Creative kids: Saudi, Dutch collaboration seeks to boost innovative thinking – Arab News

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RIYADH: Experts from the Kingdom and the Netherlands are working together at this year’s Saudi Design Festival to nurture creative thinking among children.
Representing two groups — the Saudi Adhlal and the Dutch NExAR — the experts’ aim is to share the best elements of their nations’ design culture, to learn from each other and to foster innovation.
According to NExAR’s founder, Dennis Meulenbroeks, one of the primary focuses of the collaboration is building a community for children to grow their creativity in design rather than conforming to structured educational thought.
“I believe that if you teach design thinking, critical thinking, and out-of-the-box thinking at an early age, children will benefit from that in the future,” he told Arab News.
He added that although children were born creative, they were taught at school to abide by the rules — to color between the lines, for instance — which restricted individuality.
“When a baby is born, they are creative, and then you come to elementary school and one of the first things that a teacher is doing is killing the creativity,” he said.
This limited children’s potential to develop problem-solving skills and to brainstorm creative and unique ideas, he added.


The children’s design workshop is open every day after 6 p.m. at the festival, which is being held in the Jax district of Diriyah. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah) 

NExAR describes itself as a “bridge building initiative between the Netherlands and the Arab world in the field of design.” Adhlal is a research-based consultancy founded by Princess Nourah Al-Faisal that aims to equip future generations of Saudi designers with the tools they need to succeed and build on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan.
The Saudi Design Garden workshop in the Adhlal warehouse at the design festival also involves the Playroom, a group set up in 2014 to nurture divergent thinking in children under the age of five.
According to its co-founder, Bessma bint Bader, the workshop’s aim is to create child-led play challenges that empower youngsters to innovate and build strong social skills.
“Children will always do the most unexpected and intelligent things when given the tools, support and freedom,” she told Arab News.
Stephanie Assio, a design-thinking specialist with NExAR, said the workshop posed children with thought-provoking challenges intended to inspire them to create out-of-the-box solutions.
“It’s all about design and innovation in education, creativity and coming up with programs to teach kids in new ways,” she said.
When the children enter the workshop, they are introduced to four different challenges. One of which is to design a nontraditional space for people who fly.
“This garden is for people who fly. You don’t have legs, you only have wings,” Assio said.
“Then children are posed the question of how to design furniture for people who fly.”
Other challenges include creating a garden using limited space on a balcony and designing a space to constrain furniture that “wants to keep running away.”
“Naturally, kids are creative thinkers, they know how to problem solve, and they know how to think limitlessly,” Assio said. “But over time, that creative thinking is drained out of them through the educational system and through the way life is.”
The children’s design workshop is open every day after 6 p.m. at the festival, which is being held in the Jax district of Diriyah.
The collaboration between Adhlal and NExAR began during the Saudi Design Festival in 2019 when Princess Nourah began discussing her goals and ambitions with Meulenbroeks.
“We had a booth to explain what design thinking can do in business and education, and we started with a small dialogue about our thoughts about design and what it can do in the future for different countries. Then Princess Nourah told us her vision, and we felt the connection,” he said.
He commended the princess on her initiative to strengthen the design community in Saudi Arabia.
“Everything you see here is a compliment to Princess Nourah. She had a vision and she had a dream. For us, even if we were not here, she would still have done something amazing.”
RIYADH: Spreading the truth about climate change and the need for sustainability is very important in relation to a changing climate, and how it impacts life on Earth, said panelists at a discussion hosted by the Swedish and Swiss embassies to the Kingdom.
Swedish Ambassador Niclas Trouvé and his Swiss counterpart André Schaller jointly organized the discussion on climate and sustainability perspectives on Thursday night, at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Riyadh, where some of the best drivers in motorsport have gathered ahead of Season 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
