Saudi Arabian, Manal Al Dowayan, is a contemporary artist, better recognized for her installation piece “Suspended Together from the Home Ground” exhibition at the Barjeel Art Foundation in 2011. She has since shown her works of art across a number of shows all over the world. Her work spans many mediums from photography to installation and focuses on a progressive examination and critique women's roles in Saudi society.
Now, in 2022, one of her photographs from her 2005 series, “The Choice,” which she had shot when she was still an employee at Aramco, prior to dedicating her time to being a full time artist, has recently been displayed across one of the FIFA World Cup art water bottles.
Al Dowayan uses her photography to spark conversation and connect to her community through this visual medium. Instead of using digital formats, she chooses to use the traditional method of printing her photographs – in a dark room where the process is more tactile.
When she shot her work in 2005, “The Choice,” Manal wanted to use photography to express herself in a time where Saudi Arabia had no art galleries, or art scene for that matter and women were excluded from most fields that were simply only open to men, such as sports. Even though she was a working woman in the kingdom, her status was never equal to that of a man at the time.
She went on to reclaim some power as she set about shooting her series in which women were the models and willing participants. So the image used for the FIFA World Cup 2022, conveys a young Saudi woman that has “always played excellent football, but she never played football in Saudi and never pursued a career in sports, because the opportunities were so limited, even abroad. Women were not encouraged to play soccer.”
Al dowayan said in a statement about the photograph, “The reason it was posed showing only half her face was because, at that moment in time in Saudi Arabia, a woman’s face was a taboo. I was very worried about showing a woman’s face.” She added, “Today, I can speak about the transformation that’s happened with women’s rights in my country. They are part of the parliament, they’re in sports. . . Women’s voices have been heard.”