Affectionately called the “Artist of the Arabs,” Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu is renowned across the Middle East and beyond. The 73-year-old, who was born in Al Shuqaiq, Jazan, is beloved the world over for his mesmerizing vocals and use of traditional instruments such as the oud. Throughout his decades-spanning career, the artist has put out a myriad of memorable albums and songs, one of which is the theme behind this year’s edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts.
Titled “Amakin,” after Abdu’s hit song of the same name, the ninth edition of the annual art exhibition is currently underway at The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) at the Kingdom’s Eastern Province until September 30, 2022. It is the first time the event takes place away from Jeddah.
Drawing from Abdu’s lyrics, “all the places long for you,” the exhibition, which was curated by Venetia Porter, is showcasing the works of 28 established and emerging artists from Saudi Arabia, Chile, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Palestine in response to the question “What is your makan?”
“The notion of makan, or place, fell into sharp relief with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns around the world,” said Porter, who is a leading curator in Islamic and Middle Eastern art. “That place where we live and perhaps took for granted became, for some of us, another country as we discovered familiar streets as though for the first time, observed in minute detail the changing of the seasons or listened to the birds. For others, our makan became a trap – a place to escape from that now caused us trauma and stress,” she added.
Pioneering Saudi artists Safeya Binzagr, Abdulhalim Radwi, and Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, alongside other emerging artists from all points of the globe, are all demonstrating how their life experiences have shaped their relationship to different places, real and imagined during the three-month-long exhibition.
Additionally, 21,39’s “Amakin” includes special commissions and loans including selected artworks from the Al-Mansouria Collection.