On November 30, the city of Riyadh will open its doors to the third edition of Noor Riyadh. For the uninitiated, Noor Riyadh is the largest light art festival in the world, and will be running on till December 16, 2023. In the words of director Nouf Almoneef, “Noor Riyadh lights up the city. It brings all the communities together. It brings visitors, residents, artists, curators, art enthusiasts, all together, and that’s what’s great about it. It gives us joyful experiences to everyone.”
What truly makes the art festival special is that it won’t be contained to any one exhibit space. Instead, the luminous artworks of Noor Riyadh 2023 will take over the capital city of Saudi Arabia, lighting up the most unexpected nooks and crannies of the city, from residential spaces to bus stations, popular tourist spots, pedestrian pathways, parks, and more.
Mashael Al Saie
Multimedia artist and photographer Mashael Al Saie often looks to mythology from Bahrain to inspire her works. For Noor Riyadh, she presents “Sea of Tears”, an installation bringing together sculptural glass tears, video and audio, to depict the Bahraini myth of Ain Adhari (a desolate natural spring in Bahrain).
“I’m very fascinated with glass — in particular, mixing natural and unnatural material,” she explains. Her piece depicts the story of a young woman who was approached by a menacing man in a palm tree grove, causing her to wail in fear — and the surprising result of her reaction. “I was very fascinated with this idea of the state of transformation of tears in relation to the mythology of Ain Adhari, which talked about a woman whose tears and entire body turned into a natural spring.” Adding to the dramatic theme of her installation is an audio that holds special meaning to the artist. “The work also includes whispers of my grandmother’s voice retelling memories,” Al Saie reveals.
Amna Al Baker
Based in Qatar, Amna Al Baker comes from Qatari, Indian and Persian heritage, and has made a niche for herself in the art world with her whimsical creations, many of which focus on the dualities between the seen and unseen, and the self versus the society. At Noor Riyadh, she presents a vibrant installation, “Story of Land, Sea, and Stars”, which comprises of three interesting elements that work together in harmony: a neon light, a mural, and a cape. “The artwork is basicallty about the way that our heritage influences storytelling, and so we have in the back, an astronomy map, and in the foreground, we see how everything that is in our life and in our past is influenced by the environent that we live in, and by the land, sea, and stars,” Al Baker explains.
Exploring the mythology of Qatar, Al Baker’s creation takes inspiration from the socio-cultural circumstances that arose from men being away at sea, while women remained on land to take care of their homes and society. Her gleaming tapestry cape highlights stories like that of the sea monster bu darya, and the tale of the girl who used a golden cow to plot her escape.
“My artwork is about my time in Alexandria, Egypt, and paying an ode and a tribute to my childhood there, and it’s also about dealing with grief and the loss of my grandfather.” Titled “Please Don’t Leave Me We Know So Little About Each Other”, the Egyptian-American artist’s installation at Noor Riyadh also echoes a universal feeling. “It’s a constant reminder that no matter how much you may know somebody, you will never know them a hundred per cent.”
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