Tanween conference kicks off at Ithra aiming to shape the future of Saudi Arabia's creative scene

Running for its third year, the programme aims to nurture creativity in the kingdom

The King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra), the extensive art centre in Dhahran, has kicked off four days of talks, workshops, classes and exhibitions around design and new creative industries in Saudi Arabia.

It’s the third year for creativity conference Tanween, which will take place both online and in person at the Snohetta-designed building in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Last year, the event brought in 100,000 people to its lectures and masterclasses.

Subjects include fashion, branding, advertising and architecture, as well as newer disciplines such as data visualisation. Tanween also includes the participation of key figures from the knowledge and tech economies.

The keynote address, taking place at 6pm KSA time on Thursday, October 29, will be given by Joanna Pena-Bickley, head of Research and Design for Alexa Devices at Amazon. Other speakers include Duncan Wardle, the former head of innovation at Disney; Alan Yau, who created restaurants Wagamama and Hakkasan; and Patrik Schumacher from Zaha Hadid Architects. Specialists will be available for three-minute pitch sessions.

Tanween also sees the participation of Saudi artists and designers, such as artist Mohammed Alfaraj and filmmaker and actor Hakeem Jomah. The programme is intended to nurture creativity among the young Saudi population.

“Ithra was built to prepare us all for the future by empowering the next generation to turn the ideas of today into the reality of tomorrow,” said Abdullah Alrashid, Ithra’s programmes director. “Through developing creativity and innovation, we can bridge the gap to find ‘The New Next’.”

The programme is curated by Robert Frith, the creative director of Ithra, who worked in exhibition design for Christie’s and the British Museum before joining the Saudi Aramco centre five years ago.

Frith stresses the importance of design and creative thinking during the current changes brought about by Covid-19. “Now is the time to use our passion and skills to envision and create our futures,” he said in a statement.

Tanween's full schedule is available here.