The much anticipated first race on Friday night began with a double-header in Diriyah, providing an exhilarating race experience using electric cars.
Run under LED lights at the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Riyadh, the night races, taking place on Jan. 28 and 29, are being held in the Kingdom for the fourth consecutive year since the venue joined the calendar in 2018.
Speaking to Arab News, Trouvé said: “We had an important discussion in the panel. The occasion why we are here is the ABB-sponsored Formula E race. What is interesting now is the feel here in the Kingdom, and also of course in Sweden and Switzerland and the rest of the world, the enormous push that we feel now for sustainable green solutions.
“As I shared with the audience here at the discussion, almost half of the new cars that were sold in Sweden last year were non-carbon, nonfossil, i.e electric or hybrid cars. Around the world, we now see an enormous push for electric vehicles like the Formula E races, as we will see on Friday night in Diriyah.
“Sweden and Switzerland’s embassies co-hosted the panel discussion, and we are both at the forefront, we want to cooperate with the Kingdom, we want co-creation and innovation together with our Saudi friends and we are ready for business and investment to make the Vision 2030 a reality so that Saudi Arabia also can continue on this very important role towards the sustainable carbon-free future,” said the envoy.
Schaller said: “Congratulation to Saudi Arabia and also to the ABB for bringing Formula E World Championship races to Diriyah for the fourth consecutive time. It is a race to the future — for the sustainable future — and it also crosses the rich history and heritage in the Kingdom in front of the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site.
“It’s also about the message, the message that if you can do races like this with sustainable and renewable energy-backed electric cars, you can apply the same for commercial vehicles,” said Schaller adding “these cars do not carry passengers, but it carries an important message.”
BANGKOK: Thailand’s labor and tourism sector chiefs on Friday said they were looking forward to exploring opportunities in Saudi Arabia in the wake of a restoration of ties between the two countries following the Thai prime minister’s visit to Riyadh.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha was in the Saudi capital on Jan. 25 and 26 on the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the first top leadership meeting between the nations in more than three decades.
One of the agreements signed during the trip was a labor cooperation deal, which Thai government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said on Thursday was expected to take force within two months.
Saudi Arabia was at one time a popular destination for Thai expats with more than 300,000 of them living and working in the Kingdom during the 1980s. Currently, there are less than 1,350 Thai workers in Saudi Arabia, employed mainly as welders, technicians, and household staff, according to Thailand’s labor ministry data.
Aranya Sakulkosol, chairman of the Thai Overseas Manpower Association, a government-affiliated recruitment agency for overseas jobs, told Arab News that the resumption of diplomatic relations was “good news, as Saudi Arabia is also carrying on the developing plan that will provide opportunity for Thai laborers especially those with skills.”
She said that for many years there had been interest in opportunities in Saudi Arabia, as in the past many of those who worked in the Kingdom were able to establish themselves upon return.
“The association expects to start sending the pilot group to work in Saudi Arabia within two months, following the government’s plan. We will see how Thai workers adjust to the employer in Saudi Arabia,” Sakulkosol added.
The southeast Asian nation is also gearing up for more tourist arrivals from Saudi Arabia, following an announcement by the Kingdom’s national flag carrier Saudia of its plan to resume direct flights to Thailand in May.
The Thai government has estimated that the increase in visitors from Saudi Arabia will generate an additional $150 million for its economy.
Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Arab News that while the coronavirus pandemic situation made it difficult to predict how many Saudis would visit the country, authorities wanted to build on two outstanding areas that could attract travelers: Medical and shopping tourism.
He said: “We plan to do the proactive marketing, including making a promotion plan with airline and travel agencies. Many agencies that we have partnered with previously focused on other Middle East countries such as the UAE, or Jordan. We will now also focus on Saudi Arabia.
“TAT will also plan a roadshow to introduce services in Thailand, such as hotels, to get to know their customers in Saudi Arabia and sell their products there. This could be done soon, probably before June. We have high hopes for increasing the number of visitors,” he added.
 
