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For decades, Jordan has been known for its annual Jerash Festival with its prestigious program of music, performance and theatre. With the launching of Jordan Festival 2009, Jordan Ministry of Culture has decided to expand the celebration of art and culture to the entire kingdom.
The festival was launched with a grand performative show on July 7th to mark the second anniversary of Petra's becoming one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. This step has solidified Jordan's position on the cultural map of humanity, and reflected its continuous contribution to architecture, art, literature, values and heritage. To continue the historical achievements of the country, a national festival has been established that can be seen, felt and heard in each governorate. It is a festival that encourages everybody visiting or living in the country to participate in its many activities.
One of these activities is the Jordan International Art Symposium, which takes place from 7th to 18th July. For this event 50 artists - mainly from the Arab world but also from Europe like Eric Van Hove and Andrea Musa, from Africa like Viyé Diba, and from the US like Jack Sal - have been invited to work in the Culture Village of the hilly Al Hussein Gardens in Amman.
The organizer Hilda Hiary explains that the artistic gathering is an obvious opportunity for artists to connect and exchange ideas and visions. Both Dr. Najat Makki and Khalil Abdul Wahid from the United Arab Emirates agree with this and praise the inspiring atmosphere and the positive energy that circles between the artists and reflects on their works. The Arab world is not a blanket. It is not one piece of unbroken cloth, of same colour, same texture and same size. The Arab world is more like a quilt – many patches, many pieces, many colours and many sizes – all woven and held together by some common thread. Similarly, there seem to be connecting threads between the participants in the symposium, more accurately by the approach to and use of painting as medium.
Several artists express their thoughts and needs to combine their common Arabic backgrounds in their paintings, often symbolized by Arabic cultural elements or codes and by calligraphic writing, with what they regard as Western traditions. Some of the participants in the symposium regard the tradition of painting as a settled matter: it is a Western category and therefore difficult to approach from a different point of view. To others, the painting tradition is a much more complicated issue. They view its western dominance as a route connected to a long history of political and socio-cultural struggle, which crystallized during the colonial period.
Western painting as we know it in its style and technique has influenced Arab pictorial art for about 100 years, but the Chinese, Indian, Persian and Egyptian pictorial traditions influenced Arab visual culture before that. Hence, while some Arab painters regard the tradition of painting as a Western art category, at least historically and technically others argue that the West does not have the copyright to the contemporary painting tradition.
This subject is of concern to the renowned printmaker and painter Ali Hassan from Qatar who has moved between traditional calligraphy making, to print and painting. The same is true for Palestinian/Jordanian painter Khairy Hirzallah who mixes perceived Arabic and Western elements in his work.
A few participants tested their ability to work three dimensionally and interact with the local surrounding and history, leaving behind traces to remain after the symposium, such as Eric Van Hove, Hilda Hiary and Mohamed Ali.
With the arrival of the internet and new technologies, including new painting traditions, Arab artists and thinkers have entered the global village and face the challenges of globalization, such as the sublimation of a global mass culture. This is another subject that interests Arab artists and is of concern to Hassan Meer from Oman. He works with reflections – the way each individual perceives, interacts with and leaves an impact on the world surrounding it and how it itself is being impacted by it. The question of inner and outer identity also occupies the thoughts of Mohammed Talaat from Egypt who works with layers of identities deriving from different sources, building a web of traces, patterns and shapes combining a larger societal history.
Mohammed Abla, also from Egypt, goes further in his work as he sees art as a tool to unleash the inner self and make connection with other people. The Abla Art Method is a result of this concern. Hanging a large sheet of transparent plastic between people to be painted and the painters, he arranges quick art events where some people change places and roles, while others take photographs and comment on the charming result.
The kind of reflections expressed in the symposium is an example of artists’ capacity to absorb and invent. The response to issues surrounding the local/global identity is an illustration of how artists appropriate, transform and reproduce contemporary impulses for different ends. In times of change, people are looking for tools to comprehend and contain these changes. Art can be one of them.
The vision of Jordan Festival 2009 is to make culture an essential factor in the building of a national personality to present to the world. The main purpose behind this is to initiate a dialogue between international cultures within Jordan with respect of diversity and differences. By doing so, the organizers aspire to instill curiosity and joy in people through two hundred and seven events like singing, music, dance, local and foreign folklore, theater, cinema, poetry, literature and plastic art. Few days after the official opening, the organizers are working behind the scenes to make Jordan Festival an annual event, already with visionary plans.
A must see are the artworks from the symposium exhibited at Foresight Gallery in Amman and the Short Film Forum, organized by the Royal Film Commission in Amman 19 and 23 July 2009. All events take place from 7th July to 8th August 2009 in Jordan.
Bahrain: Balqees Fakhro
Belgium: Eric Van Hove
Brazil: Silvia Poloto
Croatia: Jasna Barisic, Andrea Musa
Cyprus: Melina Nicolaides
Denmark: Stine Høxbroe
Egypt: Mohamed Abla, Mohammed Talaat, Ibrahim El Desouki
France: Bernard Alligand
Iraq: Serwan Baran, Himat Mohammed Ali, Hani Aldal Ali, Jabar Alwan
Italy: Claudio Bonichi, Benedetta Bonichi
Jordan: Rafeeq Al Laham, Hind Naser, Saeed Haddadin, Mohammed Qaitoqah, Hazem Al Zubi, Khaled Khrais, Nimat Al Nasser, Abdel Aziz Abu Ghazaleh, Mohammad Al Ameri, Mohammad Al Jaloos, Samar Haddadin, Omar Hamdan, Isan Tantawi, Bader Mahasneh, Khairi Hirzallah, Suhail Buqaeen, Fadi Al Dawood, Jalal Oraiqat, Samar Haddadin, Hilda Hiary.
Lebanon: Khaled Ramadan
Morocco: Hassan Bourkiah, Yamin El Rhorba
Oman: Bodor Al Reyami, Hassan Meer
Palestine: Khaled Horani
Qatar: Ali Hassan
Saudi Arabia: Zaman Jassim
Senegal: Viyé Diba
Syria: Bahram Hajou, Thair Hilal, Mohammed Ali
Tunesia: Omar Al Ghadamsi
United Arab Emirates: Najat Makki, Khalil Abdul Wahid
USA: Jack Sal, Henri Doner-Hedrick, Jacqueline Taylor Basker
New media lecturer, graphic designer and computer animator, who organized several projects in relation to video art, documentary and TV-production, among them, the Made in Video Festival in Copenhagen.
Jordan International Art Symposium
7 - 18 July 2009
Al Hussein Public Park
Foresight32 Art Gallery
Ibn Al Roumi St. 32
Part of the Jordan Festival 2009
7 July - 8 August 2009
Organized by the Higher Commission of Jordan Festival, with the support of the Jordan Ministry of Culture.