Misk Art Institute documents Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s artwork

In 2012, Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan collected a group of female Sadu weavers, marginalized by the oil boom, and had each of them paint their names on Maplewood pearls. Strung together and suspended, this collective art piece became one of her most notable participatory works, titled “Esmi (My Name).” (AN Photo Nada Alturki)
In 2012, Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan collected a group of female Sadu weavers, marginalized by the oil boom, and had each of them paint their names on Maplewood pearls. Strung together and suspended, this collective art piece became one of her most notable participatory works, titled “Esmi (My Name).” (AN Photo Nada Alturki)
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Updated 12 June 2023
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Misk Art Institute documents Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s artwork

Misk Art Institute documents Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s artwork
  • “We have not witnessed another artist that has done it in the way (AlDowayan) did in terms of communicating with the society and community around her in (the making of) her artworks,” Basmah Alshathry, chief curator at the institute, told Arab News

RIYADH: Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan incorporates community participation into her work and is the subject of Misk Art Institute’s latest Art Library series book, titled “Manal AlDowayan: Participatory Acts,” showcasing her unique skills as a multidisciplinary artist who uplifts the voices of a community.

In 2012, AlDowayan collected a group of female Sadu weavers, marginalized by the oil boom, and had each of them paint their names on maplewood pearls. Strung together and suspended, this collective art piece became one of her most notable participatory works, titled “Esmi — My Name.”

The project was developed around the social attitude towards concealing women’s names and identities.




"Now You See Me, Now You Don’t" Invites the public to experience the immersive piece that highlights puddles, or lack thereof, in the landscapes of AlUla. (AN Photo Nada Alturki)

What infatuated viewers was not the artist’s use of material to conceptualize social issues, but rather the consistent candor and truth in voicing her and the collective experience.

“What you connect with is the humanity of my story,” AlDowayan told Arab News.  

Emerging as an artist in 2005, AlDowayan created a space where the public, especially women, were centered in the growth of a participatory art movement in the Kingdom.




Portraits from AlDowayan's "I Am" series hand at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall, highlighting women's contributions to furthering society historically. (AN Photo Nada Alturki)

“We have not witnessed another artist that has done it in the way (AlDowayan) did in terms of communicating with the society and community around her in (the making of) her artworks,” Basmah Alshathry, chief curator at the institute, told Arab News.  

The publication release is accompanied by an exhibition of selected artworks, which move away from a one-sided conversation by bringing her art to life, allowing the community to indulge in an inclusive thread of conversation and share live responses.

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The 125-page Art Library series book titled ‘Manal AlDowayan: Participatory Acts,’ offers a glimpse into the artist’s work, her transition to conceptual art, and a rearview into her life.

Alshathry said: “When you look at a work like ‘Sidelines,’ and the fact that she wanted to create a work to shed light on a community that was sidelined in society, (AlDowayan) wants these communities to join her. And that on its own is very powerful.”

Her pieces are displayed alongside the legacy of the late Emirati artist Hassan Sharif in both a publication and exhibition based on AlDowayan’s selection. While their individual practices and journies are vastly different, he is more of a symbol than inspiration for her work.




In 2012, Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan collected a group of female Sadu weavers, marginalized by the oil boom, and had each of them paint their names on Maplewood pearls. Strung together and suspended, this collective art piece became one of her most notable participatory works, titled “Esmi (My Name).” (AN Photo Nada Alturki)

AlDowayan explained: “In Saudi Arabia, the contemporary art movement is so powerful and is getting the majority of talent and investment … it would be an injustice to our own regional art history not to include the story and art of Hassan Sharif.”

Building on art history in the region, the side-by-side exhibitions invite local art-lovers to view her work, and maybe even get a glimpse into the world of the “father of conceptual art” in the Gulf region.  

The works on display are merely a retrospective; a slice of AlDowayan’s participatory works, or artworks activated by the presence or contribution of the audience.




Shimenawa rice straw paper has been woven together to create "Illuminate Me," a Shinto shrine dedicated to the goddess of light. (AN Photo Nada Alturki)

“Despite a critical aversion to reductive pigeonholing, it is near impossible to untangle Manal AlDowayan’s story from that of her home country,” wrote Ruba Al-Sweel, one of the three contributing writers to the retrospective.  

Indeed, documentation of the works’ timeline mirrors that of Saudi Arabia through shedding layers, cultivating complexity, and championing collective experiences.  

