JEDDAH: Artist Amira Nazer is showcasing her first solo exhibition at Hafez Gallery in Jeddah until Dec. 24.
“Huriyyat Jeddah,” which is curated by Basma Harasani, presents a series of photo sculptures that explores the tension, freedom, and beauty present in women’s lives through the use of fabric and the metaphor of the mermaid.
Nazer, who was born and raised in the historic port city, says she is proud of her roots.
She told Arab News: “It’s the biggest influence on how I conceive the world. Everything I experience is coming through the eyes of a Saudi woman.”
Nazer’s artistic journey began while she was a student at Columbia University in New York. Her passion for art prompted her to pursue a double major in political science and the visual arts.
She became aware of the stereotypes that surround Arab women while photographing friends.
She said: “It was always associated very negatively, like there was this imposition of coverage.
“I’ve always been drawn to material, and growing up while expressing myself in clothes was how I chose to differentiate myself and be creative.
“It was weird for a white man to tell me I’m oppressed. No, this is my choice. And it got me thinking of fabric.”
Nazer’s dream of a beautiful mermaid emerging from the sea, the debate over freedom or restriction and its parallels with Arab women and their garments, heavily influenced her work.
And the 23-year-old draws on this visual concept to communicate the individual’s experience of being comfortable in one’s physicality in relation to the environment felt by her subjects in her photographs.
It was important to the artist not to dictate the experience of the girls, all of whom lived in Jeddah but came from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Encouraging them to choose how they wanted to cover their body, Nazer captures various physical narratives while, working with stylist and childhood friend Latifa Bint Saad, she chose fabrics that represented her youth and the Saudi home, such as shalki and gingham.
The earthy tones emphasize the natural environment, which is central to the series, while the use of pink introduces femininity.
The images were printed onto the fabrics in which the women were photographed to reinforce the message.
Nazer experiments with the use and meaning of “material” to represent the composition of existence and the idea of materializing photographs into reality.
“Hurriyat Jeddah,” which means “The Mermaids of Jeddah,” is an exhibition that reflects Nazer’s journey as a Saudi woman, and those of many around the world who are subjected to others dictating their reality.
Nazer said: “What I hope to evoke is a conversation, exactly like I had with myself when I had the dream.
“This is what this piece is about: the voices of the women of Jeddah and the beauty of the experience in all its complexity.
“Diversity within the framework is what unifies it. There’s no one way; there’s no wrong way or right way. The differences in the experience are what unites it.”