The Spring of Culture, an annual festival which commences in February each year, has announced the cultural program of its 13th edition, offering the Kingdom of Bahrain’s audience a variety of choices from all over the world and activating the local cultural landscape over the festival’s two months.
The announcement was made in a press conference held on Sunday, February 18, 2018, by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Shaikh Ebrahim bim Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, in collaboration with Albareh Art Gallery and La Fontaine Art Centre of Contemporary Art at the Bahrain Fort Site Museum. The event, which also marked the museum’s 10th anniversary, is part of BACA’s year-long celebration of Muharraq’s selection as the 2018 Capital of Islamic Culture.
The conference was held in the presence of Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, President of BACA, His Excellency Khalid Al-Rumaihi, CE of EDB, and a number of diplomats and ambassadors in the Kingdom of Bahrain, as well as a number of sponsors of the Spring of Culture and members of the media.
In her address, Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa said, “We chose to launch the 13th edition of the Spring of Culture Festival at the very first project that came as a result of our ‘Investment in Culture’ initiative. We are very grateful to Arcapita group for supporting the establishment of the Bahrain Fort Site Museum believing in the importance of preserving our history.”
She added: “The Kingdom of Bahrain has been building bridges with the world through the festival for 13 spring seasons, supported by all our partners. From this museum in its 10th anniversary, we announce this cultural season as part of our celebration of the city Muharraq, Capital of Islamic Culture 2018. The Pearling Trail in Muharraq has much in common with the Bahrain Fort Site in Manama, as the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites reflect the history and civilizations of ancient and modern Bahrain and affirm Bahrainis’ ability to always be positive contributors,” she added.
“All of society comes together each year during the spring season for the sake of our Kingdom and our cultural movement,” she concluded.
Her Excellency went on to thank Mr. Al-Rumaihi, CEO of EDB, and all the festival’s partners, which include the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, Albareh Art Galley, and La Fontaine Art Centre of Contemporary Art, as well as the festival’s sponsors.
HE Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB commented at the event: “The continuous support from the private and public sectors towards the Spring of Culture festival reflects the importance of this annual international event, as well as strong overall confidence in the growth potential of Bahrain’s tourism sector. Tourism contributes more than 6% to the Kingdom’s non-oil GDP and growth is set to accelerate further as the industry benefits from nearly BD 5 billion in tourism infrastructure investment. The EDB’s support of the Spring of Culture is in line with our mandate to create jobs through developing and growing key strategic sectors, including tourism and leisure, and attracting quality inward investment to Bahrain.”
Gold Sponsors of this year’s festival are: Batelco, National Bank of Bahrain, GFH Financial Group, and Tamkeen while Silver Sponsors include Alba, Bahrain Airport Company, Bahrain Duty Free, Bapco, Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait, Gulf Air, and Huawei.
The various events and activities are designed to engage all segments of society, from arts and crafts exhibitions to intellectual lectures and talks, poetry readings, music and song concerts and theatrical performances.
Music, Song and Theatre
The Spring Festival’s lineup of music events kicks off with the “Epic of Gilgamesh” on February 25 at the Bahrain National Theatre. Commemorating Arab Tourism Day and inspired by Sumerian mythology, the work was written and composed by Abed Azrié, and features maestro Alain Joutard leading the Notre Dame University Choir Louaizé of Lebanon, L’ensemble à cordes de Paris, and the Mohammed bin Faris Band.
Bahrain Fort will host the interactive “The Sound and Light Show” displays that show the history of this ancient site, from the Dilmun era to present day every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (English version at 6:00 pm, and Arabic version will be at 6:00 pm. The Bahrain Fort Site Museum, meanwhile, will entertain audience with movie nights on March 15 and 26.
The Cultural Hall also has a full schedule of concerts and performances in store, including Moroccan singer Karima Skalli’s enchanting renditions of well-known works of great Arab poets on March 1, the United Kingdom’s S4K Music Theatre’s unique take on William Shakespeare’s classic “Macbeth” on March 8. Also, in cooperation with the Korean Embassy, Korea’s Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra’s strumming an eclectic mix of traditional Korean music and Western hits will perform on March 14.
