyah Doors exhibition in Riyadh.

Speaking about his participation in the local art scene, he said: “I have become an artistic imprint and have excelled in presenting heritage in a contemporary way. My project is celebrated in many organizations and events inside and outside the Kingdom, and my works are even presented as a gift from government agencies to guests from outside the Kingdom.”

Otaif says that “the development of any society is measured by the development and diversity of the arts in it, and the true artist is the one who deals with and raises in his works the issues and concerns of his society and environment.”

He believes in the significance of art as a way to document progress and history: “Also, the arts throughout history bear witness to the development of every society and convey the aspects of life and issues prevalent in that era of time.”

His studio, Kadi Gallery, is located in Riyadh’s Al-Mousa Center, where he continues to create more pieces and exhibits his work.

To explore Otaif’s  artwork, visit his Instagram @otaif_art.

 


MoU signed to revive cultural sites in Kingdom

MoU signed to revive cultural sites in Kingdom
Updated 7 sec ago
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MoU signed to revive cultural sites in Kingdom

MoU signed to revive cultural sites in Kingdom

RIYADH: The Heritage Commission and ASFAR, Saudi Arabia’s tourism investment company fully owned by the Public Investment Fund, signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance visitor experience at cultural heritage sites in the Kingdom.

Heritage Commission CEO Jasser Al-Harbash and ASFAR CEO Fahad bin Mushayt attended the signing, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The agreement aims to improve operational efficiency, enhance cooperation, develop plans, refine designs, and establish operational models for heritage sites across Saudi Arabia.

The commission highlighted the importance of partnerships in its commitment to developing the national heritage and archaeology sector, aligning with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

ASFAR plays a crucial role in shaping the Kingdom’s tourism sector through investments in tourist destinations, historical and cultural sites, SPA said.

The company aims to raise the prominence of Saudi cities on the tourism map by collaborating with public and private sectors.


Young volunteers serve Iraqi pilgrims at Arar border

Young volunteers serve Iraqi pilgrims at Arar border
Updated 3 min 14 sec ago
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Young volunteers serve Iraqi pilgrims at Arar border

Young volunteers serve Iraqi pilgrims at Arar border

RIYADH: The spirit of volunteerism thrives in the Northern Borders region, where young men and women play an important role in welcoming pilgrims arriving from Iraq through the Jadidat Arar border crossing.

More than 80 volunteers affiliated with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Northern Border University, the Saudi Red Crescent, the Arar Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, have stepped up to serve the pilgrims.

Their dedication has been evident since the arrival of the first groups of pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

Tasks include assisting the elderly, providing guidance and hospitality in the designated pilgrim city, and helping with entry procedures and basic health-related tasks, such as taking vital signs.

Several volunteers, some with years of experience, expressed the deep sense of fulfillment that comes from giving back. They view their service as a way to honor their faith, serve their country, and contribute to a smooth and comfortable pilgrim experience.

They also commended government agencies for making their tasks simpler by creating a seamless and flexible work environment. 


King Saud University signs academic agreement with University of Tokyo

King Saud University signs academic agreement with University of Tokyo
Updated 26 May 2024
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King Saud University signs academic agreement with University of Tokyo

King Saud University signs academic agreement with University of Tokyo

TOKYO: King Saud University and the University of Tokyo have signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen academic collaboration in physics, chemistry and Earth sciences.

The MoU was signed by the acting rector of King Saud University, Dr. Abdullah Al-Salman, and the president of the University of Tokyo, Dr. Teruo Fujii, in the presence of the director of Prince Mohammed bin Salman Center for Future Science and Technology, Dr. Hiroaki Aihara.

This collaboration is a major milestone in fostering future partnerships between the two universities.

The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Center, based at the University of Tokyo, will play a crucial role in enhancing and advancing this cooperation.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan


Ancient castles in Sabya governorate reflect architectural heritage

Ancient castles in Sabya governorate reflect architectural heritage
Updated 25 May 2024
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Ancient castles in Sabya governorate reflect architectural heritage

Ancient castles in Sabya governorate reflect architectural heritage
  • The Sabya Archaeological Castle has origins that date to the early 20th century

RIYADH: The Sabya governorate in the Jazan region is a treasure trove of archaeological wonders, each with its own unique story.

Among these is the Sabya Archaeological Castle, whose origins date to the early 20th century. The castle, steeped in history, is a must-visit for any archeology enthusiast or researcher.

The castle is situated near Sabya Avenue, within King Fahd Park. It is part of the present city of Sabya, which offers a view of Wadi Sabya. 

