By Avi Landau
Anyone who keeps up with world affairs has heard that the oil rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the world`s most “traditional”, conservative and reclusive regimes is starting to change. Among the reforms rumored to have taken place (or soon to be implemented) are: women being given the right to drive automoblies and attend certain sporting events, public cinemas being allowed to open, foreigners being allowed to apply for tourist visas(??!!) and the (partial privatization of the national oil company Aramco.
At least this is what we`ve been reading about or hearing in the news – but there is no way for us to confirm what is really going on. The evidence we DO have right here in Japan for the changes we`ve been hearing about taking place in Saudi Arabia is an eye-opening exhibition being held at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno – Roads tof Arabia – Archaological Treasures of Saudi Arabia which has been extended to run through April 13th ( it had originally been scheduled to close on March 18th).
The exhibition was a surprise (and evidence of change) for two reasons – first, I had never seen any exhibition of works on loan from Saudi Arabia before, and second, the works themselves did not focus on Islam (and the often astounding works of art, architecture and calligraphy inspired by it) – but on the pre-Islamic civilizations that once thrived (or at least left their archaeological mark on) in what is now the kingdom (many of which I had never heard of before). Who would have thought the Saudi government would sponsor an exhibition of pagan images! Not me. But along with all the other fascinated visitors who`ve been enjoying this show, I have to say thanks for this celebration of man and human civilization.
Here are some of the works on display (photography is permitted in all parts of the exhibition!)
Also at the National Museum is the newly opened exhibition: Echoes of a Masterpiece – the Lineage of Beauty in Japanese Art