Sunday, 02 August 2020


RIYADH: Saudi artist, Alaa Tarabzouni, has been selected to take part in a prestigious international digital arts residency this month.

Alaa will participate in the Making Marks: Connect ME Digital Residency – a joint initiative from the British Council and the Arab British Centre – which aims to connect the Gulf and the UK during Covid-19. 

The programme pairs 18-30-year-old artists based in the UK with artists based in the GCC, to create new, collaborative work that considers how digital tools can encourage connectivity across borders. 

Throughout August, Alaa will be paired with Northern Ireland artist Ellie Niblock, and together they will virtually develop their practice, create new collaborative work, and make new connections. They will also take part in online workshops, critique sessions and have access to ‘visiting’ artists and mentors over the four weeks.

Alaa, who is based in Riyadh, specialises in urbanity and the built environment, with her work influenced by her academic background and training in architecture.

Speaking about the residency, she said: “Being a part of the Making Marks digital residency is so exciting; the residency comes at a time where it isn’t purely reactive to the physical limitations brought about by the pandemic, rather the format for the residency is extremely thoughtful and fits so well with the conscious use of technology to transcend borders and allow for cultural exchange in this time. 

“My practice is not digitally driven, but rather is very much in relation to context and places/place making, I’m thrilled at the opportunity to challenge myself and also to be paired with a UK-based artist, it allows for us both to expand our horizons and to explore different mediums in our collaboration.”

Also speaking about the residency was Eilidh Kennedy McLean, Director British Council Saudi Arabia.

She said: “Congratulations to Alaa for being chosen to represent the Kingdom in this fantastic new programme. It is really valuable to have Saudi artists engage with those in the UK and have the opportunity to work together on innovative projects. I am hopeful that this initiative will further strengthen ties between the countries of the Gulf and the UK, and I look forward to seeing the end result.”

Alaa, is one of two artists to be selected from the Gulf for this first Connect Me Residency Call. She is joined by Omani artist, Rawan AlMahrouqi, who is paired up with Liverpudlian artist Alexis Maxwell. There will be another open call for artists in the Gulf later in the year.

The ConnectME digital programme has been devised as a way to stimulate international connections and creativity despite the restrictions on movement, as a result of Covid-19. ConnectME is a digital continuation of the Arab British Centre’s Making Marks programme, the recent climax of which was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

To find out more about the Arab British Centre’s Making Marks programme visit:

Notes to Editor

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Senior Communications Manager, Gulf Cluster - T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 

About Alaa Tarabzouni

Influenced by her academic background and training in architecture, Alaa Tarabzouni’s practice is concerned with urbanity and the built environment. Traditionally trained as an architect, with both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in architecture from Newcastle University in England and Pratt Institute in New York respectively.

Alaa considers context as her medium and it is consistently apparent in her practice; her most recent work Bait Al Wurud, was showcased at Durational Portrait at Athr Gallery in Jeddah and The Quest for Our Next Concern in Riyadh, and was a meditation on longing manifested in the recontextualization of architectural elements to the gallery space. 

She has also shown her work AL-SOM at Public/Private, the 2019 summer edition of 21,39 in Jeddah. It considered expropriation and explored the nuanced effects of urban sprawl on public welfare. In 2019, alongside Afia Bin Taleb, she co-curated the group show POACHED, a progressive exhibition of emerging artists alongside established practitioners, many of whom were presented for the first time in the Saudi capital.

Al-Manakh, You Will Be Missed is Alaa and Fahad bin Naif’s first collaborative work and was shown at the 7th edition of 21,39 at the Saudi Art Council in Jeddah, 2020. The installation explores the foundations of a localized ecological crisis, permeated with the melancholy of subtle, yet constant, evolution. The meticulous archiving through a tripartite of photographs, film and found objects offers insight into the factory; depicting the heterogeneity that make up its anomalous amity. 

In 2018 Alaa and Fahad set up Studio AF. in Riyadh, as a multidisciplinary art and design studio with a focus on local architectural and urban research and theory and contemporary regional art.

About Ellie Niblock

Ellie Niblock (Northern Ireland, 1993) is an artist living and working in London and has just finished an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, where she has been shortlisted for The Cass Art Prize. Ellie completed a BA Hons in Textile Art, Design and Fashion in 2015, receiving a First Class honours. She has participated in both solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including working with venues such as The Mark Rothko Centre, Tate Modern and The V&A. She was the first artist from Northern Ireland to be awarded an art residency to India in 2016, by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council. She recently sold work to The Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their permanent collection. 

Ellie’s practice explores the relationship between the physical and the digital worlds and how they co-exist. It seeks to discover how tactility and digital technology can alter our perception of experiences through sculpture, 3D scanning, animation and sound.

About Making Marks

Making Marks is the Arab British Centre’s strand of programming, in partnership with the British Council, which focuses on the development of artists from the UK and the Arab World through international exchange programmes, commissions, and opportunities for artistic collaboration.

Making Marks considers the positive impact of international working and exchange, and how it can shape artists and their work. The programme actively challenges stereotypes of our respective cultures and highlights the similarities, differences, and universal challenges facing emerging creatives the world over.

From the end of August, Making Marks commissions will be displayed digitally on

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. 


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