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DHAHRAN: Week two of King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture — Ithra’s Tanween event focused on graphics and communication while maintaining a spirit of collaboration.

Visitors to Ithra between Oct. 31 and Nov. 5 had the chance to attend talks with Joe Foster, whose family business became global brand Reebok. Half a dozen other speakers also took part in the event.

The weekend’s grand finale, the “Big Moment,” happened on several nights where colors exploded into the night sky in a giant human-led visual tapestry.

Workshops covered techniques such as stop motion animation, pinhole photography and cyanotype printing. Talks were given by Saudi artists Nasser Alshemimry, Maryam Abousalamah, Waleed Hassan as well as a session by London-born vocal musician Harry Yeff.

Professional consultant sessions were offered virtually with notable artists including Sara Abdulaa and Yusef Alahmad.

Rami Afifi speaks to the Tanween week 2 attendees. (PHOTO: Yasir Alqunais)

One of the master classes was led by the self-proclaimed “third most famous Rami” — artist Rami Afifi, who was raised between Saudi and several other countries. The “proud Palestinian,” with an affinity for wearing witty graphic t-shirts and bold colors, navigated his master class like a video game — carefully jumping on linguistic hurdles and curating the digital and classroom space with little saturated Easter eggs, and crafting stories as he went along. He candidly let his students watch as he illustrated his career path while helping them trace and capture their own. Each student created a customized digital collage using Photoshop by the end of the session, using computers in the lab.

Artist, hip-hop scholar, founding member of the Museum of Graffiti in Miami and US cultural ambassador Carlos Mare spoke to the crowd on several occasions and offered his own master class. In keeping with the theme of collaboration, he wore a garment that allowed him to demonstrate exactly that.

“I am wearing a thobe; a collaboration piece between myself, a Saudi artist named Nugamshi and another graffiti artist by the name of Zepha. I love cultural immersion. My part was the conceptual part — the art direction,” he told Arab News.

“Hip-hop culture is about collaboration. It was a collaboration within a community and now within the global community. Here we find ourselves in Saudi Arabia, of all places, right? And to see how far this culture has traveled and has had an impact — it’s really moving for me in a deep way because of my experience where I came from in the South Bronx to be here, this historic place. And that I would be adopting my interests in the Middle East, my affinity for the culture, Islamic culture — it’s really moving. It’s very special,” Mare said.

Carlos Mare speaks to the Tanween week 2 attendees. (PHOTO: Yasir Alqunais)

Robert Frith, creative director at Ithra and curator of the Ithra Tanween experience, told Arab News about “the middle child” of the three week creative festival.

“Week two is all about graphics and communication — still wrapped up in the theme for Tanween, in terms of collaboration, but we have lots of great examples around brand collaborations, graphic designers working with technology and then even audio artists.

“In the middle weekend for Tanween is always a ‘Big Moment.’ This is where we really invite our audience to come and collaborate with us to create an amazing Tanween moment together. We have these ribbons of color that are coming through the center across the crowd. So it starts indoors and then travels out of the center to the Lush Garden where we invite everybody to come and collaborate with us to create this big picture moment, with these beautiful ribbons of color,” Frith added.

“This is always an experiment for us with Tanween. You’ll be part of the crowd, part of the spectrum of color, and then it all kind of blasts off in all the colors and comes together as white, you know, like the color spectrum. We’ll see this big explosion of a moment. How can we communicate together as a big crowd? Join the picture, be part of the picture,” Frith said.

Tanween concludes next weekend with a final set of speakers and activities. For full details, visit the Ithra website.

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