Saudi Arabia may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of art and culture, but the government, with initiatives like Saudi Vision 2030, and enterprises like the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture, is aspiring to change that. One notable annual event brings together local, regional, and international designers; cultivating their talents and generating opportunities. Saudi Design Week, held in Riyadh, was founded by sisters Basma and Noura Bouzo in 2014.
Basma, 30, has an educational background in public health policy and immunology, while Noura, 31, has a background in the history of art and fine arts. Together, the duo share a goal of providing a platform for the creative community in Saudi Arabia, ensuring they can connect with each other and showcase their work to the public.
What is Saudi Design Week?
Noura: Saudi Design Week is an annual event that highlights local and regional designers alongside select international designers. Our aim is to continuously scout for new talents, exhibit their work, and support them further by exhibiting them internationally. Saudi Design Week consists of an exhibition and workshops, as well as talks by leading regional and international design figures.
Basma: Saudi Design Week is, in its essence, a festival for design and visual culture. The fair’s program is divided into curated exhibitions, workshops, a design forum, design market and several activities, all taking place within the context of design. Temporarily transforming the Kingdom’s capital of Riyadh into a dynamic platform to discuss, judge, and admire good design.
Last year, Saudi Design Week brought together over 11,000 highly targeted attendees, who experienced design in its various forms in a highly curated 2,000 square meter space, over 20 speakers, various workshops, and unparalleled opportunities to learn and discover design. SDW has also garnered media attention with an overall reach of over 147 million, including mentions by social media influencers, print, radio and broadcast.
What was your goal when you first began and has this changed?
N: We started Saudi Design Week with the goal of creating a design community and supporting the community with an educational platform and exposing this local design community internationally. Our goal has only strengthened throughout the years as we have seen a need to create a strong maker culture.
Why do you think it’s important to support local talent?
N: Without supporting local talent, our heritage, as well as our future, would be lost. Local talent is reviving heritage and adapting new technology and techniques to the benefit of their new designs.
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the design industry?
N: We have capable, young designers but we lack resources in terms of material and machines, but this is surely about to change with initiatives and organizations such as the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture and also a surprise initiative that we will be launching this year at Saudi Design Week 2017.
What are your future plans?
N + B: Our future plans include a SDW incubator, which supports young designers by securing international internships and workshops for them to harness their skills. And, of course, to grow Saudi Design Week year by year, to allow designers and creatives in Saudi Arabia to grow and challenge themselves.