The Sabya Archaeological Castle, an architectural marvel, boasts spacious rooms with high ceilings and thick walls. The walls, adorned with beautiful geometric and floral patterns, are a testament to the skill of the craftsmen who built them.

Local materials such as volcanic stone, wood, and limestone were used during construction. Some accounts suggest that the clay used in making bricks was sourced from the banks of Wadi Sabya.

The use of volcanic stones of various sizes and shapes in particular gives the castle a unique and captivating beauty. The stones were obtained from volcanoes near the city, including Jabal Akwa, located a short distance northeast of Sabya.

The mosque, situated north of the castle, was also constructed using the same building materials as the castle and other structures in the area. It was intended for prayers and gatherings of religious leaders, dignitaries, and the people of Sabya. Its mihrab, or prayer niche, still stands despite some damage.

Some accounts suggest the presence of remains of other buildings in the vicinity of the castle, opening the possibility of conducting archaeological excavations to reveal more secrets about this site.

The Kingdom’s Heritage Commission is diligently working to preserve the Sabya Archaeological Castle, recognizing its significance as one of the most important archaeological sites in the Jazan region.


Artist captures Saudi charm with digital works

Artist captures Saudi charm with digital works
Updated 25 May 2024
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Artist captures Saudi charm with digital works

Artist captures Saudi charm with digital works
  • Ghada Al-Shammari says art can be a means to showcase nation’s rich heritage

RIYADH: Timeless Arabic songs and heartfelt poetry provide the inspiration for Ghada Al-Shammari’s digital art, which showcases the Kingdom’s culture and society.

Al-Shammari's first artwork in 2017 was inspired by a popular Saudi song by Majed Al-Esa called “Hwages,” which means “concerns” in English.

The music video provided a comment on society by using satire, showcasing women driving cars, skateboarding, and playing basketball — activities that at the time were not easily accessible for women.

“I liked how they portrayed women in the traditional Saudi abaya, which motivated me to draw it,” Al-Shammari told Arab News.

For one of her artworks Al-Shammari was inspired by a poem by literary icon Prince Badr bin Abdul Mohsen and popularly performed by the late Saudi singer Talal Maddah.

The drawing depicts a man glancing at a woman who has her eyes downcast, with an oud instrument between them, and the 1980 song title “Forgive Me” written in Arabic text above the illustration.

The Saudi artist said that she tries to capture the poet’s feelings with her artwork, adding: “Romantic songs with descriptions of the poet’s beloved have been particularly inspiring for me.” 

Al-Shammari draws inspiration from the beauty within the Kingdom’s culture. Many of her artworks depict women wearing traditional Najdi-style dresses and gowns with draping silhouettes and glimmering gold headpieces and turbans.

The men are depicted with striking features and wearing traditional garments like the head coverings called ghutra or shemagh, and bisht, the men’s cloak commonly worn in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

“Saudi culture and traditions have significantly impacted my work. Growing up, I used to think of Saudi Arabia as just what was around me in terms of environment, customs, and traditions,” Al-Shammari said. 

When she moved from her hometown of Hafar Al-Batin to the capital Riyadh, Al-Shammari said her friendships and acquaintances showed her a new world of ideas that elevated her artistic vision. 

She added: “They shared stories about their region, important landmarks, and fascinating tales that were unique to their areas. This motivated me to learn more about my country and enjoy drawing the diversity and differences I discovered in my artworks.

“Saudi Arabia is full of exciting things, and its diversity is what fascinates me the most. Each region has its own heritage, traditions, architecture, and unique dialect, which makes me eager to learn more and create works that reflect this beautiful diversity.”

Al-Shammari said she selects particular color combinations to evoke the emotions she aims to convey, opting for brighter colors for her cheerful and vibrant works. 

Al-Shammari graduated from the College of Arts and Design at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

She added: “Through this specialization, I discovered many artistic and historical aspects, learned about various artists, and got to understand their ideas and philosophies, which transformed my perspective of my work.”

Her love of art began as a child when she would draw characters from her favorite anime and cartoons.

“I started focusing on drawing from an educational perspective at the age of 12 through YouTube tutorials on drawing anime and cartoons, which sparked my artistic journey,” Al-Shammari said.

She added that art is important as it showcases the cultural aspect of a country and its heritage, conveying its history and traditions that help define life in the past and present.

She said: “It serves as a way to preserve and transmit this heritage from one generation to the next, seeking to document knowledge and memories.

“Additionally, from an economic standpoint, art is considered a means to attract tourists interested in discovering the country and its civilization.”

For more information on the artist, visit her Instagram @gh.oi.