Aljawd Min Almawjud
(‘The Generosity From Existing’)
Mixed media interactive installation
Dyed-cloth flooring, Dates, Arabic coffee, Coffee kettles, Cups, Newspaper mock-up, Drawings, Arabic music
(2.5m wide and 2.5m deep)
Aljawd Min Almawjud (‘The Generosity of the Existing’) is a floor sitting which is 2.5m square formed in the letter U inspired by the hospitality settings in the authentic Bedouin tent, which includes dates, coffee and its equipment – coffee kettles and cups, together with cardamom and saffron, which all represent the Saudi hospitality space as a way of creating a social space. The three yellow seats in size 100 by 40m have been dyed with coffee colour and saffron
Accompanying this sitting are thirteen A5 drawings on the opposite wall as a means of explaining this culture for the audience from the period of nomadism right up to the present day, and the value of the date to revive this culture by reflecting narratives, memory places and social spaces.
In addition to pictures, stories and articles presented in the zine piece near this sitting representing the religious, social and economic positionality of the date and the hospitality as research-based installation show how the stimulation of discussion and debate is an integral part of Saudi culture.
As background sound, Arabic music and Saudi folk songs added to this work by creating an enjoyable atmosphere and implying a positive cultural environment.
Aljawd Min Almawjud is a well-known Arabic Bedouins’ phrase which means ‘Generosity from the Existing’, which indicates that generosity happens if the host welcomes the guest and offers hospitality according to what resources they have, cheap or expensive, a little or a lot, that does not matter, because generosity happens with a welcome and with giving whatever you have. It was customary for Bedouins to welcome visitors coming to them from anywhere for a period of three days, regardless of their resources (Ali & Stephenson, 2018).
Arab people consistently use this welcome as it encourages honouring the guest with the most straightforward possibilities as an incentive to continue the hospitality, and if the resources are weak, no embarrassment is caused and no offence is taken: it is the welcome and the generosity which are the most important.
In my artwork Aljawd Min Almawjud, this phrase captures the essence of Saudi hospitality in its simplest form in my use of the date and Arabic coffee which have high cultural value as symbols representing the welcome, hospitality and generosity in Saudi society and reflect the consumption of food resources available in every Saudi home. In addition, it was an attractive idea for me to use them to invite the audience to join the workspace and to participate in sitting down, making and enjoying Arabic coffee in their own way, which created a participatory social space and cultural exchange.
It is a specific space for the welcome audience to sit and have fun while they live and share the traditional hospitality Saudi culture. The audience become participants and have a crucial role in activating the main objective of this artwork, which is to encourage them to activate this space by sharing the food and making the Arabic coffee in their own particular way as creating a new context for this culture, thus bringing together personal histories in a practice which supports unity and diversity which are “interactive, user-friendly and relational concepts” (Bourriaud, 2002). I think that this underpins a form of relational art which Claire Bishop (2004) explained as a setup situation in which audiences are actually given the means to create a community, however provisional or imaginative, within spaces.
I therefore found it interesting to represent this culture which by its nature cannot occur unless two or more people are present. Ali and Stephenson (2018: 13) argued that “a social space for hospitality does not exist in isolation but falls within private and commercial spaces”. I argue that the hospitality table and food are some of the things which create a lot of communication between people, even if it is only for limited periods at a time because we find our societies extremely busy and even in an imposed isolation, which is why I seek to create these social spaces through my work so that we can enjoy a cultural exchange which can create a new meaning and practices for this culture through the exchange.
My work reflects my culture and identity within this narrative. It allows the audience participants to create a new scenario for this culture. I imagine this as a unique place of interrelations where we can harmonise without issues of difference. I seek to generate more social gatherings and events through the use of cultural symbolism of food, drinks and music to explore cultural identity in a globalized context.