AMSTERDAM: It all started with a yellow cow and a leap of faith.
In 2008, Aarnout Helb, a young Dutch lawyer who studied at Leiden University, was reading the Holy Qur’an while trying to piece together a larger global narrative from a legal and artistic perspective.
While poring over the various passages in the holy book, he came across the story of the yellow cow from Surat Al-Baqarah.
It ignited something within him. After a quick internet search, a piece of art by a Saudi artist popped up — about that very same yellow cow mentioned in the Qur’an. He couldn’t believe his luck. He sent a message to the artist right away.
The artist wrote back. And that was how Helb serendipitously started his long relationship with Saudi artists which resulted in him creating the Greenbox Museum of Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Holland.
The artist who made the Yellow Cow piece was none other than world-renowned Saudi artist Dr. Ahmed Mater, who has since become his friend. Today, the book by Mater — with the yellow cow on the cover — sits proudly on the main table upon entering the museum space. Pieces from the yellow cow project have been acquired by Helb — and then some.
• In 2008, Aarnout Helb, a young Dutch lawyer who studied at Leiden University, was reading the Holy Qur’an while trying to piece together a larger global narrative from a legal and artistic perspective. While poring over the various passages in the holy book, he came across the story of the yellow cow from Surat Al- Baqarah.
• It ignited something within him. After a quick internet search, a piece of art by a Saudi artist popped up — about that very same yellow cow mentioned in the Qur’an. He couldn’t believe his luck. He sent a message to the artist right away.
• The artist wrote back. And that was how Helb serendipitously started his long relationship with Saudi artists which resulted in him creating the Greenbox Museum of Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Holland.
Helb is an unlikely connector to Saudi Arabia’s art scene. Today, at 58 years old, he’s a bit of an introvert, mostly working alone around his space, which he likes to refer to as his “cabinet of curiosities.”
He started to piece together the collection based on what captivated his imagination and fascinated his sensibilities.
After the constant misrepresentation in the news following the tragic events of 9/11, where several of the hijackers were Saudi-born, Helb kept that fascination tucked away until 2008 when he started to really see a shift in the world.
He refers to that time as a global “mental prison,” where Islam and the West seemingly couldn’t cooperate and he wanted to try and get to the bottom of things.
“I started this in a very complex way — it’s always difficult to explain, but it was influenced very much by 9/11. And the period after that, because I didn’t start right away. I started in 2008, which is much, much later but the world was in some kind of mental prison after that.
“You know, these ideas that Islam and the West — or whatever you call it — can’t work together. And to my mind, it made no sense for Holland within the NATO structure as friends of the US to try and reorganize Afghanistan into our vision of how a country should work,” he told Arab News.
“My knowledge about Saudi Arabia prior to this museum was very much influenced by the fact that I have Indonesian roots, and Indonesia is one of the largest Islamic countries in terms of population. And there has always been a very strong relationship between Holland from its Indonesian colonizing context — specifically the Hijaz region because of Makkah and Madinah — so we’ve been involved with making money and taking care of pilgrims at the same time,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia culturally is extremely important for the world — not because you have oil in Dhahran, not because in Riyadh you have a nice royal family; it’s important because people from all over the world travel to Makkah and Madinah,” Helb said.
His first visit to Saudi Arabia was in 2013 after many years of surrounding himself with the Kingdom’s art.
The reason the trip was delayed was because he was, and is, adamant at remaining independent. Every single piece in the collection was curated carefully and thoughtfully by him and not influenced by anyone else.
It’s hard to gauge how many pieces he has in the collection, because some are part of a series, but he estimates that he has over 100 works.
“Although the museum started in dead center Amsterdam, at some point, the space was not big enough for me. It was a rented space and I went looking to buy something within the budget I have, and this is a small warehouse, where the collection — which is not my private collection, I finance it privately — but it’s a public space for people to visit.
“It has statutes about what it should do. And the art, although owned by me, is bought with the statutes in mind. And it’s given into use to the foundation for public viewing and research. I take that seriously.”
According to Helb, three types of visitors typically came through the doors.
“The Dutch visitors come because I’m here; the international visitors who somehow find me and usually have some interest in the Middle East — they don’t come completely out of the blue — which happened more when I was still in the center because that was easy to come; and Saudis actually visiting … those I find most interesting because I learn about the art from them,” he said.
He has been to the kingdom several times since but his home base is in Holland.
Last year, Helb moved his museum to a remote location in Hoofddorp, where he took his own time unwrapping each piece and putting it in its new place — something he realized was a blessing.
Helb is still deciding on the exact shade he wants to paint the museum and isn’t sure if he wants to replicate the old wall’s tint, deliberating over the exact green hue that might grace the walls of the new Greenbox.
