The 13th edition of the Spring of Culture Festival brings with it a treasure trove of surprises that cover the different interests and tastes of the culture and art audience. Hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain’s numerous cultural institutions, historical sites and landmarks, the festival’s wide variety of events, programs and activities continue to build bridges of cultural communication between Bahrain and the rest of the whole world.
This year’s edition of the festival is part of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities’ celebration of Muharraq, the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2018, in which it highlights the deep-rooted heritage and traditions of this ancient city, particularly the history of pearl diving, a glorious history whose details are revealed by the Pearling Trail, Bahrain’s second site to be inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage site. The festival kicks off in conjunction with Arab Tourism Day, an initiative which was adopted when Manama was the 2013 Capital of Arab Tourism to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta.
Art exhibitions galore are in store for art lovers, starting with the 44th Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition which takes place next to Arad Fort which displays works by various Bahraini artists and residents in the Kingdom. The Bahrain National Museum hosts two exhibitions, “Between Muharraq and Seville... A Bolza-Bussad Dialogue” about Arabic calligraphy and “al-Fann: Art from the Islamic Civilization” which features an exquisite collection of Islamic artworks selected from the Al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait.
La Fontaine 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, and the “Warlukurlangu Artists” which highlights the colorful acrylic paintings and prints of the Warlukurlangu Artists of Australia.
Other exhibitions include “Weaves from Ashes” by Bahraini artist Faika Al-Hasan, a meditation on the human condition, and “Enchained Dyads” by Annie Kurkdjian on the concept of death and life, both are held at Albareh Art Gallery. The Art Centre, meanwhile, presents an exhibition of 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” featuring works inspired by the Realism school. Another Bahraini artist, Khalil Al-Hashimi, will display his works in “Paradise Lost” at Memory of the Place- Bin Matar House which explores the relationship between man and land and the possibility of salvation.
To commemorate World Theatre Day, the Bahrain National Theatre also hosts “Scenamadre”, an exhibition curated by the Accademia Albertina Di Belle Arte in Italy which includes a collection of models that illustrate the history of set design and the story of scenic architecture, cinematography and stage design.
The Spring Festival’s lineup of events includes a wide variety of song and music concerts and stage plays, including the “Epic of Gilgamesh Epic” at the Bahrain National Theatre. 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.
The music of Bahrain is also heavily featured during the festival season, as the Mohammed bin Fares Music Hall in Muharraq hosts weekly evening concerts by the Mohammed bin Fares Band highlighting the musical heritage of pearl diving, weddings and other occasions. Dar Al-Riffa Al-Oda also hosts live performances of the unique folk singing, while Dar Al-Muharraq in Muharraq showcases the various styles of Fjiri music traditions.
The Cultural Hall has a full schedule of music concerts, including Moroccan singer Karima Skalli’s enchanting renditions of well-known works of great Arab poets, Korea’s Sookmyung Gayageum Orchestra’s strumming an eclectic mix of traditional Korean music and Western hits, the Jerusalem Arabic Music Ensemble playing a selection of patriotic and Arabic songs, as well as the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony by Turkey’s Mekder Sufi Ensemble, one of the most important distinguishing elements of Turkish culture.
The Cultural Hall will also host two exceptional duos from Italy, starting with the Duo Etnopolis performing Italian folk music, as well as mezzosoprano Laura Capretti and pianist Francesco Maccarrone in an evening of European Classical Music. American band, The Mary McBride Band, meanwhile, takes the audience deep into the worlds of country music, gospel, blues and old school rock ‘n’ roll.
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 Rowaished, Nabil Shuail and Ragheb Alama, as well as international stars James Arthur, and local band Likwid & Friends.
Bahrain Fort also hosts the interactive “The Sound and Light Show” displays that show the history of this ancient site, from the Dilmun era to present day.
As for theatrical shows, the United Kingdom’s S4K Music Theatre performs its unique take on William Shakespeare’s classic “Macbeth” at the Cultural Hall. The venue also hosts “George’s Marvellous Medicine”, a play inspired by one of Road Dahl’s most famous stories, and the family-friendly “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle; as well as “36 Abbas Street: Haifa”, the story of resilience and determination of the Palestinian people in the face of occupation, diaspora and the right of return.
The Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research leads the way in terms of the literary and intellectual activities. These include a talk by Mr. Magdy Siblah, Chairman of the Dar Al-Hilal Foundation, on the cultural aspects of Egyptian-Bahraini relations, an evening of poetry with Bahraini media personality Parween Habib and Syrian artist Ronahi Mamo on the works of Nizar Qabbani, a talk by veteran Middle East diplomat Hubert Lang entitled “A German Traveler to Arabia” and a talk by Saudi media personality and businessman Hussein Shobokshi.
In the Abdullah Al-Zayed House for Bahraini Press Heritage, a branch of the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre, Fadel Al- Sultani highlights 50 years of British poetry schools and their influence on Arabic poetry, 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”.
Other lectures include a pair of talks at the Bahrain National Museum, the first by Professor Giovanni Curatola on certain aspects of the development of Islamic art over the centuries, and the second by Dr. Sabiha Al-Khemir entitled “Unveiling Beauty: Exhibiting Islamic Art in the West”, in addition to a talk at Bahrain Fort Museum entitled “Construction and Architecture of the Island of Muharraq” by Eng. Ahmed Abdulrahman Al-Jowder.
In addition to literature, the festival sheds light on poetic output through a series of poetry readings, including one by Sudanese poet Rawda Al-Hajj entitled “Two Niles from the Ink of the Poem”, and another by Palestinian poet Rashid Issa entitled “Therapy through Poetry”, both at the House of Poetry – Ebrahim Al-Arrayed, also a branch of the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre.
The Spring of Culture Festival also features the inauguration of the “Archaeologies of Green”. 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.
All of this in addition to the festival’s typical bustling schedule of workshops that focus on nurturing and fostering budding talents in a variety of cultural disciplines.
All details about the festival’s activities and events and how to register in the various workshops can be found on www.springofculture.org. The festival details are also available on the Spring of Culture Android and iOS app.
We certainly hope that you enjoy this year’s Spring of Culture and look forward to your support of all its events and activities, for your engagement is what makes them so memorable!
Thank you and enjoy the celebrations!
The Spring Culture Festival Team