My stories tell the story of every Saudi woman: Elham Dawsari
The artist works to explore Riyadh in the 1980s and 1990s through the portraits of middle- and lower-class women
Updated 22 min 31 sec ago
RIYADH: As interdisciplinary Saudi artist and writer Elham Dawsari sits with an iced Spanish latte in hand, a sweet combat to the heat outside, she recalls one of her first sketches: a younger version of herself sits on the front stoop of her house watching barefoot boys her age play around in the grass, free of social decorum. She holds a walkman in hand, her own personal bubble at the press of a button.
“I drew that because I wanted to not only answer questions, but to articulate the questions first: What is this about spaces? About women? About gender?” she told Arab News.
As she was simultaneously the subject of the sketch and the background to the playing boys, she made a visceral connection to the space around her and where women fit into it.
Subliminally, she bagan to make the forgotten women the center of her work.
Dawsari works to explore a pre-Internet Riyadh in the 1980s and 1990s through centering middle- and lower-class women, investigating how it influenced their behavior and how they were shaped by the spaces around them.
“I think this is my way of coming to terms with a lot of things that happened in my life, including the stories of women because I still carried questions for the longest time, trying to understand it,” she said.
• Dawsari wanted her work to represent the women, and help view them in the simplest of forms: As humans.
• The work hopes to appreciate where they are now and ‘hopefully have them more included’ in our fast-paced and youth-focused lives, she says.
• The sculptures are a personal embodiment of memories and people, designed on a smaller scale to physically and emotionally pull the viewer in.
While Saudi culture has been slowly loosening its control on the societal expectations of women, some find it is still difficult to think critically of the past.
She has found that artistic pursuits are a more palatable way to honestly pursue without the societal backlash.
“Art is a way for me to clash, but indirectly,” Dawsari said.
Subabat, women who serve coffee and desserts at all-female events, have become the subject of her most popular work.
The figures evoked mystery and curiosity for viewers, which is what inspired the pursuit, she said.
While she grew up in the US until high school, she still went to Saudi weddings and recalls seeing her first Subabat at an early age.
“Around 12-years-old, I began associating Subabat with muted beauty,” she wrote in her essay, titled “Documenting Subabat: A Tribute to Sisterhood.”
While they had a certain status and prestige at weddings, their presence was evidently invisible to the attendees. Their job was to serve and never chat.
“Classism was apparent, but they still looked similar to the grandmothers (at the weddings), the way they dress. Eventually 25 years later, I learned through research that they took that style from the women they worked for,” Dawsari said.
That contrast stuck with her and her determination to document these women and their process, despite their prominent evasion, culminated in her photo series, essays, and docu short under the title “Subabat.”
While the notions of lamenting and nostalgia are prominent in many Saudi artworks, she chose to stray away from them.
“What joy does that give to anybody?” she thought. Instead of highlighting the problems of the current age, she decided to uplift the stories of the past.
In her artwork “Nfah,” Dawsari has created a series of five miniature sculptures showcasing how women utilized their time at home. In the secluded nature of their lives, either in their own home or in someone else’s, they sculpted who they are and searched for open spaces.
The work, most recently showcased at Jax Arts Festival in Riyadh, aims to analyze the relationship between urban landscaping and specific behavior of 1990s Saudi households.
The two sculptures that showed the voluptuous houseworking women, one cleaning the yard and the other squatting as she does laundry, reflect how they maintained their physical strength in rural Saudi Arabia.
Dawsari told Arab News that she hoped to start a conversation where she, and her audience, can look at these anchors as more than just houseworkers and parents, “to rewire ourselves and really think about all the other things that were in their lives, and the heavy burden of responsibility that society imposed on them.”
She wanted her work to represent the women, and help view them in the simplest of forms: as humans. The work hopes to appreciate where they are now and “hopefully have them more included” in our fast-paced and youth-focused lives, she said.
The sculptures are a personal embodiment of memories and people, designed on a smaller scale to physically and emotionally pull the viewer in.
“‘Nfah’ is more of these collective stories of people that I get to listen to, that I get to share, that fall into the essence of the artwork … it’s about breaking these barriers through these women,” she said.
Dawsari explores the theme of urban landscaping by tracing women’s movement inside these traditional households. In her work, she often wonders what these box-like spaces are meant to protect us from.
“It’s more like an emotional kind of fort you are in that protects you, another barrier in this society… Why is it so revolting? Why is it so depressing?” she said.
She connects the effects of these spaces we have built and how we impose ourselves on our architecture in return. What would happen to the next generation when they live in this so-called “utopian” home of their ancestors?
“How did it affect those women who, today, are also living in a different renaissance?” she questioned.
In a time where hustling and striving for the future defines our daily lives, it is easy to disconnect with our seniors who might not be running at the same pace.
“Everybody who came and interacted was affected, which means that we share the same story despite our differences,” said Dawsari.
Everyone has a similar memory of a mother figure applying lemon juice on their knees or making the afternoon coffee.
An Indian onlooker came to Dawsari once expressing how her work reminded her of her aunts and her family. The universality of her work is what speaks to the audience.
“Every passing day, we are losing stories that are undocumented…the thing is (to create more of a) habit, have people interact with more and more artworks about this generation,” added Dawsari.
Saudi artist turns her farming passion into creative work
Al-Obaid makes these hand-painted pot bags from scratch, sewing the bags according to pot size, and then she selecting a drawing to apply to the fabric, usually flowery
Updated 23 min 45 sec ago
JEDDAH: Hadeel Al-Obaid, a Saudi artist from Eastern Province, with over 20 years of farming experience, took a leap of faith when she turned her childhood hobby into a unique business idea.
Offering hand-painted pot bags, Al-Obaid was creative enough to mix between art, farming, and gifting.
