The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities and the Economic Development Board held a press conference today (Wednesday, February 15, 2017) to officially launch the 12th edition of the Spring of Culture. A number of private sector organizations and foreign embassies are supporting and participating in this annual event, which will run for two months from February to April 2017.
The festival comes as part of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities’ year-long celebration of the archaeological heritage of the Kingdom of Bahrain for the year 2017 held under the slogan "Our Year of Archaeology”. Adopted when Manama was the Capital of Arab Tourism back in 2013, the starting date of the festival coincides with the occasion of Arab Tourism Day on February 25, which commemorates the anniversary of the birth of the famous Arab traveler Ibn Battuta.

The festival is jointly organized by Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, the Economic Development Board, and Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, and in collaboration with Albareh Art Gallery, Al Riwaq Art Space, and La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art.

Gold Sponsors of this year’s festival are GFH Financial Group, Huawei, and the National Bank of Bahrain; while Silver Sponsors include Aluminum Bahrain (ALBA), Bahrain Airport Company, Bahrain Duty Free, Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait, and DHL and with additional support from the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance, Investate, the National Oil and Gas Authority and Bahrain Maritime & Mercantile International (BMMI). The festival events were also made possible by contributions from the embassies of Italy, Japan, USA, and Mexico in Bahrain.

Commenting on the announcement, President of BACA, HE Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa: "The program of the festival is numerous that we simply cannot compress the events into just a single season, so each year we engage once more with our cultural audience with a diverse range of top-class global and local shows and events featuring leading performers and cultural figures.”
“As we celebrate our 12th anniversary, we grow ever-confident of culture’s capabilities and positive impact. We also are mindful that by telling the many stories of success over the course of our history through our archaeological monuments, we can bring joy to our communities and instill a sense of pride in our identity and heritage, while at the same time promoting the best of what Bahrain has to offer, " Shaikha Mai added.

"We express our sincerest gratitude to our partner the Economic Development Board for their belief in the importance of the cultural movement and its role in the advancement of communities and its economy. We also thank all the private sector organizations and embassies who are participating in this year’s Spring of Culture Festival, a reflection of their commitment to be actively present in Bahrain’s cultural movement.”

In his comment, Economic Development Board CEO Mr. Khalid Al-Rumaihi noted, “The Spring of Culture Festival demonstrates how to connect and develop private sector investments in culture in order to highlight Bahrain’s openness to other world cultures since ancient times. These efforts are in line with the Economic Development Board’s objective of supporting tourism as it is an important and growing sector that has significant competitive advantages and tremendous development and job creation potential.”

“The continued success of this festival is owed in large part to the generous support of the private sector and partnerships formed between public and civil bodies, all of which work to make Bahrain a leading platform for outstanding Bahraini talents and prominent figures in the areas of thought, culture, and art.”

The audience will enjoy a diverse array of exceptional events and magical evenings that cover everything from archaeology to culture and art, starting with the timeless love story of "Antar and Abla" in a brilliant historical opera production at the Bahrain National Theatre, which is produced by Opera Lebanon. The theatre’s lobby also houses stunning visual artworks taking part in the 43rd Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition.

A who’s-who lineup of Arab and international singers will also perform in the festival, including soprano trio Musica Scotto Le Stelle’s concert “Music Under the Stars” at La Fontaine on March 9, Chelsey Green and the Green Project Ensemble at the Cultural Hall on March 17, acclaimed Mexican guitarist Paco Renteria on April 6 at the Cultural Hall, English Blues singer Dana Gillespie on March 31 at La Fontaine, and chart-topping English band UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue on March 31 at Bahrain Bay.
Featured Arab singers include Majed Al Muhandis and Waleed Al Shami on March 10 at Bahrain Bay, Palestinian artist Omar Kamal on March 17, Syrian artist Bashar Zarkan on March 20, and Mo Zowayed & Majaz Band on March 18 at Bahrain Bay. Moreover, the audience will be treated to a wholly unique audio experience featuring workers of the Bahrain National Quarry on March 9.

