Saudi contemporary artist’s Dior Lady Bag highlights KSA

The bag, ‘Landscapes of the Mind,’ was inspired by a collection that she made in 2009, of an old artwork where Al-Dowayan questions many aspects about the experience of Saudi women in the past couple of few years. (Supplied)
The bag, ‘Landscapes of the Mind,’ was inspired by a collection that she made in 2009, of an old artwork where Al-Dowayan questions many aspects about the experience of Saudi women in the past couple of few years. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 February 2022

Saudi contemporary artist’s Dior Lady Bag highlights KSA

The bag, ‘Landscapes of the Mind,’ was inspired by a collection that she made in 2009, of an old artwork where Al-Dowayan questions many aspects about the experience of Saudi women in the past couple of few years. (Supplied)
  • Manal Al-Dowayan was among the first Arab female designers to bring her heritage to the label
  • As people in the culture, we are reconnecting to who we are, what and how we dress and how we look and how we speak in a very, very different unique way

JEDDAH: Saudi contemporary artist Manal Al-Dowayan was among the first Saudi, GCC and Arab female designers to feature and represent their heritage in a handbag collection for one of the famous French brands in fashion history, Dior.

“Dior was cool enough to allow me to make a bag. You as an artist are supposed to take on the bag and change it and add to it. But I told them, I just thought I’d add something that is completely different, and they agreed to it. Now, we have made it together. It’s supposed to be a bag slash sculpture,” said Al-Dowayan.
Al-Dowayan Lady Dior collection is made of materials and techniques using leather stitching, 3D printing, calfskin leather, embroidered black feathers, and black and white photographs. With the Dior design team, Al-Dowayan produced three pieces — “The Boys,” “Landscape of the Mind,” and a mini minaudiere-style bag, “Desert Rose — highlighting her Saudi heritage and nostalgic aspects of her personal memories.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Al-Dowayan said that the first bag, “The Boys,” was inspired by an artwork collection she made in 2016.
“I had developed this one through reusing Kodak film slides that my father had taken in 1962 in Saudi Arabia, more specifically in Qassim,” she said.




Manal AlDowayan, the first Arab female to ably her art and design to the worldwide known french brand Dior. (Supplied)

“I was thinking about the identity of this bag, and what I was trying to say through it, which was basically the huge transformative moment we are going through in Saudi Arabia. As people in the culture, I think we are reconnecting to who we are, what and how we dress and how we look and how we speak in a very, very different unique way that is much more centralized to who we are, rather than looking outwards and trying to imitate outside,” she said.
The second bag, “Landscapes of the Mind,” was inspired by a collection that she made in 2009, of an old artwork where Al-Dowayan questions many aspects about the experience of Saudi women in the past couple of years.
“When I had developed landscapes of the mind, I was looking at the concept of does this landscape belong to me? Or do I belong to it? So, it was really a question of belonging, and whether I was invited to stay on this landscape or, you know, women in public space was my question. So, we have to exist in private spaces. I think, with this bag, I am actually introducing this idea, but in a very different way. I think that the explosion of women in the public space, their open invitation to participate, and building and cooperating alongside their fellow men is a wonderful moment in our history. And I wanted it to be documented in the spec,” she said.
Al-Dowayan expressed hers feelings about when the pandemic was at its peak in 2020. She wrote a statement in Arabic that translates to “I live and die for the moment” and applied it to the bag design. “The idea behind that was really a statement of where we are in our pandemic days in 2020, where we don’t know what will happen tomorrow to our house, to our country, to our planet, and I encourage you to live and die for the moment,” she said.
Commenting on “Desert Rose,” Al-Dowayan said: “It is a form I’ve been exploring throughout my artistic practice in the past four years as a recent addition to my work and I’m very much interested in its ephemeral existence.” The bag represents a crystal-like rose that exists in only a few deserts in the world, including the desert outside of Al-Dowayan mother’s home. It also exists in Qatar and UAE, because Saudi Arabia shares the same desert in the Eastern region.
Al-Dowayan said: “This crystal form does not exist for all eternity because it dissolves at some point, it only has a lifespan of 10 years. And given that, in the past few years, I’ve been very much focusing on the ideas of disability and disappearance, especially in my trampolines that were developed in AlUla.”
Al-Dowayan joined a Lady Dior Art program themed around the sixth edition of the Dior Lady Bag, which was held in Riyadh in 2020 where 12 other international artists participated to represent their art and designs through these bags. The iconic classic medium-size leather bag has been reinvented and reconstructed throughout the years in many different colors, editions and collections. The art program was a cross-cultural collaboration that gave each artist a chance to add their inspiring story to every piece they produce.
In line with this art project, Dior has launched a podcast to go along with the Lady Dior Art bag, so the new round of talented artists share the stories behind the artworks and designs applied to the handbags. The limited edition of the bags with Al-Dowayan art was released at the end of December 2021 when Dior tweeted @Dior: “Recasting its charms in Arabic lettering, Manal Al-Dowayan reinvented the #LadyDior for #DiorLadyArt 6 through references to her Saudi heritage and desert rose crystal inspiration.”
Al-Dowayan talked about how elegant women like to look in the Gulf through their appearance and exotic fashion. “Saudi women and actually women of the Gulf, in general, are some of the most stylish women on the planet. They are people who have supported these global brands by buying from them and wearing them in the most interesting ways. Customizing something that comes from Europe, to look absolutely beautiful in the setting that is our countries,” she said.
Commenting on emerging Saudi talents, Al-Dowayan said: “I’m constantly inspired, it’s very exciting. I enjoy looking at art and I love having interesting conversations with creatives across the country who are expressing themselves in multiple mediums that were very lonely, as when I first started as an artist. It was just me and a handful of other contemporary artists.”
“I’m not talking about modern art, but contemporary art. There are just very few people doing contemporary art and now the scene is full; it’s a great time to be an artist,” she said.
Al-Dowayan said that there was no specific style that she liked to follow in her art, as her work expresses her current life and experiences as a human being and as a woman. “I am an artist that lives in this region but travels the world. So, my art will constantly reflect my personal journey as a human being.”
Dior has now begun a new dialogue with women of the Arab region — simply saying “I see you” she said. “I am not a fashion world girl but I really enjoyed this journey.”
Al-Dowayan will be participating in the “2139 exhibition” in Jeddah that opens on March 3.


‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 August 2022

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
  • Six leading Saudi women to advise students on business startups
  • Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University to run 6-month course

JEDDAH: Luxury watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin has launched its second “One of Not Many” business mentorship program in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

The company had initially run its first project in the UAE in 2020.

Six Saudi women leaders have been selected to mentor undergraduate students over six months. The program is aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 and aims to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs.

Christophe Ramel, regional Brand Director Middle East at Vacheron Constantin, said: “The Kingdom represents huge promises and great potential, and the Maison values are aligned closely with Saudi Vision 2030.

“We, at Vacheron Constantin, realize the importance of passing down skills to the next generation to support the leaders of tomorrow. We wish all selected students a fruitful program ahead and look forward to witnessing them excel towards their career ambitions.”

Shahd Al-Shehail, entrepreneur and co-founder of Ethical Luxury Brand Abadia, said that the small choices people make every day matter and young people should continue to work hard and not be afraid of failure.

Aya Al-Bitar, Saudi product and furniture designer, and founder of AYA the Art of Living, said she would encourage students to explore their heritage and individuality if they choose to enter her field.

Emon Shakoor, founder and CEO of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia's first female-focused and inclusivity accelerator, said: “As an entrepreneur, it’s not about how much resources you have but about how resourceful you can be. Every individual has the power to create the life that they have dreamed of and to achieve it. This program will definitely allow the student to understand and execute the things that they actually want in life and never take no for an answer.”

Nora Aldabal, arts and creative industries executive director at The Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Saudi Arabia is a gold mine of inspiration; inspiration attracts talent and talent gets ideas. This program will accelerate individuals to be the most creative version of themselves.”

Nouf Al-Moajil, strategic analyst and CEO of the Eastern Province Social Responsibility Council, said she would advise students to explore and follow their passion, even in a new area of business. They should try to be as authentic as possible, she said.