MAKKAH: An ambitious scheme encouraging eating establishments to provide Braille menus for visually impaired customers has been launched by a Saudi volunteer organization.
The initiative, led by a team from the volunteer administration at Al-Ahyaa Centers Association in Makkah, aims to promote the tactile writing system in restaurants and cafes throughout the Kingdom.
Instigated as part of World Braille Day celebrations, organizers expect a similar national eatery ordering project for the deaf and people with speaking difficulties to be served up in the near future.
Maha Al-Sharif, head of the Rouh Makkah volunteer team, said the idea came about after she witnessed a visually impaired person having each item on a restaurant’s food and drinks menu read out to them.
• During the launch of the initiative, attended by a number of visually impaired individuals and their families, a hot and cold drinks menu written in Braille was made available for the first time at Cafe Atrab, in Makkah.
• The team’s public relations officer, Fatima Al-Otaibi, congratulated the volunteers on their work, along with visually impaired Sami Al-Zahrani, who drew up the new menu.
• Cafe Atrab owner, Manal Al-Maalawi, thanked the Rouh Makkah team for launching the scheme, adding that her establishment had been honored to officially sponsor the voluntary initiative and be the first cafe to jointly implement the idea.
Her volunteer team, established seven months ago, is looking to promote the Braille service nationally.
Alaa Al-Tuairaqi, who is visually impaired, said: “For the first time in my life, I will hopefully be able to order without suffering. It is a wonderful, outside-the-box idea that has been well-received by visually impaired individuals. The initiative will help spare them from some of the life problems they experience daily.”
He pointed out that visually impaired people often felt embarrassed having to ask for menus to be described to them, especially in busy outlets.
Associate team leader, Nourah Al-Maliki, noted that the integration of groups, such as the visually impaired, into Saudi society was an important aspect of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
During the launch of the initiative, attended by a number of visually impaired individuals and their families, a hot and cold drinks menu written in Braille was made available for the first time at Cafe Atrab, in Makkah.
The team’s public relations officer, Fatima Al-Otaibi, congratulated the volunteers on their work, along with visually impaired Sami Al-Zahrani, who drew up the new menu.
Cafe Atrab owner, Manal Al-Maalawi, thanked the Rouh Makkah team for launching the scheme, adding that her establishment had been honored to officially sponsor the voluntary initiative and be the first cafe to jointly implement the idea.
She said: “This is volunteer work and national duty. We welcome at any time our visually impaired sisters and brothers who will have a 50 percent discount on drinks for life.
“We also welcome any voluntary initiative or idea that serves the community, especially the special groups who are dear to our hearts.”
JEDDAH: A young Saudi has become a social media star with his videos in which he mimics his silent-movie hero, Charlie Chaplin.
Mohammed Fawaz Al-Shimmari recreates in impressive detail the exploits of Chaplin’s famous “Little Tramp” character, a familiar figure around the world for more than a century with his toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, single-breasted black suit, white shirt and black tie.
His four silent Chaplin videos, produced in an authentic-looking vintage style, have collectively attracted more than half a million views, and the comments sections are filled with positive messages and “love” emojis in appreciation of his remarkable work and talent.
“It is a difficult task to make people laugh through silent comedy,” Al-Shimmari told Arab News. He said that he gained thousands of followers in a single day when he posted his first Chaplin video.
• Mohammed Fawaz Al-Shimmari recreates in impressive detail the exploits of Chaplin’s famous ‘Little Tramp’ character, a familiar figure around the world for more than a century with his toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, single-breasted black suit, white shirt and black tie.
• His four silent Chaplin videos, produced in an authentic-looking vintage style, have collectively attracted more than half a million views, and the comments sections are filled with positive messages and ‘love’ emojis in appreciation of his remarkable work and talent.
The 22-year-old from Tabuk said he is a big fan of silent cinema and has seen as many of Chaplin’s films as he can. He has also watched documentaries and read books about the British actor, who was one of the biggest stars in the early days of Hollywood.
He said his favorite Chaplin movies are “The Circus” and the “The Kid,” and his favorite book about the actor is “Charlie Chaplin’s Own Story.”
Al-Shimmari said decided to recreate the work of Chaplin to entertain his family and followers and had no idea that his efforts would prove so popular with a wider audience.
“I started impersonating Charlie Chaplin out of my love for him, out of my love for his character as well as his life,” he said. “He faced a lot of difficulties in his life but the king of silent comedy still made people happy. After I took on his personality, many people asked me to do more scenes.”
The production of his videos is a solo effort, he said.
“I am three in one: Scriptwriter, actor and editor — I do everything by myself,” he added.
Al-Shimmari said he has loved to act since childhood, when he would grab his family’s attention by making them laugh with his unusual facial expressions.
“When we used to gather as a family, I had to include entertainment in our night,” he said. “So, I started off by impersonating some of my relatives and they were amazed by my act.”
He then began to impersonate Arab and Western actors and celebrities, filming himself and uploading the videos to his social media.
“I started to act like the late Kuwaiti actor Abdulhussain Abdulreda, Syrian actor Yasser Al-Azma, Saudi actor Nasser Al-Qasabi, Saudi singer Rabeh Saqer and other legendary Arab actors,” said Al-Shimmari. “At the same time I also impersonated American actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
“I am a lover of films and imitate international and Arab actors, and I was able to adapt to the surrounding environment to reach my goals and prove my talent in silent comedy and other artistic models.”
Asked if he aspires to a professional career in acting, he said he hopes film and television producers might notice his work.
RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Naval Forces continued a mixed bilateral maritime exercise with their Egyptian counterparts in the Red Sea, the Kingdom’s defense ministry said on Friday.
The “Morjan 17” exercise, which began on Jan. 23, is being held at King Faisal Naval Base in the Western Fleet.
The exercise witnessed a number of combat hypotheses, such as dealing with hostile targets using live ammunition, storming buildings, reconnaissance of beaches and islands, maneuvers for naval vessels in the Red Sea, and several lectures on various maritime and strategic fields.
#WATCH: Saudi and Egyptian #naval forces continue the ‘Morjan 17’ joint exercise at King Faisal Naval Base in the Western Fleet @modgovksa https://t.co/kxwZpVkxm4 pic.twitter.com/qwS2qKlcgF
“This exercise aims to strengthen relations and joint cooperation and raise the level of combat readiness and preparedness between the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the Egyptian Navy,” the ministry said.
It also aims to unify operational concepts between the two sides to confront regional threats and exchange expertise in methods of carrying out naval missions, it added.

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