The Diriyah Biennale Foundation

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Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Islamic Arts Biennale


Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale
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Islamic Arts Biennale
2023 Edition

Public programs

Biennale Encounters
The Research Room
Studio Youth & minis


What is the Public Programme?

The Islamic Arts Biennale public programme, open from January 23rd to April 23rd 2023 features a vast line-up of activities, excursions, workshops, meet-the-artist sessions, panel discussions, talks, seminars, performances and film screenings, highlighting the integral role of arts and culture in our lives, and providing the opportunity for visitors to discover and immerse themselves in the arts of the Islamic world.
The Public Programme enriches the local arts ecosystem by supporting creative talent and creating opportunities for interaction, exchange, collaboration and learning among local, regional and international artists and specialists in the field of culture and heritage.


The range of events in the Public Programme is vast!

Immerse yourself in a performance by Mali Djeli, Bourama Soumano and instrumentalist Aly Kouyate from the Mali group Kalan Blow who will perform traditional chants; or attend the premiere of In the Footsteps of the Beloved (2023) a film produced by ITHRA about the Hijra (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH from Mecca to Medina. Listen to stories under the stars, and find a masterclass or workshop that appeals to you – why not try illumination, or paper marbling, or making ma’moul cookie moulds? You can even try your hand at embroidering the gilt wire Kiswa (fabric covering) for the Holy Kaaba itself!
Discover the arts of the hajj with Qaisra Khan of the Khalili Collection, or discuss the meaning of modernism in Saudi Arabia with Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz of Bricklab.
If you want learn what makes a masterpiece of Islamic art, join Sotheby’s auction house on a gallery tour, and see some of those great objects for yourself. Explore the concepts of beauty in Arab culture with Professor Doris Behrens-Abouseif, formerly of the SOAS, University of London.
If you are interested in coding, join us for a weekend that bridges technology and heritage in a ‘Geeks for Good’ session, and find out how to recover the texts of long-lost manuscripts and reveal over 700 people in the medieval world who were just 3 degrees away from the great Salah al-Din (Saladin).

Come and explore traditional subjects in new ways!

You can join a tour with Alain Fouad George, Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Oxford University, UK to learn about the birth of Arabic calligraphy; or discover the relationship between word and image in Islamic art with Ulrike al-Khamis, CEO of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. Why not explore the relationship between nature and spirituality with Saudi artist Ayman Zedani? Interested in science? Learn how to use an astrolabe, the device that for centuries guided travellers across the Muslim world, and enabled the pious to find the direction of Mecca.
If you’re hungry, master chef Anissa Helou will share some little-known Saudi recipes, and during Ramadan, why not sample delights from across the frontiers of the Islamic world seated at Lubna’s Table, an art installation designed by Lubna Chowdhary to bring people together to share meals and stories?

What Are the General Themes of the Public Programme?

The Public Programme responds to the Awal Bayt Exhibition, which explores a sense of belonging and connection experienced by Muslims all over the world, inspired by the Holy Ka’bah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. To that end, the programme focuses on a number of themes: Taking the past into the future – how the cultural heritage and legacy of the Muslim world informs contemporary society; Islamic arts from within – how the arts of the Islamic world reflect the values of what it means to be a Muslim; cross-cultural encounters, reflecting on how the Islamic world interacted, enriched, inspired and has been inspired by other world cultures; and Islamic arts in professional practice – what it means to curate, collect, preserve and teach the arts of the Islamic world today.

The heritage and culture of Saudi Arabia as a meeting point and cultural crossroads also features prominently in the activities of the programm.

What are the weekly themes of the Public Programme?

Public Programme activities are grouped into weekly themes starting from the second week of the programme:

Week 1 – Jan. 29th

Ummah – One Community Saudi Arabia as the Centre of the Islamic World


Raising the Foundation of Awal Bayt – Architecture of The Islamic World, Place and Identity

WEEK 3 – FEB. 12TH

The Unity of Knowledge Science and Technology in the Islamic World

WEEK 4 – FEB. 19

Culture and Trade and Diversity in Islam

WEEK 5 – FEB. 26TH




WEEK 7 – MAR. 12TH


WEEK 8 – MAR. 19




WEEK 10 – APR. 2ND


WEEK 11 – APR. 9TH


Who is the Public Programme for?

Literally everyone! The Public Programme has been designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences with specific activities for children and young adults, as well as intergenerational activities suitable for families, and activities for adults. Whether you have little knowledge of the arts, or are a professional in the field, you will find lots to do and to learn. You don’t need to know anything about the Islamic world to find our activities enjoyable and engaging, yet there is also plenty for you if you have a deep understanding of the arts world, or of Islam.
Some of the best experts in the field will be sharing their knowledge and skills in accessible, interesting ways. All are welcome to participate – whether you are a teacher organizing a class visit, parents planning a holiday activity, somebody curious to explore their artistic side for the first time, or to meet a historian, master craftsman or artist.

Do I have to pay to attend the Public Programme?

Most of our activities are free! For some activities, like workshops and masterclasses, where only limited numbers can attend, a small fee is payable to ensure that audiences commit to attending.
The table below explains which activities are free and lists the costs of those activities for which a small fee is payable.

How do I sign up for Public Programme Events?

Most of our activities are free! For some activities, like workshops and masterclasses, where only limited numbers can attend, a small fee is payable to ensure that audiences commit to attending.
To learn more about which activities are free and view lists of the costs of those activities for which a small fee is payable, Click Here.