Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center: Largest in the Arab World!
By Ruqyah Sweidan / Arab America Contributing Writer
Around the world, artistic expression is a vital component of life. Art gives people community, identity and richness. Arabs are no different in their passion for the arts. Across the region, there have been many structures built for this purpose. Libraries, theaters, and culture houses have been around for centuries. They reveal yet another layer of Arab identity that is not merely tied to religion. This article will talk about the illustrious Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre (JACC). It is a prominent cultural center and opera house in Kuwait. It is also the largest of its kind in the Middle East.
What is the JACC?
To begin with, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center is a multidisciplinary public space. The organization aims to entertain, educate and inspire Kuwaitis and people from around the world who come to experience it. In addition to shows, the center offers a range of interactive events in music, theater, film, workshops and language. There are programs for every generation, and they strive to address as many sectors of society as possible. This center is also significant for the space it provides for dialogue. It works with other stakeholders like the US Embassy in Kuwait, to bring various projects to life. Performers, contributors and visitors can share their skills and knowledge and empower each other. Hence, this performance hall is an influential pillar of the region.
Architecturally, the complex is splendid. There are four buildings, which are organized around entrance courtyards off a civic plaza. They are described as “jewels” surrounded by a great garden park. The design, of course, was inspired by Islamic tradition. The four buildings consist of full span steel envelopes. These walls are decorated with patterns that emerge to three dimensional shapes and create spaces below a complex geometric form. The “jewel” therefore houses the functional interior. As a result, the contrast of light and shadow emphasize the grandeur of the space. The interior is even more complex. The buildings encircled by the jewel are constructed of concrete and include a large basement level connected with a series of tunnels. The buildings themselves are independently circulated with stairs and lifts and walkways.
Over the years, there have been a multitude of milestone performances and collaborations within the center. “The Green Project” had the honor of being the first American artists to perform in the center when it had opened in March of 2017. Chelsey Green and The Green Project played music that fused traditional classical technique with R & B, Pop, Funk, Jazz and Hip Hop. This was historical in Kuwait. The admission was free to the public.
Another popular show was put on by Zak Musawi. Born in Kuwait, the singer grew up in New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz & Blues. He is known in Kuwait for his evolving style. His show at the JACC featured an intriguing experience in bold music and exciting stage presentation. Musawi encourages his followers and colleagues to push boundaries and to not stay in one comfort zone for too long. He therefore offers himself as a collaborator to help other local artists gain experience through working with him and expressing themselves. Hence, the center is a hub for character, drama and motivation.
Moreover, the center promotes charitable events. Before the pandemic, the Jerusalem Arabic Music Ensemble performed on the stage. The group was established in 2009, consisting of professors at the National Music Conservatory and professional Palestinian musicians. They tour the Arab world, participating in many music and art festivals. A more detailed calendar of the Center’s numerous and international events can be found here.
A Jewel of the Arab World
In conclusion, the JACC is a platform to be hailed for its educational and cultural exchange. Not only is it an entertainment hall, it is also a culture powerhouse and productive space for the region. It is an accessible opportunity for both Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis to re-interpret the arts and express their identities through this work. The facility is also successful because of the great investment that the government and builders made in using traditional influence and modern technology to build such a complex place. The theaters, concert halls, exhibitions, libraries, and a public park comprise a harmonious luxury that could compete with any other of its kind in the world.
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