In a cafe in the heart of Kuwait City, the ambient music is the kind of music to wrap up the day with. The low lighting is comfortable to the eye. There, one evening, the big square table isn’t covered with food. Instead its littered with candles, sketchbooks, charcoal, pencils, colored pens and even iPads. People gathered round the table talk in low voices, concentrating on the sketchbooks in front of them.
In the last few years, Kuwait has experienced a sort of artistic and cultural renaissance, including especially with more and more public art events where anyone can join in. The art community is reaching what politicians couldn’t achieve, going beyond borders using creativity as a tool to bring long relationship and a rapprochement to all. People from different nationalities, cultural backgrounds and ages have, finally, realized that they do not need their names to make the news nor to get recognized by museums and art galleries to become artists. Social hubs, cafes and public parks have opened their doors to home dozens of arts groups to practice their hobbies and to show off their talents.
“I had this idea of creating a public event that was not centered around consumption but involves enrichment. Usually, people are in their private bubbles when in public space and I wanted to create a platform, where people who share a similar passion in art can meet and share peaceful creative moments together. I share my work through the social media and I have many virtual friends I wanted to meet them. So, I saw this wonderful table in Poele cafe and spoke to the owners about the idea of making a sketch diwaniya (a reception hall for gathering between relatives, neighbors and friends), and they loved it so we started,” explains architect, designer and artist Waleed Shaalan.
The ‘Sketch Diwaniya’ is one of many such ‘artists gatherings’ now happening in Kuwait. A young group of architects launched a gathering focused on Kuwait’s historical buildings, Draw Kuwait. A popular art café and workshop space, Artspace Café also hosts artists gatherings and there’s also a monthly gathering for designers called Design Diwan. Bazaars and festivals that include public art performances like the recent Alwan Festival or Art Night Out as well as graffiti art events also attract a growing number of followings. Local art museums or galleries are also holding more family or public days.
“Culture is not only an end product it’s is a process, and usually, artist are introverts. I hope to make the process an extroverted activity where people can experience art as a process and engage with the artists and maybe become one. Art is not for the elite and should be liberated from gallerias and museums. It should be part of our lives where we live,” explained Shaalan.
Story and photos by Athoob Al-Shuaibi