Modern Art & Maritime Museums

Kuwait’s Modern Art Museum and Maritime Museum are located next to each other in Sharq. Bait Ghaith is also nearby. Opened in 2003, the Modern Art Museum is housed within a former school that was built in 1939. In Kuwait Transformed Farah Al-Nakib writes that, “by the 1930s more people were sending their children to larger state-run schools… such as the Sharqiyya School in Sharq… because of their more extensive curricula and better facilities.” The museum has many pieces by Sami Mohammed, including a piece entitled “Break Through.” Sami says this is one of his favorite pieces and that, “through this sculpture I tell people that they should not give up, no matter what their problems are, till they reach their desired goals.” The image of the watercolor is by Zahra Marwan and it depicts, “Kuwaiti artist Sami Mohammed making his first sculpture from beach stones in Al-Sharq in 1952 as a young teenager.” You can also see Sami’s sculpture “Paralysis and Resistance” at the museum, which he says, “encapsulates a library of freedom in one work.” The last photograph shows Sami Mohammed talking with Andy Warhol when he visited Kuwait in the 1970s.

These pictures come from the book “The Art of Sami Mohammed.”

The photos below come from the instagram of Ali Al Rais and show the building before its renovation. The framed photos can be seen in the museum.

The Maritime Museum, opened in 2010, tells the history of Kuwait’s seafaring from different ages. In her work Mubarak Al Sabah: Foundation of Kuwait, Souad M. Al Sabah writes that, “pearl diving and the trade in pearls constituted one of the most important sources of income not just for Kuwait but for the Gulf in general. In the 17th and 18th centuries, pearls from the cities of the Gulf found their way to markets in Basra and Baghdad, some were exported to Damascus and Istanbul. After the introduction of commercial steamships, the markets for pearls moved from Iraq to India. During Sheikh Mubarak’s reign, the pearl trade expanded until the number of Kuwaiti boats diving for pearls exceeded 800, each with an average crew of some 70 men. Baghla sailing boats were the variety mainly used by Kuwaitis to travel to India and the eastern coast of Africa before the advent of steam. Those engaged in the diving business were known as the tawwashin. Sadly, with the cultivation of artificial pearls in Japan and elsewhere, the curtailment of the resources of wealthy Indian princes, who had been among the main buyers of pearls, and the discovery of oil in Kuwait, which offered an alternative and more lucrative way of life, pearl diving gradually diminished until it came to a complete halt. Diving as an activity declined until, by 1955, the number of pearl-diving boats that remained was probably less than 20.” Near to the museums is the Al-Sharqiyah School, the image of it below comes from “Shipmasters of Kuwait.”

The final image was posted on 248 and comes from a study, “by architect Khalid Alsafi highlighting the constant aggressive destruction of Kuwait’s heritage and cultural areas.” You can easily spot the Maritime Museum with its two large ships out front, the museum of modern art below and bait ghaith, which once sat in a sea of similar mud brick homes.


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