Families will be given a variety of shows to choose from, as the festival features an array of international performances by professional artists in various venues across the Kingdom of Bahrain. These include Groove Onkels, a percussion band that does not use actual musical instruments, as well as the amazing acrobatic lighthearted dance extravaganza of Tap Factory. Another not-to-miss show is the magic and sleight of hand of Argentine Edgar Groll, and the Canadian theatrical production Journey to the Planet of the Senses. Moreover, the audience can enjoy the incredible Indian acrobatic art of Pole Mallakhamba, the marvelously diverse soundtracks of the contemporary circus act Traces, and the fun interactive Bahraini children production A Tale or Two for Alef.  

The Spring of Culture Festival also features leading Arab and international public figures in a series of talks held in cooperation with the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research. The intellectuals, media and literary personalities include Saudi broadcaster and journalist Dawood Al-Shirian, Tunisia’s former Minister of Culture Sonia M’barek, Lebanese writer and editor Fares Youwakim, Lebanese writer Ivana Marchalian, Joshua David, Palestinian poet Ehab Bseiso, pioneering Palestinian artist and writer Raeda Taha, and American-Egyptian writer and Director of London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Middle East and Gulf Security program, Mamoun Fandy. In addition, a number of lectures and seminars about photography, food culture, and Ancient Tylos-Period statues will be held as part of the festival, as well as lectures by French archaeologist Dr. Pierre Lombard and Bahraini researcher and writer Dr. Abdullah Al-Madani.

BACA will also inaugurate a number of important cultural infrastructure projects such as Dar Al-Riffa Al-Oda in East Riffa and Al-Maktaba Al-Khalifiya in Muharraq. A number of sites of historical significance will also be highlighted, such as Al-Khamis Mosque, whose status as the most important Islamic archaeological site in the Gulf region will be highlighted as part of a major conference on Islamic Archaeology to be held in the Bahrain National Museum, as well as celebrating the deep-rooted heritage of Bab Al-Bahrain’s gold industry. The festival will also showcase Bahrain's intangible heritage of seafaring chants and folk music with weekly concerts by the Mohammed bin Faris Band and Fjiri music at Dar Al-Muharraq.

The slated art and culture exhibitions will open new horizons for visitors into different worlds and perspectives, such as the collaborative  “Out Of Time" exhibit which brings together 20 artists from around the world, "Two Architects Two Visions" featuring the works of a Saudi-Italian pair of artists, and  "The Selfless Holy Ground" Exhibition which depicts the contradiction between the spiritual and religious connotations of sacred rituals and human nature, as well as an exhibition on the UNESCO World Heritage-inscribed "Pearling Path" and "Do You Trust Me?" photography exhibition.

Fans of the seventh art will enjoy a selection of films during the Japan Film Festival, a special event within Spring of Culture organized in collaboration with the Japanese Embassy and the Japan Foundation in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Moreover, the festival includes a showing of the film The Pearl Diver that chronicles the history of the natural pearl divers in the Arabian Gulf nations, as well as other memorable movies.

Opportunities also abound for the public to take part in a large number of educational programs and workshops, such as the "How to Make Pearl Jewelry" workshop which follows the path of the pearl over a 3-kilometer open-air museum in Muharraq, and “My Dish, My Gift” cooking workshop, which precedes the launch of the second edition of the book “Food is Culture”. As part of BACA’s year-long celebration of Bahrain’s archaeological heritage in 2017 under the slogan "Our Year of Archaeology”, the children-focused workshop entitled "Enkiru’s Journey Through the Ages" will help to foster the spirit of belonging and devotion through a historical account about the civilizations which once inhabited this land.

The workshop series also include a pair of workshops on the art of carpet making and silversmithing, with the objective of supporting the revival traditional crafts that were once widely practiced in Bahrain, as well as several other educational workshops.

Updates and latest news about the activities taking place are available on the festival’s official channel @springofculture on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The full festival program details are available on www.springofculture.org
With support from the private sector 12th Spring of Culture launched at a press conference in Qala’at Al-Bahrain Museum
February 2017