“Connecting to the universe” : Saudi female artists present their work in the United States.
“Saudi Arabia is not all black and white,” said photographer dina alemrani, one of 11 Saudi artists whose work made its debut this week at the Saudi embassy in Washington. The exhibition, called “women’s perspectives,” showcases the work of visual communication students and recent graduates from Dar al-hekma university in jeddah.
Their photographs, paintings, graphic designs and even costumes (a “running robe,” the full-length cape of an athlete) make up an exhibition that runs through Friday. In prince Mohammed bin salman’s vision of the dynamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this is consistent with the kingdom’s efforts to portray the kingdom as a modern one.
More than half of the country’s graduates are women, according to Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the embassy. In recent months, Saudi women have gained positions and other rights in football matches and the judiciary, and have addressed what Suhair al-qurashi, the President of dar es salaam university, calls “a very famous driving problem.” In September, Saudi king salman bin abdulaziz al-saud lifted a ban on female participation in the country.
Saudi Arabia’s vision for 2030, the economic reform and modernization programme, says women are “an important asset” and vows to “develop our own talents, invest in our own productive capacity, consolidate its future, and contribute to our social and economic development”.
11 Dar al-hekma was invited to Washington by ambassador Khalid bin Salman, son of the king of Saudi Arabia, to introduce their work at the opening of the exhibition. Last year the New York times called it “one of the best examples of the kingdom wanting to showcase the type of modern Saudi government”. He knows his way on Instagram, likes political cartoons and expresses his interest in American pop culture.
Ambassador Baeshen said the ambassador was “keen to show [the artist’s work] at the embassy and to support women coming here to work and talking to the first person.”
Their teacher, schaffer, said: “the world knows very little about Saudi women, people have preconceived notions of who they are, and when they communicate face to face, they know more about their labels than they do.”
“Women have a different view,” says Sheitha al-aiyash, a sports graphic designer. “I want to try a lot of things. I want to be a director, do everything, know everything – that’s good. ”
Malath al-nemari, 23, an image graduate of the same campaign, created a series of photographs showing a veiled woman in a headscarf, hoping to show her love of written words. “My vision is to make people feel free, isolated and at peace,” she said. “I want to represent women in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, who have received education and are connected to the universe.”
Rana Fatami shows off her “historical jeddah” app, which aims to encourage tourism in the city’s historic center, the world heritage site. The app includes a pathfinder system, walking distance (measured by recruiting volunteers) and maps. “Google maps doesn’t read narrow streets,” Fatami explained. “The application solves this problem and I hope the government will adopt it.”
Bashayer Alkhayyat, a runner who created a light gray blue dress for her designs, said: “I don’t want women to feel that anything is holding them back.” She has also created an app for women to find running friends who don’t want me to have to do it alone. She says running is becoming more popular among women in jeddah, but she says: “I’m still not satisfied. I want more people to run. ”
Sara al-ghamdi, 24, said she hoped the pictures of women in her orange headscarf would make Saudi women look “strong” and “modern”.
“If they wear LIDS,” she said, women “feel shy, like they’re not following their dreams, and even if you cover your hair, I want to tell them, it’s not going to stop you from dreaming.”