On March 17 and 20, the Cultural Hall will feature a stage adaptation of Road Dahl’s classic tale “George’s Marvellous Medicine”, followed by the Jerusalem Arabic Music Ensemble on March 22 playing a selection of patriotic and Arabic songs.
The Cultural Hall will also host two exceptional duos from Italy in cooperation with the Italian Embassy, starting with the Duo Etnopolis performing Italian folk music on March 25, as well as mezzosoprano Laura Capretti and pianist Francesco Maccarrone in an evening of European Classical Music on March 28.
In collaboration with the US Embassy, The Mary McBride Band will headline a concert on March 31 that will take the audience deep into the worlds of country music, gospel, blues and old school rock ‘n’ roll. On April 4, the venue will host “36 Abbas Street: Haifa”, a play which tells the story of resilience and determination of the Palestinian people in the face of occupation, diaspora and the right of return. This will be followed on April 6 by Turkey’s Mekder Sufi Ensemble’s performance of the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony, one of the most important distinguishing elements of Turkish culture, and finally the family-friendly play “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle from April 12 – 16.
The music of Bahrain is also heavily featured during the festival season, as the Mohammed bin Fares Music Hall in Muharraq hosts evening concerts every Thursday starting from March 1 by the Mohammed bin Fares Band highlighting the musical heritage of pearl diving, weddings and other occasions. Dar Al-Riffa Al-Oda will also host live performances of the unique folk singing specific to Riffa starting on March 3 and then on March 14 and 17 and April 28, while Dar Al-Muharraq in Muharraq showcases the various styles of Fjiri music traditions starting from March 10 and then on March 24 and April 21.
At the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, the brilliant Syrian qanun player Maya Youssef headlines a concert on March 5 entitled “Syrian Dreams”, as well as a special concert entitled “Travel of the Lute” by Iraqi oud player Saad Jawad on April 30.
The Economic Development Board also presents its annual lineup of megastar concerts during the Spring of Culture Festival at a purpose-built stage in Bahrain Bay. Among the Bahraini, Arab and international foreign artists performing are Abdullah Al-Ruwaished and Nabil Shuail on March 9, local band Likwid & Friends on March 17, international stars James Arthur on March 23 and Ragheb Alama on March 30.
The Spring of Culture schedule includes a large number of art exhibitions, starting with the 44th Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition, which takes place next to Arad Fort and displays works by various Bahraini artists and residents in the Kingdom until March 7. The Bahrain National Museum hosts two exhibitions, “Between Muharraq and Seville… A Bolza-Bussad Dialogue” until February 20 about Arabic calligraphy and “al-Fann: Art from the Islamic Civilization” until June 30 which features an exquisite collection of Islamic artworks selected from the Al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait.
La Fontaine Art Centre of Contemporary Art also hosts a pair of exhibitions: “Life Journey” by Swiss artist Fereshte Shishine and her skillful interplay between shadow and light until May 8, and the “Warlukurlangu Artists” on March 17 which highlights the colorful acrylic paintings and prints of the aboriginal Warlukurlangu Artists of Australia.
Albareh Art Gallery’s exhibitions include “Weaves from Ashes” which opens on March 6 by Bahraini artist Faika Al-Hasan, offering a meditation on the human condition, and “Enchained Dyads” by Annie Kurkdjian, which opens on April 8.
The Art Centre, meanwhile, presents an exhibition opening on March 7 showcasing the works of the late great Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali entitled “This Compass Will Always Point to Palestine” and Bahraini artist Jamal Abdulrahim’s “Music and Mirrors” on April 4 featuring works inspired by the Realism school.
Another Bahraini artist, Khalil Al-Hashimi, will display his works in “Paradise Lost” at Bin Matar House, part of the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre, which explores the relationship between man and land and the possibility of salvation.
On March 27, the Bahrain National Theatre will host an exhibition to commemorate World Theatre Day. Entitled “Scenamadre”, the exhibition curated by the Accademia Albertina Di Belle Arte in Italy showcases models that illustrate the history of set design and the story of scenic architecture, cinematography and stage design.
Also on slate is the 18th edition of the Bahrain International Book Fair. Opening on March 28, the book fair brings together regional and international publishing houses and bookstores and a massive library of books under one roof, with Saudi Arabia as this year’s guest of honor.
