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The Art of the Intangible
Letter from the Editor

The Art of the Intangible

The Art of the Intangible

Cover art: Artistic aspects of Saudi life by the revered Saudi artist Abdullah Hammas. 

By Rym Al-Ghazal
December 14th, 2023
It is much more difficult to do a thing than to talk about it...
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), Irish wit, poet, writer, and dramatist
Many of us hear about a craft, a skill, a story from a previous generation

and don’t realize just how difficult it is to keep some cultural heritage alive. 

We take things for granted and only realize the importance of something when it is gone. 

The term 'cultural heritage’ keeps changing and does not end at the physical manifestation of our heritage, such as monuments and collections of objects. Our culture includes the ‘intangible’, such as traditions, stories, and living expressions inherited from our ancestors, and includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge, and practices linked to the world around us  - such as nature and the stars — and the skills needed to continue producing traditional crafts.

In this winter edition of Ithraeyat, the last in 2023, we celebrate the fragile yet continuous intangible cultural heritage through the theme of ‘Threads’ as we remain connected to our past, our present, and to others around us through our cross-cultural stories and more. 

We must preserve what makes us unique, protect cultural identities under threat, and maintain our cultural diversity in the overwhelming globalization and neutralization of identities and narratives. 

We have the honor of featuring the colorful artistic and cultural identity of the renowned Saudi artist Abdullah Hammas on our cover, a piece that captures the vibrant cultural landscape and multi-layered stories of the kingdom.

“All my works are inspired by the daily life in our region. For me, the full body of my work is like a brick in the wall of this great country,”
said Mr Hammas, capturing the heart of his work.

From the humble date palms, where every inch of it is utilized and reused, to the unique murals of Qatt Al Asiri to the preservation of Arabic Calligraphy, there are many aspects of Intangible cultural heritage that are explored and celebrated.  

We honor the different communities that make up our world, such as the Indigenous communities, and we feature here the first-ever debut of Canadian Indigenous art as we cherish and engage in cross-cultural conversations. 

Ithraeyat -  Stories from Saudi Arabia and beyond.

In this edition, we revisit greats like Claude Monet (1840 - 1926), the father of Impressionism, meet artists and figures who preserve, research, and document our cultures— and rediscover old traditions that have lasted to this day and evolved — such as the art of storytelling as embodied in the now 70-year-old older sister magazine Al Qafelah — to even how we watch and tell stories has changed.

Understanding our own intangible cultural heritage, this amazing wealth of knowledge, and the cultural heritage of different communities inspires intercultural and cross-cultural dialogue, bridges understanding, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.

“The one who doesn’t know the falcon then might as well grill it.”

This Arab proverb suggests that those who don’t know the value of something might see it as worthless. Therefore, we should avoid reaching such a stage where we don’t know something is valuable and part of our individual and collective human narrative.

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