JEDDAH: Samah Kamel, a Saudi freelance mangaka (manga artist), earned her master’s degree from the College of Art and Design at King Abdul Aziz University. She is the first Saudi to do her graduation research on manga (Japanese comics).
Her research addresses the ability to use manga art to represent the Kingdom’s culture through its proverbs.
The research aimed to define manga art, traditional Saudi proverbs, and how to benefit from manga art to develop contemporary paintings.
Kamel’s interest in art started in her early years when her mother was an art teacher. By watching dubbed animation, Kamel’s interest grew further.
“The animations and manga productions of the 1990s and 2000s were the starting point for me to do more research on this art and develop my own skills,” she said.
“Manga is directed at all people from different ages and interests with different themes, including romance, action adventure, science fiction, comedy, sports and adult subject matter.”
The idea behind her master’s research was to explore the possibility of using manga as a technique to present known Saudi proverbs, and to introduce manga as an art and tool that can be used to reflect Saudi identity and promote the Kingdom’s culture.
The research resulted in her first manga book “Hikayat Mathal” (“Tale of Proverb”), published in Arabic and English. The book used manga art to represent Hijazi proverbs visually.
Recognition of manga as an art is increasing among the Kingdom’s young population, and Kamel’s research confirms its recognition at the academic level.
“Today, we have different channels to start producing manga and animation, such as Manga Productions (an affiliated company of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation) and other startups specialized in comics and manga productions,” she said.
Her published book opened doors for her to discover the public’s interest in manga, and enabled her to meet with talented local artists.
Netflix selected her to do a workshop that introduced manga art and techniques at Jeddah’s Comic Con 2018.
“Although manga art is increasingly recognized in Saudi Arabia, we lack Arabic resources and books that explain manga art and its history,” Kamel said.
She is planning to publish her research as a book that discusses manga and its historical developments and techniques.