A guide to Bahrain's Spring of Culture Festival 2020: Lauryn Hill, ‘The Merchants of Bollywood’ and musical ‘Aladdin’ confirmed

The annual celebration of culture is back for its 15th iteration

GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 28:  Lauryn Hill performs on stage during day three of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 28, 2019 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
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There are certain times of year that Bahrain truly comes alive, and one of those is when the Spring of Culture Festival is on. The series of events and activities kicked off yesterday and will run until Thursday, April 30, taking place in venues across the kingdom and the capital city Manama, which has been named the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2020.

Art exhibitions, music concerts, lectures and other cultural initiatives are being held every day throughout the two months. This year, the theme underpinning it all is civilisational development, with the slogan Dilmun: Land of Density.

While there are countless events scheduled, here are a few highlights on the cultural agenda.

For the full schedule with location, date and time details, visit www.springofculture.org.

Music, concerts and shows

In commemoration of Arab Tourism Day on Tuesday, February 25 the Egyptian Modern Dance Theatre and Cairo Opera House celebrate the legacy of renowned architect Zaha Hadid through a contemporary performance called Hadid Tears, directed by Walid Aouni.

Fresh from her Dubai International Jazz Festival concert, Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill will perform on Friday, February 28 at Bahrain Bay.

On Saturday, March 28, the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra will perform Melodies of Beautiful Time, conducted by Bahraini maestro Mubarak Najem and Diane Pavlov, at the beautiful, seaside Bahrain National Theatre.

Bahraini maestro Mubarak Najem conducts 'Melodies of Beautiful Time' at Spring of Culture Festival in Bahrain
Bahraini maestro Mubarak Najem conducts 'Melodies of Beautiful Time' at Spring of Culture Festival in Bahrain

There will be performances from singers flying in from all over the world. Japanese musician Naoko Kikuchi will perform classic tunes on the traditional koto, while Lebanese qanun player Elie Achkar and Spanish guitarist Manuel Delgado team up for a concert, and Palestinian-Japanese artist Mariam Tamari joins Palestinian pianist Fadi Deeb for another collaboration.

Bahraini folk music also forms a key part of the schedule, as the Mohammed bin Faris Music Hall plays host to the Mohammed bin Faris band every Thursday, telling tales of pearl divers lives through melody.

Also on the agenda is a theatrical dance performance of The Merchants of Bollywood, which hails from Australia, as well as a recital by the Sri Lankan Dance Company, plus a show called Traditional Japanese Vaudeville Theatre that showcases the traditions of comedic Rakugo storytelling combined with the ritualistic Daikagura from the Edo period.

'The Merchant of Bollywood' at the Spring of Culture Festival in Bahrain
'The Merchant of Bollywood' at the Spring of Culture Festival in Bahrain

At the Cultural Hall, a musical performance of Romeo & Juliet will take place at the end of March, while an upbeat retelling of Aladdin is on in early April. While all this is happening, the Qal'at Al Bahrain Site Museum, which is located on a Unesco World Heritage Site, brings visitors The Sound & Light Show every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday throughout the festival. It's an audiovisual presentation of the history of the Dilmun civilisation in both Arabic and English.

The Sound & Light Show at Qal'at al Bahrain for Spring of Culture Festival
The Sound & Light Show at Qal'at al Bahrain for Spring of Culture Festival

On screen

Films from all over the world will be screened. A Tunisian Film Festival takes place at Bahrain National Museum on Wednesday, February 26, plus Wednesday and Saturday, March 4 and 14. The Japan Animation Festival will also be held on Sunday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 11.

One-off screenings of films such as You Will Die at Twenty, Erase and Forget and The Two Sights will take place at the Bahrain National Museum, while Qal'at Al Bahrain Site Museum will screen Alice and Wonderland, and Night of Arabic Classic Films: Lady Fayruz.

Cinephiles won't want to miss the screenings of Palestinian film The Time That Remains by Elie Suleiman, Italian flick The Bicycle Thief, nor Bollywood production Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India at The Pearling Path Visitors Centre.

Between Wednesday, March 4 and Sunday, March 8, the Bahrain Film Festival will shine the spotlight on emerging local talents at Oasis Mall Cinema in Juffair.

Art exhibitions

An exhibition curated and produced by London’s Natural History Museum, called Dive into the Jurassic, is on display at the Bahrain National Museum until Monday, March 16. At the same venue, award-winning Italian artist Ezio Gribaudo will launch his first solo exhibition in the region on Sunday, March 1.

Hala Al Khalifa will showcase her latest works in the new exhibition Where Do We Sit?, which explores the feelings of belonging and connection, emptiness and loss, through a series of paintings of sofas and seats. This will be on display at Memory of The Place Bin Matar House.

Hala Al Khalifa's works on show at Bahrain Spring of Culture Festival
Hala Al Khalifa's works on show at Bahrain Spring of Culture Festival

Elsewhere, at the House of Architectural Heritage, the Architectural Ethnography exhibition by Tokyo-based firm Atelier Bow-Wow will run from Tuesday, February 18 to Sunday, June 14.

The Bahrain International Book Fair will also return for its 19th year in a venue by the Bahrain National Museum on Wednesday, March 25, inviting local and international publishers to highlight their most prominent and recent books, with Kuwait as the guest of honour.

Again at the museum, Scottish-Danish artist Shona Illingworth presents Topologies of Air, an immersive, multi-screen sound and video installation that examines the impact of growing geopolitical, technological and environmental change on the composition, nature and use of airspace.

'Topologies of Air' digital still (2020). Shona Illingworth
'Topologies of Air' digital still (2020). Shona Illingworth

Literary, intellectual and cultural lectures

The Sheikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalife Centre for Culture and Research is where a variety of literary and intellectual lectures are being held. Albert De Roeck will discuss his experiences working on the Large Hadron Collider, while Mohamed Salmawy delves into the art of the biography and Talib Al Rifai presents Writing & The Happiness Hormone.

The Abdullah Al Zayed for Bahraini Press Heritage will host lectures from Lebanese journalist Kheirallah Kheirallah, who sheds light on Iran and its policy of linking to Iraq, and Russian presenter Atrium Kapchuk, who will speak on the psychology of the Russian people between West and East.

There will be poetry readings at the House of Poetry: Ebrahim Al Arrayed from Saudi Arabian, scribe Ahmed Al Ali and Egyptian spoken word artist Samir Darwish. Finally, at the Qal’at Al Bahrain Site Museum, Dr Murad Al Janabi will present a lecture on the historical importance of Bahrain, as the meeting point of ancient civilisations during the eras of Dilmun, Tylos and Awal.

Other cultural activities and events for children

A range of educational activities are being organised, such as a folk storytelling event at Dar Al Muharraq and an Archeaology Walkathon that starts at Qal’at All Bahrain and ends at the Unesco-listed Barbar Temple.

Pop Up-Marlon Banda Show 12 - 14 March, Spring of Culture Festival in Bahrain
Pop Up-Marlon Banda Show 12 - 14 March, Spring of Culture Festival in Bahrain

Workshops for different age groups will be available, too. Learn Arabic calligraphy, traditional crafts, design and more.

And don't miss the street theatre shows that will take place throughout the kingdom. This includes The Flying Dutchmen from The Netherlands and Canada, Stick Sock from the UK and The Marlow Banda Show from Italy.