The Riyadh street art scene has an unconventional new addition with the unveiling of a new piece of work from popular local artist and poet Abdullah Al-Othman.
What makes this new piece of work so unique? It is a 4-meter by 4-meter monument made up of more than 20,000 cheese graters! Titled “Light Grating,” the artwork was commissioned by the restaurant group Shawarmer after a marketing campaign for a new product became a Saudi viral sensation.
“We were launching a new sandwich in the form of a shawarma with shredded cheese as a key component, we thought it would be fun to give away sandwiches to anyone who brought in a cheese grater. We were expecting maybe 500 or 600 responses. Then it went viral and we were overwhelmed with the engagement of our customers. The next thing we know we have to figure out what to do with more than 20,000 cheese graters,” said Faisal Al-Rasheed, Shawarmer director of marketing.
While the amazing customer response was great for business, figuring out what to do with so many kitchen utensils presented an unexpected dilemma.
“We couldn’t in good conscience send so many cheese graters to the landfill, particularly for a company that is championing Saudi Arabia’s food waste issue. With promoting local artists being such an important platform of Riyadh culture, commissioning a work of art would allow us to memorialize our Althaiybah promotion while contributing something to the Riyadh arts and culture community,” Al-Rasheed added. “What better artist to take on the challenge of finding inspiration in cheese graters than Abdullah Al-Othman, one of the best-known street artists in Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Othman specializes in unconventional and thought-provoking art installations, often incorporating a surprising and unique range of materials to make a statement. The Riyadh-born artist has had his work showcased in exhibits across the Middle East, Europe and the US, most recently participating in the New York-based UN exhibition with the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) and the Paris UNESCO art exhibition with Misk.
“With ‘basher’ meaning grater in Arabic and ‘bashar’ as a homonym meaning people, I wanted to create something that would capture and reflect the thousands of various families, homes and kitchen tables that these graters touched. I’m sure a lot of moms out there were wondering where their cheese graters went. Hopefully now those moms can see the story of their families celebrated in a fun and interesting way,” Al-Othman said.
The Saudi artist worked for more than two months building the structure in his warehouse studio.
“We are grateful to Riyadh municipality for allowing us to share this new piece with the people of Riyadh. They have been so supportive to our local artist community and I’m proud to be able to contribute my latest work to help spread a new Saudi artistic movement,” Al-Othman added. “We also appreciate Shawarmer supporting the local arts community. It shows that with a little imagination and creative inspiration, even cheese graters can tell a meaningful story.”