Arts & Culture

Saudi Cultural Movement in 2021 … Radical Transformations & Global Breakthrough

The qualitative leap in the national cultural movement represents one of the most important manifestations of the great developmental and civilizational transformation that Saudi Arabia has witnessed since the launch of its ambitious vision “Kingdom 2030”.

The 2030 Vision aims to develop and increase investment of archaeological sites striking in the depths of history & opening them to tourists from all countries of the world, in addition to the presence of art institutes and academies with international expertise, cinemas with the latest technologies and support for young talents through adoption and scholarships for specialized study.

The launch began on June 2, 2018; with the birth of the Ministry of Culture by royal order to be chaired by His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan as its first minister.

A Cultural Strategy with 16 Sectors.

Ten months after the establishment, the Ministry of Culture launched its strategy and identified within its vision and directions 16 sub-sectors on which its efforts and activities focus, namely: heritage, museums, cultural and archaeological sites, theater and performing arts, festivals, and cultural events, books and publishing, architecture and design arts, natural heritage, films, fashion, language and translation, culinary arts, literature, libraries, visual arts, music.

Through the first package of 27 initiatives, the Ministry of Culture reflected its role and presence and translated its strategy through practical steps and a comprehensive plan represented in King Salman International Complex for the Arabic Language, Nomu Cultural Fund, Red Sea International Film Festival, Cultural Scholarship Program, Biennial Diriyah, the National Theater Company, the National Music Ensemble that is a unified center for cultural services and licenses.

 11 Cultural Bodies.

February 4, 2020, coincided with the approval of the Saudi Council of Ministers for the establishment of 11 new cultural bodies responsible for managing the Saudi cultural sector in its various disciplines and trends.

The new bodies are the Literature, Publishing and Translation Authority, the Fashion Authority, the Film Authority, the Heritage Authority, the Architecture and Design Arts Authority, the Visual Arts Authority, the Museums Authority, the Theater and Performing Arts Authority, the Library Authority, the Music Authority, and the Culinary Arts Authority.

Cultural Initiatives.

Since its establishment, the Ministry of Culture has presented some qualitative initiatives, perhaps the most prominent of which is the designation of 2020 as the year of Arabic calligraphy in celebration of Arabic calligraphy.

During the years 2020 and 2021, several initiatives were launched to serve Arabic calligraphy, including a platform specialized in Arabic calligraphy for definition and education, and the “Calligraphers” series was published through ten visual clips that reflect the presence of Arabic calligraphy in the formation of identity and civilization.

 Partnerships were also held with government agencies to activate the initiative by Arabizing the shirts of the Saudi Professional League clubs, through the “Saudi Cup” and murals of Arabic calligraphy, as well as applying the visual identity for the year of Arabic calligraphy on Saudi Airlines and Flynas aircraft, and in partnership with the Saudi Post Corporation, stamps were issued Postage.

 The stamp of the “Year of Arabic Calligraphy” was also designed in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior to be on the passports of those coming to the Kingdom. On the other hand, it organized the International Exhibition of Arabic Calligraphy, and the “Journey of Writing and Calligraphy” exhibition, in addition to competitions, interactive programs, and the calligrapher platform.

The Kingdom is a Global Gateway to the Book and Publishing Industry.

Intellectuals in the Arab world were in an appointment last October with the most prominent event, the Riyadh International Book Fair 2021, which constitutes an important cultural event in the book and publishing industry, by shedding light on reading, increasing knowledge, cultural and literary awareness.

The event turned Saudi Arabia to be a global gateway to the publishing sector.

The Ministry of Culture indicated that the new session of the fair witnessed a doubling of the absorptive capacity, to attract the best local, Arab and international publishing houses.

It also provided distinguished content to the exhibition’s audience according to high standards that meet the needs of the reader, visitor, and exhibitor and place the Riyadh International Book Fair in the ranks of major international book fairs.

For the first time, the Riyadh International Book Fair hosted an international conference for publishers aimed at enhancing communication between local, Arab, and international publishing houses, activating partnerships between relevant institutions and companies, and sustainably enriching the regional publishing scene.

This is done through a series of dialogue sessions, interactive activities, workshops, and various cultural seminars.

A Quantum Leap for Music.

The year 2020 witnessed an unprecedented qualitative leap in the field of music, after the establishment of a specialized authority in this field under the name “Music Authority”, which began its work in cooperation with a specialized company.

The aforementioned authority launched the “Abdaa” platform, which grants licenses to practice cultural and artistic professions.

The platform provided three licenses for a music playing practitioner, a music acoustics management practitioner, and a music production practitioner, in addition to providing a licensing platform for training institutes, which resulted in the issuance of the first two music training licenses in the Kingdom.

 The authority launched a virtual training program for the music industry, which includes educational and training tracks in some musical disciplines. It also announced the start of receiving requests for musicians and instrumentalists wishing to join the National Music Ensemble.

 It also presented a gift of “Equestrian Music” to the Horse Racing Club in the second edition of the “Saudi Cup”, as well as a special encouragement song presented to the first Saudi national football team as part of its journey in the qualifying rounds for the upcoming World Cup.

A Culture Theme with Global Dimensions.

The goals that were set for the new cultural bodies in the Kingdom combined the local and global dimensions. On the local side, it focuses on serving the intellectual, the researcher, and the creator in all fields of arts and literature. On the international side, it reveals to the world the creativity of the people of the country, in addition to the ancient historical heritage that its land holds.

