By Roy Kietzman

WHEN it's time to say farewell to Bahrain, visitors and long-time residents can pretty much count on - if they're lucky - getting a Koheji painting from well wishers as a remembrance of their favourite island. The swashes of pastel spotted hues often make up scenes of bygone Bahrain that have made their way into hundreds of homes and offices, both here and overseas.

And for even the amateur art connaisseur, a Koheji - the back streets, souk, houses and courtyards, desert and camels, donkies and hubble-bubble shops, dhows, seascapes and date pickers - is instantly recognisable. After receiving a diploma in art from the United Kingdom, Abdul Wahab Koheji began teaching art but then returned to Britain to study interior design.

He's had a love affair with architecture since his childhood days, and actually being school in design "opened my eyes more to the role that light plays in design, textures, various materials". Painting was largely a hobby, to depict scenes he recalled from his native Muharraq, particularly old streets that have perhaps long since put on a more modern facade without the character and personality of the ancient.

As Old Bahrain gives way to Modern Bahrain, Koheji's works provide an important reflection of Bahraini life and its architectural heritage. His studies of traditional doors, courtyards, windows and entrances betray the artist's inate fascination with architecture.

After ten years of teaching, Koheji decided to be an interior-design consultant. He Despite his talent in interior design, those who had heard of Koheji continued to seek him out to buy one of his distinctive watercolours. Even today, from early in the morning, people file into his gallery in Umm al Hassam to admire the row upon row of framed paintings...or to buy frames.

About the outset of his painting career, Koheji says matter of factly, "At first, I didn't realise that I'd made a name for myself in painting". He began to concentrate full time on his watercolour scenes.

Koheji sees painting as a way "to spread art out, to create art for everyone". Besides the smaller, framed scenes, easy to pact into a suitcase, the 52-year-old artist has painted much larger works that have found their way into boardrooms, executive offices, schools and hotel lounges.

He finds it an exhilerating thought that a bit of Arabia - yes, even a bit of Koheji - graces homes and the workplace, both here and abroad. Though he's renowned for his watercolours, Koheji occasionally uses batik, oil, silkscreen and pen and ink as media to express his images.

Requiring only six hours sleep, he finds he works best mornings and especially loves summer when daylight hours are longer and the light more intense. Koheji paintings have been exhibited across the Gulf and as far afield as Canada and the U.K.



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The best time to visit Bahrain is from mid- November to mid-March, when the weather is very pleasant. If you had the choice, come around December 16, when Bahrain celebrates its National Day, and puts on a spectacular show of the country's arts and culture. There is also excellent food on offer and some beautiful, yet cheap, souvenirs.