The Middle East Institute (MEI), with the support of Art Jameel, and in partnership with CultuRunners and Desert Storm, is pleased to present an evening highlighting the cutting-edge cultural scene emerging from the Gulf.
The evening program will include the screening of Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater's acclaimed work on the cities of Mecca and Riyadh, a live music performance by the Kuwaiti-born, California-based rap group, Sons of Yusuf, a discussion with Emirati artist and curator, Noor al Suwaidi, and a conversation about the role of the arts in breaking stereotypes, bridging cultural understanding, and empowering youth from the region.
Stephen Stapleton, director of the arts organization Culturunners, and co-founder of the Saudi arts collective, Edge of Arabia, will moderate.
Art Jameel, an initiative of Community Jameel, fosters and promotes contemporary art and creative entrepreneurship across the MENAT region.
No registration is needed for this event. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees will receive one drink coupon and light refreshments.
Saudi Arabian Contemporary Artist
Ahmed Mater, born and raised in southern Saudi Arabia and trained as a medical doctor, has been a practicing artist since the early 1990s. Mater's work grapples with the narratives and aesthetics of Islamic culture in an era of globalization, consumerism, and transformation. Using photography and video, Mater explores collective memory and unofficial histories behind contemporary Saudi Arabian sociopolitical life. In 2003, Mater founded Al- Meftaha Arts Village in Abha and co-founded Edge of Arabia, a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to dialogue and exchange between the Middle East and the West through exhibitions, publications, and public programming. His Freer|Sackler exhibit, Symbolic Cities, presents the extraordinary transformation of Mecca and the artists’ visual and aural journeys observing economic and urban change in Saudi Arabia. Mater’s work has been widely exhibited around the world, including at The Mori Museum of Art in Japan, the Sharjah Biennale in UAE, Home Works 6 at Ashkal Alwan in Lebanon, and Galleria Continua’s Le Moulin in France, among others. Additionally, his work is in the collection of the British Museum in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Most recently, Mater debuted his 100 Found Objects at the Sharjah Art Foundation.
Sons of Yousuf
Kuwaiti Rap Group
Born in Kuwait City and raised in Los Angeles, Ya’koob and AbdulRahman Al Refaie are the Middle East’s leading hip hop duo known as the Sons of Yusuf. The brothers produce and compose their own songs and are the creative force behind their music videos including, "Arabs in Paris,” “Now is the Time,” “O’Yamal,” and “HALA,” some of which have over one million YouTube views. The brothers were exposed to hip hop culture after moving with their family to Los Angeles after the Gulf War. It was here that they began introducing their own culture and traditions into rhymes and poetry and became inspired to use music as a venue for cultural exchange. Apart from their work with HBO and international radio spins, their originality prompted an exclusive interview on CNN’s "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson. They have recently established their own production company, The Base Productions, through which they hope to encourage the youth to follow their dreams and help make positive change.
Noor Al Suwaidi
Aritist and Curator
Noor Al Suwaidi is an artist, curator, and cultural activist creating platforms to promote emerging artists, empower women, and bridge cultural understanding. She specializes in curating exhibitions of Emirati artists both locally and internationally, including an exhibition at the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C. as well as exhibitions in Emirati galleries in Sharjah and Dubai. Her most recent show, Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates, is currently touring the U.S. exhibiting works responding to the UAE’s rapid social and economic transformation. Previously, Al Suwaidi worked for Sotheby’s in London, ING in Amsterdam, and on art and cultural projects for Dubai Arts and Culture Authority and TDIC’s Cultural Department. Her own artwork has been exhibited in gallery shows in London, Kuwait, Berlin, Washington D.C., Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, among others.
Founding Director, Edge of Arabia
Stephen Stapleton is a British artist and curator as well as the founding director of Edge of Arabia and CultureRunners, platforms for cultural dialogue between the Middle East and the West. After encountering the artistic community in Abha, Saudi Arabia during a trip across the Middle East in 2003, he founded Edge of Arabia, an initiative committed to improving understanding of Saudi art through exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. In 2014, he assisted with the launching of CULTURUNNERS, an unconventional model of cultural exchange which empowers and mobilizes international artists to tell stories and create art across physical and psychological borders. Stapleton has a degree in fine art and philosophy from the University of Brighton, and has exhibited his work in Tehran, Amman, London, Oslo and New York. He has published several books related to the Middle East, including Offscreen: Four Young Artists in the Middle East, and has won several awards for his work in the field of intercultural education.