“One of our missions is to change the mindset of the people, not to take everything as it comes,” says Bayan Al-Barak Kanoo, founder of Bahrain’s groundbreaking Al Riwaq Art Space. “The art we are [popularizing] is not an art to collect; it is an art to question.”
This is, perhaps, a rare approach to the powers of expression in the Gulf, whose arts scene has been accused of being for profit, rather than for love. But Kanoo and her space seem to tread a fine line between challenging cultural norms and flouting them. Above all, she insists to Wamda’s Nina Curley during an interview at the Second Annual Leading Women in Business Forum at The Capital Club Bahrain, "we must respect the culture.”
Setting up a space to question a society’s relationship to expression has, predictably, not been without challenges, including an extended period of overdraft. But, according to Kanoo, it’s all been worth it. “It’s not about making money… it’s our duty, at the end of the day.”
Looking to the future, Kanoo sees Bahrain’s place in the context of world culture, and Al Riwaq’s space therein: “We need to be a platform relating to the world, not just ourselves.” Al Riwaq might just represent a beginning.