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. 


Saudi Cabinet signs off on economic, security plans

King Salman. (SPA)
Updated 26 min 13 sec ago

Saudi Cabinet signs off on economic, security plans

  • Achievements of Kingdom’s Vision 2030 discussed

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday began its session with a brief on Saudi Arabia’s delegation participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos. The report included discussions and meetings held with senior economists on the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Chaired by King Salman at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, the Cabinet discussed the significance of the Kingdom’s role in the 2020 G20 Riyadh Summit.
The Council then highlighted the reforms and achievements of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its strategic priorities.
The Cabinet said that it will be monitoring the developments of the oil markets following the negative perspectives after the possible impact of Coronavirus on the Chinese and global economies.
It expressed its belief that the Chinese government and the international community will eradicate the virus, noting that the Kingdom and OPEC’s member states have the necessary capabilities to address any changes by taking measures to support oil market stability.
In a statement made to the Saudi Press Agency, Media Minister Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah said: “The Cabinet welcomed the cooperation made between the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and the UN Conference on Trade and Development to hold the International Conference on Direct Foreign Investments next October in Riyadh.”

HIGHLIGHT

The Cabinet expressed its belief that the Chinese government and the international community will eradicate the coronavirus.

This event will be held for the first time in the Middle East and will see the participation of 250 of the most prominent international experts and decision-makers. This comes within the Kingdom’s plans to attract foreign investment, which has led to the entry of 1,130 foreign companies in 2019, a 45 percent increase over 2018.
The Council authorized the minister of justice to negotiate a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Saudi and Ukrainian Ministries of Justice.
It has also authorized the chairman of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) to negotiate, with the European Council, a draft MoU between the SFDA and the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and Healthcare in the field of exchanging pharmaceutical information.
A guidance model for a cooperation agreement between the Saudi Presidency of State Security and its counterparts in other countries in the field of combating terrorism and its financing was approved by the Council.
It then authorized the president of state security to negotiate a cooperation agreement between the Kingdom’s Presidency of State Security and its counterparts in other countries in the same field.