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Turki Hisham Gazzaz: “The artistic scene in Jeddah is booming”

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Turki Hisham Gazzaz, a Jeddah native, studied in Canada before coming back home to work as an architect in Saudi Arabia. Speaking with him, we learn that there’s an ongoing social and infrastructural transformation in full swing; one in which the Jeddah art scene is “booming”.

At 29, Turki Gazzaz is part of the new generation of Saudi artists who dance the line between traditions and cultural openness; a change catalyzed by an increasingly connected population.

Drawn to the creative world, Turki began his career at the Saudi branch of an advertising agency, Focus Euro RSCG, in Jeddah as a creative assistant. Later on, he traveled to Canada to study architecture at Montreal’s McGill University.

After graduating in 2010, Turki chose to develop his professional career by returning to Saudi Arabia. He joined Saudi Diyar Consultants, one of the region’s largest design agencies specializing in architecture and urban planning.

A new identity

A couple of years later Turki changed course, taking on a new challenge with four colleagues. They are currently setting up an architecture studio in Jeddah under the name ThreePointOneFourCo. In Jeddah’s Al Rawdah district, initiatives like Turki’s are increasingly present, with the youth being driven to start up on their entrepreneurial ideas.

Coming from a city that virtually hosts every worldwide nationality on a yearly basis, thanks to its proximity to the Kingdom’s Holy Sites, this young generation of Saudi Arabians feeds on the cultural mix that surrounds them, and crafts a new identity for itself: one that thinks connected, creative and global.

How is it to be an artist in Jeddah today?

Turki Hisham Gazzaz: The artistic scene in Jeddah is very booming, very energetic, there’s a lot of young artists and also more established artists that are working, a lot of galleries, and especially in the past five years, it’s been getting bigger and bigger.

What about the city itself?

Turki Hisham Gazzaz: Jeddah is a very energetic city, also it is very diverse, it has always been a place with different cultures, because it is on the gateway of Mecca so all the pilgrims come through Jeddah. Its proximity to the sea also means that it is a very open city, open to new ideas, to different people, different cultures, so it’s good.

How do you explain this diversity?

Turki Hisham Gazzaz: Most of the residents of Jeddah are not actually from Jeddah, they come from all different parts of the world, so this diversity is really embedded in the culture and I think that the artistic scene thrives on this kind of diversity.

What are the main themes Jeddah artists are exploring nowadays?

Turki Hisham Gazzaz: It mostly deals with this transitional phase that the country is going through, going between tradition and modernity, questioning a lot of the social ideas that are embedded in the culture and questioning the role art can play in the progression of our society also.

Which is your favourite district in Jeddah?

Turki Hisham Gazzaz: The district in Jeddah? Well, I work in Al Rawdah district. It is not a very big district but a lot of young businesses, a lot of creative businesses are opening up in that area and so it’s nice to work in a place where there is a lot of energy and a lot of young people.