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RIYAD: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia, also known as Ithra, this year presented more than 7,000 programs and initiatives in the fields of art, knowledge, culture, creativity and society, and welcomed more than 500,000 local and international visitors, the organization said.
In addition, approximately 4,000 male and female volunteers participated in the centre’s local, regional and international events and activities, contributing 13,000 hours of work.
Ithra has won five local and international awards in the past 12 months, including the 2021 Award for Cultural Institutes in the Private Sector from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture. Ithra has also received three prestigious accolades from MarCom, one of the world’s largest and most respected creative competitions. Out of 6,000 entries, Ithra earned platinum in the “Team Achievement” and “Pro Bono” categories, and gold in the “Social Content” category for her efforts on World Book Day.
The center has also been recognized locally by the Department of Human Resources and Social Development with numerous awards, including the first volunteer unit to implement the national standard for volunteering, the first center to introduce volunteering in the private sector and a Gold “Mowaamah” certification, for the accessible ecosystem that the center provides to support people with special needs, in accordance with their standards and required needs.
Another research initiative launched by Ithra is its flagship digital wellness platform that highlights research and conversations related to digital wellness. Sync, a commissioned project with a large global study exploring the role and impact of technology on the daily lives of the general public. By reaching out to 15,000 people in 30 countries, the study results inform the Sync project of Ithra, in addition to being a resource for all stakeholders, including the public, social scientists, producers and content providers and policy makers. The project includes an annual summit with international and local speakers which will kick off in early 2022.
This year, Ithra also piloted its inaugural Creative Solutions Program with more than 1,000 local applicants, launched to boost the Saudi creative economy by strengthening digital content creation in immersive technologies.
Ithra’s flagship annual creativity festival, organized under the theme Tools – Crafting Creativity, Tanween 2021 attracted more than 25,000 visitors in three weeks. The festival presented international and local experts in 30 conferences, 10 masterclasses, 7 workshops and 4 great experiences. One of the main features of Tanween was the Smartphone Orchestra, which sorted the audience based on the data they provided themselves in this interactive and immersive activity. Another highlight featured swarms of mass drones that interacted with the audience in one of the largest co-created human / drone light paintings ever.
Currently presented at the first Biennale of Contemporary Art in Diriyah, the piece by Nadia Kaabi-Linke, winner of the Ithra Art Prize, underlines the new pan-Arab orientation of the prize. This is the first year that one of the region’s most important art prizes has been open to regional artists, while simultaneously representing a homecoming for the prize which was presented to Art Dubai for its first three editions. . Composed of 19 canvases almost 20 meters long, E Pluribus Unum – A Modern Fossil is described as a metaphor for modern times.
Ithra’s investment in the future saw the announcement earlier this month that the F1 in schools program is coming to Saudi Arabia. Formula 1’s global education initiative will see some of the Kingdom’s brightest young minds join their peers from 26,000 schools in 51 other countries as they showcase their creative skills and compete to reach the Aramco F1 World Finals in Schools in 2022. The Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Challenge highlights Ithra’s mandate to champion creative potential and inspire innovation among talent and young Saudi Arabians.
Inviting visitors to channel their creativity into Islamic heritage, Ithra and the Abdullatif Al-Fozan Prize for Mosque Architecture gave people the opportunity to reinvent masjids during their recent three-day conference The Mosque: Innovation in object, form and function. The first conference of its kind, the three-day meeting brought together global experts exploring the history, art and architecture of Islamic cultures and culminated with the announcement of the challenge of the mosque of the future.
The conference complemented the ongoing exhibition Shatr Al-Masjid: The Art of Guidance. Presenting the largest collection of masterpieces of Islamic art ever exhibited in the Kingdom, it is the result of unprecedented partnerships at the international and national levels, notably with the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities. Another first, this year marked the opening of Ithra’s most international art exhibition to date. Showcasing 26 works of art by 20 artists, including site-specific installations and commissioned pieces created specifically for and at the center, Seeing & Perceptive explores how observers perceive works of art in different ways. A testament to Ithra’s support for local talent, Saudi Open Call winner Walaa Fadul’s Light Upon Light piece, a six-fan composition of holograms and 3D holographic visuals, is on display alongside some of the biggest names. from the contemporary art world, including Carsten Höller, Aisha Khalid and Robert Irwin.
Using contemporary art to serve a larger purpose, Ithra has partnered with environmental sustainability leader Arcadia Earth for its Terra exhibit. The exhibition harnessed the power of art to create memorable experiences while taking a localized view of global challenges such as water scarcity, air quality and plastic pollution. Another first in Saudi Arabia, the exhibition aligns with the Kingdom’s environmental goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
While Ithra’s two-day Learning Beyond conference shed light on best practices in the education sector by harnessing innovative, accessible and diverse resources to have a tangible impact on student development, the center also organized the PiCon science communication program in its first edition in collaboration with the celebration of the International Pi Day to offer innovators and those interested in science and technology the opportunity to meet speakers and experts local and international, aiming to uplift the science movement for all ages.
Ithra also solidified its reputation as a premier Saudi producer with tours at the 74th Cannes International Film Festival and the Red Sea International Film Festival, the Kingdom’s premier international film fair. Produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, Sea of Sands by famed Egyptian writer and producer Mohamed Hefzy and Valley Road by award-winning Saudi director Khalid Fahad are both slated for release in 2023. The feature documentary Anti-Cinema, meanwhile, is currently in post-production and should hit the international film festival circuit shortly. Winner of the Ithra Content Commission Initiative, Ali Saeed and Hassan Saeed’s film brings Saudi cinema history to the big screen.
Additionally, Ithra is delighted with the opening of registrations for the Sea of Sands Observation Program, linked to the centre’s commitment to nurturing and developing talent in the Kingdom’s creative industries. The training program is designed to take the Saudi film industry to the next level and will see 10 budding filmmakers join the production of the film and learn from established filmmakers and crews.