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At the Sharjah Biennale 2003 the three participants from Bahrain - Munira Aljalahma, Rana Al-Khamiri and Wejdan Salem Almannai - piqued our interest in the art scene in their home country. At the invitation of the "Bahrain - Assilah Art & Culture Forum" we spent three days there in April 2004. Of course that is much too short a time to gain any deeper insights into what is happening in the arts. However, for the fact that we were able to make a very fine start, we are indebted to Bayan Al Barak Kanoo, the conversations with her and the contacts that she made available to us.
In 1998 Bayan Al Barak Kanoo opened the Al Riwaq Art Gallery, where she exhibited contemporary art from Bahrain and other countries and organized music and literary events as well as art courses. During the time that we visited her, artists from Bahrain and other Arab countries attending the "Bahrain-Assilah Festival" were constantly coming and going.
The Al Riwaq Gallery is the basis of Bayan Al Barak Kanoo’s efforts to found the "Bahrain International Cultural Art Centre" (BICAC). With her activities, she has practically already begun the work planned for the centre. This includes roundtable discussions, workshops and exhibitions with partners from other countries such as the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, Egypt. Cooperations with the Al Mansouria Foundation in Saudi Arabia, the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in East Jerusalem and the House of World Cultures in Berlin are in preparation.
Bayan Al Barak Kanoo intends to promote the arts and the perception of the arts in Bahrain by means of a wide-ranging international cultural dialogue. In her opinion, even residents of the Persian Gulf know much too little about the neighboring countries; therefore a regional cultural exchange has to be intensified before anything else. Furthermore, long-term connections have to be established through exhibitions, workshops, seminars, artist exchanges, etc. dealing with the current art scenes in the other parts of the Arab world. This would contribute to establishing mutual trust that would extend far beyond the art world.
The "Bahrain International Cultural Art Centre" is intended to work permanently with local institutions, organizations and educational institutions and provide them with artistic training and further education, in particular for the younger generation. Beyond dealing with the visual arts it will be dedicated to music, film, theatre, dance, and the new media.
Seen the conviction with which Bayan Al Barak Kanoo talks about her plans and witnessing the enthusiasm with which she works, bringing artists and art experts from throughout the world together with the art scene from her country, there is no room for doubt that Bahrain will soon take on greater significance as a meeting place for the international art scene in the Gulf region.
Pat Binder & Gerhard Haupt
Publishers of Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art and of Nafas Art Magazine. Based in Berlin, Germany.
Al Riwaq Art Gallery
Gallery of contemporary art, opened 1998 by Bayan Al Barak Kanoo. Cultural events and art education programs.