Graffiti artists adding color to the streets of Jeddah

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Elias Tashkandi, Hanan Kamal and Abdulkareem Jeyad with their wonderful creations in Jeddah. One of the most public, and popular, manifestations of their efforts to brighten up the city is the increasing amount of incredible graffiti art that can be found on walls across the city.(Photos/Supplied)
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Updated 10 March 2019
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Graffiti artists adding color to the streets of Jeddah

  • The art form has grown in popularity among the youth in Saudi Arabia in the past five years

JEDDAH: The bride of the Red Sea, as Jeddah is known, is a surprisingly colorful city, thanks in no small part to the fact that the Kingdom is home to some incredible artistic talent.
One of the most public, and popular, manifestations of their efforts to brighten up the city is the increasing amount of incredible graffiti art that can be found on walls across the city.
One of the artists contributing to this trend is 19-year-old Saudi student Elias Tashkandi, whose love of graffiti was sparked at the age of 8 while traveling in France.
“I saw the artworks on the trains and in the streets,” he said. “I then began replicating them, but on paper. I started experimenting in graffiti and its basics on a deeper level in 2016.”
The young artist has since participated in a number of festivals, including Common Ground, XJED, and the Jeddah Food Festival.
He explained that the nature of graffiti tends to encourage the building of a real community spirit among the artists.
“It is only a hobby of mine as I am still a beginner,” said Tashkandi. “Through it, I have met other artists and they are some of my dearest friends now.”
He said that he has a particular interest in “calligraffiti,” which “combines the art of calligraphy and graffiti.”
His favorite graffiti fonts include “Straight Letter” and “Wildstyle,” which he likes to depict in a three-dimensional style.
“Each artist can create their own style and font,” he added. “The style I follow is straight letters with a three-dimensional touch.”
Hanan Kamal a 26-year-old Saudi project manager, began drawing at the age of nine and took up graffiti in 2008. She has displayed her art at many events, the most recent of which was the Jeddah Book Fair in January.
“Graffiti — and drawing in general — is my passion, not just a hobby,” she said. “It evolved into freelance work that appealed to many people and I was encouraged, especially by women, as they are a minority in this field.”
This is slowly starting to change, she said, with increasing numbers of women picking up cans of spray paint and pursuing their passion for the art form.
“Recently, there has been an increase in the number of women in this field and they are very creative,” said Kamal. “I support women of all kinds of talents in their determination to prove themselves.”
Art runs in the family for Abdulkareem Jeyad, a 23-year-old freelance graphic designer from Indonesia.
“I was born into an artistic family,” he said. “Since my mother is an abstract artist and my father is a calligraphy artist, naturally I’ve grown and been raised surrounded by colors and letters. I have been in the graffiti field for more than 9 years and counting.”
His favorite font is Wildstyle, he said, “because you shape and change the letters however you want and you can make your own unique piece. I enjoy the sharp outlines, the mixed colors and the details in each piece or wall.”
Street art is more than just a hobby to Jeyad. “I choose graffiti because I can express my imagination and myself,” he explained.
He has participated in several events in Jeddah, and created a graffiti show for XJED. He said the art form has grown in popularity in Saudi Arabia in the past five years “and people are starting to understand what it is and the aesthetic of it.” He has also noticed the growing number of women entering the field.
“I have seen lately a lot of young artists, especially women, starting to do graffiti,” he said. “I would like to say to them to never stop the passion for graffiti. No matter what, keep practicing and be creative. You will develop your own style with practice.”


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”