When I first heard that Edge of Arabia was coming to Jeddah I was too excited. Seeing their work travel and be exhibited all over the world, from Venice to Istanbul to Dubai, makes me so proud. But the fact that they were now coming to my hometown was beyond thrilling for me!

Jeddah has always been about events and people and gatherings. Combine that with beautiful and inspiring art pieces and you get an exquisite combination. Add to that the fact that Edge of Arabia has never held an exhibition in Jeddah before.

Egde of Arabia Jeddah Poster

The posters themselves couldn't explain Jeddah any better. The little neon kiosk at the Corniche? So Jeddah!

Passing by the venue and seeing the preparations of the exhibition before it even opened was so exhilarating. I had no idea what to expect! New work, emerging talents!

I attended Edge of Arabia's "Terminal" Exhibition in DIFC Dubai in 2011 and I couldn't have been more proud of the amazing artists involved. As soon as I walked in, one of the people at the location was explaining the work of the artists stating that they were all Saudi, and immediately I jumped in saying that I was Saudi too!

Seeing and knowing that these incredible artworks originated from Saudi artists like myself made me full of joy and pride…We do have talent; it's just never been shown this way before.

This year's exhibition, "We Need To Talk" opened on January 20th. Curated by Mohammed Hafiz and co-curated by Edge of Arabia's founder Stephen Stapleton, the exhibition was held in a 1000 sq meter space in the Al Furusia Marina along the Jeddah Corniche.

As you walk into the space, intentionally unfinished with cement floors and ceilings, it feels lovely. You can smell the rawness of it. And then you see a pop of neon green.

I was so overwhelmed by all the amazing contemporary artwork starting from Ahmed Mater's. As soon as you walk in, there is a whole wall covered with red "plastic toy pistols". I just stared at it thinking, "How did he do it?" And the message behind it was outstanding.

Manal Al Dowayan's giant prayer beads

Another work I admired was Manal Al Dowayan's beads. I participated in that one and I loved the fact that I was part of an artwork and the fact that her piece is about society and the community.

Among the other artists who featured works such as sculptures and installations were Abdulnasser Gharem, Adwa AlMubarak, Ahaad Alamoudi, Ahmed Angawi, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Effat Fadaag, Eyad Maghazel, Hala Ali, Hamza Serafi, Ibrahim Abumsmar, Jowhara AlSaud, Maha Malluh, Mohammed Al Ghamdi, Nasser Al-Salem, Noha Al-Sharif, Saddek Wasil, Saeed Salem, Sami Al-Turki, Sara Al-Abdali and Sarah Abu Abdullah.

I have never seen that many people in a Jeddah event. The crowd was more than remarkable, and included a lot on international faces. One can truly say that Edge of Arabia raised the bar so high for future art exhibitions, with such immaculate attention to detail and such outstanding work. For a second, I honestly felt like this wasn't Saudi Arabia.

The truly great thing about the exhibition taking part in Jeddah is that local residents can relate to it, whether they are Saudi nationals, or expatriates who have come from abroad. And putting Jeddah on the map in terms of art is an accomplishment that Edge of Arabia succeeded in achieving.

People have always misjudged Saudi Arabia, thinking it lacked in creativity and artistic production. I'm happy to say this won't be the case anymore. Not after this exhibition.

Things are changing in the Saudi art scene. For the better.

"Edge of Arabia Jeddah: We Need To Talk" is now showing from Jan 20th – Feb 18th, 2012 at Al Furusia Marina, Jeddah, KSA.

For more information visit www.edgeofarabia.com

–    Text and photography by Alaa Balkhy


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