In a creative collaboration with Edge of Arabia, eleven young artists between the ages of 16-25 from Saudi Arabia were selected for The Most Competitive Youth award to attend Crossway Foundation’s Offscreen Expedition program in the UK.
The Most Competitive Youth award is an initiative of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) to bring Saudi Arabia’s economy to the forefront of competitiveness by engaging youth in Saudi Arabia (Saudi nationals and residents) to improve their communities by teaching skills that inspire creativity and promote innovation.
In 2011, The Crossway Foundation (a London-based charity promoting creative and cultural collaboration between young people in the UK and Saudi Arabia) collaborated with SAGIA on their Arts and Creativity category of the Most Competitive Youth award.
The eleven winners: Salwa Ali, Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali, Nasser Al-Salem, Mohammed Al-Ashoor, Mario El Khoury, Nora AlGosaibi, Nahla Khogeer, Tahani Al-Briki, Ahmed Kurdi, Basmah Felemban and Nouf Alhimiary, were selected amongst an overwhelming number of participating entries in the nationwide creative competition, “Most Competitive Youth,” conducted in December 2011.
The winning artists were awarded with a 16-day sponsored cultural journey last month to the United Kingdom that allowed them the chance to collaborate and work with professional artists, designers, museum curators, social entrepreneurs and filmmakers to develop skills in leadership, communication and creativity.
The artists mainly working in photography, painting and mixed media, toured London and Cornwall to work with leading creative establishments, which included Tate Modern and Tate St. Ives, The British Museum, The Delfina Foundation, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Penguin Books, The Barbara Hepworth Museum, White Cube Gallery and Mile End Community Project.
“The aim of the project is to give young people from the UK and Saudi Arabia the chance to communicate and learn from each other in positive and creative ways,” said Offscreen Expeditions Director Stephen Stapleton.
One of the winning photographer Mario El Khoury said, “This competition was about Haj, a journey to the heart of Islam — Makkah. Being part of the Saudi youth, knowing that I am not Saudi, but born and living among a multicultural and multi-religious environment pushed me toward participating and submitting my material to this competition.”
“And here we are, back, filled with nostalgia but gladly, thankfully and constantly having a different and completely new point of view when it comes to arts in general,” he added.
The tour also entailed engagement in creative workshops like developing the ‘Hash Tag’ project using a variety of media like photography, sculpture and video. The project was based on the exploration of online communications in Saudi Arabia, and how the digital platform is bringing changes in the country that is hugely becoming a social media reliant society at large.
Other highlights included a critical thinking workshop at Tate St. Ives, surfing, hikes along the English coast, and a workshop at The Newlyn Gallery with local students.
The artists were also allowed the chance to display their winning submissions in a special exhibition at the British Museum’s Addis Gallery, alongside the Museum’s star-studded and enormously successful exhibition ‘Haj: Journey to the heart of Islam,’ that was launched early this year.
The end of tour was also marked with another celebratory public exhibition of works that were created during the course of the journey by the selected winners.
Chairman of The Arab British Center remarked,“I have been associated with Saudi Arabia for 24 years, and have never come across this degree of exhilarating work before. I loved the energy and joy of the students, and the chance you have given them to release it. They really give me hope for the future of the Kingdom.”
Salwa Ali, another winning artist from Jeddah, said, “This expedition was planned to enhance my artistic abilities, but it went far beyond that. It has not only given me more confidence as a person, but it has encouraged me to try new things and to constantly look out for new opportunities. Best of all, I have acquired an extended family in the Offscreen Expeditions team.”
The works of the Create and Inspire winners will be on display in The Arab British Center, UK, until Nov. 2012.
You can follow their journey at: www.facebook.com/offscreenexpeditions and www.twitter.com/offscreenexped
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