Vertical Diagonal by George Rickey, Benesse House Museum, Naoshima Island. Image Credit: Supplied

Earlier this year the Crossway Foundation took a group of talented young photographers from Saudi Arabia on a journey to Andalusía, where they got the opportunity to work with innovative photography collectives and professional photographers, and to practise cutting-edge photographic techniques in the magnificent settings of Cordoba, Seville, Granada and Madrid.

The Crossway Foundation is now offering young artists from the region the opportunity to travel to Japan for an immersive experience of the country’s culture and art scene.

The “Journey to Japan 2015”, organised by the Crossway Foundation in partnership with Art Jameel, will take place in November. It is open to visual artists, photographers, filmmakers, designers and other creatives aged 18 to 25, who are citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and the United Kingdom.

Application forms are available on the Crossway Foundation website, and those interested are invited to submit a creative project that relates to the theme “Encounters with Another World”. Eight participants will be selected for this trip, and their names will be announced in October.

The Crossway Foundation is a UK-based charitable organisation focused on arts and education initiatives for young people in the Middle East and the UK. It runs a public programme that is free and open to all, and has been organising life-changing international creative journeys for young people since 2007. The Foundation works with young artists in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, the UK, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Imogen Ware, Managing Director of the Crossway Foundation, says, “Discovering new and unfamiliar ‘worlds’ can greatly enrich the creative process. Whether these new worlds exist in a different country, within your local community, in the maze of the internet, or even simply inside your own mind, their physical shape is of little importance. What is important, however, is to allow yourself to look outside the everyday and find new territories in which to plant and nurture your imagination.

“Our aim in organising these journeys is to identify and invest in the next generation of artists and creative entrepreneurs, to give them the opportunity to develop personally and professionally through first-hand experience of other cultures and art practices, and to provide them a platform to express themselves in an innovative and creative way.

“During these journeys we endeavour to engage professional local artists and workshop facilitators who can impart their knowledge and experience in a clear and effective way. We hope this will facilitate a network between young artists locally, regionally and internationally through which they can help one another to grow and develop in the long term.”

Kuwaiti visual artist Dr Monira Al Qadiri has been appointed the Artistic Lead on this project. Al Qadiri completed her arts education in Japan, and has a PhD in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts. The Beirut-based artist is excited about planning the trip, and is conducting workshops inspired by the work of Japanese artists and thinkers to promote the trip in London, Jeddah and Riyadh. Similar workshops will take place in Dubai and Kuwait.

“It has always been my dream to share my knowledge and experience of Japanese arts and culture with younger practitioners from the region. Being in Japan can stimulate the mind of any artist in a myriad ways, and this journey can become a gateway to endless sources of inspiration for years to come,” she says.

During the trip, the group will visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Naoshima, staying in accommodation ranging from modern hotels to a traditional “ryokan” in Kyoto and beach huts in Naoshima.

Al Qadiri has planned an extensive itinerary of workshops, excursions and cultural experiences for them in every city. “I went to Japan when I was 16 and lived there for 10 years. I am trying to condense my experiences of a decade in Japan into two weeks for these youngsters. We want them to get the broadest possible experience of Japanese culture, history, traditions and the contemporary art scene. We will be working with various Japanese artists, artists’ collectives and major national museums to organise workshops and tours for the group,” she says.

The group’s itinerary includes training in the art of butoh (Japanese dance theatre), a bonsai workshop, visits to the MORI Art Museum in Tokyo, the Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima, and various tourist and historic sites. A visit to the studio of an internationally recognised Japanese contemporary artist is also on the cards.

Al Qadiri will be the group’s interpreter, guide and tutor on this journey. She will undertake regular review sessions with the participants to understand the specific areas of development that each participant should concentrate on. She will also conduct review sessions every evening, encouraging the group to discuss their experiences and the lessons learnt, and to facilitate critical appraisals of their work.

During the trip, each participant will work on a creative project of their choice, which they will present to the group during a final review session. They will also work together on a group project. “I hope what they see, feel, learn and experience will inspire them and open their minds to think in new ways,” Al Qadiri says.

The Crossway Foundation will continue to support and work with the participants even after this journey of a lifetime. “We stay in touch with our ‘alumni’ and try to engage them in our future projects because we believe they are the best ambassadors for our work and the impact of our initiatives,” Ware says.

“For example, some of the promotional workshops for the Japan project will be delivered by alumni who came with us to Brazil in 2014. The trailer for our competition in 2014 was created by an alumnus from 2012. The judging panels this year will also include alumni. We also have a section dedicated to our alumni on our website. We also share news about their achievements as well as information or opportunities that may be of interest to them in our newsletters,” Ware says.

For more information visit www.crossway-foundation.org


Art Jameel

Art Jameel, a part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI), fosters and promotes contemporary art and creative entrepreneurship across the MENAT region. In partnership with arts organisations worldwide, Art Jameel is developing two arts centres and cultural exchange programmes to encourage networking and knowledge sharing.

In partnership with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, it awards the biannual Jameel Prize for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic traditions.

Other projects include Art Jameel Photography Award; Jeddah Sculpture Museum, a public park established in collaboration with Jeddah Municipality; Art Jameel Olympics, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia, and Art Jameel Programme for Traditional Arts and Crafts in Fustat, Egypt, in collaboration with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.

ALJCI was set up in 2003 to promote positive social change through the establishment of long-term partnerships with international institutions, and a range of social, cultural and educational initiatives. 

What participants say about “The Journey to Andalusía”:

Majed Angawi: “The Journey to Andalusía was a real tipping point in my life. I experienced so many new things, not least travelling outside Saudi Arabia for the first time. In Spain I discovered that there is another way to understand photography. I enjoyed exploring the differences between the concept of photography in my country and the concept of photography here in Europe. Now I feel I can connect these two concepts.” 

Hasan Mubarak: “The Journey to Andalusía was one of the most joyful and inspiring trips of my life, which will never be forgotten and cannot be repeated. I had the chance to experiment with my photography, make new friends and be inspired by a new culture. I learnt more in two weeks in Spain than I would have done in a whole year in Saudi Arabia.” 

Salwa Sajini: “I learnt how to see art from a new perspective from my experience on the Journey to Andalusía. I learnt how to take pictures from my heart, not just through trying to take the perfect shot. I have now started to put my own emotions into my photography.”