Ironically, and perhaps fittingly, the color green in the museum’s name was not chosen as a patriotic nod to the Saudi flag but rather due to a personal connection to Helb, who admired a painting in his home with a green tone which relaxed him.
The new location brought in a slew of unexpected visitors: Taxi drivers with origins in North Africa, many of whom reside on the outskirts of Amsterdam because it is more affordable.
Those Dutch nationals with strong pride in their Arab or Muslim roots usually don’t bike or use local public transport, so they come with their cars, park and just wander in.
The space is just a 15-minute drive from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which is a five-hour flight from the closest Saudi city.
To schedule a visit or to find out more about the Saudi artists showcased in the museum, contact Helb via www.greenboxmuseum.com or on Instagram (@greenbox_museum).
JEDDAH: Under the Saudi law of cybercrimes, pranksters can face a punishment of SR5 million (more than $1.3 million) and three years in prison, according to a law expert.
Dr. Majed Garoub told Arab News that posting pranks on social media is a crime in Saudi Arabia, and it is classified as a violation of the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law.
“The punishment for such crime ranges from SR500,000 to SR5 million or imprisonment from six months to three years. However, both penalties can be applied, depending on the nature of the violating content.”
• Saudi law expert Dr. Majed Garoub said: ‘The punishment for such crime ranges from SR500,000 to SR5 million or imprisonment from six months to three years. However, both penalties can be applied, depending on the nature of the violating content.’
• Speaking about the difference from a legal perspective between the pranks that some people post on social media and what we see on television, Garoubs said that pranks on social media are different from those on TV as the latter present comedy shows.
• Hasan Faleh Al-Nahsi, a Saudi social media influencer, said that some social media users make pranks to collect as many followers as they can.
He added that posting pranks on social media is a violation even if it is a prank that has consent.
“A crime is a crime. We now have a law that criminalizes these activities and considers them as offensive. It is also considered a crime if someone reposts, likes or retweets a prank,” Garoub said.
Giving his personal opinion, the lawyer believes that anyone who reposts, likes or retweets a violating content should be penalized with the maximum punishment. However, he said that legal punishment takes the circumstances of every violation into consideration.
Garoub justified his point of view by saying that the first violator might have committed the content under the influence of certain emotional factors or be unaware of its negative effect, but the one who retweets or reposts it should have watched the content, reaffirming his belief in the content.
As for juvenile violators, Garoub said that young people are treated differently.
“The authorities require them to appear for investigation through a certain mechanism that takes into consideration their age and the presence of their guardians. There are special courts, youth detention centers for the offenders who are still underage,” he said.
He added that investigators and judges also consider the age of the violator and apply the punishments and imprisonment decisions to match their age and their illegal acts.
Speaking about the difference from a legal perspective between the pranks that some people post on social media and what we see on television, Garoubs said that pranks on social media are different from those on TV as the latter present comedy shows.
“Legally, the two are different. The TV shows are subject to the regulations of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media while the violations posted on social media platforms are subject to the Anti-Cyber Crime Law,” he said.
Hasan Faleh Al-Nahsi, a Saudi social media influencer, said that some social media users make pranks to collect as many followers as they can.
“Some of them also think that it is a means to please their followers, and that has become a phenomenon on social media. However, people should be aware that these activities are unlawful. Awareness campaigns should also be conducted to warn social media users against the negative impact of these illicit activities,” Al-Nahsi told Arab News.
According to Khaled Al-Zahrani, a specialist in psychology, social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok and many others, have attracted various segments of society of both genders and different age groups for different reasons.
“Many young and adult social media users have found these social media applications a place to seek fame and even an income. For these reasons, these users sometimes tend to talk about controversial issues or tackle them in a funny way. Their goal is to gain followers and increase the view numbers of the materials they produce or publish,” Al-Zahrani said.
Al-Zahrani said that these people’s legal knowledge about cybercrimes is limited. They may also be unaware of the society’s cultural background, and this is perhaps because they are exposed to different sources of cultures and information and they think such things are accepted in Saudi society.
“These people are controlled by the rules of the social media platform they are using, which they will be penalized for in case they violate them,” he said.
In the case of others, Al-Zahrani said, some of those who produce prank content may be trying to market themselves as comedians. “However, the goal is money,” he said.
JUBAIL: Young Saudis will receive training in advanced technologies, including robot and game programming, at a “digital carnival” kicking off in Jubail Industrial City on Sunday.
The five-day carnival at Al-Fanateer Cultural Center is organized by the Lifelong Learning Committee of the Royal Commission for Jubail, in cooperation with the Tuwaiq Academy, under the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones.
The digital carnival is in line with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, which seeks to qualify one programmer for every 100 Saudi citizens by 2030.
