Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream

Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 February 2024
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Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream

Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
  • Fatimah Al-Dubais, Mohammad Al-Madan are spreading their love for the artforms across Saudi Arabia

DHAHRAN: The first thing that strikes you when you meet the creative duo Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan is how much they love merging Japanese aesthetics with Saudi sensibilities. It would not be unusual for one to have an engaging conversation with them about Japanese-related matters while they each keep their hands busy. Her, elegantly folding vibrantly-colored paper rapidly into a crane as she talks, and him, sketching with his signature anime-style drawing as he responds. Their love for Japanese art runs deep — all while always maintaining their Saudi roots.

Both Al-Dubais and Al-Madan grew up in the Eastern Province; they each independently grew a fascination for Japanese art from a young age — Al-Dubais with origami, Al-Madan with anime and manga. They met in the creative world in 2016 and have since become partners in life and in work.

“We are known in our Saudi friend circle as the ‘Japanese art couple’,” Al-Madan told Arab News with a smile.




Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)

Indeed, the creative couple have been adamant about spreading their version of Japanese-inspired art in the Kingdom for the last seven years, teaching hundreds of students workshops and offering personalized guidance for locals who want to merge their chosen traditional Japanese art forms — all while still keeping it fresh and “Saudi.”

The story unfolded when Al-Dubais was about 12 years old in Saihat City in 2010. A student she did not know was creating little cranes made of paper and gifting them to other girls at school. Although she never received one herself, Al-Dubais was instantly fascinated. The idea of taking a mundane everyday item like paper and using just your hands to transform it into something else entirely intrigued her, but she did not know what the art form was called.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both Fatimah Al-Dubais and Mohammad Al-Madan grew up in the Eastern Province and became fascinated by Japanese art from a young age.

• They bonded professionally over their love of Japanese art and their interest in finding creative ways to weave their Saudi identity into their works.

• The pair have worked on many collaborations, using local materials like parts extracted from a palm tree to make art.

YouTube had just started to become popular that year and Al-Dubais had to ask her parents for permission to make a search. As soon as she went online, she tried to look up paper-related art but she could not find the right keyword. Then one day, the algorithm showed her a thumbnail of an origami video and she clicked it. That is how her journey into origami started.

She then spent hours and hours teaching herself how to shape little pieces of paper at home into small works of art. Her mother, who constantly encouraged her to explore new art forms and to be creative, told her to keep at it. So, she did.




Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)

“My mother was my biggest supporter when I was starting to learn origami. Many people around me told me stuff like ‘what are you doing, just folding paper over and over, that isn’t even artistic!’ I enjoyed it, though, and my mother told me to ignore them. It was ‘something’ and soon, they’d know it,” Al-Dubais told Arab News.

And, soon enough, people did. In 2013, after years of making little paper pieces of art in her bedroom, Al-Dubais’ mother told her she had a surprise. Her mother had spoken to some local artists in Saihat and told Al-Dubais to pack some of her paper creations — they were going to show them off at an art show. It was the first time she felt like a legitimate artist and that her works were worthy of being showcased. She learned a lot from that experience and the interaction with other artists encouraged her to become a full-time artist. A year later, in 2014, she started to buy proper origami paper when a new store opened up not too far from her hometown. Every Thursday, she would make a trip there to buy some paper. Then, she started to order from Amazon.

Going to Japan — a place that inspired our work and our lives, even from this distance — would be a dream.

Fatimah Al- Dubais, and Mohammad Al-Madan Saudi artists

While still in high school, Al-Dubais began teaching workshops related to origami, and after she graduated in 2015, she decided to go all in.

When talking to locals about her love of origami, she met a gentleman who worked between Saudi Arabia and Japan and asked if she would like an introduction to the Japanese Embassy in Riyadh. Al-Dubais’ mother accompanied her to the Kingdom’s capital, where she spoke to people about her art and gained confidence to continue learning the craft professionally.

Meanwhile, Al-Madan, who is a few years older than Al-Dubais, grew up not far from her hometown and also had a love of Japanese art — but it was more focused on manga and anime. He was always a creative child and also grew up in a creative family who worked with their hands.




Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)

“In 2016, I was leading an art workshop in Qatif and needed some assistance. Mohammad — who is now my husband — was a volunteer,” Al-Dubais said with a giggle. They bonded professionally over their love of Japanese art and their interest in finding creative ways to weave their Saudi identity into their works.

Al-Madan, who was studying in the US at the time, went back to university. Although his major was in business management, he took art classes on the side just for fun.

“I took an animation class and developed my own style which I use today,” he said.

Upon his return, he proposed to Al-Dubais. It was at the height of the pandemic so they had to keep their wedding very small. After that, their lives centered on Japanese-inspired art.

Speaking about her husband’s artwork, Al-Dubais said: “Not because he’s my husband, but I really like his style! It has elements of anime but is a bit more realistic, like the features look a bit more real. He will talk to you and pay attention to what you are saying while his hands draw you at the same time. It is his way of communicating.”

They both used to create art the old-fashioned way, with paper, but have now pivoted to digital mediums. The couple rarely start with paper anymore, since it is more practical and efficient to do most things electronically, saving time and energy, as well as materials.

The pair have worked on many collaborations since, using local materials like parts extracted from a palm tree to make art.

Last year, they worked on a giant origami-inspired owl art piece at a local cafe in Saihat, named Sova, which became the talk of the town. Sova, which means owl in Ukrainian, became a physical manifestation that combined their skills to create a large-scale art piece that locals could interact with.

They also collaborated on many workshops at Ithra in Dhahran, and at Hayy Jameel on the opposite coast in Jeddah. So far, the couple have taught hundreds of students by hosting events in most major cities within the Kingdom.

But they are still looking to learn and create. A missing piece still remains: They have never visited Japan to experience the art forms they now center their lives around.

“We got married during (the pandemic) and our plan was to go to Japan for our honeymoon, but that still didn’t work out. Hopefully we will get a chance to go, to visit or study. Going to Japan — a place that inspired our work and our lives, even from this distance — would be a dream,” the couple said.

 


Saudi Masam project clears 857 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi Masam project clears 857 Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 8 sec ago
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Saudi Masam project clears 857 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi Masam project clears 857 Houthi mines in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Project Masam cleared 857 mines in Yemen — which had been planted by the Houthi militia — between April 13 to 19, according to a recent report.

Overseen by the Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief, the project’s special teams destroyed 782 items of unexploded ordnance and 75 anti-tank mines.

The explosives, which were planted indiscriminately by the Houthis across Yemen, posed a threat to civilians, including children, women and the elderly.

Project Masam is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia at the request of King Salman, which has cleared routes for humanitarian aid to reach the country’s citizens.

The demining operations took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale and Saada.

A total of 437,616 mines have been cleared since the start of the initiative in 2018, according to Ousama Al-Gosaibi, the project’s managing director.

These include 279,002 items of unexploded ordnance, 144,101 anti-tank mines, 8,018 improvised explosive devices, and 6,495 anti-personnel mines.

The initiative trains local demining engineers and provides them with modern equipment. It also offers support to Yemenis injured by the devices.

About 5 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, many of them displaced by the presence of land mines.

Masam teams are tasked with clearing villages, roads and schools to facilitate the safe movement of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The project’s contract was extended for another year in June 2023 at a cost of $33.29 million.


Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh
Updated 21 April 2024
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Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

RIYADH: Award winners were crowned on the final day of the fourth Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh on Saturday, at a ceremony attended by prominent artistic and cinematic names, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The winners were nominated by a jury headed by Ibrahim Al-Hasawi from Saudi Arabia, who was joined by Bassam Al-Thawadi from Bahrain, Rawda Al-Thani from Qatar, Khaled Amin from Kuwait, Nujoom Al-Ghanem from the UAE and Ibrahim Al-Zadjali from Oman.
“Hajjan,” a coming-of-age drama set in Saudi Arabia about two brothers who battle to save their favorite camel starring Omar Al-Atawi and Abdulmohsen Alnemr, won the award for best feature film.
It also picked up the best photography award, with Jerry Fassbender recognized for his work on the film. Al-Atawi won the best actor award for his role.
The best actress award went to Bahraini Maryam Zeman for her part in the movie “My Word.”
The award for best short film went to the heavily tipped “Clouds,” about a widower and war veteran who are forced to balance their own morals with societal expectations in southern Oman, directed by Muzna Almusafer.
The award for best documentary film went to Mansoor Al-Dhaheri’s climate change expose “Swimming 62.”
Ziad Al-Hussein took home two awards, including one for best director, for his film “Shiabni Hani.”
The award for best original soundtrack went to Khaled Al-Kammar for his music that featured in the movie “Hawjan,” a modern twist on the ancient Arab jinn mythology, which also opened the latest edition of the Red Sea Festival last year.
The Gulf Cinema Festival was held under the patronage of Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the Film Commission, which organized the event.
This year’s festival hosted screenings of 29 films, three training workshops and six cultural seminars.
Abdullah Al-Qahtani, CEO of the commission, said in a speech during the ceremony that the festival embodied a commitment to supporting the film sector in the region and building bridges for cinematic cooperation between the Gulf countries.
He thanked Prince Badr for his sponsorship and support of the festival and the film sector in Saudi Arabia, as well as the general secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity

Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity
Updated 20 April 2024
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Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity

Merwas — Riyadh’s beating heart of creativity
  • World’s largest music production studio is nurturing Saudi talent, streamlining local industry

RIYADH: Riyadh’s Merwas, considered the biggest art and entertainment factory globally, is proving to be one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest music industry assets.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, co-founder and CEO of Merwas, told Arab News that the facility, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest music production studio, “is home to all artists.”

She added: “The methodology behind it is to create solutions through the subsidiaries, and invest in both talent and infrastructure.

“Alongside it being a one-stop shop for all content creators, we strive to take our local talents from local to global and create a unique stamp in the industry.”

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

The entertainment zone and audiovisual production studio, located in Boulevard Riyadh City, houses 22 main studios alongside its academy.

Some of the top musicians in the world have visited Merwas since it opened in 2022. These include DJ Khaled, the acclaimed Saudi singer Rabeh Saqer, and the Emirati singer Ahlam. Afrojack, a world-renowned Dutch DJ and producer, also led an electronic music boot camp to nurture local talent and inspire a new generation of Saudi artists.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Merwas, located in Boulevard Riyadh City, houses 22 main studios alongside its academy.

• The academy’s classes offer local creatives and artists direct access to seasoned expertise.

• The Earth Sound Studio, or ESS, named after the late Saudi composer Talal Maddah.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, the culture factory fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, while providing artists with access to top-tier services, facilities and industry expertise.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

The Earth Sound Studio, or ESS, named after the late Saudi composer Talal Maddah, features state-of-the-art technology, such as the SSL console, which is used to create depth on music tracks and ensures the true soul of the artist’s voice is protected.

This live recording space is booked almost every day by various artists, and has been used by some of the Arab region’s biggest stars.

The facility, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest music production studio, is home to all artists according to co-founder Nada Al-Tuwaijri. (Supplied)

One of the only five Neve consoles in the world can be found in the Neve Studio. The panel is known for its high-quality sound and warmth, and is ideal for music recording, vocal tracking, and mixing for exceptional audio quality.

Its live studio can accommodate over 120 orchestra members and their instruments to provide a unique recording experience.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

Specifically designed for electronic music production, the EMP Suite is a DJ’s dream, with cutting edge synthesizers and digital audio workstations ensuring an artist leaves the room with a fully produced track.

