Discovering Jeddah

A significant part of my project proposal has been stepping out of my comfort zone to see if there were any artistic avenues in Jeddah — contrary to popular opinion. Looking at my old blog posts I realize I can date it back to that day at Arbab al Heraf. That day two things coincidentally came to my attention:

  1. I realized that, hidden in the nooks and crannies of Jeddah, circles of writers and artists bloomed
  2. Jeddah, and KSA as a whole, was undergoing a mini-cultural revolution

Thus began an exploration that has gained momentum over this last year, almost too fast for me to blog about it, especially since it has been interspersed with travels to and from Chicago and Karachi.

Alf Kalimah, Alert Cafe, Arbab Al Heraf, Kaf Cafe, FIG are all a corner of this page I am turning. And now these worlds are colliding.

Female Instagram Artists in Jeddah (FIG) were one group I stumbled onto. The title pretty much says it all haha. They meet once a month and collaborate in fun ways in person as well as over social media (Instagram and Whatsapp).

I am also part of a whatsapp community called Talent Art Reunion which is a great way to network online and to meet other artists, they hold in person events as well.

Both of these groups seem essential to what Jonathan mentioned in the last session about befriending artists to share work with, gain critique and motivation to continue making art.

Alert Cafe is a cafe near the beach I visited with some fellow artists. They have a giant space upstairs to house work by various artists, I plan to display work there soon! The roof of their cafe is also covered with paper cups, but not ordinary paper cups, ones that have been painted by the artists who stopped by there for coffee. I painted a cup too 😀

Alf Kalimah, the writer’s club I mentioned before, started out as a group of friends meeting up to encourage each other to write a 1000 words over coffee and has transformed into a movement sweeping Jeddah and soon to be all over KSA. We meet in different locations (our hub is now Al-Wad, which, interestingly enough, is also home to The Other Story Project and belongs to Fatima Banawi, remember what I said about worlds colliding) and the write-ins are now open to everyone. I’m actually here at a meet up right now, taking the time to write these blog posts. It’s such a great way to meet new creative people and they have some great collaborations in the pipeline which I can’t wait to be part of.

The AlfKalimah family overlaps with The Other Story Project as well as another creative project called Jeddah.Reads. Jeddah.reads is trying to inculcate a love of literature into the residents of Jeddah. I feel like all three of these projects are so close to my practice as an artist, of which writing and literature are an invariable part, and I’m so glad to be a part of them. I will be collaborating with Jeddah.reads soon to develop a project for children similar to my projects in Karachi.

Alfkalimah’s traveling writing club also introduced me to Kaf Cafe, a bohemian cafe on the outskirts of Jeddah. The pictures below should tell you everything about their vibe which is SO ARTSY and unique. I met the Kaf Cafe owners and we hit it off right away. We are planning to do open mic nights there, as well as display my work there. And get this: they want me to paint one of their tables! They are dedicating one wooden table to an artist each and I get to be one of the artists featured. I find it quite exciting.


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