Richard Whitelaw on Kuwaitscapes

This week I’m in Kuwait City, tirelessly working for British music, as part of a project called Kuwaitscapes that Sound and Music are presenting here in collaboration with The British Council. The lead artist in this project is Roshi Nasehi and if you click on the link above you can find out more about Roshi. Roshi’s being assisted by an English gentleman called Graham Dowdall. It appears Graham has been editing sound files constantly since he arrived. There is a lot to do, Kuwaitscapes it the first public realm sound project to take place in Kuwait. It starts tomorrow at The Scientific Centre with a special site-specific audiowalk that Roshi has created.

You can see the Scientific Centre in the photo below, which is taken from my hotel window.

hotel viewIt’s the building with the sails on it. Yes, the window is filthy but I quite like the ageing effect it has on the photo. In a wonderfully British way I attempted to walk to this building from my hotel yesterday. It was 2pm local time and 42 degrees, the hottest day I have ever encountered. I made it to the freeway that you can see in the photo, there were no other pedestrians and there no visible way to cross. It’s so hot that I thought that I was going to faint. I’d just come off the flight and not slept for 24hours. I told myself that getting killed on the freeway within an hour of arriving wouldn’t be a good start to the project. Can I go round? There must be a crossing?

I then take this photo. Obilisk

You can just about see this obelisk in the first photo, this gives you an idea of where I was, facing six lanes of live traffic. The waving gentleman in the photo is Sahah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and he’s in charge here. I’ve noticed that passing cars were sounding their horns at me, I later realised that these were taxi drivers looking to pick me up, but at the time this only added to my mounting sense of panic.

In the evening I met Roshi and Graham at the British Council Kuwait offices. Roshi has been working with local kids to create Sound Vessels inspired by the Al Adal tradition of DIY toy boat making, these boats were often made by the children of sailors. There aren’t many sailors in Kuwait any more, there used to be very many. Here are some photos Graham and Noshi setting up and running the workshop and a picture of one of Roshi’s vessels. The vessels made by the kids will appear again at a place called Avenues Mall on Friday 23. Avenues is one of the largest shopping malls in the world I’m told. Just like in the UK, shopping seems to have become a major cultural experience here. Roshi’s been assisted on the ground here by Ameen Fari a local musician and, it turns out, a skilful event producer adept at navigating the complexities of staging public art in Kuwait. It’s clear that the whole endeavour would have been practically impossible without his persistent negotiations with the powers that be.


Early tomorrow morning Roshi and Graham are going to be live on Kuwaiti television. I’m going along, it should be an interesting experience. Roshi is Welsh-Iranian and speaks Farsi. This is really helpful in the Souk when you want to buy dates. I have a large box of these here in my room that I’m blasting through as we speak.  So the whole thing starts for real tomorrow. I’ll write again with more news.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *