Arabic calligraphy murals to fill Jeddah's streets as part of city's public art campaign

As many as 50 murals will be created across the coastal city's public squares, flyovers and buildings

Arabic calligraphy will soon fill the city of Jeddah through murals and street paintings.

Following the United Nations Arabic Language Day last week, the Jeddah municipality announced its initiative to install 50 Arabic calligraphy murals across the city as a way to enhance its public spaces. The artwork will cover main roads, sidewalks, flyovers, buildings and squares in the Saudi Arabian city.

Some of the works will be more than 70 metres long and 3 metres high.

Jeddah's mayor Saleh Al-Turki stated that the move also goes hand-in-hand with the Saudi Ministry of Culture's establishment of 2020 as the Year of Arabic Calligraphy and is in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

Anas Mohamed Serafi, the chairman of the Oyoun Jeddah Charitable Association (OJCA), a partner to the initiative, said the idea stemmed from a visual arts award for calligraphy, painting and photography held by the municipality last year. A number of winning works will be reprinted and displayed on the city walls.

Serafi told Arab News that the goal of the public art campaign is to "modernise, humanise and make our beautiful city more humane and civilised."

As part of the initiative, the Jeddah Corniche, a 30-kilometre stretch of coastal walkway along the Red Sea, has been transformed, with artworks on its sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists to appreciate.

To produce the works of Arabic calligraphy, Tasami Creative Lab, a local platform for artists, has been brought on board by the municipality, while Adel Al Zahrani, a professor of architecture at King Abdul Aziz University, will oversee the Corniche of Colours project.

Jeddah has a history of showcasing artworks in public spaces. In the 1970s, mayor Mohammed Said Farsi set out to beautify the city with more than 400 sculptures, including those by Joan Miro and Alexander Calder. In the 2000s, Art Jameel and the city municipality set out to restore some of the sculptures, which had begun to deteriorate and rearranged them into an open-air sculpture museum.

The result was the Jeddah Sculpture Museum in 2013 – set along the Jeddah Corniche, 20 artworks are currently scattered in the seven-kilometre park in the area, known to locals as “Al Hamraa”. The museum includes works by Miro, Henry Moore, Victor Vasarely and Saudi artist Maha Malluh.

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