You may not have heard of Ithra, the trailblazing cultural centre in Saudi Arabia, which opened in 2016. But already, it's been listed in Time Magazine as one of the world's top 100 places to visit, attracting a cool million visitors in 2019.
And that's not surprising because Ithra, aka the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, is a fantastic place to visit. Designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, its jaw-dropping design represents a throng of oil-bearing rocks smoothed by desert winds, all wrapped in a 350km-long steel pipe. It's quite a sight: and worth the trip just to look at the exterior.
Of course, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of the free entry and go inside too. Here, you'll find an astonishing 85,000 square metres of space, housing a museum, theatre, library, cinema, exhibition galleries, ideas lab and knowledge tower. It'll certainly take you more than a day to fully appreciate Ithra's architectural wonder and cultural treasures.
And now there's an extra reason to visit! The annual Tanween Creativity Season offers a unique programme of talks, workshops, masterclasses, demos, exhibitions and other attractions celebrating risk-taking creatives and innovators.
The term Tanween comes from a tiny diacritic mark in the Arabic alphabet, which changes the meaning and pronunciation of words, despite its seemingly minor size. It's a fitting metaphor for the life of the creative professional, reminding us that our individual actions can have a big impact on other people and potentially change the world.
The festival, which is now in its fifth year, spans 27 October to 12 November, and its organisers are keen to invite Creative Boom readers to participate. So if you've ever wanted to visit the Middle East's largest country – one of the world's most important centres of history, culture and religion – it's a great opportunity to do so.
Tanween's mission is to help develop and nurture the creative industries in areas including art, architecture, communications, graphic design, illustration, photography, film and animation. During the Tanween Creativity Season, freelancers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and the creative community, in general, gather to promote the power of innovative thinking across sectors and nurture new talent.
As such, Tanween is a great networking opportunity: but it's not just a talking shop. For instance, a highlight of last year's event was the mass drone swarms that interacted with the 4,600-strong audience for one of the largest co-created drone/human light paintings ever made. You can see some of the highlights of previous years here.
And there's a lot to learn, too, straight from the mouths of some of the creative industry's most respected experts. Tanween 2022 will feature talks, masterclasses and workshops exploring the intersection of culture, commerce and creativity, from street culture to emerging perspectives in architecture, as well as our interconnectedness lensed through the world of graphic design and calligraphy.
To take just one session as an example, in Designing Your New Work Life, on Friday 28 October, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans offer a radical new concept that makes use of the designer mindsets – curiosity, reframing, radical collaboration, awareness bias to action, and storytelling – to find our way through uncharted territory. They'll discuss how we can make new possibilities available even when our lives have been disrupted, giving us the tools to enjoy the present moment and prototype our possible future.
Tanween Festival has so much to offer international creatives, and it's a great way to explore and celebrate authentic Middle Eastern art, history and culture along the way. For more information, visit the Ithra website.
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