She told Arab News: “I inherited the love of farming from my late father — he taught me a lot of gardening skills since I was 13. So, at first, I used to share on social media tips and tricks on how to take care of plants and a few posts of my paintings.”
Al-Obaid has gained extensive knowledge about plants. “I have a good relationship with my plants, I want everyone to benefit from my experience — and I am glad that my art-related business is also related to farming,” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Al-Obaid had the time to practice painting styles inspired by Korean and Japanese art, and also by her indoor home garden and flowers. That was when the idea of her project, “Lavender touches,” was sparked.
“As a self-taught artist, in the beginning, I started with painting on the table serving mats, dinner table linens, and coasters, which (was) admired by many. Then, due to the number of indoor and outdoor plants I am surrounded by, I thought of adding a touch of art to these pots by covering them with hand-painted fabric bags to make them look more vibrant.”
Al-Obaid makes these hand-painted pot bags from scratch, sewing the bags according to pot size, and then she selecting a drawing to apply to the fabric, usually flowery. Then she colors it using paints, and finally, she applies an interesting Arabic phrase or a quote.
“I draw only flowers on the canvas bags after I sew them, most of which are inspired by my home garden (plants) such as peace lily, tulip, French hydrangea, common zinnia, Arabian jasmine, lavender, and pansy,” she said.
The name of her project, “Lavender,” is also inspired by her favorite color and flower.
Al-Obaid said that the main aim of her project, next to offering a fusion between painting and plants, is to change the gifting concept of flower bouquets.
“I personally think that the idea of gifting a flower bouquet to anyone on different occasions is respected, however, it is over-consumed and it really lacks the element of surprise, and if replaced with a well-decorated plant of any type, it will be more valued,” she said.
Al-Obaid also offers custom-made pot bags with customers’ selection of colors, shapes, types of flowers painted, English or Arabic names, or phrases about different occasions, as well as different types of indoor home plants and flowers.
“Each painting takes from an hour to three hours depending on the flower type,” she said.
The fabric pot bags also feature a water resistant color of a velvety texture, to maintain the beauty of the paintings once the plant is splashed with water, and can be found on Instagram @lavender_touches.
Riyadh’s acting governor receives South African ambassador
They exchanged friendly conversations during the reception
Updated 22 min 15 sec ago
RIYADH: Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, acting governor of the Riyadh region, on Monday received South Africa’s ambassador to the Kingdom Mogobo David Magabe.
They exchanged friendly conversation during the reception.The two countries are aiming for stronger bilateral ties. In June, Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan visited South Africa and met President Cyril Ramaphosa in the capital, Cape Town.
Kattan conveyed the greetings and good wishes of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the government and people of South Africa.
Who’s Who: Avinash Pangarkar, CFO of ROSHN, the national real estate developer
Updated 21 min 7 sec ago
Avinash Pangarkar was appointed as the group CFO of ROSHN, the national real estate developer powered by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in October 2020.
Currently, Pangarkar is spearheading ROSHN’s journey to meet the growing demand for housing in Saudi Arabia by developing residential communities of the highest standard across the nation.
Pangarkar, through his role as ROSHN group CFO, oversees the financial operations and asset management of the nation’s leading real estate developer. He came to ROSHN from a successful term as group CFO for Emaar Properties PJSC — a role in which he served for nearly three years.
His leadership position at ROSHN is the culmination of nearly three decades of experience in financial operations, spanning the real estate, investment, financial services and technology sectors.
After starting his career in 1994 as a finance manager at Inchcape, a shipping and marketing services company in Dubai, he joined Microsoft in 1998. He held the position of regional finance head for the Middle East and North Africa region.
A two-year term in Citigroup followed, where Pangarkar held the position of vice president and Middle East regional compliance and controls head. From 2006 to 2010 he worked with TECOM Investments, a leading developer of business parks in Dubai and part of Dubai Holding, as the CFO, before taking the same position at Dubai Holding, which he held for over two years.
In Abdul Latif Jameel Group, Pangarkar worked as the chief investment officer from 2012 for five years, overseeing investment activity across a diversified portfolio and helping the group achieve its growth objectives.
Saudi Arabia’s Buraidah Date Festival sales exceed SR62 million
Madinah is famous for producing various types of dates, including ajwa, safawi, mejdool, anbara, sagai, barni and mabroom
Updated 13 sec ago
BURAIDAH: The Buraidah Date Festival, organized by the Al-Qassim branch of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, has registered sales exceeding SR62 million ($16.5 million) in the first seven days since its opening.
According to the statistics committee at the festival, the market has received more than 9,000 vehicles loaded with over 3,000 tons of various types of dates. Date companies and farmers are witnessing significant activity, as consumers prefer to shop for dates at the festival and freeze them for later consumption.
The ministry’s director general, Abdulaziz Al-Rajehi, said that Qassim Gov. Prince Faisal bin Mishaal has “given great attention” to the month-long festival, which will showcase more than 45 kinds of dates.
The event will also feature scores of activities and marketing schemes to promote Qassim’s date industry.
The festival aims to attract consumers, investors and exporters from the Arab and Gulf countries.
About 4,000 young men, women and families have set up booths at the festival to sell their handmade products. Meanwhile, demand for the fruit, especially ajwa dates, has increased significantly in Madinah due to the influx of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
Madinah is famous for producing various types of dates, including ajwa, safawi, mejdool, anbara, sagai, barni and mabroom. Pilgrims as well as visitors sample and buy the fruit during their time in the city.
The harvest season of ajwa, mejdool and safawi dates has also begun.
About 4 million trees will be harvested to stock date markets in Madinah, according to Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Radadi, director general of the Cooperative Society for Dates in Madinah.