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Arabia to Andalucia
by Muhammad Yusuf May 07, 2015
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April was the coolest month of the year, if Art Jameel and the Crossway Foundation, who hosted six young photographers from Saudi Arabia to explore the Islamic heritage of Andalucía, are to be believed. The photographers went on the ‘Jameel Journey to Andalucia 2015’, as beneficiaries of the two organisations’ long-standing collaboration.

The first step in their journey of discovery was tackling a shortlist. A total of 15 promising young photographers from Saudi Arabia were first short listed from hundreds of applicants to the Art Jameel Photography Award (AJPA) and interviewed by Art Jameel and the Crossway Foundation.

Six participants were selected for their photographic talent and creative potential. “The programme demonstrates Art Jameel’s commitment to making a meaningful investment in the next generation of creative talent in the Gulf and shows the desire to provide vocational training opportunities for young artists”, said the hosts.

“Through successful collaboration over several years, Art Jameel and the Crossway Foundation together have played a unique role in enabling creative entrepreneurship in the MENAT region”, said Fady Jameel, President of Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) International. Art Jameel is part of ALJCI.

The Crossway Foundation is a UK-based charitable foundation delivering arts and education initiatives for young people in the Middle East and the UK. It focuses on delivering international creative journeys and also runs a public programme, free and open to all.

It has an established reputation for providing unique professional development opportunities ‘beyond four walls’. The British organisation has been delivering arts education initiatives for young people since 2007, working with young artists in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Malaysia.

The Andalucian brief was that in Spain, the photographers would practice cutting-edge photographic techniques in the magnificent settings of Córdoba, Seville, Granada and Madrid. The majority of the participants were self-taught photographers who, it was thought, would benefit enormously from working with innovative photography collectives and professional photographers.

Spanish organisation Casa Árabe was closely involved in the project from its inception and its Madrid and Córdoba headquarters served as a base for the participants during their time in Spain. Casa Árabe is known as a space for mutual knowledge and shared reflection: a meeting point between Spain and the rest of the world.

Dalya Mousa, Art Jameel Programme Manager, commented on the success of the programme: “I was delighted to see these young photographers enjoying their experience in Spain and learning new creative and technical skills. We are very keen to open up opportunities for young artists to fully realise their potential, by nurturing their talent and creativity, and encouraging them to excel in the contemporary art community both locally and internationally”.

23-year-old Salwa Sejiny, from Jeddah, shared her Spanish experience. “I enjoyed every minute …,” she said. “I learnt from everyone I met there and saw Spain in a different way. I learned things about composition and telling a story through the picture…”

She is primarily a graphic designer, but is very interested in pursuing photography. She had travelled to Seville and Granada before, but relished the opportunity of returning and experiencing it in an artistic way this time.

“What did I learn? A lot. Really, really a lot … I have a different way of thinking in photography, in taking photos, in looking a people, at life, at art. I don’t know what to expect (next), I live in this moment, for this moment… now, I’m in heaven,” said Majed Angawi, 22, from Jeddah, during the trip. He began taking photographs four years ago. Most of his work is conceptual and self-reflective. He feels art is a kind of freedom and that with it, he can freely express himself.

Hasan Mubarak, who is otherwise occupied as an accountant at a car rental agency, said that he loved travelling. “I love to discover new cultures, people and lifestyles”, he said. “I think that taking part in this journey inspired me greatly and broadened my perspective”.

Akram Al Alamoudi, who had never travelled alone or as part of a group before, said that he felt he benefited a great deal from an experience like his journey to Spain. He is interested in street and black and white photography, but is going through an experimental phase and has recently started focusing on colour photography.

Abdulmohsen Klaiby said he wanted to make people think through his photography. He is interested in people’s reaction to his work. Aziz Al Sudairy works mainly with film photography and is interested in the meeting of reality and dreams. He is also interested in distorting reality and double exposures. He counts Diane Arbus, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Proust, Camus and Sylvia Plath among his influences.

Art Jameel, in partnership with arts organisations worldwide, is developing two arts centres and cultural exchange programmes to encourage networking and knowledge sharing. It is the founding partner of Edge of Arabia, The Crossway Foundation, Jeddah Art Week and The Archive.

In collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, it awards the biannual Jameel Prize for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic traditions. Additional projects include: the AJPA; Jeddah Sculpture Museum, a public park established in collaboration with Jeddah Municipality; Art Jameel Olympics, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Saudi Arabia and Art Jameel Program for Traditional Arts and Crafts in Fustat, Egypt, in collaboration with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

ALJCI was established in 2003 to promote social change through the establishment of long-term partnerships with international institutions, and the creation of initiatives in the fields of job creation – Bab Rizq Jameel; Global Poverty Alleviation; Arts and Culture – Art Jameel; Education and Training – Education Jameel and Health and Social – Social Jameel.

AJPA is one of Art Jameel’s initiatives. Its mission is to discover emerging talents, develop their skills and exhibit exceptional photographs. Further, it promotes the art of photography and the achievements of renowned photographers.

Casa Árabe is a Spanish public consortium headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. It is operated as a strategic centre for Spain’s relations with the Arab world, a meeting point where different role-players and institutions, both private and public, from the worlds of business, education, academia, politics and culture can dialogue, interact, establish lines of cooperation and undertake joint projects.

Since it was founded in 2006, it has worked to achieve the goal of building bridges, strengthening bilateral and multilateral political relations and providing training and furthering understanding about the Arab and Muslim worlds.

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