TheFace: Somaya Badr, founder and GM of Saudi Arabia’s Art of Heritage group

Somaya Badr (center) at her house with her husband and daughter. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 26 July 2019

TheFace: Somaya Badr, founder and GM of Saudi Arabia’s Art of Heritage group

  • Art of Heritage trains disabled Saudi women as handicraft artisans
  • It succeeded the Heritage Center of the Al Nahda Philanthropic Society

I grew up in a family of academics and scientists. My father and mother are university professors in hydrology and analytical chemistry respectively, and my siblings all come from scientific backgrounds. I was the odd one out with my passion for culture, society and art, and ended up studying economics and political science.

While I did not share the specific interests of my family, I learned from them the love of hard work and constant self-improvement, as well as a passion to excel and innovate in my specialization. When I started to work, I was lucky to be able to engage in the field that was closest to my heart: Culture and handicrafts.

After years of experience in both for-profit and nonprofit institutions, I was able to establish and direct Art of Heritage (AOH), which replaced Al-Nahda Heritage Center as the public marketing and retail arm of Saudi Arabia’s oldest women’s philanthropic organization when the charity shifted its focus to core educational values and women’s issues.

I realized that not only could I educate future generations about their heritage, but that I could also support marginalized groups to transform from being totally dependent to being confident and productive members of society.

My passion for using cultural heritage to improve the lives of marginalized women, and my belief in the importance of conservation, are linked to my strong belief in the need for further advanced study and inquiry in the cultural field.

 

AOH trains disabled Saudi women as handicraft artisans, enabling them to acquire unique and valuable skills and become independent. Every day when I see these girls overcoming their challenges to produce high-quality work, my hope is renewed and my motivation is strengthened to give my absolute best.

I have always believed in the importance of having a purpose and a career, and in continuing to broaden my horizons and knowledge. I have proudly raised my children to value these principles, and to be independent and open to different cultures. My husband has strongly supported me and our children and encouraged me to work, travel and continue my education.

My daughter just graduated from medical school, and my son is studying in the US. I taught my children the importance of working in a field they love, because this is what will enable them to innovate and excel.

From the scale of my small family to the scale of the country as a whole, I strongly believe that we have to learn how to listen to young people and support their out-of-the-box thinking in creating their future. Doing this will instil the capacity in each member of society to be an ambassador for their country through their confidence in their heritage and their engagement with the wider world.

I have brought these same principles to my work at AOH. For example, AOH cooperates with well-known international fashion designers in order to create a fashion line inspired by traditional Saudi dress. Furthermore, we are working to conserve and share the rich Saudi material cultural heritage by establishing an extensive collection of artifacts, jewelry and clothing.

There is an enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia for progressive thinking, and for meeting the challenges and opportunities of globalization with a modern and authentic self.

 

Recently, we have been able to bring our work to both local and international audiences through collaborative exhibitions such as “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam” with the British Museum, “Design Crossroads: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” with the Bahrain National Museum, and “Hidden Treasures: Jewelry from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” with L’Ecole Van Cleef and Arpels in Dubai’s Design District.

My passion for using cultural heritage to improve the lives of marginalized women, and my belief in the importance of conservation, are linked to my strong belief in the need for further advanced study and inquiry in the cultural field. To that end, I have personally worked with the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to organize a two-year pre-Ph.D. program on Saudi tribal embroidery and dress patterns.

I am very optimistic about the Kingdom’s future, and I believe that what is to come will only be better and better. There is an enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia for progressive thinking, and for meeting the challenges and opportunities of globalization with a modern and authentic self. Not only are we challenging outside stereotypes about our culture and region, but women and youth truly have more of a voice, and have been invited to participate in all areas of life.

With the Vision 2030 reform plan supported by increased opportunities for women, and with a newly established Ministry of Culture, new groups will be able to understand their cultural heritage and participate in enriching it. Through the values I have instilled within my family and the ones I demonstrate in my professional life, I hope to continue to support this hopeful vision for our shared future. 


Misk journeys into the past to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s national day

Updated 23 September 2020

Misk journeys into the past to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s national day

  • The journey begins at dawn from Turaif district in Diriyah
  • The campaign will shed light on historical locations

JEDDAH: In celebration of the 90th Saudi National Day, the Misk Foundation has launched a campaign highlighting the Kingdom’s heritage, featuring a video, cinema advertisement and a bicycle race through some of the country’s key historical sites.

The campaign will shed light on historical locations and the influential people who helped build the Kingdom. It also aims to highlight the country’s current development and prosperity.

The foundation, represented by Manga Productions, has collaborated with the King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives and the Japanese advertising agency Centean to produce “Al-Auja” video, which tells the history of the Kingdom by highlighting heroic figures from the past.

As a first-of-a-kind project, it also documents the Kingdom's history for future generations, including efforts by the founder King Abdul Aziz to unify the country. 

Misk Foundation also released a video clip, “Rasimeen Auloumana,” which focuses on the growth, prosperity and mega-projects in the Kingdom today, while also documenting the population’s achievements and hopes.

The video takes viewers on an imagined journey by the nation’s founder as he discovers the Kingdom’s modern achievements.

The journey begins at dawn from Turaif district in Diriyah, the historical and geographical center of Saudi Arabia, where the first Saudi state was established.

King Abdul Aziz visits cities including King Abdullah Economic City, Umluj, Al-Ula and Jeddah before returning to Riyadh as he did in the past when he conquered the city with an army of only 63 men.

The campaign logo features King Abdul Aziz riding his horse, Obayya, and an imitation of the ruler’s handwriting based on his signature.

The title of the video clip is a quote from the poem of the Saudi traditional dance “Najd Shamat.”

The foundation’s celebrations will end next Wednesday with a bicycle race through key historical sites that the founder passed through during the conquest of Riyadh.

Participants will begin the journey from four sites — Abu Makhrouq Mountain, Manakh King Abdul Aziz Park, the Red Palace and Diriyah governorate — before meeting at the final gathering station, Al-Masmak Fortress.

Abu Makhrouq Mountain was a landmark for trade convoys heading to Riyadh, as well as being a park for the founder and local people.

Films produced for the national day are part of Misk’s visual productions on cultural and national events.

The foundation released several popular films, such as “Hal Al-Auja” and “Kol Meter Murabba’,” for last year’s national day, in addition to “Khuddam Al-Haram” and “Misk Al-Masha’ir” during the last two Hajj seasons.