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  • Writer's pictureMahmud Manning

Fayakunu in Jeddah: Residency Sept-Nov 2022



Fayakunu member, Mahmud Manning, was invited by the Saudi Government to participate in an Artist Residency for six weeks based in the ‘old’ city of Belad within the larger port of Jeddah and the historical entry point for Pilgrims travelling to Mecca Mukarama and Madinah Munawarah.


Mahmud Manning 2022: Title: Coral City : Grid City Work in progress November 2022/1444 (held in UK) POA Medium: Oil and leaf on canvas (H150 x L100cm) A work contrasting the city of Belad with its 4 gates and entrance to the Red Sea with the overlaid grid system develop post 1950’s.
Mahmud Manning 2022: Title: Coral City : Grid City Work in progress November 2022/1444 (held in UK) POA Medium: Oil and leaf on canvas (H150 x L100cm) A work contrasting the city of Belad with its 4 gates and entrance to the Red Sea with the overlaid grid system develop post 1950’s.

Mahmud joined artists from Mexico, Argentina, Morocco as well as local Saudi artists from various cities. It was a valued time of focus, making and responding to varied layers socially, acknowledging the Kingdom's intention to restore the central and initial part of the city with its quite unique architectural elements; their merchant houses made of Coral stone, timber and the distinctive ‘Roshan’ screens used to view as well as encourage ventilation.


Jeddah, Roshan Screens, Architecture
Jeddah, Roshan Screens, Architecture

Our purpose was to create a cross fertilisation of creative ideas, sharing of practises and strengthening of experience for future works. 9 artists were brought together within a ‘Ribaat’; a building previously used for women and their children who were without their husbands. A supportive WAQF or endowment by a local merchant enabled the purpose built building to provide shelter and a means of secure employment through local enterprise and production. A Mr Kunji, whose name the building carried, provided the means for protection to these women and their children.


Today the building has been renovated together with others in the vicinity, including other waqf endowments, the original American embassy and another important building used by the first King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdal Aziz. Many further buildings are in the process of restoration together with the intention to encourage owners to create a renewed civic participation and involvement within this area. The area of Belad proved to be a wonderful place to discover and appreciate. Famous for its gold markets, spices and textiles, it reflected the diverse peoples of neighbouring lands who visited and traded goods.


Model city, Saudi Arabia
Model city, Saudi Arabia

Mahmud used the opportunity to reflect on the quality of urban connection, both as an ‘organic star-city’ as well as the ‘grid-pattern and U turn’ of the expanded new city of Jeddah. It was also a personal record of a relationship with the country, having previously lived and visited there, including during the residency visits to the two great spiritual centres, Madinah and Mecca. The Star-city of central Belad with its four traditional gates, was further enhanced by including a cosmology of event and record, which included the three cities of the Hejaz region and the mountains surrounding Madinah and Mecca with its linear horizon line. Sun, Moon and visible planets were placed upon a geometric grid, with the accompanying Zodiac constellations, cities and mountains.


Mahmud Manning 2022: One work as exploration and test initiated this second as a finished piece. Title: Astro-Geo World: Place and event (As witnessed, September 26 12pm 2022) POA Date of completion: September 2022/1444 Medium: Ink, leaf and oil on paper, framed Unframed dimension 60 cm x 84cm Fabriano cotton-rag paper Madina Munawarah with the Mountains of Uhud, Safa and Nar; Makkah Mukaramah with its own 7 mountains, & Jeddah as gateway sit alongside an horizon line. The 12 zodiacal constellations surround with the visible planets, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn & Jupiter accompanying the Sun and Moon. A geometric grid is initiated, ‘fitting the geographic & Celestial phenomena’.
Mahmud Manning 2022: One work as exploration and test initiated this second as a finished piece. Title: Astro-Geo World: Place and event (As witnessed, September 26 12pm 2022) POA Date of completion: September 2022/1444 Medium: Ink, leaf and oil on paper, framed Unframed dimension 60 cm x 84cm Fabriano cotton-rag paper Madina Munawarah with the Mountains of Uhud, Safa and Nar; Makkah Mukaramah with its own 7 mountains, & Jeddah as gateway sit alongside an horizon line. The 12 zodiacal constellations surround with the visible planets, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn & Jupiter accompanying the Sun and Moon. A geometric grid is initiated, ‘fitting the geographic & Celestial phenomena’.

A micro layer was also looked at, from a desert plant recorded when visiting the land adjacent to Jeddah, its own water source from mountains to sea, a famous desert locust/grasshopper, coral stone and sea-shells formed within the coral as the sea retreated leaving the stone to be excavated and used within the Jedawi building/architectural construction. The work became showcased a Macro view of cosmology with a geographic netting, together a personal response of spiritual connection and affirmation as well acknowledging the micro-world of plant and animal life. The antennae of the grasshopper mirroring the stalks of the desert plant it took shade in.


A memorable visit occurred in Dammam, where the group visited the ITHRA, a post-modernist building with an echo of stones left in the desert as meeting points. The building was constructed with steel beams and screw bolts with beautiful, rammed Pise earth walls. "The Line" was also promoted in Jeddah, a new development as city in the desert. These developments struck me as initiatives away from the Star-city of Belad with its relevance, proof as habitable space, human scale yet quite dense foot-plate, so a mixed metaphor of enquiry and adoption seemed to take place within the country.


Ithra, Post Modernist Building: Rammed earth walls. Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Ithra, Post Modernist Building: Rammed earth walls. Dammam, Saudi Arabia

It was hoped that our voice as enquiring artists could add to the mix for civic reflective enquiry. The artists brought their unique qualities, expertise and view-points, varied and broad-based. It provided an enriching experience and one which could be of benefit to wider political consideration. The meeting ground at the ribat proved a great opportunity for this to occur with lots of points were brought out: it became relevant to see the contribution of artists not as aesthetic practitioners but as instigators of thought and connection, as people who have a part to play as creative initiators. Better before decisions are taken than after.


"A number of works were made within the residency, some on paper, some framed under glass and one piece was initiated on canvas. These works became connected, first from a wide ‘macro’ perspective, recognising geographic placement and astronomical ‘event’ as a moment in time, another perspective was introduced, seeing the ‘micro’ as a unique Cosmos in itself.

A unifying ‘Tauhid’ painting was initiated, reflecting upon the ‘coral’ city of Belad; a circular, organic, ‘natural’ city with the additional grid system of regularity adjoined to the old city as witnessed within the greater city of Jeddah." - Mahmud Manning


A voice for those who perhaps are excluded or whose voice needs to be heard, can be made through bringing artists together. Artists that voice are close to those who count and become part of the area; they rub alongside and connect. This residency proved that. The artists added and contributed positively, food for thought for actions closer to home.


Mahmud Manning 2022 Title: Ijaza POA Date of completion: September 2022/1444 Medium: Ink, leaf and egg tempera on paper, framed Unframed dimension 60 cm x 84cm Fabriano cotton-rag paper Here I recognise my own relationship of place and ‘Deen’, both within the residency and my travels before to our sacred places. It is a recording of witnessed events, with hadith and Quranic Ayat. A piece of confirmation and celebration.
Mahmud Manning 2022 Title: Ijaza POA Date of completion: September 2022/1444 Medium: Ink, leaf and egg tempera on paper, framed Unframed dimension 60 cm x 84cm Fabriano cotton-rag paper Here I recognise my own relationship of place and ‘Deen’, both within the residency and my travels before to our sacred places. It is a recording of witnessed events, with hadith and Quranic Ayat. A piece of confirmation and celebration.

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