ISLAMABAD: Pakistani painter Rabia Zakir, who on International Women’s Day this week became the first international artist to hold a solo show in Madinah, has praised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plans for promoting arts and culture in Saudi Arabia.
Zakir is well known in diplomatic circles for her portraits of Arab leaders, including the Saudi crown prince and members of the royal families of the UAE and Bahrain. Her portraits and landscapes hang in 50 embassies in Pakistan, most prominently of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
In an interview with Arab News via telephone from Madinah, Zahir said she had seen a “clear change” in the arts and culture scene in Saudi Arabia “due to the special interest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under his Vision 2030.”
Her solo show in the Kingdom, which she described as a “journey of faith,” was a sign of the changing times.
“I am feeling very proud to become the first female artist from outside Saudi Arabia to present her work in the holy city of Madinah,” Zahir said. “I don’t have words to explain my happiness.”
Zahir said her pieces on display include portraits of Saudi leaders and paintings depicting Islamic holy places.
“It has landscape paintings of Haram, Masjid Nabawi, different places in Makkah and Madinah that Muslims visit during their pilgrimage of Hajj and Umrah,” Zakir added.
The artist said she had been approached by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts around six months ago after officials noticed her work on social media.
“They offered to present my work to the Saudi public by organizing a solo exhibition,” she said, adding that the government of Pakistan was not involved in the exhibition, which was a wholly Saudi initiative.
Zakir has also been presented with an award by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts for “strengthening Pak-Saudi ties” and will be holding a training workshop for young Saudi artists.
Fatma Ragab, the organizer of the exhibition from the society, said the body welcomed intellectuals and creators from all over the world.
“Zakir’s exhibition, which includes 27 artistic paintings, was a great success and achieved remarkable attendance and admiration from notable personalities, artists, and intellectuals,” she told Arab News in a statement.
“It is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Saudi nationals to get acquainted closely with the fine art movement in Pakistan and their rich artistic experiences.”