Saad Al-Harbi, Head of the Lifelong Learning Committee in Jubail Industrial City
It aims to inspire and train young people in modern technologies, hone professionals’ technical skills, and implement technical programs for Jubail Industrial City residents.
Saad Al-Harbi, head of the Lifelong Learning Committee in Jubail Industrial City, said that the digital carnival is in line with the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 in digital transformation, which seeks to qualify one programmer for every 100 Saudi citizens by 2030.
• The five-day carnival at Al-Fanateer Cultural Center is organized by the Lifelong Learning Committee of the Royal Commission for Jubail, in cooperation with the Tuwaiq Academy, under the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones.
• Training programs and technical events will be available for all age groups, along with activities to help improve the tech capabilities of the next generation through Tuwaiq Academy programs.
It also falls in line with the Human Capability Development Program, and the concept and objectives of learning cities, the most prominent of which is creating an educational community, expanding the use of modern learning technologies, and contributing to sustainable development and entrepreneurship.
Training programs and technical events will be available for all age groups, along with activities to help improve the tech capabilities of the next generation through Tuwaiq Academy programs for juniors and professionals.
Al-Harbi said that the junior section will offer seven training programs: The ABCs of programming, artificial intelligence, robot programming, digital manufacturing, game programming, mobile application programming, and cybersecurity.
The professional section will offer four programs: Understanding the internet and website programming, building applications, building websites, and an introduction to interface design and user experience.
JAKARTA: Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim, Saudi minister of economy and planning, met with Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime and investment affairs, in Jakarta, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
They discussed issues of common interest and ways to strengthen bilateral relations. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the G20 development ministerial meeting hosted by Indonesia on the island of Belitung.
During the two-day high-level forum, Al-Ibrahim underlined the Kingdom’s steadfast commitment to renewing global cooperation and achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
He said the G20 meeting was an opportunity to work more closely together and put forward concrete actions to support developing countries and foster inclusive, resilient and socially, economically and environmentally sustainable recovery efforts.
He added that as the world’s fastest-growing economy, the Kingdom is proud to renew and reaffirm its commitment to achieving these goals.
“International cooperation is a key priority for the Kingdom, and we remain more committed than ever to work closely with our international partners to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs,” he said.
“To do this, we must restore faith in the multilateral framework. We are fully aligned with the G20 ministerial vision statement’s claim that multilateralism is not an option but a necessity if we want to create a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable world.”
Saudi Arabia has already taken steps to accelerate its path to achieving the UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
Rapid and decisive measures taken by the Kingdom have enabled it to limit the economic impact of COVID-19, which set the foundation for today’s robust growth.
Alaa Zaher Q. Al-Ban is the chair of the interior design department and assistant professor at Dar Al-Hekma University.
The decorated academic is also an adviser, consultant and expert for multiple national initiatives in the Kingdom. She has a multi-disciplinary design background in interior design, architecture and planning.
Al-Ban was also the dean of Dar Al-Hekma University’s school of design and architecture from 2020 until 2021.
Prior to her contributions to Dar Al-Hekma University, she was a partner and head of the interior design department at the Abdulkader and Abdullah Gadilbalban Co. for Trading and Construction, where she worked for nine years.
She completed her Ph.D. degree in design and planning with honors in a record time of just three years at the University of Colorado, Denver, US.
In 2010, she was awarded a master of fine arts degree in design from the California College of the Arts.
She achieved a bachelor’s degree in interior design from Dar Al-Hekma University, Jeddah.
Among some of her other achievements were receiving the Dar Al-Hekma Award for outstanding performance in both 2011 and 2019.
She has also served as a jury member for the Jeddah Award for Creativity KSA in 2021, and the American University of Sharjah, in the UAE, in 2019.
Al-Ban supported the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plans by speaking at the INDEX Design Talks at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, where distinguished guests discussed Saudi Arabia’s futuristic design and training the next generation of Saudi workers.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center recently signed an agreement to provide emergency food assistance to those affected by floods and to people in dire need in Sudan.
The agreement was signed by the assistant supervisor general of KSrelief for operations and programs, Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, at the center’s headquarters in Riyadh.
Through the project, 30,515 food baskets will be distributed in Darfur, Sennar state, Al-Manaqil district, Jazirah state, and the city of Berber, helping 183,490 individuals.
This new project is one of the many humanitarian and relief projects provided by the Kingdom, represented by the center, to alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people following torrential rains and floods, and to support their food security.
Recently, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called on the international community to help Sudan in the aftermath of the floods that have recently swept vast areas of the country, causing substantial damage and resulting in numerous deaths.
The secretary-general of the Arab Red Crescent and Red Cross Organization, Saleh bin Hamad Al-Tuwaijri, also called on humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the Sudanese people.