Never has the Middle East needed a creative shelter more than it has today. With political turmoil bubbling in different parts of the region, there is not only a demand, but a need for expressive outlets. Enter Malja, the first creative community and open collaborative studio in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and probably one of the forerunners in the whole region.

Currently in its construction stage, Malja, the Arabic word for "shelter", will become an open space for creative individuals from a diverse selection of artistic fields. Founded by Creative Director of Obai and Hill, Wafa Al-Obaidat and graphic designer Bader Kamal, it will be the place where all these brilliant young minds come together to cultivate and hone their various talents. Their aim is to become "the place to exchange ideas and convert the basic human interactions into the island's most creative ideas".

The way it works is that the center will host 50 artists every 3 to 6 months. Each artist receives a work station for the duration of their specified period. During that time, they will be able to work on and produce their artwork. By doing this, artists of all type will be given space to work in, and the chance to network with artists and creative types from different areas. The allocated time period allows the center to host as many artists as they can, in order to give every participant an equal chance.

Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed and Wafa Al-Obaidat with a group of artists at Malja's press launch

The project was announced formally to the public on March 31st, 2011, where Al-Obaidat, presented Malja to an audience of artists and press representatives. The center, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, and supported by its Minister, Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa,  was discussed at length by artists attending the launch, who shared ideas on everything from developing Malja to supporting the Bahraini art community.

As artists all around the world have no doubt experienced, finding an affordable studio to work in or a gallery to represent and exhibit them is the hardest task imaginable. Malja speeds and facilitates that process for those young, struggling artists. "Space is the cheapest, yet most vital facility you can provide for a young artist," says Al-Obaidat. "For an artist, it is never too soon for exposure," she adds.

Maintaining constant exposure is a different issue altogether, yet it is one which Malja also addresses. As Ahmed Al-Dosri, a member of the Bahrain Arts Society puts it, "In Bahrain, we face a phenomenon of talent fading with age. Malja is a central hub that not only gathers art, but preserves it for the future."

When it comes to the importance of promoting and developing art in the country, Malja's Project Manager Mariam Al-Shaikh expresses, "Working with Malja's team is an amazing opportunity, not limited to gaining an experience but it also taught me how important it is for Bahraini youth to shift the focus from business to art for a change…"

For more information on Malja, visit or contact

–    Alya N. Al-Othman


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