Saudi artist explores ‘A Journey of Belonging’

Updated 15 January 2013
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Saudi artist explores ‘A Journey of Belonging’

Athr Gallery is ushering in the new year with renowned Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan’s first solo exhibition in the Kingdom, which kicked off yesterday and runs for a month. The exhibition, entitled “A Journey of Belonging,” introduced the artist’s new work, as well as seminal work from her previous series, in an exploration of her frequent voyages into the past in search of understanding and mutual acceptance.
Photographer, visual poet, and artist Al-Dowayan is one of the most recognized and critically acclaimed new wave of Saudi contemporary artists. She has exhibited globally, from Belgium to Bahrain, and her artwork has been acquired by collections such as the British Museum, Nadour, Barjeel and the Jordan National Museum of Fine Art, amongst many others.
With the intersecting of key works from the artist’s different series under one roof, a pattern emerges, a common thread weaves itself through her works that gradually alters and transforms, but remains unbroken. A journey comes to light. A Journey of Belonging allows the viewer to approach Al-Dowayan’s work from a new perspective. There is a paradigm shift in focus, with controversial issues of women’s rights and identity, normally associated with the artist’s work, fading into the background, and the artist’s personal fears and obsessions coming to the fore.
Specializing in photography, Al-Dowayan’s varied series consistently presents meditations on the complex textures of a paradoxically evolving and traditional society, along with a distinct, deep-rooted sense of personal and collective history. Thus, the exhibited work reveals a young woman’s obsession with preservation and remembrance, and constitutes a fight against rejection and disappearance.
Featured series such as ‘Pointing To The Future’, ‘Look Beyond The Veil’, ‘Landscapes Of The Mind’, ‘And We Had No Shared Dreams’ and ‘Blinded By Tradition’ display the artist’s progression and creative evolution over the years. Through these discrete series of works, Al-Dowayan not only explores the role of women in Saudi Arabia, but also reflects upon a wider reality in which gender equality is symptomatic of power hierarchies, dogmas, interplays with foreign cultures and shifting domestic social attitudes. Whilst her primary medium is photography, series such as ‘Point To The Future’ further demonstrate how the artist amplifies her characteristically monochrome compositions with lyrical visual language.
Another recurring topic in Al-Dowayan’s work is the relationship of the individual to their environment. For instance, Al-Dowayan explores manifestations of progress and change in the physical textures of the country’s geography in ‘Landscapes Of The Mind’, which uses various locations around the country to frame deft, simple glyphs representing the self, and the individual’s relationship with her surroundings. The artist places herself amidst these symbols, relenting her hold upon her own identity and becoming indefinable and ephemeral against monumental natural and urban settings.
Similarly, the series ‘We Had No Shared Dreams’ is a conversation between the inhabitant and the landscape in which she lives, but to which she longs to belong.
‘If I Forget You, Don’t Forget Me’ reflects on the profound shifts in Saudi society over the past fifty years, documenting the rise of the oil industry through the individuals who were there at the start of the oil boom. Al-Dowayan goes beyond a narrative re-telling of contemporary social evolution and instead looks for her own identity and self amidst the turbulent histories of immediately preceding generations, hoping to discover amidst the plenitude of the past, clues and possibilities for the uncertain future.
In her latest body of work, Al-Dowayan continues to explore the practice of preservation via one of the oldest and time-tested means of documentation, language. In particular, Arabic, a language lauded for its beauty and complexity.
Athr Gallery has selected works that show Al-Dowayan’s evolution as an artist, as a Saudi woman and as a lightening rod for sparks and flashes of progress and change within the strictures of her environment. Ultimately, the exhibition gives a unique and candid perspective of the intense and idiosyncratic relationship that exists between a woman and her homeland.


Six charitable celebrities fighting for humanitarian causes

Updated 18 June 2018
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Six charitable celebrities fighting for humanitarian causes

DUBAI: On Sunday, Hollywood heavyweight Angelina Jolie visited Iraq in the latest of a long line of humanitarian missions, but she isn’t the only celebrity with a cause.

Angelina Jolie

The Hollywood star this week called for a larger focus on conflict prevention rather than responding to its repercussions, during a visit to Iraq’s Domiz refugee camp with the UN refugee agency.
The visit marked Jolie’s 61st mission — and fifth to Iraq — with the UN refugee agency since 2001.

"I met parents whose 17-year-old daughter lost her legs in a mortar-strike. When they carried her to get medical treatment they were turned away, and she bled to death. It is deeply upsetting that people who have endured unparalleled brutality have so little as they try, somehow, to rebuild the lives they once had.” . UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie met Mohamed and his family in West Mosul's Old City, Iraq, on June 16, 2018. . During the offensive to retake the city from ISIS, Mohamed’s house was hit by an airstrike killing his 17 year-old daughter and destroying most of the home. Together with his three surviving children and his wife, Mohamed fled to the home of a family friend, where they have been living ever since. However the host family can no longer support them and Mohamed may have to bring his family back to live in the ruins of their home. . The visit marked Angelina Jolie’s 61st mission – and her fifth visit to Iraq – with the UN Refugee Agency since 2001. She arrived in the city on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. . Read her full statement and see more on Angelina Jolie's visit today on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/UNHCR) . Photo Credit - UNHCR / @andrewmcconnellphoto . #Mosul #Iraq #AngelinaJolie #UNHCR #eid #refugees #withrefugees #hope #eidalfitr #ramadan

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Amber Heard

In April, the actress said that a meeting with Syrian refugees and foreign medical volunteers left an “an indelible mark” on her soul.
Heard, 31, spent a week in Jordan as part of a delegation of the Syrian American Medical Society, visiting the kingdom’s largest camp for Syrian refugees and rehabilitation centers for those wounded in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.

Shakira

She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and supports foundations dedicated to development advocacy in Colombia and Latin America. She founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation when she was 18-years-old. The organization has six open-door schools providing access to education for underprivileged children in Colombia.

Priyanka Chopra

The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador served as a National Goodwill Ambassador to India for ten years and founded a charity in the country — The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education — to promote the education of girls and children in India.

I’m in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh today for a field visit with UNICEF, to one of the largest refugee camps in the world. In the second half of 2017, the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine State of Myanmar(Burma). This violence drove nearly 700,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh - 60% are children! Many months later they are still highly vulnerable, living in overcrowded camps with no idea when or where they will ever belong...even worse, when they will get their next meal. AND...as they finally start to settle and feel a sense of safety, monsoon season looms...threatening to destroy all that they’ve built so far. This is an entire generation of children that have no future in sight. Through their smiles I could see the vacancy in their eyes. These children are at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis, and they desperately need our help. The world needs to care. We need to care. These kids are our future. Pls Lend your support at www.supportunicef.org #ChildrenUprooted @unicef @unicefbangladesh Credit: @briansokol @hhhtravels

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Katy Perry

In 2013, Katy was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has traveled the world, from Vietnam to Madagascar, to raise awareness about the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2016, she received UNICEF’s Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award in recognition of her work with underprivileged children.

George Clooney

The Hollywood star has worked to address the suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan and even founded the Not On Our Watch organization, which raises awareness on the issue. The charity has reportedly raised millions of dollars, with much of the funding going through the World Food Program.