Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show

Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show
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Dina Alttamrani’s vivid pre-wedding photos display a bride resplendent in red. (Photograph: Rayan A-Hothali)
Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show
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Malath Al-Nemari created her series for a commercial photography class on the theme of the exhibition. (Photograph: Rayan A-Hothali)
Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show
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Rana Fatani created an online tour of old Jeddah, a UNESCO world heritage site. (Photograph: Rayan A-Hothali)
Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show
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(Photograph: Rayan A-Hothali)
Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show
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(Photograph: Rayan A-Hothali)
Updated 24 January 2018

Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show

Saudi embassy in Washington hosts all-women art show

WASHINGTON, DC: This week, Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington broke another glass ceiling for women by sponsoring a woman-only artist exhibition that focuses on the changes, innovations and opportunities available to women who have majored in visual communications studies, specifically graphic design and motion graphics. The students’ artwork features their culture, traditions and faith.
The exhibit, entitled “Women’s Point of View,” is hosted by the embassy under the patronage of Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
“This exhibition focuses on putting forward the point of view of view of Saudi women,” Dar Al-Hekma University President Suhair H. Al-Qurashi told Arab News.
“The students here are speaking for themselves through their art work, which is a universal language. Each piece of art on display here portrays their personalities and a woman’s perspective.
“This exhibition features the artistic works of at least 10 Saudi female visual communication students who were invited from the Kingdom to come and narrate, in the first-person, their own works,” said Fatimah Baeshen, spokesperson at the Saudi Embassy.
“It is important for public audiences to see the various perspectives that exist among Saudi women and to hear, first-hand, how they view society — both of which help breakdown stereotypes.
“The works installed vary in terms of content and forms; from fitness to wedding culture to mapping tourist sites and photographs, illustrations, as well as mobile applications, which also indicate the caliber of education Saudi women receive in the Kingdom,” said Baeshen.
“I’m proud that Dar Al-Hekma has made major strides in developing different professional skills for women in the Kingdom,” said Al-Qurashi.
“For more than a decade, our graduates have been entering the job market and raising the standards of graphic arts and motion graphics in the Kingdom.”
Dar Al-Hekma University has always had a vision of creating female leaders and entrepreneurs, she explained, adding that it strives to get students involved in elite activities, innovative programs, and creative projects that initiate international exchanges.
The young artists’ perspectives certainly are vastly different, which makes the exhibit intriguing – and impossible to stereotype any of these women.
Latfal Al-Ghandi, one of the artists whose work is on display, said this is her first time in the US. Her hope is that her art “will help Americans understand that the Islamic religion is very unique and spiritual. Mosques represent the identity of Muslims,” which is the subject of her display.
A recent graduate, Malath Al-Nemari created her series for a commercial photography class on the theme of the exhibition. Her artwork focuses on a series of photos of a young woman engrossed in reading a book.
“I want to show educated Saudi women who know the power of books — which encourages creativity.”
The best way to accomplish this, she said, is through the use of visual communications. “I wanted to deliver visuals without explaining anything; just ‘as you see it, and as you feel it,’ which I hope will cause the viewer to use their power of imagination.”
“We started with the idea of the Saudi woman,” said assistant professor Linda Schaefer, director of the exhibit that has been produced over the past two years. She emphasized that the artwork expresses “how they wanted the West to see them from a Saudi woman’s point of view.”
Rana Fatani created an online tour of old Jeddah, a UNESCO world heritage site, and is currently seeking approval of its use by the Saudi authorities.
“The whole purpose of this exhibit for me is that I wanted to give back to my country… which gave me both a scholarship and a way to create and accomplish this. I could never imagine that this would happen to me. It is a dream come true.”
Dina Alttamrani’s vivid pre-wedding photos display a bride resplendent in red. Her focus, she said, was to convey both old and new traditions in Al-Baha, her hometown, while also showing a thoroughly modern bride.
Asked about the use of gold leaf as a form of henna on the hands of her bride in her photos, Alttamrani explained: “It’s something to please the traditional bride and her family while also adding the modern era into the mix.”
Al-Ghamdi’s work focuses on an orange-turbaned woman. “I want to highlight three main things in these photos. I want to show that Saudi women are strong, and that the hijab doesn’t stop them achieving their goals and their dreams. And to show that a Saudi woman can be beautiful, fashionable, and modern — even if she covers her hair.”
Sara Bokhary photographed her grandmother teaching her grandson the traditions of Islamic prayer.
Lama Al-Balawi is the only artist present at the exhibit who is a fashion designer and sketches hand-drawn faces using black charcoal.
Al-Balawi says she wanted to show the “imperfections and beauty of our culture, especially the Bedouin features. Every drawing shows a value in the Bedouin life: their courage, their hard life and how they overcome it and how they appreciate everything.”
The organizers of Dar Al-Hekma’s Women’s Point of View exhibit said they hope Americans will be inspired by these students’ artwork, as the exhibit highlights these young women’s innovations and creativity.
They are also investing in the next generation of Saudi women. These young women are taking the lead in creativity, they explained, it is their hope this will encourage more Saudi women to follow their example and thus embolden other Saudi women to play a role in promoting art while connecting with a wider audience at home and abroad.
The embassy’s Women’s Point of View exhibition closes Friday, Jan. 26.