Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream

Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
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Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 February 2024
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Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream

Saudi creative couple pursuing Japanese art dream
  • Fatimah Al-Dubais, Mohammad Al-Madan are spreading their love for the artforms across Saudi Arabia

DHAHRAN: The first thing that strikes you when you meet the creative duo Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan is how much they love merging Japanese aesthetics with Saudi sensibilities. It would not be unusual for one to have an engaging conversation with them about Japanese-related matters while they each keep their hands busy. Her, elegantly folding vibrantly-colored paper rapidly into a crane as she talks, and him, sketching with his signature anime-style drawing as he responds. Their love for Japanese art runs deep — all while always maintaining their Saudi roots.

Both Al-Dubais and Al-Madan grew up in the Eastern Province; they each independently grew a fascination for Japanese art from a young age — Al-Dubais with origami, Al-Madan with anime and manga. They met in the creative world in 2016 and have since become partners in life and in work.

“We are known in our Saudi friend circle as the ‘Japanese art couple’,” Al-Madan told Arab News with a smile.




Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)

Indeed, the creative couple have been adamant about spreading their version of Japanese-inspired art in the Kingdom for the last seven years, teaching hundreds of students workshops and offering personalized guidance for locals who want to merge their chosen traditional Japanese art forms — all while still keeping it fresh and “Saudi.”

The story unfolded when Al-Dubais was about 12 years old in Saihat City in 2010. A student she did not know was creating little cranes made of paper and gifting them to other girls at school. Although she never received one herself, Al-Dubais was instantly fascinated. The idea of taking a mundane everyday item like paper and using just your hands to transform it into something else entirely intrigued her, but she did not know what the art form was called.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both Fatimah Al-Dubais and Mohammad Al-Madan grew up in the Eastern Province and became fascinated by Japanese art from a young age.

• They bonded professionally over their love of Japanese art and their interest in finding creative ways to weave their Saudi identity into their works.

• The pair have worked on many collaborations, using local materials like parts extracted from a palm tree to make art.

YouTube had just started to become popular that year and Al-Dubais had to ask her parents for permission to make a search. As soon as she went online, she tried to look up paper-related art but she could not find the right keyword. Then one day, the algorithm showed her a thumbnail of an origami video and she clicked it. That is how her journey into origami started.

She then spent hours and hours teaching herself how to shape little pieces of paper at home into small works of art. Her mother, who constantly encouraged her to explore new art forms and to be creative, told her to keep at it. So, she did.




Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)

“My mother was my biggest supporter when I was starting to learn origami. Many people around me told me stuff like ‘what are you doing, just folding paper over and over, that isn’t even artistic!’ I enjoyed it, though, and my mother told me to ignore them. It was ‘something’ and soon, they’d know it,” Al-Dubais told Arab News.

And, soon enough, people did. In 2013, after years of making little paper pieces of art in her bedroom, Al-Dubais’ mother told her she had a surprise. Her mother had spoken to some local artists in Saihat and told Al-Dubais to pack some of her paper creations — they were going to show them off at an art show. It was the first time she felt like a legitimate artist and that her works were worthy of being showcased. She learned a lot from that experience and the interaction with other artists encouraged her to become a full-time artist. A year later, in 2014, she started to buy proper origami paper when a new store opened up not too far from her hometown. Every Thursday, she would make a trip there to buy some paper. Then, she started to order from Amazon.

Going to Japan — a place that inspired our work and our lives, even from this distance — would be a dream.

Fatimah Al- Dubais, and Mohammad Al-Madan Saudi artists

While still in high school, Al-Dubais began teaching workshops related to origami, and after she graduated in 2015, she decided to go all in.

When talking to locals about her love of origami, she met a gentleman who worked between Saudi Arabia and Japan and asked if she would like an introduction to the Japanese Embassy in Riyadh. Al-Dubais’ mother accompanied her to the Kingdom’s capital, where she spoke to people about her art and gained confidence to continue learning the craft professionally.

Meanwhile, Al-Madan, who is a few years older than Al-Dubais, grew up not far from her hometown and also had a love of Japanese art — but it was more focused on manga and anime. He was always a creative child and also grew up in a creative family who worked with their hands.




Fatimah Al-Dubais and her artist husband Mohammad Al-Madan’s love for Japanese art runs deep, while always maintaining their Saudi roots. (Supplied)

“In 2016, I was leading an art workshop in Qatif and needed some assistance. Mohammad — who is now my husband — was a volunteer,” Al-Dubais said with a giggle. They bonded professionally over their love of Japanese art and their interest in finding creative ways to weave their Saudi identity into their works.

Al-Madan, who was studying in the US at the time, went back to university. Although his major was in business management, he took art classes on the side just for fun.

“I took an animation class and developed my own style which I use today,” he said.

Upon his return, he proposed to Al-Dubais. It was at the height of the pandemic so they had to keep their wedding very small. After that, their lives centered on Japanese-inspired art.

Speaking about her husband’s artwork, Al-Dubais said: “Not because he’s my husband, but I really like his style! It has elements of anime but is a bit more realistic, like the features look a bit more real. He will talk to you and pay attention to what you are saying while his hands draw you at the same time. It is his way of communicating.”

They both used to create art the old-fashioned way, with paper, but have now pivoted to digital mediums. The couple rarely start with paper anymore, since it is more practical and efficient to do most things electronically, saving time and energy, as well as materials.

The pair have worked on many collaborations since, using local materials like parts extracted from a palm tree to make art.

Last year, they worked on a giant origami-inspired owl art piece at a local cafe in Saihat, named Sova, which became the talk of the town. Sova, which means owl in Ukrainian, became a physical manifestation that combined their skills to create a large-scale art piece that locals could interact with.

