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Capturing Bahrain’s Essence Through Art – artist Khalid Al Muharraqi

By Raji Unnikrishnan

An artist par excellence who believes fervently in the power of art to reflect, celebrate, and shape the cultural identity of a nation – Khalid Al Muharraqi. He harnesses the best of his creativity to contribute to the vibrant cultural landscape of Bahrain in meaningful ways. His recent digital portrait of HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, stands as a testament to his dedication to capturing Bahrain’s contemporary realities and honouring its esteemed leaders.

In an exclusive interview with Bahrain This Week, Khalid offered a glimpse into his artistic journey, one that is intricately interwoven with the illustrious legacy of his father, Abdullah Al Muharraqi.

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“I believe that art has the power to reflect, celebrate, and shape the cultural identity of a nation, and my artwork aims to contribute to the vibrant cultural landscape of Bahrain in meaningful ways,” said Khalid.

“Through my creations, I strive to capture the essence of Bahrain’s rich heritage, its diverse communities, and its contemporary realities. By infusing elements of Bahraini culture, history, and traditions into my artwork, I seek to evoke a sense of pride, unity, and belonging among Bahrainis and showcase our nation’s unique identity to the world. Additionally, I use my art as a form of expression to engage with and respond to the broader international landscape. Inspired by my father’s legacy as a cartoonist who interacted daily with global events, I similarly use my platform as an artist to express my views and feelings on international issues, current events, and technological advancements. Whether reacting to news headlines, social developments, or technological innovations, I see art as a powerful medium for conveying emotions, sparking conversations, and offering new perspectives beyond borders. Through this dual approach, I hope to contribute not only to the cultural discourse of Bahrain but also to the broader global dialogue, using art as a means to bridge cultures, foster understanding, and promote positive change.”

Khalid runs Muharraqi Studios and is so proud of his father that he describes himself as the ‘son of an artist’ on his social media profiles. Without hesitation, he nodded affirmatively to the question about his journey as a Bahraini artist and his upbringing as the ‘son of an artist’ influencing his artistic style and career path.

“Growing up as the son of Abdullah al-Muharraqi, a well-renowned artist from Bahrain with a rich legacy in the arts, has been an integral part of my identity and journey as a creative individual,” said Khalid.
“My father’s influence as an esteemed artist has shaped not only my artistic style but also my approach to life and how I perceive the world around me. His compositions, colour choices, and artistic techniques served as a guiding influence in my own artistic development. Additionally, I was blessed to have the opportunity to work on design and painting projects alongside my father, which was a great honour for me. Being chosen by my father to assist him in his work further fuelled my passion for art and strengthened our bond as father and son. This experience was invaluable and played a significant role in shaping my artistic style and career path.”

He was eloquent about the influence of his father’s style on his artistic journey, right from a young age.
“I was immersed in the world of art, surrounded by my father’s work, and deeply inspired by his unique style and approach to creativity,” he said.
“His compositions, colour choices, and artistic techniques served as a guiding influence in my own artistic development. Additionally, I was blessed to have the opportunity to work on design and painting projects alongside my father, which was a great honour for me. Being chosen by my father to assist him in his work further fuelled my passion for art and strengthened our bond as father and son. This experience was invaluable and played a significant role in shaping my artistic style and career path.”

The portrait of HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, which Khalid personally presented to Prince Salman, was a unique piece, created with HRH’s interest in digital art and new technologies in mind. This, he said, was a deeply meaningful endeavour, rooted in years of admiration and appreciation for his leadership. The special gift also marks 20 years of Muharraqi Studios as well.

“Having known HRH for many years, I felt compelled to express my gratitude and respect through a special gift,” he explained.
“Knowing his interest in digital art and new technologies, I incorporated AI into the artwork to create a unique and personalised piece that I believed would resonate with him on a personal level. This portrait was not intended for public display but rather as a heartfelt gesture of appreciation for his support and encouragement over the years. Additionally, as the founder of Muharraqi Studios, celebrating 20 years of our company’s journey, I saw this as an opportunity to express gratitude to HRH for his ongoing support. The portrait served as a symbol of our gratitude and a celebration of our shared commitment to Bahrain’s cultural and creative landscape.”

Meeting HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, to present the artwork was an incredibly humbling and memorable experience, said Khalid.
“It was a moment that I had been anticipating for a long time, and I was deeply honoured to have the opportunity to personally express my gratitude and appreciation to him. As I presented the artwork, I felt a mix of excitement, pride, and gratitude, knowing that this piece was a heartfelt expression of admiration and thanks. HRH’s gracious reception and positive response to the artwork filled me with a sense of fulfilment and reinforced the significance of the moment. It was a truly unforgettable encounter that I will cherish for a lifetime.”

Beyond portraiture, Khalid explores a diverse range of themes and subjects in his artwork, drawing inspiration from various aspects of life, culture, and the human experience.
“One recurring theme in my work is the intersection of tradition and modernity, where I examine how traditional Bahraini elements intersect with contemporary influences and global trends,” he cited.
“I am also fascinated by the relationship between humans and technology, exploring how advancements in technology shape our identities, interactions, and societies. Additionally, I often use my artwork as a platform to address social issues, advocate for change, and amplify marginalised voices. My creative process is driven by a combination of curiosity, experimentation, and a desire to challenge myself artistically. When choosing new projects, I am guided by a passion for storytelling and a commitment to creating meaningful, thought-provoking artwork that resonates with viewers on a personal and emotional level. Whether it’s through digital art, animation, or other mediums, I strive to push boundaries, inspire imagination, and make a positive impact through my work.”

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