Her life story unfolds through art. The two-dimensional photo series “I Am” in 2005 highlights women in various fields during a gendered time in history. Later, she stepped out of the studio with photo documentations of Dhahran in “Landscapes of the Mind.” She then disposed of the frame completely with a flock of birds in the 2011 “Suspended Together,” a response to the imposed guardianship on women’s travel.  




The release of "Manal AlDowayan: Participatory Acts" is accompanied by an exhibition of selected artworks, which move away from a one-sided conversation by bringing her art alive, allowing the community to indulge in an inclusive thread of conversation and share live responses. (AN Photo Nada Alturki)

While many believe the installation speaks on behalf of a people, her practice stems from a personal place.

The 125-page book offers a glimpse into the artist’s engagement in participatory works, tracking her introductions to art through a photographic lens, her transition to conceptual works, and a rearview into her life.  

AlDowayan has displayed her photography, multimedia installations, and sculptures globally, including solo shows in Madrid’s Sabrina Amrani Gallery and Miami’s Rojas + Rubensteen Projects.




'Sidelines' by Manal AlDowayan contrasts the the neglect that women artisans have suffered with the urbanization and rapid transformation of Bedouin groups in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo Nada Alturki)

In the Kingdom, she has a unique positioning, initiating not only a shift from modern to contemporary, but also addressing gender within society. Her impact is undeniable, making her one of the most internationally recognized Saudi figures in the art world.

“The intention of actually producing the series of the Art Library is to fill a prevalent gap in terms of the archiving documentation of Arab artists that have contributed in important and significant ways to the art field,” Alshathry said.  

It is an essential record for artists, historians and researchers today, and more importantly, the future. Regardless of the boundless artworks born out of the region, they have historically been dictated and archived through Western lenses.

“Every researcher that you will come across in the world that wants to write a paper, or a PhD thesis, or an article, will tell you the worst thing is there are no resources. And most of our resources, that document our contemporary art movement, have not been preserved,” AlDowayan said.

 


Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee
  • As the bank celebrates its 50th anniversary, the meetings will have the theme ‘Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the annual meetings and golden jubilee celebrations of the Islamic Development Bank Group in Riyadh between April 27 and 30, under the patronage of King Salman.

This year’s meetings will take place under the theme “Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The bank describes itself as a pivotal platform for development dialogue, and said it is celebrating 50 years of fostering social and economic growth among its members. As a leading multilateral development bank, it said it expects the event to attract significant international and regional attention.

Participants will include economic, planning and finance ministers from the 57 member countries of the bank, along with representatives of international and regional financial agencies and organizations, Islamic banks, the private sector, development finance institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and chambers of commerce and industry.

Organizers said the annual gathering serves as a vital forum for the enhancement of economic ties and expansion of cooperation among participants. Its agenda includes forums, seminars and meetings on a range of topics, with particularly notable events including the Governors’ Round Table, the 18th IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance, and the IDB Group Private Sector Forum.

Topics for discussion will include the role of small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda, strategies for the financing of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, the leveraging of Islamic finance for the development of resilient infrastructure, and the establishment of the Arab Coordination Group Forum.

The Future Vision Symposium and the General Assembly of the Union of Consultants in Islamic Countries will also take place during the event.


Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation
  • Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday with the chief of staff of the Pakistan Army, Gen. Asim Munir.

They discussed ways to enhance the “strong cooperation” between their nations in several fields, including ways to work together to improve security and strategic cooperation in ways that contribute to international peace and security.

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation. He also met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar.

The prince was leading a high-level Saudi delegation that included Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef, and senior officials from the ministries of energy and investment, and the Public Investment Fund.


Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York

Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York

Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York
  • Tourism minister says he hopes Kingdom can help lead transformation of sector into an environmentally friendly industry that supports communities and countries

NEW YORK: The Saudi tourism minister on Tuesday reiterated the Kingdom’s commitment to sustainable development of the travel sector.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb said that under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has become one of the most promising and attractive global travel destinations.

He was speaking at the start of an event at the UN headquarters in New York that aims to encourage a concerted approach to enhance the resilience of the sector at the highest level and maximize its contribution to sustainability.

The event, which takes place during UN Sustainability Week, was convened by the president of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, in cooperation with UN Tourism.

Al-Khateed highlighted the efforts the Kingdom is making to address the environmental impacts of the travel and tourism sector, and noted that those efforts had contributed to the establishment, with Saudi Support, of the World Travel and Tourism Council and the World Center for Sustainable Tourism.

During the past two years, Saudi Arabia has sought, in its role as chair of the executive council of UN Tourism, to enhance the representation of the travel and tourism sector in international forums, Al-Khateeb said.

This has resulted in UN Tourism and the Kingdom cooperating on a package of initiatives to help achieve this goal, including a Best Tourism Villages award, a Tourism Opens Minds initiative, and a working group to reimagine the future of tourism, Al-Khateeb added. He also noted his country’s efforts to ensure the tourism sector was properly represented on the agenda for UN Sustainability Week. 

Saudi Arabia topped the UN World Tourism list in 2023 in terms of growth among major tourism destinations in the number of international visitors. It also topped the list of G20 nations in terms of the number of international tourists, welcoming more than 27 million last year, Al-Khateeb said. He added that authorities in the Kingdom are developing plans and strategies to attract more than 70 million international tourists a year by 2030.

By then, he said, the Kingdom aims to have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 278 million tonnes annually, designated 30 percent of land and marine territory as protected areas, and planted more than 600 million trees.

“The Kingdom has taken significant steps to launch the Sustainable Tourism Global Center, with the aim of accelerating the travel and tourism sector’s transition to climate neutrality, protecting nature and empowering communities around the world,” Al-Khateeb said.

He also highlighted major Saudi projects such as the NEOM smart city development and the Red Sea tourism project that aim to ensure they have positive effects on the climate, environment and local communities.

He also expressed the Kingdom’s aspiration for all countries to make concerted efforts, and be open to cooperation, to achieve the goal of sustainable development in the global travel and tourism sector.

Al-Khateeb said that through this important UN event, he hopes the Kingdom can spread a message to the world about the need to preserve the environment, and can help lead and support the transformation of tourism into an environmentally friendly industry that supports communities and countries worldwide.

UN Sustainability Week began on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York and continues until Friday.


Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received two separate calls from UAE president Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Saudi Press Agency said early Wednesday.

The calls discussed the recent military escalation in the region and its repercussions on safety and security, in addition to the latest developments in Gaza.

They also underscored the importance of exerting efforts to prevent the situation from worsening and to spare the region the dangers of this escalation, the SPA added.


Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference

Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference

Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference
  • The Saudi delegation at the two-day event is led by the CEO of the National Center for Wildlife, Mohammed Qurban
  • During 8 previous events since the conference was launched in 2014, participants announced 2,160 commitments worth $130 billion

RIYADH: Saudi authorities showcased their programs and plans for environmental protection and sustainability initiatives on Tuesday, during the first day of the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens.

Delegates at this year’s event, the theme for which is “Our Ocean: An Ocean of Potential,” include representatives of governments and businesses, as well as activists and experts on marine environments, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They are discussing topics such as protected marine areas, sustainable blue economies, maritime security, the relationship between oceans and climate change, sustainable fishing, and ways to combat marine pollution. Other issues to be addressed during the conference include sustainable tourism in coastal areas and on islands, ways to reduce plastic and microplastic pollution in marine environments, green shipping, and the green transition in the Mediterranean.

The Saudi delegation at the two-day event is led by the CEO of the National Center for Wildlife, Mohammed Qurban. The initiatives in the Kingdom highlighted at the conference revolve around ways to protect oceans and other water resources, and the sustainable utilization of marine resources.

“Our participation in the work of this global conference reflects the Kingdom’s keenness to support the efforts and endeavors aimed at achieving Sustainable Development Goals, protecting the seas, oceans and water resources, and the sustainable use of marine resources in a way that reflects the trends of the Kingdom and (its) Vision 2030 (development plan) to support environmental protection efforts,” said Qurban.

He highlighted several key national projects that are underway, including the Saudi Green Initiative, which aims to expand protected areas of the Kingdom to encompass 30 percent of its total land and sea territory, and plant 100 million mangrove trees by 2030.

“The Kingdom remains resolute in its mission to safeguard nature and its invaluable ecological treasures, with a special emphasis on the Red Sea region,” Qurban said. “We stand ready to deploy all necessary resources and efforts toward sustainable conservation endeavors.”

Participation in forums such as the Our Ocean Conference encourages the invaluable sharing of knowledge, a cross-pollination of ideas, and collaborations in the creation of innovative ways to tackle environmental challenges and promote sustainable practices, he added.

During the previous eight events since the conference was launched in 2014 by the US to fill a gap in global ocean governance at the time, participants have announced 2,160 commitments worth $130 billion, organizers said.

Other items on the agenda this year include ways in which oceans will meet the needs of future generations, ways to encourage governments, businesses and other organizations to adopt long-term commitments that have positive effects on oceans, and efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals relating to oceans, seas and marine resources.