Festival celebrating folk and mountain performance arts returns in Saudi Arabia

Idyllic Asir welcomes talents from across the kingdom and wider world for cultural spectacle

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The second edition of the Qemam International Festival for Mountain Performance Arts is under way in Abha, Saudi Arabia.

The festival is taking place in eight villages in the south-west region of Asir, around the cities of Abha and Khamis Mushait, and runs until Friday. Celebrations began with a carnival parade on Art Street and a concert by Lebanese singer Najwa Karam at King Khalid University.

The Qemam International Festival, launched by the kingdom's Theatre and Performing Arts Commission, brings together 16 Saudi and 14 international folk artist groups and is a “cultural spectacle dedicated to mountain performing arts”, Sultan Al-Bazie, chief executive of the commission, tells The National.

The Qemam International Festival for Mountain Performance Arts will put on performances by local and international folk artists. SPA

“The festival creates numerous opportunities for intercultural exchange, allowing performers and visitors from across the kingdom and the world to learn about the similarities they share, as well as unique characteristics found in their expression of mountain performing arts," he adds.

Such performative expressions reflect localised cultural heritage, exemplifying traditions seen at weddings and other celebrations, as well as songs and music that tell stories of love, war, farming, hunting and other aspects of village life, Al-Bazie explains.

The eight-day festival will feature 32 performances by folk groups from India, China, Morocco, South Korea and Switzerland. The festival aims to explore the history, artistry and practice of mountain performing arts, highlighting the cultural significance of each group.

Also on display will be traditional wedding dance performances, live cooking, alongside gifts and an artisans’ bazaar.

Asir, as a region, has an extraordinary array of folkloric diversity, says Al-Bazie, which highlights the kingdom's cultural heritage.

“Asir has always been known for its picturesque landscape and is emerging as a major destination for heritage events,” Al-Bazie says. It is hoped Qemam will fuel the growth of tourism and support the strategic aim of the Asir Development Authority to create a “flourishing all-year-round destination”.

The Theatre and Performing Arts Commission, founded in 2020, is one of 11 commissions under the Ministry of Culture. Its aim is to promote Saudi Arabia's rich heritage through more investment, local productions and opportunities for cultural exchange.

For more information, visit mocevents.ticketmx.com

Updated: January 21, 2023, 10:32 AM
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