Despite the many stereotypes about residents of Gulf countries, many people prefer creative, sustainable boutiques to shopping in big glitzy malls, though their options are typically fairly limited. Which might explain why Bahrain’s Market 338 has become such a popular destination.
Inaugurated by Al Riwaq Art Space, the temporary souq in Manama’s Adliya district started with just a handful artists showcasing their contemporary recycled designs. Three years later, the hub attracts roughly 40 designers from across the globe.
During the three weeks that Market 338 goes live each year, residents of Manama and visitors have a chance to engage in a variety of workshops and film screenings, and browse more than a dozen stalls featuring fun art pieces made from glass bottles, recycled tires and disused road signs.
Market 338 has become so popular that many artists have branded their work to fit with this particular concept, artistic director and architect Sarah Kanoo told Your Middle East.
“I think in Bahrain there is this attitude of importing art, design, music etc. So we are trying to do the opposite, to bring it from within, to excite people and have them design. We have a lot of creative people in Bahrain but they just never feel motivated enough to do it, they never get the chance or the platform to show themselves,” said Kanoo.
Now Bahraini artists have the opportunity to market themselves at home in Bahrain and throughout the Gulf, which has experienced something of a renaissance in the last few years.
Dozens of talented and eco-aware artists have burst onto the scene in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and elsewhere in the region. And this isn’t simply an Arab Spring phenomenon, though it can be said that the political spotlight has made other aspects of Arab society more visible.
Albeit contemporary in its concept and execution, Market 338 demonstrates a deep respect for the existing souq culture, which is partially what distinguishes this creative space from similar programs in Europe and the United States.
While recycled art is sometimes frowned upon in some corners of society, the genre is growing as artists refine their skills and material palette. This is good for art and this is great for the earth.