Basma El-Khereiji, chef and entrepreneur, and founder of the Social Kitchen, said students should be passionate about what they do and allow people to feel and appreciate it.

After successfully completing the program, students have the opportunity to embark on an internship program with Vacheron Constantin or any other Richemont Maison.


Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
  • “Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News

RIYADH: Many young singers have discovered a home for their talent thanks to Saudi Arabia’s increased focus on music and the establishment of a music commission in 2020 that aims to develop non-discriminatory access to music education.

Noha Al-Sehemi, a 17-year-old Saudi singer, is one of them.

At 15, she was able to produce her first song on social media. Her songs highlight some traumas that she has experienced and the feeling of being misunderstood, which sparked the inner struggles that many teenagers feel.

Now she has launched a song called “Good Luck Sleepin’,” where she speaks about this inner conflict.

“Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News.

Her song was played on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music. She has performed her work at a series of events, one of them at the American embassy.

“I was flown out to Washington, DC by the Saudi embassy for the celebration of the national day in 2019,” she said.

Al-Sehemi prefers English music due to her family’s exposure to it.

“Growing up with a musical family helped me a lot, and when I was a child I always loved games that had music in them, like Guitar Hero, and I was curious about music,” she said. “I was exposed to many song genres and was influenced by them.”

Al-Sehemi describes her music genre as funk and likes classic rock, hip hop, R&B and jazz.

She plays piano and guitar. Although she has written a number of songs, she has decided to focus more on her vocals at the moment.

Al-Sehemi met a group of talented people in Open Night Mice, who helped her to produce her song in 2019.

“We got to know each other at an open mic night in August 2019 and it’s a Saudi Music Community initiative, and we recorded the song in my house,” she said.

“They all put in their own touches, so it was like a collective project with many different perspectives and tastes embedded in the song,” she said.

Al-Sehemi intends to record an entire album where she expresses her opinions and speaks directly to other teenagers who share her sentiments.

“I have been working on an album for three years now and many songs will be out soon and the lyrics of the music will tell you so much about what I feel, and I stopped being a stubborn person who wants to be a perfectionist about every song,” she said. “I usually throw away any song I don’t like initially, but now I just do what I believe in and everything else will follow.”


Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
Updated 07 August 2022

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
  • The world’s largest date palm oasis is generating a new era of prosperity

RIYADH: Al-Ahsa, the world’s largest date palm oasis, is generating a new era of prosperity following the launch of a new development authority.

On May 12, the Kingdom formed the board of directors for the Al-Ahsa Development Authority, headed by Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province.

The move aims to enhance the governorate’s potential while helping develop the tourism, heritage and cultural aspects of Al-Ahsa.

The authority will create a balanced and sustainable development environment that supports the governorate’s economy and promotes development, modernization and diversity, according to the state press agency.

“The decision reflects the leadership’s keenness to invest in the comparative advantage of Al-Ahsa and to utilize it in economic projects that will align with Vision 2030,” Ibraheem Alshekmubarak, secretary-general at Al-Ahsa Chamber of Commerce, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Ibraheem Alshekmubarak

The city of 1.3 million people was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2018.

UNESCO said: “The city has an ancient tradition of handicrafts, considered cultural and social practices passed on from generation to generation.

“Around 50 expressions of crafts and folk art have remained throughout the city’s history and bear witness to Al-Ahsa’s scenic wealth, including textiles from palm trees, pottery, weaving and joinery.”

Boosting tourism

The governorate hosts 36 weekly open markets and stages several festivals a year.

“When we talk about tourism in Al-Ahsa, we are talking about agricultural, heritage and natural tourism,” Alshekmubarak said.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Tourism launched a high-profile investment conference in the city called Destination Tomorrow.
The conference showcased Saudi destinations to local investors and international operators.

“Post pandemic, people are a little bit more conservative internationally regarding cross-border investment. But we are proving to be a destination attracting quite a decent amount of interest,” Mahmoud Abdulhadi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for investment attraction, told Arab News.

The Kingdom seeks to generate 10 percent of the gross domestic product from the tourism sector and to attract over 100 million visitors by the end of this decade, creating an additional 1 million jobs in the sector.

