By Fatima Muhammad
JEDDAH — The Jeddah Literary Club and the Art and Culture Association are at odds over a building which the former donated to the Art and Culture Association (ACA) for five years. The five-year agreement has lapsed, but the ACA is refusing to vacate it until it says it receives an official order from the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Saeed Al-Suraihi, a columnist claiming to be a member of the Jeddah Literary Club for over two decades, noted that Jeddah Municipality has offered a land plot to the club years ago and a building was constructed using donations from Jeddah businessmen. That, he said, allowed the club to move from a small apartment into the current huge building. However, a personal decision was made by a former head of the literary club who decided to donate the building to the ACA for five years.
However, now members of the literary club have objected to the donation and want to retrieve the building. They have moved the ministry and its legal department has opined that donation of such buildings is not legal. Yet the ACA does not want to vacate the building. “Since the previous administration was not able to make the club active and it decided to donate the building, it is the duty of the current administration to retrieve the building. Five years have passed and the ACA should not delay leaving the building,” said Al-Suraihi adding that if the ACA wants a location and a building it should go and convince the municipality and the businessmen with its activities.
Abdullah Al-Sulami, current head of the Jeddah Literary Club, said the issue will be discussed in the general meeting sometime soon. “I appreciate members’ anger and their keenness to preserve the reputation of the club … we want the issue to be resolved amicably.” He added that ACA was only a guest and they will have to vacate the building as a “guest shall respect the host”.
The head of the ACA in Jeddah noted that the land is not owned by the literary club. He claims it to be a municipality property. He added that he has referred the officials at the literary club to the chairman of the ACA. He added that they have contacted the Ministry of Information to allow them to stay in the building until the association is provided with an alternative location and added that they are waiting for an official say in the matter.
The tug-of-war has evoked varied reactions on the social media. According to Fatima Ilyas, who is a member of the literary club, “the building of the literary club will remain a cultural status that is devoted for the club and will remain for the club.” Likewise, Nabel Zarea, also a member, said: “I am surprised that the Art and Culture Association is saying that the literary club is threatening it, while there was a five-year contract and the contract has ended”.
Bandar Al-Harthi, a member of the Jeddah ACA, questioned the club’s contribution to Jeddah youth and added, “I came to know about the literary club only when the Art and Culture Association became active”.
Aid Al-Shirhi, also a member of the ACA, called on the ministry to interfere and help artists by preserving the current location which he referred to as their “home”.