- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi artists showcase painings celebrating the city of Jerusalem
- Date: 9th October 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF YOUNG BOYS LOOKING AT PAINTINGS
- Embargoed: 24th October 2009 13:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVA39EES7WIRD4YMPJ52RWMEZWV0
- Story Text: Saudi Arabia celebrated the Arab League's designation of Jerusalem's as the capital of Arab Culture 2009 with a new exhibition showcasing paintings and artwork based on the theme of Jerusalem. The city, also holy to Christians and Jews, holds a special religious, historical and cultural significance for muslims because it is the site of the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
The four-day exhibition entitled "Jerusalem in the Eyes of Art," opened in Riyadh Tuesday (Oct 6) and featured work by 50 Saudi and other Arab artists as well as some work by children.
The exhibition displayed a variety of art work, from portraiture to the abstract, surreal and expressive, all looking at the same subject in different ways. The aim was to reflect the ongoing conflict in Jerusalem between Arabs and Israelis from an Arab point of view.
"This exhibition and other exhibitions held all over Arab countries as a demonstration for Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture, is stronger than any strike with weapons (on Israel)," said Saudi artist, Fahad al-Rabeeq.
Considered one of the most prominent painters in Saudi Arabia, al-Rabeeq is showcasing a number of his artworks in the exhibition. He has been painting for 35 years and is considered a cultural treasure in the kingdom. His most famous painting "Roots", from 28 years ago, shows an olive tree and its roots which he says symbolise the Palestinian struggle for independence.
"This is the struggle of more than 65 years, what does today, yesterday or any other day change? It's like an olive tree, like in one of my paintings, even if you cut that tree its roots still remain. My painting here is 28 years old. The painting 'Roots' shows that if you try to cut the tree the roots grow again and again," he added.
Jerusalem has long been claimed as a capital by both Palestinians and Israelis and is seen as key to solving the conflict in the region. The al-Aqsa compound housing the holy mosque is a place of significant importance for both Muslims and Jews, and has often been a flashpoint of tension. Israeli security forces control access to the area and regularly prohibit young Muslim men from entering.
Saudi poet Ahmed al-Ghamidi, attending the Jerusalem in the Eyes of Art exhibition, said: "Muslims are prevented from entering the al-Aqsa, those under 50 are prevented from praying inside it, they expect that those under 50 years old will forget Jerusalem. Those over 50, like myself and others, will soon be going to the afterlife. But those who drank, those who were breast-fed the love of al-Aqsa and love of Palestine and Jerusalem are just fingertips that will grow just like those olive trees in Gaza, in Jerusalem, in al-Aqsa, Haifa and Jaffa."
Many of the paintings in the exhibition depict the iconic al-Aqsa mosque and use various art methods to show the Palestinian desire to claim Jerusalem as theirs.
Men and Women of different ages walked around the exhibition hall in Riyadh admiring the paintings, some filmed the paintings with their video cameras, others took pictures on mobile phones. They expressed an admiration for the work displayed and the issues tackled.
"I loved these paintings very much, it was very nice, the one that caught my attention is this picture, of course because of its materials and colours and it is cut into parts, reflecting the division in Palestine, the thing I noticed and which caught my eye is this cut on the woman's forehead which is also the map of Palestine," said one visitor standing next to her favoured painting.
The exhibition is organised by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, which was set up in 1972 with the aim of nurturing the culture and arts in the Saudi kingdom.
Artists attending the Jerusalem in the Eyes of Art exhibition said that this is the golden age for Saudi Arabian paintings as the Saudi Ministry of Education pours money into arts teaching at school and universities and as it encourages children to pick up the pen or brush and get involved.
Jerusalem in the Eyes of Art is one of a number of exhibitions that will be held across different Arab cities in the region in support of Jerusalem as the capital Arab Culture 2009 and as an expression of solidarity for the issues faced by palestinians.
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