Everyone may be flocking to the Hajj exhibition at the British Museum. But don’t overlook its sister show, Create and Inspire: Youth Hajj, which showcases young Saudi artists .
The works on display are winning entries from a competition for artists between the ages of 15 and 24, held by the museum in partnership with the transnational contemporary art group, Edge of Arabia. Founded in 2003, Edge of Arabia has provided a platform for offbeat and creative Saudi artists such as Ahmed Mater (work pictured). Judging from this exhibition, the upcoming generation will be just as keen to paint outside the box.
In contrast to the ancient rituals documented in the main Hajj exhibition, most works here make some reference to today’s digitalised, globalised world. Sara Al Abdali interprets the Hajj for an urban audience with spray-painted stencils on Jeddah walls. Tahani Al Bikri’s depiction of the focal point of the pilgrimage, the al-Haram mosque, as a 2D barcode hints at a future where even spiritual connections may occur online.
The exhibition features some arresting images, such as Nahla Khogger’s “Arafat after the Hajj”, a commentary on the destructive impact a pilgrimage on this scale can have. Sadly, though, not all works are given the space that they deserve. Tahani Al Bikri’s Islamic prayer flag, designed to billow in the breeze, loses much of its power when displayed crumpled in a small glass case.
Create and Inspire: Youth Hajj, British Museum, Islamic World (Room 34), until April 15. Free