By Manar and Sharifah Alhinai
One of the things that we know for sure as a result of our work at Sekka, through which we have focused on art, culture, opinions and literature related to the Gulf region and wider Arab world, for approximately five years now, is the Arab world’s creative talents. Amongst the creatives that have continued to impress us with their abilities over the years have been the creatives of Oman. The talents and skills of Oman’s people, especially its burgeoning youth population, who form over 50 per cent of its total population, have stood out to us time and again.
Bordering Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, Oman is known for many things, ranging from its rich culture and history, to its breathtaking and diverse natural topography. It has been less known, however, for its creative scene. Through our new issue, titled ‘The Creative Giants Issue,’ we aimed to change that by putting the spotlight on it.
We published the issue with the onset of 2022. We are proud that it is the first international magazine issue dedicated to Oman’s creative scene, and the first issue of Sekka that is available in print alongside a digital version. Through the issue’s 200+ pages, we shed a light on Oman’s modern art pioneers, its young photographers, its poets and writers, as well as meet with various creatives who are building their names in the Arab world’s creative scene in the fields of design and more. The issue, so far, has been enthusiastically received by readers in Oman and beyond. One of Oman’s leading female artists, Alia Al Farsi, who is also featured in the issue, commented on her impression of the issue by stating, ‘The issue is akin to a mini encyclopaedia about the art movement in the Sultanate.’ Likewise, Hassan Meer, one of Oman’s most well-known artists and the founder Stal Gallery, a leading art gallery in Oman said, ‘Oman’s art scene if very dynamic and very young and it deserves a lot of attention. I’m happy that Sekka is featuring art in Oman. It will add a lot of attention to the movement of contemporary art in Oman.’
For months prior to the release of the issue, we met with our team and brainstormed ways to best celebrate the release of the issue in a format that would honour the creatives featured within it, and that would inspire others. After discussing various ideas, we decided that the best way to go about it was to bring our readers together with some of the Omani creatives featured in the issue through an event in which they could exchange ideas, discuss the state of the creative scene in Oman and suggest ways to support creatives and the creative industry as a whole.
We partnered with Al Rud’ha, Oman’s leading business and networking space, to host the event at their headquarters in Muscat, Oman’s capital city. We put together a full-day programme of workshops, talks, music performances and an art fair led by the artists, art practitioners and experts featured in the magazine issue and beyond it. As we planned the event, different partners came onboard, including Oman’s Ministry of Sports, Youth, and Culture, Red Bull and Stal Gallery. With that, our first and Oman’s first creative festival was born.
On January 9th, 2022 we announced the event and opened the registration for it. With Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the government, we could only accommodate less than 200 attendees in the premises. Within less than 48 hours, the event was sold out. At that stage, we hadn’t even announced our agenda yet, but a waiting list was already forming. Once the agenda was shared a couple of days following the announcement of the event, both Al Rud’ha and Sekka received multiple emails, calls and messages from our readers asking if we could squeeze them into the list.
Unlike many events where a number of people register and end up not attending, all of our registered guests came on January 15th, the day of the festival, and many of them belonged to the youth segment. Our different speakers tackled many topics on the day. One panel tackled the pivotal role of the creative economy in Oman, with speakers from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, and Sultan Qaboos University. Mohammed Al Hinai, the founder of Jalsat Karak, a leading podcast program from Oman, ran a workshop session on how to successfully launch a podcast. Haitham Al Farsi, an award-winning Omani photographer who has more than 80 photographs on display in Muscat’s international airport, and whose work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, led a workshop on how to capture Oman’s culture and narrate captivating stories through a camera. Emerging artists such as Mays Al Moosawi and Fatma Al Frqani, exhibited their artworks to buyers in our art fair.
What the attendees and the speakers had in common on the day was their passion for the creative industry, and their aim to contribute to the growth of their country’s creative scene, and help lead the way for Oman to become a creative regional hub. For example, Ahmed Al Maqbali, a filmmaker and the co-founder of 35film, led a talk in which he presented how Oman could become a regional filmmaking hub one day if various challenges were overcome.
If the success of our –and Oman’s– first creative festival proved anything it’s the youth’s hunger for creative events where they meet and exchange ideas with creative practitioners. It proves that there is interest in working in, and those working in, the creative industry. It proves that just as we believe in Sekka, the future is creative.
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Manar Alhinai the is co-founder and storyteller-in-chief of Sekka.
Sharifah Alhinai is the co-founder and managing storyteller of Sekka.