An interdisciplinary artist from Saudi Arabi and now based in Canada, Durrah Alsaif is a woman who believes that art can play a crucial role in instigating social change, a belief that is evident in her most recent works such as Jawahir: Jewels. The exhibition, which opened this week at the Deer Lake Gallery in Vancouver and will continue to run until September 15, explores the status of women in Saudi Arabia and can be seen as a key example of her unique approach in addressing sociopolitical issues through her practice.
Kalaam El-Nas (Everybody Talks), 2015
By using various mediums such as photography, performances, sculpture, and installations, Alsaif’s work explores cultural identity in Saudi Arabia, attempts to challenge what is seen as East and what is perceived as West, and investigates the historical status of Saudi citizens, especially women and particularly during the period following the Sahwa Movement (Islamic Awakening).
With regards to her emphasis on Saudi women, Alsaif chooses to focus on Western perceptions of sociopolitical issues regarding women considered culturally taboo in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Ultimately, by addressing and critiquing crucial topics through her art practice, Alsaif also attempts to draw attention to the blurring of lines between culture, tradition, and religion in the Middle East.
Qimash exhibited in the Stadium/Chinatown Skytrain station in Vancouver
Previous to Jawahir: Jewels, Alsaif has exhibited her artworks across Canada, in Stadium/Chinatown Skytrain station in Vancouver her work Qimash as part of the Capture Photography Festival in collaboration with TransLink, at galleries such as the Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver, where she was selected as runner-up for the 2nd annual Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize in 2017, and in the Surrey Art Gallery, where she was awarded the Second Place 3D Works & Fibre Arts Award in 2018.
Fellow competitiors Natasha Habedus & Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, and Durrah Al Saif (left to right)
Alsaif received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2017 from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and was awarded the Margaretha Bootsma Award for Exceptional Achievement in the Graduation Exhibition. In that same year, she was also longlisted for the 2017 BMO 1st Art! Competition.