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Maha Al-Senan: ‘Art Is a Human Need’

To express oneself through art is to connect with one’s soul and Saudi art historian Maha Al-Senan expresses through pencil, colour, line and space.

Al-Senan truly believes that art is supposed to be a human need that no one can live without. “I believe that art plays a great role in developing our skills- both manual and mental skills and the skill of cooperation with others, understanding others as well as understanding life itself. Art helps understand all these variables and allows us to change through it positively,” she said.

Explaining her strong relationship with art, she said, “Art provides you with a way of expressing a means that has a free, live and clear expression – one that reflects your personality without having the need to criticise anyone. Expression through art does not require skills, especially if you don’t want to be artistically evaluated but an evaluation to your expression itself.”

At the tender age of 18 and upon just completing high school, Al-Senan enrolled herself into the art field at her university – a field that was not common at the time. “I started with several aspects of art – studying, practicing, reading, criticism and historical aspects,” said Al-Senan in an interview with Weoritu. “I am still practicing art today and have dealt with various aspects, tools and means of art in order to understand and change this art but also to change myself through it.”

According to Al-Senan, working in the field of art allows one to enjoy every day and learn in a better way. “What is amazing about the language of art is that it is an international language and is not related to any gender, country or religion. All of us are able to read art.”

The eminent art historian believes that education is the main key to change. “When we started to educate women, the change started,” she noted. “When women started to be dependent on themselves, their self-confidence and consciousness grew allowing her to take charge of the position she deserves.” Commenting on the future of women in the Kingdom, Al-Senan shares a viewpoint through a narrow angle in her life - her daughter Najad. “Give her the freedom space that is guaranteed for her by religion, give her self-confidence and confidence in her abilities so that she can achieve what she wants if she believes in it and you will see a better tomorrow,” she said.

“Believe that you have capabilities and stay positive,” advised Al-Senan. “Know that art is the best means for any positive change.”

Al-Senan holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Art Education from Princess Noura University as well as a PhD in Art History and Archaeology from King Saud University. She is currently an art history professor at Princess Noura University. Her research focuses on the history of arts of the Arabian Peninsula, in the period leading up to the emergence of Islam, and modern and contemporary Saudi Arabian art.

Apart from being an art historian, Al-Senan is also a writer and an activist in the field of visual arts. She was awarded Best Doctoral Research by King Salman Prize and Grant for studies and research of the history of the Arabian Peninsula. She won the Fulbright International Prize for Outstanding Researcher and a talent award for best design and management at a summer talent program.

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