Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s Kemam Festival becomes annual showcase for global hill tribe culture

Abha: For centuries, the hill tribes have maintained a traditional way of life in some of the most isolated places in the world, with a distinctive linguistic and cultural seldom seen or heard in the wider society. We have preserved our heritage.

As such, the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia recently hosted its second annual Kemam International Festival of Mountain Performing Arts, inviting 14 international groups and 16 Saudi ensembles to perform their own dances and storytelling. shared the tradition of

International musical ensembles perform at the Kemang International Mountain Performing Arts Festival in Abha. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

The week-long event, which ended on 27 January, is believed to be the first festival in the world dedicated to mountain performing arts, and features artists from Morocco, China, South Korea, Switzerland, India and beyond. , a common theme in art.

Performances will take place at Asir’s Malik Historical Palace, Al-Mushait Palace, Abu Nukata Al-Mutahmi’s Castle, Basta Al-Qabir, Al-Masky’s Abu Shahra Palace, Shamsan Castle and Bin Adwan Heritage Village. was held.

Festival-loving Abdullah Al-Shehri rarely finds an opportunity to expose his four-year-old son Fahad to his family’s Moroccan traditions. As such, he was thrilled to attend a performance of the Berber Ahidus his dance by a visiting Moroccan folk theater troupe.

“This festival invites people to see something new. There is definitely a lot to see,” Alsheri told Arab News.

Abha was the first city in the Kingdom to win the title of Arab Tourism Capital in 2017. The Kemam Festival is just the latest event on the region’s cultural calendar and has proven to attract both domestic and international tourists.

“I believe this program will make Saudi Arabia an international hub for mountain performing arts as it will become an annual event and attract more and more participants from around the world. It will also attract a lot of tourists,” Sultan Al-Bazei, CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, told Arab News.

Last year’s festival attracted troupes from all the mountainous regions of the kingdom, from Tabuk in the north to Najran in the south. This year the program has been expanded to create an intercultural dialogue between mountain cultures around the world.

An international theater company performing at the Kemang International Festival for Mountain Performing Arts in Abha. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

“This will be a unique opportunity for researchers to study the similarities and differences in mountain performing arts around the world,” said Al-Bazei.

“I think most body movements have some similarities. It’s very important to look at other cultures and how people celebrate with their own dances and songs.”

Various international theater companies performed together as part of a cross-cultural parade during the opening ceremony of the festival.

“During this parade, some groups danced together, sometimes to the tunes and rhythms of other groups. This really highlights that culture and art bring people together.” said Al-Bazei.

International theater companies participated in the opening and parade of the Kemang International Mountain Performing Arts Festival. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

Anthropologists and performers see folk dance as a form of storytelling using a universal language.

“It’s like art. Dancing is our happiness,” Bahana Chanturia, artistic director of the Georgian National Ensemble, told Arab News.

The group was first established in 1931 in Sukhumi under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia under the name Akhazeti. After the 1992 civil war, he moved to Tbilisi, Georgia.

The 70-member group uses music and dance to showcase Georgian history. In contrast to most traditional dance companies in the region, the ensemble innovates traditional folklore by embracing new trends, concepts and modes of storytelling.

At the Kemam Festival, the group put on a 20-minute show at the Shamsan Historical Palace, consisting of three dances, Švante, Chamba, and Vaza, which garnered perhaps the biggest applause of the entire festival.

Using fast and dynamic movements, the mixed-gender dance troupe performed in the highlands region of Svaneti in northwestern Georgia, near the Russian border, a region of the Caucasus characterized by snow-capped mountains and deep canyons. It tells the story of a certain Svanetian. .

An international ensemble performing at the Kemang International Mountain Performing Arts Festival in Abha. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

The group’s performance then transitions to traditional Abkhazian dances, telling thrilling stories of competitive horse racing over the mountains in equestrian clothing.

The dance is a symbol of love, courage, respect for women, and competition through imitation of mountain wildlife. The routine ends with a sequence of Mount Vaza originating from the Kazbegi region of Georgia.

In Georgia, artistic performance is woven into the fabric of communities. From the age of five or her six, children are taught to dance, sing and play musical instruments, after which he is encouraged to join one of many professional dance groups.

Musicians from all over the world participate in the Kemam International Festival in Abha. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

From Uzbekistan’s mountain city of Basin, song-and-dance ensemble Nabakor brings the traditional Soul of Bison dance to the summit of Abha.

“It’s a special dance where you imitate musical instruments,[wear special hats]and each movement has an idea. Kumanov told Arab News.

Under the Uzbekistan National Philharmonic Orchestra, the group works to promote the country’s musical and choreographic arts. Its members wear bright traditional clothing embroidered with colorful hues and gold thread.

According to Kabdurakhmanov, the purpose of the group is to encapsulate the peace energy and universal message of the Baisun people.

A Saudi artisan displays his work as part of a festival in Abha. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

Kabdurakhmanov praised the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture for establishing the Mountain Performing Arts Festival and prioritizing the protection of cultural heritage.

“I think you accomplish something very important,” Kavdurachmanov said. “When the Uzbek people first visit, they see your history, traditions and culture, take a piece of you and bring it back to our country.

“I think this is the most important part of development. Saudi people are going to see other cultures. Good for integration.”

The Montenegrin group performed a dance titled “Dances from Old Montenegro”.

A Montenegrin theater troupe presents “Old Montenegrin Dances”. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

Led by artistic director Mirsad Ademović, members of the Montenegrin Cultural and Artistic Association, Ramadan Sarkic wore folk costumes throughout the region, including pieces from several museums.

Montenegro itself is a multicultural country, with many Albanians and Bosnians living there. Incorporating different identities is essential to maintaining peace in the Balkans, Ademovic told Arab News.

The festival provided an opportunity for Montenegro and Saudi Arabia to connect through the art of storytelling, he said.

Saudi artists lead a parade on the first day of the Kemang International Festival in Abha, performing a traditional sword dance. (Huda Bashata/Arab News)

This year’s event featured Saudi folk dances including Ardha, a form of martial arts widely performed in the Asir region, inspired by historical battles and reimagined as a storytelling tool.

“The folklore has been appreciated by many viewers and visitors, telling us about the amazing nature of the region and its past,” said Abdullah Al-Shaher, coordinator of Aldar Group Arab News told to

“A festival like this invites everyone to become a member of a participating theater company in order to preserve the kingdom’s overall heritage, pass it on to future generations, and pass on what they have inherited from their ancestors.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2240271/saudi-arabia Saudi Arabia’s Kemam Festival becomes annual showcase for global hill tribe culture

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