They also collaborated on many workshops at Ithra in Dhahran, and at Hayy Jameel on the opposite coast in Jeddah. So far, the couple have taught hundreds of students by hosting events in most major cities within the Kingdom.

But they are still looking to learn and create. A missing piece still remains: They have never visited Japan to experience the art forms they now center their lives around.

“We got married during (the pandemic) and our plan was to go to Japan for our honeymoon, but that still didn’t work out. Hopefully we will get a chance to go, to visit or study. Going to Japan — a place that inspired our work and our lives, even from this distance — would be a dream,” the couple said.

 


Saudi, Iraq officials meet to discuss border security

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Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi, Iraq officials meet to discuss border security

Saudi, Iraq officials meet to discuss border security

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Iraq officials have been meeting in Baghdad to discuss border-security issues, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Shayie bin Salem Al-Wadaani, director-general of Saudi Arabia’s Border Guards, led the Kingdom’s delegation at Iraq’s Ministry of Interior headquarters.

During the meeting, the officials discussed ways to enhance security cooperation, the SPA reported.


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Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi crown prince reassures nation about king’s health during Cabinet meeting

Saudi crown prince reassures nation about king’s health during Cabinet meeting
  • King Salman is undergoing treatment for lung inflammation
  • Crown prince briefed council on outcomes of Arab League Summit

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made reassuring comments about King Salman’s health during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The king underwent medical tests at royal clinics at Al-Salam Palace on Sunday after he suffered from a high temperature and joint pain, SPA said. 

He was diagnosed with lung inflammation and prescribed a course of antibiotics as treatement at the palace in Jeddah.

The crown prince also briefed the council on the outcomes of the Arab League Summit, emphasizing the Kingdom's commitment to Arab issues, joint action development, regional security enhancement, and defending Arab interests.

Minister of Information Salman bin Youssef Al-Dosari stated after the session that the council discussed recent state activities, particularly efforts to strengthen regional and international cooperation.

The council affirmed the Kingdom's commitment to international cooperation in combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and corruption.

The Saudi cabinet also granted authority to the Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman, to finalize a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan on energy cooperation. 

The cabinet also approved the Kingdom's accession to an international agreement on wetlands of international importance, particularly as habitats for waterbirds.


Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

Saudi, Japanese culture ministers discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan met in Tokyo on Tuesday his Japanese counterpart Masahito Moriyama.

The pair discussed enhancing cultural cooperation between the two countries within the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030.

Prince Badr said the Kingdom’s participation in Expo 2025 Osaka will offer opportunities to learn about the Saudi culture, history, and future vision.

Moriyama thanked Prince Badr for the Saudi ministry’s efforts in opening new horizons to enhance cultural exchange between the two countries.


Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president

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Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president

Saudi deputy foreign minister offers condolences to Iran over death of president
  • Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died on Sunday when their helicopter crashed in dense fog

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Waleed Elkhereiji, on Tuesday offered condolences and sympathy to Iran following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash.

Elkhereiji delivered the message, on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, to the Iranian ambassador to the Kingdom, Alireza Enayatiat, at the nation’s embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi foreign ministry said. He was accompanied by Abdulmajeed Al-Samari, the deputy minister for protocol affairs, who similarly expressed his condolences.

The Iranian president, foreign minister and six other people were killed on Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed amid dense fog in mountainous terrain near the border with Azerbaijan.


Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
  • The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan
  • Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Kishida offered his best wishes for King Salman’s health, a gesture that was appreciated by the crown prince.
The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan. Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery and said that he was also looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.
As the two countries approach the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the Japanese prime minister expressed his desire to work even more closely with Saudi Arabia. He emphasized the shared goal of realizing peace and stability in the Middle East, a sentiment that was echoed by the crown prince. The leaders agreed to establish a “strategic partnership council” chaired by them to further strengthen bilateral relations.
Kishida expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s stable supply of crude oil to Japan over the years. He also expressed his anticipation for Saudi Arabia to continue playing a leading role in stabilizing the global oil market, including through production increases, a sentiment that was appreciated by the crown prince.
Kishida added that he would like to cooperate in establishing a global supply chain for clean energy, such as hydrogen and ammonia, and promote cooperation in the field of mineral resources while using Japanese technology under the “lighthouse initiative” agreed between the two countries in July last year.
The crown prince said that Saudi Arabia would like to cooperate with Japan in various areas, including clean energy, and the Kingdom remained committed to providing a stable supply of crude oil to Japan.
Kishida expressed interest in creating business opportunities in Saudi Arabia, and making direct investments in Japan in a wide range of fields, including construction, power transmission, hydrogen, digital fields, information and communications technology, space, health, medicine, food and agriculture.
He also said that he would like to work together to achieve an early realization of the Japan-GCC free trade agreement. This agreement, once implemented, will significantly boost trade and investment between Japan and the GCC countries, creating new business opportunities and fostering economic growth. Negotiations are scheduled to resume soon.
The crown prince said that he welcomed the resumption of negotiations for the Japan-GCC free trade agreement and cooperation with Japan in fields beyond energy.
On peace and security, Kishida explained Japan’s diplomatic efforts and contributions in Gaza, including humanitarian aid and diplomatic initiatives. The crown prince said that he envisioned continued cooperation with Japan on diplomatic efforts to realize peace and stability, appreciating Japan’s active role in the region.
Kishida said that he would be pleased to hand over the symbolic “torch” of the expo to Saudi Arabia following Expo 2025 in Osaka-Kansai. This act symbolizes the continuation of the spirit of international cooperation and cultural exchange. He added that he would like to encourage cultural exchanges in entertainment, tourism, academia and football.
The crown prince said that Japan was an outstanding country in terms of culture and that he sought to strengthen cooperation with Japan in this area.
Read More: Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo