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Traditional Costumes and Heritage of Saudi Arabia

Traditional Costumes and Heritage of Saudi Arabia

Richard Wilding, 2 June 2021, 14.00

The costumes and jewellery of Saudi Arabia reveal a great diversity of regional and tribal identities, reflecting the Kingdom’s contrasting urban and rural, settled and nomadic, desert and mountain environments. The Arabian Peninsula sits at the centre of ancient pilgrimage and trade routes, and this has resulted in centuries of influence from textiles, beads and jewellery passing through the region.

Despite this fascinating cultural history, there has been only limited research and documentation of the costumes of Saudi Arabia. Over the past ten years Richard Wilding has worked with Mansoojat, a group of Saudi women in Jeddah, to document the Kingdom’s traditional costumes and heritage. The results of this work have been published in Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia (ACC Art Books), a 320 page book released in 2021.

In this talk, richly illustrated with his photography, Richard Wilding describes the research trips undertaken with Mansoojat throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, his photography of the Mansoojat costume collection and the process of editing the resulting publication. After the presentation, Richard will be joined by some of his Mansoojat colleagues in Jeddah to answer questions from the audience.

Richard Wilding is a London based producer, filmmaker and photographer. He specialises in exhibitions, books and films documenting heritage, cultural identity and costume in the Middle East, and is currently working on community projects in Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Richard is a trustee of the Mansoojat Foundation, a charity formed by a group of Saudi women to preserve and document the traditional costumes of Saudi Arabia. Richard has conducted numerous research trips through Saudi Arabia with Mansoojat and has undertaken studio photography of Mansoojat’s unique collection of costumes and jewellery. In 2016 he produced a film about the costumes and heritage of Saudi Arabia and he has recently edited and produced the book Traditional Costumes of Saudi Arabia, published by ACC Art Books in 2021. The publication features essays on the diverse regional and tribal identities of Arabia by a number of Saudi academics and local experts.

Since 2012, Richard has been Creative Director of Gulan, a UK registered charity which promotes Kurdish culture. He has worked on community projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and with the Kurdish diaspora in the UK. In 2019, Richard co-founded Eye on Heritage as a platform for local filmmakers in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East and North Africa region to present their heritage and culture to an international audience.

Richard has given public talks at Leighton House Museum, Asia House and the Ismaili Centre, London. He has given lectures for the Reconciliation and Peacebuilding programme at the University of Winchester, for the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading, for the Sackler Research Forum at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies as well as at the RSAA.

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