“We want to make the sector stand on its own two feet. So we are keen on large private sector investment to come in, even as we are mindful that the whole sector is built on small and medium enterprises,” added Abdulhadi.

The city’s chamber of commerce led several initiatives to support SMEs, monitoring the sectors most affected by the pandemic to keep them formulating plans and drawing strategies that help them overcome the damage.

“Al-Ahsa Chamber organized a set of development initiatives and advisory services provided to entrepreneurs through the Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman Center for Business Development,” Alshekmubarak added.

Airport expansion

Al-Ahsa airport’s capacity will more than double the expectations of fast regional growth, Fahad Alharbi, the CEO of Dammam Airports Co., said in an earlier interview with Arab News.

The city’s airport has a capacity of around 400,000 passengers but aspires to reach 1 million, Alharbi added.

Saudi Aramco mainly uses the facility, but before the pandemic struck, there was commercial activity from two or three local destinations and another two or three international sites.

“With the economic and tourism boom expected in Al-Ahsa, the development of Al-Ahsa International Airport is the most in need of projects at present,” said Alshekmubarak.

Business destination

Essam Al-Mulla

The city is already growing in businesses as the Ministry of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing announced in June that the investment opportunities in the city increased by 53 percent in 2021, with 362 available options on its online portal.

The total value of these investments exceeded SR275 million, Essam Al-Mulla, the mayor of Al-Ahsa, told Arab News.

The available opportunities in the portal in 2022 already reached 112 investments, said the Saudi Minister of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, according to the Saudi Press Agency.


Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality

Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality
Updated 06 August 2022

Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality

Saudi tech experts bring futuristic AI technology closer to reality
  • Goal is to establish Saudi Arabia as the main immersive hub in the region, and possibly the world

RIYADH: Saudi technology experts are putting the latest developments in artificial intelligence into the hands of gamers attending a major international festival in the Kingdom.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has partnered with the Saudi Esports Federation for the Gamers8 event taking place in Riyadh to showcase the most recent advances in augmented and virtual reality technologies.

And Ahmed Abdulrahman, the immersive lab manager on Ithra’s Creative Solutions program, believes the futuristic AI seen in many current sci-fi movies could become publicly available within five to 10 years.

The GameDev Zone interior, buzzing with eager and curious Saudis looking to try the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Technologies on show at the festival focus not just on gaming but also interactive and immersive experiences, entertainment, and learning.

Abdulrahman pointed out that the kind of VR gadgets seen in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 adventure film “Ready Player One,” were now readily available. Ithra even had a haptic Teslasuit and glove (technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and motions to the user) that members of the public could test out.

FASTFACTS

• One of the Ithra winners’ projects, ‘The Anticipation of Rain,’ lets people sense rain by wearing a VR headset.

• Ithra even had a haptic Teslasuit and glove (technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, and motions to the user) that members of the public could test out.

“We can put people into some games that utilize all the technologies together, where they can walk around and feel every hit in the game. It’s full immersion. It’s not 2045, it’s 2022,” he told Arab News.

The GameDev Zone interior, buzzing with eager and curious Saudis looking to try the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in Riyadh. (Supplied)

In Riyadh Boulevard City, where Gamers8 is in full flow, the Creative Solutions’ GameDev zone features prototype games developed within 72 hours or less, as well as the program cohorts’ five previous winning designs, plus internationally developed video games.

While the available VR experiences are not fully equipped, they still allow visitors to get the general idea behind the immersive stories.

One of the Ithra winners’ projects, “The Anticipation of Rain,” lets people sense rain by wearing a VR headset. Its developer, Naima Karim, tells how she became paralyzed at a young age, but discovered a love for painting through the influence of rain. “There were so many people who were moved with it, they just took off their headset to cry,” Abdulrahman said.

Other AR projects take users on a journey through the history of the universe or on a mission to find hidden objects, similar to the “Pokemon GO” mobile game.

The main entrance to Ithra's Creative Solutions GameDev Zone in partnership with the biggest Esports festival globally, Gamers8, in Riyadh Boulevard City. (Supplied)

Next to the zone’s five winners’ booths are a selection of internationally developed gaming programs including “The Climb 2,” “Loco Dojo,” “Beat Saber,” and a PS5 Playroom.