Merwas is also home to three production suites, designed for content creators who require a comfortable and professional environment for music production, editing, and mixing. Each suite is equipped with industry-standard gear, software, and acoustics to support a wide range of projects.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, Merwas cofounder and CEO

The studio also provides private rehearsal spaces to ensure Saudi talents are nourished to their full potential. The versatile space is designed for musicians, performers, and other artists to rehearse and refine their craft within a comfortable environment with access to instruments and equipment.

Part of the charm of recording studios is the live jam sessions that have given birth to some of the most iconic records to date. Merwas’ Band Live/Control Room also captures the spontaneity of live performance within its soundproof walls.

Alongside (Merwas) being a one-stop shop for all content creators, we strive to take our local talents from local to global and create a unique stamp in the industry.

Nada Al-Tuwaijri, Merwas cofounder and CEO

Championing audiovisual pursuits, the studio has made space for high-quality podcasts and videos to come to life.

The podcast suite and FM radio recording spaces are tailored to immerse listeners with unbeatable audio clarity, while the 25-meter-long Green Screen room helps ideas come to life, whether commercial, film, or music video.

Spread across almost 5,000 square meters, Merwas fosters creativity, collaboration, and the production of multimedia content, along with hosting workshops, networking sessions, and community events. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub/Supplied)

Material can then be edited at the color-grading suite, which is essentially a small theater with 4K projector. Producers, directors, writers, and engineers gather here to put the final visual touches on video projects through its DaVinci color grading software and hardware.

Academy Classes offers local creatives and artists direct access to seasoned expertise. These feature advanced stations for sound production, engineering, and technical programs, with everything necessary for a basic understanding and training of music production.

The studio hosts workshops, networking sessions, and community events in an effort to flourish the music industry locally while making it a magnet for international talent. Anyone can be a part of this community by booking a suite or signing up for a workshop on their website merwas.sa.

Merwas has positioned itself at the the forefront of the entertainment industry being the first of its kind in the MENA region. In less than a year since its launch, it has already became a hotspot for musicians across the globe to visit and utilize its services, from rising talents to international A-listers.

Founded by Al-Tuwaijri and Chief Content Officer Rumian Al-Rumayyan in partnership with Sela, Merwas treasures Saudi creativity and is a vital part of building an ecosystem and community for local artists.

Their partnership with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property has set a new focus on preserving the rights of local creatives, pillared by the aim to enrich the culture of the Kingdom while empowering its citizens and their creativity in an environment of abundant knowledge, education in culture, art, entertainment and music.

 


15k held for labor, residency, border violations in Saudi Arabia

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Updated 21 April 2024
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15k held for labor, residency, border violations in Saudi Arabia

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
  • The report showed that among the 996 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 64 percent were Ethiopian, 33 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 15,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

According to an official report, a total of 9,479 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 3,763 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 1,430 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 996 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 64 percent were Ethiopian, 33 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 37 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and six were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.

 


Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia

Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia
Updated 20 April 2024
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Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia

Authorities bust drug smugglers across Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected]

RIYADH: Saudi authorities recently made several drug-related arrests and confiscations in operations across the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Border Guard land patrols in Al-Ardah governorate, Jazan region arrested a Yemeni national attempting to smuggle 60 kg of qat.

In the Saqam sector of Najran region, the land patrols thwarted the smuggling of 58 kg of hashish.

The General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested a Bangladeshi resident in the Hail region for attempting to sell methamphetamine, a narcotic substance commonly referred to as “shabu.”

The authorities also arrested a citizen in Jazan for selling amphetamines, highly addictive drugs that stimulate the central nervous system.

Preliminary legal procedures have been completed for all the individuals involved and all seized items have been handed over to the relevant authorities.

The Saudi government urges anyone with information related to suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to call the confidential hotline 1910, the international number +966114208417, or to email [email protected].

Tips received relating to smuggling and breaches of common customs law are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for valid tips.