A figurative portrait from Saudi
Arabia on display at the Lalit Kala Akademi.
Sugary dates, Persian calligraphy, colourful contemporary art,
henna designs and holy Zamzam water from Makkah are some of the
exotic flavours from Saudi Arabia in the culture corridor of the
capital this week.
A weeklong Saudi Arabia cultural showcase - one of the biggest
ever in India - is on here from Sep 27-Oct 1 with an arts blitz at
the Lalit Kala Akademi.
Presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the
festival is the first initiative of the cultural wing of the
ministry of external affairs to build better people-to-people
bridges between India and Saudi Arabia.
In a touching gesture, the culture showcase "performed a Haj
ritual" by offering guests holy water from the Zamzam Well, a
sacred spring located 18 km from the black stone at Kaaba, a
building, on the complex of Masjid-al-Haram. The water was offered
in miniature jars by holy men - dressed in traditional robes - who
look after the well in Makkah.
Haj pilgrims drink water from the well in a religious ritual
during the annual pilgrimage.
"The well dates back to the era of prophet Abraham. It was
ordained by god to spring forth at Mecca for the well-being of the
people. In course of time, it disappeared and was resurrected
before the birth of prophet Mohammed. The people and now the
government of Saudi Arabia have cared for it down the ages. The
government has mapped it and located its source feeds. The water
is very very clean..." Imad Zamzami, whose family has
traditionally cared for the well, told IANS.
"My grandfather and father have looked after the well before me,"
The ICCR this year inaugurated its overseas cell in Riyadh, the
capital of Saudi Arabia. An 88-member delegation of artists,
performers, scholars and officials is representing the kingdom in
"The cultural event comprising multiple components is being held
in India indicates the growing profile of cultural diplomacy
between the two countries. We opened our cultural wing in Riyadh
this year and we plan to host Indian cultural events in South
Africa. After all this period, there is nothing better than
culture to understand each
other," Suresh Goel, the director-general of ICCR, said.
The weeklong Arabian art exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi has
brought more than 150 heritage photographs, Persian and Arabic
calligrahic art, digital art, multi-media art, paintings,
sculpture, animation and comic book art from South Arabia from
"Art is appreciated in Saudi Arabia. Almost every household has an
amateur or professional artist - and boasts of a work of art as
accessory. Women can pursue arts provided they do not offend
religious sensitivities. We cannot draw suggestive human figures,"
Amal Mohammed al Zahirani, an artist and interior designer from
Jeddah, told IANS.
Zahirani uses glue, varnish, antiques, acrylic and metal for her
three-dimensional abstract art and sculptures. She estimated that
the kingdom had 200 women artists who have made a name for
Inaugurating the showcase, Sanjay Singh, secretary, east, in the
ministry of external affairs said, "India and Saudi Arabia enjoy
cordial socio-cultural relations".
He said more than 1.8 lakh pilgrims want to visit Makkah for Haj
this year. Singh also traced the history of bilateral ties between
India and Saudi Arabia since the first Indian prime minister
Jawaharlal Nehru visited the country in 1956.
"We hope to organise more such cultural festivals in India. We are
talking to people in India - this relation will continue," Saleh-bin-Abdul
Aziz al-Meghaileth, deputy minister of international culture
relations, Saudi Arabia, told IANS.
Saleh is heading the Saudi delegation.