UN75: The Pilgrimage and the Pandemic

The Pilgrimage & The Pandemic brings together voices from the world of Art and Health to discuss this year's Hajj in the context of COVID-19 and the role of creativity in faith and spirituality during times of societal anxiety. The panel will also discuss how the the city of Mecca successfully managed the challenge of a mass gathering during a global pandemic.

The discussion is part of The Future is Unwritten Healing Arts Initiative and is set against the sale of Dr Ahmed Mater's Mecca-inspired Magnetism installation (pictured above) to raise funds for a global COVID-19 response through the arts.

The discussion will be moderated by WHO’s Arts & Health Lead, Christopher Bailey, with panelists Dr Ahmed Mater, Artist Physician, and Dr Hanan Balkhy, Assistant Director-General for AMR at WHO, and Hamza Serafi, artist and co-founder of ATHR Gallery and the Saudi Art Council.

In partnership with

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Release Date

November 2020

Project Artists


Saudi Arabia

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Ahmed Mater 12 Culturunners

Christopher Bailey (Moderator),
Arts & Health Lead, World Health Organization

Dr. Hanan Balkhy,
Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance at WHO

Dr. Ahmed Mater,
Artist Physician & Adviset to Saudi Ministry of Culture

Hamza Serafi,
Artist & Co-founder of ATHR Gallery, Jeddah

Featured Artist

Ahmed Mater 2 Culturunners

Ahmed Mater

Ahmed Mater trained as a community doctor on the Saudi/Yemeni border, before rising to become one of the most significant Arab artists of his generation. Born in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, then moving at an early age to the mountainous Asir region in the South, Mater's life and work have been shaped by seismic changes and unprecedented social shifts across the Arabian Gulf. He uses photography, film, sculpture and performance to map, document and analyse these rapid developments, considering their psychological impact on the individual, the community, urban environments and society at large. Entwining expressive and politically engaged artistic aims with the scientific objectives of his medical training, his artistic practice embraces the paradoxes of science and faith. Employing broad research-based techniques, Mater mines and preserves forgotten narratives and unofficial histories to map the Kingdom's past, present and future. As a cultural producer and educator, Mater is dedicated to discourse and social activism as a means to tangibly influence the wider civil society.

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