One Saudi woman’s visual Journey of Belonging



Afra Naushad

Published — Wednesday 23 January 2013

Last update 23 January 2013 8:40 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Manal Al Dowayan’s first solo exhibition in the Kingdom has been a long time coming. And when her exhibition finally opened last weekend at Athr Gallery, it deservedly received wide acclaim and excitement, especially among the art enthusiasts who have been following her work outside the country. 
The photographer’s solo exhibition titled ‘A Journey of Belonging’ displays collections of old and new works produced between 2009-2012: “The state of disappearance”, ”If I forget you, don’t forget me”, “We had no shared dreams”, ”Landscapes of the mind”, ”Pointing to the future”, and “Look beyond the veil”.
“The state of disappearance” is the artist’s personal investigation into the portrayal of Saudi women in the printed media and newspapers in particular; expounding on the misrepresentation of a large section of Saudi women who are typified shrouded in veils.
A glass-enclosed newspaper spread to the sharp eye reveals the same recurrent photograph, which appeared repeatedly in publications under different contexts. 
Al Dowayan obsessively gathered this collection of newspaper clippings, painstakingly over a period of two year, to accentuate the abject stereotyping of Saudi females, which according to the artist do not represent the individual Saudi woman.
This may in fact be an ironic attempt by the system to preserve what seems to be a losing endeavor. 
Borrowing archaic words not currently used in contemporary language from the ancient book “Jurisprudence of a Language: The Secrets of Arabic”, penned in the 10th century by Abu Mansour Al-Tha’alby Al-Naysaboury, she places words across images of women as presented in the media, thereby staging a parody and creating an obvious conflict with the play of words and images.
“If I forget you, don’t forget me” is a visual recreation of her late father’s collective journey at Aramco, along with other families who worked together in the oil business; a testament to the realization of dreams with the creation of an oil wealthy Saudi Arabia. 
This collection is a photographic reconstruction of the past drawn from the longing to reconcile the present with an un-visited future. The inconsistent placement and juxtaposition of odd objects found at her father’s office, thrown together in a quiet arrangement, tells stories, speaks of memories and exhibits pride toward the shared achievements of a generation gone by.
“We have no shared dreams” is a personal investigation into the schizophrenic relationship between the urbanite and the city. It is a conversation with a city that responds in silent indifference to the frustrated plea of its inhabitants. The collection of photographs largely shot on rooftops and in moving cars, draws its subjective premise from the expectations of a city dweller seeking to understand, accept and achieve his/her goals through the city’s landscape.  
“Landscapes of the mind” battles the concept of space and geography, boundaries and backdrops in the context of personal symbolism. The artist plays the role of observer, director, informer and participant in perceiving the interplay of space with self.
It is the excavation and understanding of the space one belongs to and yet must remain apathetic with. This particular collection is Al Dowayan’s most defining work that sets the tone for her visual precept in exploring spatial relationships whether in time, space or context in her following works.
“Pointing to the future” and “Look Beyond the veil” are older works by the artist that address the status of women as integral participating members of the Saudi society, questioning the validity of traditions wrongly spangled with religion and cultural discourse that limit the potential of women. 
The fabric and spirit of the female presence is examined and re-iterated through expressions of bold presence, dreams, beauty, and found and unfound freedoms.
The exhibition ‘A Journey of Belonging’ will continue until Feb.16 at Athr Gallery.

[email protected]

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: A Saudi citizen was killed in shelling fired across the border from Yemen into the southwest of Saudi Arabia on Sunday, local media reported.A shell fell on a house around dawn in Najran province, civil defense department spokesman Ali bin Om...
JEDDAH: Female voters in Al-Ahsa have urged the authorities handling the municipal elections to drop the condition of presenting the national identity card while enrolling themselves in the voters’ list. Some women in Madinah too have appealed for mo...
JEDDAH: After the recent incident of a rat eating from a bowl at a well-known food outlet in a Jeddah mall came to light, residents have called for food hygiene ratings of restaurants and roadside eateries across the city.Although the municipality wo...
JEDDAH: A muezzin (one who recites the Adhaan) of a Riyadh mosque recently sprung a surprise in the Austrian tourist town of Zell am See by his Adhaan after taking permission from members of a musical band.Social media is abuzz with the news and vide...
RIYADH: A Sri Lankan national, who works as a cleaner in the Kingdom, was commended and rewarded by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) for returning a bag containing gold to its owner.“Prince Sultan bin Salman, president o...
RIYADH: Bangladesh State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Shahriar Alam arrived in Jeddah on Sunday to meet with his Saudi counterpart Nizar Madani on Monday.On arrival at the royal terminal, the minister was received by Director General of the...
RIYADH: A report of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage predicts the rate of growth in job opportunities in the country's tourism sector between 2010 and 2020 will be 10 percent a year as compared to a global growth rate of 2.5 per...
JEDDAH: Two million meningitis vaccines have been distributed among health centers in 20 governorates and provinces across the Kingdom for domestic Haj pilgrims.It is mandatory for all pilgrims to be vaccinated against meningitis and for those coming...
JEDDAH: The Makkah governorate has announced four new road projects linking Makkah and Jeddah. The new roads will facilitate smoother and faster travel between the cities.An estimated 35 million people will benefit from the projects, which will inclu...
JEDDAH: A major disaster is waiting to happen in the fish market of Madinah because of the callous attitude of traders toward handling of gas cylinders. A visit to the market presents a dreadful picture of cylinders kept on top of each other without...
JEDDAH: Information and Culture Minister Adel Al-Toraifi has approved the appointment of Khalid Bo-Ali as editor in chief of the Eastern Province-based Alsharq Arabic newspaper. He was nominated for the post by the board of directors of the newspaper...
JEDDAH: Jamil Farsi, head of the Gold and Jewelry Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), says he expects 3,000 job opportunities to be created for Saudi women in the jewelry design and gold sector across the Kingdom, with ab...
JEDDAH: More than 50 visually challenged people successfully performed Umrah with the help of the Ebsar Foundation for the Visually Impaired and the Ambassadors of Volunteers organization under their program “Umrah for the visually impaired,” which w...
JEDDAH: Although the Ministry of Labor is opening its doors to receive complaints from private sector employees, many Saudi females employed in cosmetic and perfume shops in Madinah are not making complaints about being overworked due to fear of losi...
JEDDAH: Health Minister Dr. Khaled Al-Falih is set to increase the number of beds in all private sector hospitals, as per new implementation regulations adopted this year.The move will help address the problem of delays in public sector projects, as...

Stay Connected

Facebook