DHAHRAN: MythBusters’ Adam Savage, a creative Jack-of-all-trades who has worked on special effects for movies like Star Wars Episodes I and II and The Matrix, was easily the highlight of the second day of Tanween’s creativity festival organized by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).
On Friday evening, Savage talked with the audience about the way his obsessions lit the fires of his inspiration, taking him through a career as a prop designer and host of the TV shows MythBusters and now MythBusters’ Jr. “It turns out that all I’ve ever been doing is telling stories — it is one of the single pleasures of my life,” he said.
Savage toured the audience through photos of his recreated spacesuits and model maze from “The Shining,” directed by Stanley Kubrick. “I collect collections,” he said.
Speaker Clive Rohald, who was part of creating iconic brand names and identities in the Kingdom since 1991, expressed his thrill to be part of a huge artistic event like Tanween.
Rohald spoke about the “remarkable” impact festivals like Tanween can have. “Last night, a 10-year-old girl came up to me after my talk and I was shocked she was asking questions about branding and what it means in communication, and it was the moment I realized what impact Ithra actually has in culture, community and people here. There’s such a desire to learn and to enrich and to inspire.”
That’s part of the festival’s intention. “Ithra is a journey that helps young Saudis to excel in what they like — Tanween is our flagship program, that supports our pillar of creativity,” said Ithra’s director, Ali Al-Mutairi.
“We take the young generation’s creative products and we provide them with channels to display them, either here in the Kingdom or through our Bridges project, where they get to share it with the world. I want Tanween to turn Dhahran into the center of all creative industries.”
Abdullah Alrashid, head of learning at Ithra, told Arab News: “Tanween is a multi-disciplinary initiative that cuts across all three of our pillars with a focus on creative innovation. The youth will find value in our speaker series and highly immersive and intensive workshops. Our art exhibit is very interactive, with a lot of science and art and philosophy and sociology behind each piece, which will communicate with professionals and also families.”
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Tanween kicked off on Friday with Awesome Science, an interactive chemistry lab experience, during which the BBC presenter Greg Foot partnered with chemistry lecturer Will Stockburn to shoot off flying rockets (made from colorful plastic bottles) and turn coins into gold.
Professor Mark Mon-Williams, the chair in cognitive psychology at the University of Leeds, gave a talk about how culture can be connected to immersive technologies. “Ithra encapsulates everything that’s wonderful about cultural transmission,” he said. ‘This place is connecting various bits of the world so that at the end we can learn from one another and share the skills that we possess, and so that the children across the whole world would have the skills to give the best possible outcomes in their life,” Mon-Williams said.
Alongside the talks, many workshops were taking place, including one by Seetal Solanki, which explored her studio’s sustainable materials library, including mussel-shell ceramics and knitted milk-fiber.
Winding down the day on a musical note, Ahmed AlShaiba played a Middle Eastern version of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” on his oud. Born and raised in Yemen and now living in New York, he spoke to the audience in between songs about how his geography shaped his music, when he moved from Yemen to Cairo and then New York.
“I was curious how this instrument was going to sound in different types of music,” he explained. His 15-minute performance delighted adults and children, who eagerly jumped up and down to ask him about the history of his relationship with the oud afterwards.
The 17-day festival, with more than 60 guests from around the world, 45 workshops and 15 installations, runs until Oct. 27.