Saudi Art Council’s annual 21.39 Jeddah Arts exhibition opens with Amakin

The Saudi Arts Council kicked off its annual 21.39 Jeddah Arts exhibition on Thursday, featuring a roster of 27 local and international artists, at its home in Gold Moor Mall.

The exhibition is inspired this year by a line from a song by famous Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu — “al-amakin kullaha mushtaqah lak”, which translates to “all places desire you”. He invites participating artists to take visitors to their makan, or home, a place they love.

Works on display at Amakin include sketches, paintings, mixed media, neon works, sculptures, film and poetry that showcase the artist’s relationship with his makan. For three months, the event will also offer round tables and workshops.

“I was strongly drawn to artists who work on paper, fascinated as I am by the process of drawing, the making of paper, the complexity of printmaking techniques,” said curator Venetia Porter. The National. “I have been continually inspired by the talented artists who have agreed to take this journey with me.”

Venetia Porter, Curator of Amakin

Born and raised in Lebanon, Porter studied Arabic and Islamic art at Oxford University and holds a doctorate in the history and architecture of medieval Yemen from Durham University. She also worked as Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art at the British Museum in London.

The name 21, 39 Jeddah Arts is derived from the geographic coordinates of the city (21.5433°N, 39.1728°E) and is a non-profit initiative of the Saudi Arts Council. In March 2021, the opening of the event’s eighth season was postponed due to changing Covid-19 regulations.

Guests attending Amakin are greeted by a giant neon sign created by Abdullah Al-Othman that reads “The Bride of the Red Sea”. Inside are works by renowned Saudi artist Safeya Binzagr, 82, who has her own museum, and the late Abdulhalim Radwi, known for his monumental filmmaker Mohammed Hammad, photographer Reem Al Faisal and visual artists Emy Kat and Bashaer Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Bader Awwad AlBalawi documents the mid-20th century buildings of Al Khobar through a series of photos, and Talib Almarri’s photographs celebrate the beauty of Lake Al-Asfar in eastern Saudi Arabia, where “water, birds and weeds are in harmony”.

Ali Cherri introduces visitors to Sultan Zeib Khan, who guards an ancient necropolis in the Sharjah desert, while Gaza-based photographer Taysir Batniji expresses his perspective from home through a series of striking photographs.

Elsewhere, Aisha Khalid from Mecca exhibits richly embroidered textiles reminiscent of the Kiswah, the fabrics that cover the Kaaba, while Hammad presents a short film titled Yallah, Yallah Beenah! using his earliest memories of his time in Jeddah.

21.39 Jeddah Arts runs until Friday 3rd June. The exhibition will then be organized by Ithra in Dhahran from Thursday 30 June to Friday 30 September. More information is available at

Updated: March 05, 2022, 11:02 a.m.

Norma D. Ross