Culture and Art: An Exceptional Language for Self-Expression

Rimaz Bakri - Jazan track
This article was written by a Youth Voice program participant. Youth Voice Program is an enriching dialogue program that aims to engage Saudi Youth from all around the Kingdom in several seminars, discussion meetings and training. It focuses mainly on critical thinking and persuasive communication skills.

Art is deeply embedded in all aspects of our lives, so much so that we notice its manifestations in everything that surrounds us. Nature itself is a form of art, the sunlight that pierces through your room is an art, and the shadow that follows through every move is also an art. Our appreciation, as humans, for the value of this art and message advocating for life remains the first motivator and last protector of the survival of this great language and innocent bond characterized by an artistic sense and elegant aesthetic taste.

Could this type of art be considered a part of culture?

Art and culture have long been known for their controversial connection and have sparked major conflict. The latter may be split into three themes. Some people believe that culture and art are one and the same and that the difference between them lies only in their designations, not their essence. Others think that the two concepts are totally different and that there is no connection between them, while the third opinion stipulates that there is indeed a relationship between the two, with disagreements about its nature.

Here, I seek to define both art and culture in an attempt to resolve this dilemma. In the Arabic language, the term "culture" refers to one's proficiency. A person is described as "cultured" if they have reached a high level of education. Nevertheless, "culture" nowadays indicates the state of society as a whole in terms of behavioral and social aspects. Furthermore, UNESCO defines it as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Art is considered one of the most important components of civilization. It is an integral part of the advancement and development of societies, as it forms an exceptional language that allows individuals to express themselves, convey their own thoughts, and communicate with people around them in order to share their cultures with various societies. Consequently, art is a tool for applying culture, in addition to effectively contributing to improving cultural levels, growing perceptions, and creating new types of arts and aesthetics. When individuals delve into artistic life through music, theater, cinema, and craftsmanship, this reflects positively in their communities through emotional and cognitive enrichment. This promotes harmony between different cultures and opens the door to tourism, which increases development and prosperity levels.

This is why culture and art are two sides of the same coin. Artistic memory with its folkloric history, be it theatrical or musical or even in the form of exhibitions and famous paintings, is considered a bridge for human interaction and rapprochement between different peoples and successive generations. In terms of theater, English writer William Shakespeare presented timeless characters in the history of tragedy, thus becoming a cultural reference to be reckoned with and a source of inspiration for civilizations, regardless of their different directions and languages. Perhaps the immortal songs of Abdel Halim Hafez, Farid al-Atrash, Umm Kulthum, Fairouz, Talal Maddah, and Muhammad Abdu, which stuck in  listeners' musical memory, all fall into this category. Art fills in the blanks and bridges gaps between peoples.

Therefore, culture and art are important because they build the personalities of community members and develop and strengthen their personal capabilities by stimulating imagination and creativity. This improves their social abilities in terms of understanding and adapting to different civilizations, while supporting the cognitive, emotional, and human aspects that increase the individual's societal value, according to the pillars of Saudi Vision 2030. The latter never fails to remind us of the importance of the citizen's role in advancing achievement towards building a vibrant community with strong roots and a solid structure based on the values of moderate Islam, in addition to fostering a sense of pride and belonging to the Saudi culture and heritage.

Culture is part of the national transformation that our country is striving to achieve under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may Allah protect them both. The Ministry of Culture is striving to implement the Kingdom's ambitious transformation program under Saudi Vision 2030. This Vision aims at building a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation with strong mechanisms and calculated scientific methods that enable the Kingdom's cultural sector to walk hand in hand with the Vision and establish its presence within society. This sector is starting to set foot in the world of investments and tourism by improving the society's culture and reinforcing it with cultural and artistic activities and events in addition to encouraging male and female innovators in many arts and culture areas. Moreover, the message of the Ministry of Culture calls for "empowering and encouraging the Saudi sector in a way that reflects the reality of our prestigious history, contributes to our efforts of building a future that is proud of its heritage, and unlocks new and different opportunities for creativity and expression in all their forms in order to enrich individuals' lifestyle and strengthen the national identity."

The Ministry has also released a document regarding the Vision and its directions to illustrate its ambitions and reflect its goals of adopting culture as a way of life for economic and cultural growth in order to promote the Kingdom's international position. Consequently, one must discuss the prospects of cultural tourism, which are concerned with the country's culture and peoples' lifestyle. Architecture and art are two forms of these prospects that encourage tourists to move between cultural attractions, away from their places of residence, in order to collect information and acquire new experiences that grow their cognitive needs. Attracting further interest in the tourism sector in all its aspects was the first goal behind the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism. From the start of its journey, the Ministry shed more light on the country's geographical nature and location, its most valuable heritage, by organizing, developing, and promoting these two features with the support of the Kingdom's massive factors and elements, such as rare historical sites and archaeological treasures, which have survived multiple eras and civilizations over time. Moreover, the Ministry focused on the Kingdom's geographical location with its outstanding vast areas, diverse landscapes and climate, and the various beaches extending from the Red Sea to the Arabian Gulf with all their diverse and different elements that attract tourists who are always on the lookout for more scientific and artistic cultural features.

While culture and arts have become more influential and effective in our social life, I have come to the conclusion that if art and culture are not the same, art is surely an integral part of culture, and may even be a forgotten legitimate derivative of it. In general,  artistic and creative identity is the basic logic behind multiculturalism that is linked to human and civilizational customs. Even with differences between Arab and Western civilizations, we are always united by one unique language, that of culture and art.


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