Bahrain has a vibrant art and culture scene driven by the many talented people living here. In this feature, we bring you an inclusive list of local initiatives and venues that work toward putting artists, musicians, photographers, storytellers… in the spotlight.
Bahrain Sessions is an initiative inspired by the many hidden talents on the island, be it musicians, artists, poets, interior designers or others. Founders, Jody Peck, a photographer with great experience in travel photography and a talent in portraying Bahrain’s music scene in his own unique editing style, and Esam, a videographer with diverse experience in the field, are connected to a vast network of musicians and artists on the island and abroad. Together they conceptualised this idea into a platform and community on Youtube for anyone in the country to show off their skills to a wider audience. “For instance,” Jody says, “there is an elderly Bahraini with a very distinct British accent who has been cleaning cars in the same car park for the past 30 years. He has funny, organic, heart warming stories, from his adventures, which are somewhat nostalgic to most people. As filmmakers, it is our duty to emphasise the relevance of this person’s experiences to a wider audience and it is these connections that give Bahrain its unique vibe.” Bahrain Sessions culminated its first edition on Bahrain’s National Day with a small gathering of people – participants and contributors. The duo hopes to hold another event on the same day next year to celebrate yet another whole year’s worth of filming, only bigger and more diverse.
GCC Food Photography Awards
Nothing can escape the sharp eyes of a photographer with a mission to capture hidden treasures that the naked eye misses. The GCC Food Photography Awards provides young and aspiring photographers a platform to showcase their work and get noticed. Though the initiative was launched in 2013 as a nature and travel photography contest, the first food photography edition, in 2015, was a big hit leading to a second one, in 2016, themed ‘Celebrating Good Food’. Anita Das, an Indian motoring and photography enthusiast living in Bahrain, stood out, among other talented shutterbugs, as the winner.
Anita shot all her images in Bahrain at the Central Market and Karannah Farms. “My inspiration for these photos was not only nature but also the people who work behind the scenes to add to its beauty,” she says. Anita finds the workshops and photo walks conducted by Photoaward ME very helpful and tells us that photographers, Thanooj Thampy and George Mathew, who are also the Founders of this project, are always ready to clear doubts and advise. “Even if we aren’t in a workshop, I can drop them a message on social media and they respond immediately.”
For more info, visit photoawardme.com
Polo Gastro Pub
While most venues host DJs and international acts, Polo Gastro Pub dares to be home to local grown bands. Stephano Fernando, the pub’s Outlet Manager tells us that it is his travels when he was younger and the memories of local bands on those trips that inspired this decision. “The island’s music scene is only building and we want to contribute,” he says. “You will be surprised to know that there is a great demand for live band shows in Bahrain especially, if they are local. We have many supporters to the idea and I’ve seen them grow steadily but rather slowly.” Polo Gastro Pub has the concept of no-cover charge on entrance to encourage attendance. “We do not charge our guests to watch the bands, rather we provide entertainment to thank them for their patronage.” Stephano admits that getting up to speed with the equipment and type of service needed to host a live event was a challenge. That said, he believes Polo Gastro Pub offers an experience different to most others in Bahrain. “I can confidently say we are the only venue hosting local musicians every weekend.” The pub has a range of exciting events lined up for January including its popular comedy nights, which it hopes to bring back.
Translating to ‘shelter’, Malja is aptly christened considering it offers artists a place to be and thrive. The synonymous to all-things-creative space, tucked away in Amwaj, celebrates its second anniversary this month. Established on 16th January 2015, Malja has been bringing local culture and art to the forefront, making it part of the everyday life of Bahrain. When international sensation and rock guitar icon, Bumblefoot, visited Bahrain, he was invited to host the Kingdom’s first major international ‘guitar clinic’ at Malja. Clockwork and Malja co-organised the session, Bumblefoot’s Living Room, where resident musicians were exposed to different styles and guitar techniques, and interacted with each other as well as Bumblefoot.
For upcoming events, visit malja.redbull.com
Al Riwaq art gallery, in Adilya, in addition to its lovely displays by resident artists, is well known for its popular project, The Nest. Inspired by the abundance of local talent, Al Riwaq launched the very successful Market 338 in 2010, Bahrain’s first ever design market. This showed the Kingdom’s potential for public art events, and in 2012, Al Riwaq launched Alwan 338, which focused on eliminating boundaries to art. In 2014, Al Riwaq merged the best of both these worlds and launched The Nest. The third edition of this much-loved annual event had Block 338 buzzing with the island’s artsy folk. In addition to creative workshops, live music performances, film shows and talks, the festival transformed the area into a live art hub with graffiti and installations.
For more info, visit alriwaqartspace.com