Minister of Culture and Information Abdul Aziz Khoja opened the Saudi Intellectual Conference and the exhibition on its sidelines here on Monday. The second conference is being held seven years since the first meeting.
There were discussions in the morning sessions of the conference, which was inaugurated in the evening.
Participants from different walks of life, governmental or nongovernmental, contributed to the lively debate. The session on public libraries, the first, was chaired by Faisal Bin Moammar. In this session, Hisham Al-Abbas, Rashid Al-Qahtani and Faten Al-Muflih participated.
Another session on international agreements and relations was chaired by Ziad Al-Drees, with Ibrahim Al-Shadi, Abu Bakr Baqda and Yousif Al-Saudun taking part in this session.
Seven years ago, intellectuals demanded greater liberty and they called on decision makers to shape the cultural discourse. Though the first meeting came up with very important recommendations to take care of intellectuals, encourage authors, and spur nongovernmental organizations to adopt special cultural projects, they, however, are yet to be implemented.
Intellectuals have their own assessment of the cultural scene in the Kingdom. Nassir Al-Rashid, a professor of Arabic literature at the King Saud University, confirmed that one of the recommendations to establish an Academy of Arabic Language came 40 years ago and it has not been implemented. He said that for 40 years, seminars and workshops have been held.
The ambitions were always to activate some aspects of cultural activity hoping that would edify the country. Al-Rashid clarified that the reasons behind the lack of implementation of these projects had to do with the relationship between the intellectual and the authority. Additionally, some of the ideas suggested by literary men and intellectuals can cost a great deal of money.
With regard to the name given to the conference, Abdullah Al-Majed, one of the participants, said that the name was given to expand the circle of participation. According to Al-Majed, this conference is being held in different circumstances at all levels. He said that he was optimistic that the conference would bear fruit as the minister of culture is himself an intellectual and a poet and is aware of this responsibility.
In fact, any country that spends and invests money in cultural and educational aspects is not looking for financial reward. The investment is in human resources. According to Al-Majid this cannot be clearer; there is a need to expand the circle of expenditure on culture, build big projects in this domain, and develop King Fahd’s Center for Culture.
In addition to that, Al-Majid suggested that the country set up a council for arts and literatures to oversee the activities of presenting state prizes for science and arts. He also called on activating the role of reading books so that youth would not be at the mercy of the Internet. It would be far more effective to compete with the Internet rather than putting our young people under the impact of Internet.
Despite diversity in the papers presented at the meeting, Mohammed Al-Mansour Al-Shisha, a storyteller, expressed his disappointment about this conference saying that the papers came up with nothing new. These papers added nothing to the cultural scene, he commented. He criticized what he considered as a focus on general thing and lack of focus on the exclusivity that we are all looking for.