MECCA: Poets and writers in Saudi Arabia have welcomed the establishment of a series of seminars organized by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission of the Ministry of Culture. They are intended, since 2019, for local or international poets and writers. The latest events took place in Al-Jouf, AlUla and Baha.
The seminars offer round tables and visits to dedicated areas as well as moments devoted to work and writing.
During the seminars, which last between seven and ten days, writers and poets are accompanied by a specialist in a literary genre.
The commission also organizes international residences for writers in certain countries of the world, which last more than a month. Arab News spoke with writers who have participated in these seminars.
The poet Talal al-Tuwairqi, who recently returned from South Africa, confides: “The experience of international writers’ residences adopted by the Ministry of Culture, represented by the Commission for Literature, Publishing and translation, was the dream of all creators who sought to realize their projects. We were given time and it allowed us to focus on our writing assignments and get them done. Moreover, all the necessary conditions have been put in place for this creation residency to be productive at all levels.”
“The true value of creative residencies lies in what the artists accomplish there and in the cultural repercussions they generate in the countries visited.”
Talal al-Tuwairqi, Saudi poet
“My residence in South Africa was really magnificent: I discovered the culture, the customs, the writers and a large number of welcoming people in this country. I was also able to introduce them to our culture and our customs.”
He adds: “The real value of creative residencies lies in what the artists accomplish there and in the cultural repercussions they generate in the countries visited. Furthermore, these experiences enhance the luminous image of the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia cares about its creators and supports them in every way.”
Poet Mohammed Abou Charara, who also participated in a seminar, told Arab News: “I never imagined that I would be able to participate in a literary initiative that would hold my full attention like the writing seminar organized by the Literature Commission , editing and translation of the Ministry of Culture in AlUla. This experience helped me find the inspiration I needed to write my poem.”
“They welcomed us with love, warmth and generosity. They offer remarkable conditions to give poets the opportunity to carry out the projects they have begun and to initiate new ones. The aim is to inspire the artists and to inscribe in their minds the memory of the place where they are. Moreover, this experience extends in them beyond the period of residence, giving birth to poems of an inexhaustible perfume.
“The Year of Arabic Poetry is a blessing for Saudi poets,” adds Mr. Abou Charara.
“We met the great poet Adonis for two days. We touched on all the concerns related to poetry; we wandered around the archaeological ruins of AlUla, which reflect the long history of the area. We visited Al-Hijr, Dadan, Ikmah, Tantora and Elephant Rock. I saw how amazed he was when he discovered that the compass of time, place, language, poetry and history pointed to this blessed land.”
“As a writer and from my experience at the Baha Writing Seminar, I can say that this initiative is a priority for writers, novelists and storytellers. It’s a difficult profession whose fruits take time to blossom,” explains the novelist Zaineb al-Khoudairi.
“Baha’s seminar was a golden opportunity for the writers I had the honor of mentoring: the Saudis Abdelaziz al-Jasim, Najwa al-Omari and Fatima al-Saleh, the Kuwaiti Abdelmalik al-Othman, and Syrian Haifa Nabi. Some wrote new novels; others have completed those they had started,” she continues.
“Being in Baha, with its rich heritage and cold climate, motivated the writers, as did the ideas discussed during the daily two-hour roundtables. We discussed topics that are deeply related to the profession of writer. In addition, we shared the diverse and inspiring experiences of the participants,” she says again.
The novelist Haïfa Nabi, both Kurdish and Syrian, confides for her part: “For us, as writers, the seminar is not anecdotal: it is at the heart of the creative process. It isolates us from the world before we return to it, having finally found fertile ground for our imagination and our words.
She continues: “Visiting the heritage village of Al-Malad and living, if only for a few hours, in a world different from the one I usually live in as an expat in Germany made my experience unforgettable.”
“It inspired me and gave me a lot of energy when I got back to my ‘normal’ life, which is full of chores and homework. I am happy that this experience happened when I was having difficulties in writing my novel.
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com