DHAHRAN: Visitors to the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, in Dhahran cannot miss a number of specially designed, eye-catching installations that have appeared on the grounds. These structures offer an insight into the ideas and concepts surrounding new and sustainable tools that will drive creativity and innovation in the future.

They are among the highlights of Ithra’s fourth Tanween, an annual creativity festival offering talks, workshops, exhibitions and other attractions celebrating the risk-taking creatives and innovators whose work is helping to shape the modern world. Since the inaugural event in 2018, it has attracted more than 170,000 visitors.

This year marks the full return of Tanween after the disruption caused by the pandemic, in response to which Ithra last year organized a special hybrid event with the theme of The New Next. The themes of the first two Tanweens were Disruption and Play.

Under the theme Tools: Shaping Creativity, this year’s event will explore the current and future tools that can help societies forge creative communities and industries, and encourage innovation through the growth of the creative economy in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

This year’s festival, which began on Oct. 27 and continues until Nov. 13, is split into four two-day tracks. The Emerging Creatives track was a special event for final-year students, recent graduates and those in the early stages of their careers, while the Creative Economy took a look at creative and innovative tools and technologies that are revolutionizing businesses.

Next up, on Nov. 5 and 6, is Graphics and Communication. This will be of particular interest to visual communicators, designers and graphic artists, and will explore the evolving role of design and the effect it is having on business and culture.

Tanween concludes on Nov. 12 and 13 with Architecture and Products, which will consider the tools of tomorrow that will be used to create the next generation of physical spaces and products.

When visitors arrive at the entrance to the event they encounter a rectangular structure with long, dangling ropes in a variety of colors. It was designed by Eidetic Space, an architecture and urbanism collective in London led by Blerta Copa, Lucy Moroney and Beatrice Bertolini.

Titled the House of Hair, or the Arabian Tent, the structure is described as offering a journey through the traditions and culture of Bedouin life, with particular emphasis on the importance of community and how traditional design concepts can still play a role in modern storytelling and design, which are tools that can enhance our knowledge of the past and its continued relevance to the present.

Saaf, meanwhile, a structure designed by Saudi architect Shahad Alazzaz from Riyadh, the founder of Azaz Architects, aims to highlight and help preserve the traditional palm-weaving craft after which the installation is named. Alazzaz worked with artisans from Al-Ahsa, in the Eastern Province, to develop innovative applications of saaf for use in contemporary architecture.

Other outdoor attractions included Faseelah, an architectural pavilion showcasing innovative construction methodology and techniques, and Sketch, which provides an exploratory environment analyzing concepts of place and space through the words and thoughts of artists that have been illustrated on a massive canvas.

“Like the themes of Disruption, Play, and The New Next before it, the Tools theme will explore an aspect of the creative process and tap into how cultural and creative industries continue to innovate and steer the future of the creative economy, highlighting the tools at their disposal,” said Miznah Alzamil, head of innovation and creativity at Ithra.

“Tanween 2021 empowers the creative industries through exploring the innovative use of tools and identifying new opportunities presented by adopting and developing new toolsets.”

This years event includes an impressive roster of headline speakers, including Chris Law, former senior design director of Adidas; Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares, founding director of the Khatt Foundation, a non-profit cultural organization for the advancement of Arabic typography; international contemporary artist and researcher Sougwen Chung; and Arthur Mamou-Mani, founder of the award-winning Mamou-Mani Architects practice.

Chung, whose art uses performance, drawing, sculpture and installation to investigate the relationship between humans and machines, in particular robots and computers, gave a captivating talk during the event’s opening weekend.

“I’ve really seen tradition and innovation brought together here at Tanween in this grand scale and in this beautifully executed, entirely unique and culturally specific, evocative way,” she told Arab News. “I try to marry in my work the apparent dualities of art and science, and tradition and future perspectives. That is what drives my work and that is what I also see, very much, here.”

In Ithra’s Great Hall, a number of Saudi creative groups are highlighting their work, centered mainly around upcycling, reusing materials, and finding new materials to create more sustainable, environmentally friendly products.

In the Material Science station, for example, local companies show how all products carry an environmental footprint determined by its design, components, manufacture and reuse. They also highlight alternative materials, such as eggshells, expired rice, seaweed and hazelnut shells that can be used to create products in a sustainable way. In the Recycling Plastic section, Saudi company Cyan reveals how recycled plastics can be used to make colorful bowls, furniture and utensils.

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