Filipe Gomez, Creative Solutions program curator, told Arab News: “There are developers pointing to a future where no screens are going to exist. Everything will be projected.”

Amr Bogari, a conceptual artist and AI enthusiast, said: “This reflects a good mental image over time, and is expected from our government, as it is a great supporter of this development and progress that advances humanity.

“But, in general, it depends on a person’s use. The abundance of technology can reduce the spiritual aspect, and this applies in many examples. Our role is to create a moderate space that combines reality and assumption.”

On the GameDev zone, Gomez said: “The level of engagement from the public was incredible. For me, it really reflects an eagerness to learn and to develop and get ready. The creativity is there.”

The Ithra program team aims to create one-of-a-kind experiences that people of all backgrounds can enjoy.

Abdulrahman said: “They’re all proud. That’s the one word I can say. Everyone who is trying them, when they see them, they’re just amazed about the quality of work even though we call them prototypes.”

And the program goal was to establish Saudi Arabia as the main immersive hub in the region, and possibly the world.

“It depends on us, and stakeholders such as Ithra that pushes a specific agenda that really cares about how the people will be impacted through this transformation, to prepare them to be good decision-makers. When it comes to creative solutions, they create humanistic solutions,” Gomez added.


Saudi perfumier scenting global business success through fragrance workshops

Wid Jamoom’s perfume brand offers a unique outcome of Arabic and French fragrances. (Supplied)
Wid Jamoom’s perfume brand offers a unique outcome of Arabic and French fragrances. (Supplied)
Updated 06 August 2022

Saudi perfumier scenting global business success through fragrance workshops

Wid Jamoom’s perfume brand offers a unique outcome of Arabic and French fragrances. (Supplied)
  • She told Arab News: “As a child, I loved chemistry, and I used to always mix things at home and even at school. The chemistry lab was my favorite place in school

RIYADH: A Saudi perfumier is scenting the sweet smell of business success running workshops on how to make fragrances.

Wid Jamjoom has dabbled with chemistry and cosmetics since childhood and now has more than 20 years of experience in the perfume-blending field.

She launched her Saudi luxury hand-made perfume brand Autre in 2016, specializing in customized fragrances and hopes one day to sell her products globally.

And her popular workshops have led some of her course participants to set up businesses of their own.

Wid Jamoom’s perfume brand offers a unique outcome of Arabic and French fragrances. (Supplied)

She told Arab News: “As a child, I loved chemistry, and I used to always mix things at home and even at school. The chemistry lab was my favorite place in school.

“The name of my brand, Autre, means other in French. It stands for being different,” she said.

As a child, I loved chemistry, and I used to always mix things at home and even at school. The chemistry lab was my favorite place in school.

Wid Jamjoom, Saudi perfumier

Since establishing her business, her aim has been to make her products affordable, unique, and compliant with international standards.

“My first perfume mix was for personal use, since I wanted a unique scent different from everybody else. In 2002, I sold my first mix when I started my humble business.”

She majored in marketing and business management, which helped her in promoting the perfume brand.

“At the time, I loved chemistry and was obsessed with smell as well, but I never knew I could do it as a career. I was only thinking of studying a major that would secure a job once I graduated. My major helped me a lot with my brand.

“My future plan is to have my products available all around the world and to design perfumes for big brands,” she added.

Her mother backed the enterprise from the start.

She said: “My mom was my first and biggest supporter, and now my whole family, and friends, support me in every way.

“In terms of inspiration, I was always inspired by scents I tried when I was young. However, many of them I can’t find anymore. I like to have something unique and unusual.

“My brand stands for mixing Arabic with French fragrances and such, to get a unique outcome. Arabs always prefer strong, rich-feel perfumes, so Arabian perfumes are heavier, stronger, and bolder.”

Jamjoom creates fragrances to match a person’s personality, color, age, or other trait.

“Perfumery, to me, is an art. Each scent has its own character. As I did before, some special designs are based on the names of cities and countries,” she added.

Autre is available online and through some delivery apps @autrebywid