Each year Bahrain witnesses a season of cultural events that get everyone talking and opens Bahrain’s culture and society to the world; while displaying the best aspects of what makes Bahrain special and unique.
Whose culture? The Spring of Culture is actually a celebration of the brightest and best aspects of Global culture; hence, music legends like Eric Clapton and Jose Carreras.
But it also celebrates local and regional culture; including exhibitions of Bahraini artists, concerts of Bahraini performers and showcases for the brightest talents across the Arabian Gulf region.
Although Bahrain may be small; we boast some of the most beautiful venues for these events, such as the one year-old National Theatre. The events are scattered across picturesque locations across the Bahrain islands; a network of galleries, museums, auditoriums and places of outstanding natural beauty.
Some of the events for this year’s Spring of Culture have particular significance for Bahrain, such as the traditional folk music event to mark the opening of the Tree of Life Visitor’s Centre. The Tree of Life is a 400-year-old tree that stands alone in the Bahrain desert and has long been something of a national symbol.
There is also the opening of the Bayt al-Ghus (diving house); one of 16 world UNESCO heritage properties which constitute Bahrain’s historical pearling trail. The location contains an exhibition facility enabling visitors to better understand what life was like for the ordinary Bahraini workers who were part of our pearling industry.
Events also include hundreds of Bahraini children in drama and art workshops, such as a “psychodrama” event overseen by the Royal Society for Orphans.
The Spring of Culture emphasizes a number of factors that make Bahrain unique:
It is not just that in neighbouring countries such a diverse array of cultural events would be impossible; states where music, dance and non-Muslim cultural traditions are frowned upon.
It is also that Bahrain’s very culture is rooted in cultural diversity. As a small group of islands with an economy historically based on trade, Bahrain has always been cosmopolitan. Our everyday foods have roots in the cooking and ingredients of Arabia, South Asia, Persia and beyond; but we have taken all these diverse cultural elements and made them uniquely Bahraini.
In the twentieth century Bahrain’s population exploded: In part, because of people from all over the world choosing to make Bahrain their home. This has presented challenges, but was nothing essentially new for our culture, which is rooted in assimilation and embracing the outside world.
Islamists who on occasions opposed the Spring of Culture for bringing “foreign cultural practices” are the least Bahraini of all in their attitude: Bahrain has never been about keeping out “foreign” cultures; and if we listened to the claims of such people then this would be the death of everything good about Bahrain’s culture.
For example; if you visit some of the many Bahraini art galleries, you will be hit by a diverse array of colours, textures and themes. Many of these artists represent a fusion of modernist exuberance; with traditional themes and motifs. You’ll see echoes of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, African or American art, but brought together with a Bahraini sensibility.
So the Spring of Culture is an event which can make us proud and grateful to be Bahraini. We get to sample a dazzling array of local, regional and global arts and culture; but the Spring of Culture can only be what it is by being hosted across dozens of gorgeous Bahraini locations.