Saudi women making visible strides in art

Saudi women making visible strides in art
Visitors look at art work by Saudi artist Manal al-Dowayan displayed at a Christie's exhibition in Dubai. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2020

Saudi women making visible strides in art

Saudi women making visible strides in art
  • Removal of restrictions creating opportunities for female artists, photographers and film-makers
  • Ministry of Culture has many new initiatives and is promising scholarships, museums and art galleries

RIYADH: As Saudi art moves into a new golden age, many artists, photographers and filmmakers are getting ready to show off their skills. With the Ministry of Culture working on several art-related initiatives and promising new artistic scholarships, museums and galleries, the future has never been brighter for local artists.

For Saudi female artists, however, the opportunities are even more astonishing. With many of the restrictions once imposed upon them lifting, Saudi women are sharing their thoughts on how this new era has affected and inspired them.

Danya Alhamrani is a managing partner in the Saudi company Eggdancer Productions, which focuses on producing documentaries. Along with partner Dania Nassief, the two were the first women in the Kingdom allowed to own and manage a company without a male business partner.

“For a very long time, we applied for grants and programs internationally because we didn’t have any here,” Alhamrani said. “We were ineligible for many of them because Saudi Arabia wasn’t on the DAC (Development Assistance Committee) list. But now with grants and competitions being made available by the government, we’ve been able to apply for those and have even received one.”

Alhamrani believes that the country’s new opportunities and burgeoning art scene are opening doors in an unprecedented way for filmmakers in Saudi Arabia.

“Hopefully, moving forward there are going to be more opportunities and more government support for filmmakers, especially when it comes to documentaries, which are all about preserving our heritage and culture and our stories. We hope that things continue to move forward,” she said.

Saudi photographer Jawahir Al-Sheikh recalls being told her whole life that her passion would never amount to a job. She told Arab News that, as this no longer seemed to be the case, she was finally able to convince her parents to give her a shot at becoming a professional photographer.

“I studied something I wasn’t passionate about at all in university because my family told me that photography wouldn't put food on the table. Now, the government itself is encouraging Saudis my age to come forward and apply for scholarships,” she said.

Al-Sheikh cited women such as Safeya bin Zagr and Tasneem Al-Sultan as inspirations and hopes that one day her name can be as well-known as theirs.

“These women paved the way for us and succeeded in an era when all the odds were against them. They walked so we could run. I am so grateful to them for inspiring me,” she said.