 After the establishment of the Literary, Publishing, and Translation Authority, it announced its initiative to enrich Arabic content and enhance cultural exchange between the Arabic language and its counterparts in the world through the “Tarjem” initiative, which is one of the first packages of initiatives announced by the Ministry of Culture at the launch of its vision and directions.

 While it announced the second track of the Tarjim initiative, which is the “Translating Academic Journals” project, through which the authority seeks to enrich the Arab knowledge content by translating academic journals in the cultural, social, and humanitarian fields.

It also announced the launch of the “Arab Translation Observatory” initiative to coordinate Arab efforts in the field of translation and support its progress, in addition to announcing the establishment of the Saudi Publishing House. The authority also organized a series of virtual literary meetings in 2021.

624 Historical Sites Registered.

For its part, the Heritage Authority approved the registration of 624 new archaeological and historical sites in the National Antiquities Register, during the first quarter of 2021, bringing the total of archaeological sites that have been registered in the register since its establishment to 8,176 sites in various regions of the Kingdom.

The Heritage Authority has created the concept of “Antiquities Register”, which is a technical process for documenting immovable and movable antiquities, historical sites, and folklore pieces based on an information collection form.

The aforementioned “Antiquities Register” created a digital record of national antiquities, linked to a digital archaeological map, where the record includes detailed information, maps, photos, and reports about archaeological and historical sites recorded.

But the most notable achievement this year 2021 is Saudi Arabia’s success in registering the site of “Abar Hima”, which is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Najran region.

The aforementioned site is considered a road that extends between 6 rocky wells, through which trade convoys pass from the south of the Arabian Peninsula to its north to supply water from wells during travel.

 There are more than 13 sites in the place that contain drawings of grazing and hunting scenes, drawings of human figures drawn larger than life-size, in which they wear headscarves, wear necklaces and hold weapons.

Drawings also include knives and blades, and dances with musical instruments and others.

This site was added to the sites previously registered in the World Heritage List after the approval of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization “UNESCO”, and they are:

Al-Hajar, Al-Turaif neighborhood in Diriyah, Historic Jeddah, rock drawings in Hail, Al-Ahsa Oasis.

The Cultural Investment in Archaeological Sites.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has begun to invest in tourism and cultural sites of ancient archaeological sites such as “Al-Ula”, which embraces a cultural heritage that extends back 7000 years, where the “Royal Commission for the Governorate of Al-Ula” was established.

 The authority is organizing a wide range of tourism activities in Al-Ula Governorate, including the sites of Al-Hijr, Jabal Ikma, and the Kingdom of Dadan, in which a team of archaeologists is conducting extensive excavations to explore more about this mysterious period of human history in Al-Ula.

 During his visit to the Hegra site, the tourist experiences a unique experience during which he/she discovers the ancient Nabataean way of life.

 The visit sheds light on the most important archaeological sites in stone such as the tomb of Lahyan ibn Koza, Jabal Ithlib, Al Diwan, the Red Mountain and the Well, and the ancient city of Dadan, the capital of the Dadan Empire and Lehyan and the most advanced cities during the first millennium BC.

Qualifying Creators.

The new cultural strategy in the Kingdom focused on the aspect of rehabilitation and training for the gifted and creative, so the Ministry of Culture launched the “Cultural Scholarship” program, according to which talented male and female students are sent in artistic and literary fields to study in the most prestigious international universities.

These universities are Columbia University, Georgetown University, and the Sorbonne University, along with University College London, Carnegie Mellon University, Parsons School of Design, University of California Berkeley, Northwestern University, Manchester School of Architecture, Pratt Institute in America, and Royal Holloway, University of London, and Michigan State University.

These male and female students study in disciplines including literature, languages ​​and linguistics, archaeology, culinary arts, architecture, filmmaking, libraries and museums, fashion design, theatre, visual arts, music, and design.

The “Experts” program was also launched, which aims to train and qualify thirty Saudi men and women to join the network of accredited experts in international cultural agreements and programs, to increase the number of Saudi experts specialized in managing and preparing nomination files for international organizations, and developing their capabilities and knowledge following the methodology followed by UNESCO.

On the local level, the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts offers intensive training courses in the arts of khaws, weaving (Sadu), hand embroidery, and pottery.

Digitizing Culture.

The Ministry of Culture had issued the executive summary of its annual report on monitoring the reality of the Saudi cultural sector in 2020, under the title “The Cultural Situation Report in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2020: Digitizing Culture”.

 The report included an analytical description of the movement in all cultural sub-sectors, in which Saudi artists and intellectuals are active, namely: heritage, museums, cultural and archaeological sites, theater and performing arts, books and publishing, architecture and design, natural heritage, films, fashion, language and translation, and culinary arts. 

The Ministry of Culture chose the theme “Digitizing Culture” as a title for the “Cultural Status Report” for 2020, as “Digitization” was the prominent feature of the year with a decisive impact from the Coronavirus pandemic, which caused the transfer of cultural activity in the Kingdom and the world as a whole from the ground of tangible reality to the virtual world.

The report described this case, with monitoring of the digital transformations that affected the cultural sector, which was reflected like the activities and events provided by individuals and Saudi cultural institutions during the year 2020.

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