Literary and intellectual lectures and symposia:
At the Abdullah Al-Zayed House for Bahraini Press Heritage, a branch of the Shaikh Ebrahim bim Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, Fadel Al-Sultani will highlight 50 years of British poetry schools and their influence on Arabic poetry on March 26, while writer Hassan Yousef talks about the adaptation of literary works in his lecture “Readable Literature and Visual Literature from Paper to Screen: ‘The End of a Brave Man’ as an Example” on April 23.
Other lectures include a pair of talks at the Bahrain National Museum, the first on February 28 by Professor Giovanni Curatola on certain aspects of the development of Islamic art over the centuries, and the second by Dr. Sabiha Al-Khemir on March 28 entitled “Unveiling Beauty: Exhibiting Islamic Art in the West”, in addition to a talk at Bahrain Fort Museum on March 27 entitled “Construction and Architecture of the Island of Muharraq” by Eng. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Jowder.
In addition to literature, the festival also features a series of poetry readings, including one by Sudanese poet Rawda Al-Hajj on March 12 entitled “Two Niles from the Ink of the Poem”, and another by Palestinian poet Rashid Issa on April 9 entitled “Therapy through Poetry”, both at the House of Poetry – Ebrahim Al-Arrayed, also a branch of the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre.
Moreover, on April 30, the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities will host an evening conversation titled “The Magic of Natural Pearls” in collaboration with the Pearling Path and Parisian-based L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels which brings together two pearl experts, Talal Mattar, a 6th generation pearl merchant from one of the oldest pearl merchant families in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Olivier Segura, Director of the French Gemological Laboratory (LFG) and natural pearl expert.
Cultural infrastructure projects:
The Spring of Culture Festival will also feature the inauguration of the “Archaeologies of Green” during the month of March. Formerly the Kingdom of Bahrain’s pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015, the structure was taken apart and re-assembled next to Shaikh Issa bin Ali House in Muharraq where it will serve as botanical garden with 10 fruit gardens and artefacts that chronicle the history of Bahrain’s agricultural heritage.
Workshops, social responsibility, and talent development:
With its typical bustling schedule of workshops supported by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, the Economic Development Board, the Shaikh Ebrahim bim Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, the Spring of Culture’s offers a plethora of learning opportunities designed to nurture and foster budding talents in a variety of cultural disciplines. Full details on the workshops and how to register can be found on the festival’s website www.springofculture.org.
The festival’s complementary community program, also supported by the Economic Development Board, features numerous art workshops for various government and humanitarian organizations in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Salman Cultural Center, NBB Rehabilitation Home For Disabled Children and other community centers and groups.
As part of the Festival’s commitment to contributing to the needs of the local community in the development of Bahraini talents in various technical fields, the Spring of Culture Community Programme, sponsored by the Economic Development Board, continues its efforts to organize several technical workshops for various governmental and social institutions in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the National Bank of Bahrain Rehabilitation Home for Disabled, Salman Culture Centre and other community centres in Bahrain. For the third time, the Community Program invites the internationally renowned sand sculpture artist, Sudarsan Pattnaik, to further nourish his art students at the Ministry of Education with new creative methods and ideas in sand art. He will present a 5-day workshop on the beach. This series of sand sculpture workshops over the past years, created a group of enthusiasts in this type of art among the Bahraini community. Dr. Fadil Al-Jaf, a professor and lecturer in the Department of Business Administration at Ishik University in Turkey, will conduct a workshop for a group of secondary school teachers to enable them to acquire effective skills in body language and communication and use the techniques of restoring the energy and vitality in the classroom. Al Jaf has received a doctorate in this field and has supervised several training courses in a number of universities, institutions and international companies.
Tickets for the events taking place at Bahrain Bay are available through www.springofculture.org, while tickets for events at Bahrain National Theatre are sold at Virgin Megastore or its online ticket portal. Tickets for the La Fontaine events are at the venue itself, tickets for events at the ticketed events held at Cultural Hall may be purchased at Al-Osra Supermarkets, and tickets for “The Sound and Light Show” can be purchased by calling 17786484 or 39127899.
Updates and latest news about the activities taking place are available on the festival’s official channel @springofculture on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. The full festival program details are available on www.springofculture.org and on Spring of Culture App.