Young Saudi artists such as Fida Al Hussan, Mohanned Al Osaimi, and Abdallah Al Harthy are taking on the world’s most renowned pop stars and recreating their images to reflect the rich, captivating aesthetic styles of the region’s Bedouins.
32-year-old Al Hussan, best known as the creative director of satirical music video "Hwages," which attracted more than 16 million views in 8 months, is part of a new wave of Saudi artists whose interests center on digital art, fashion, and film.
With her recent works, Al Hussan is creating an aesthetic that is more representative of where she is from, and that also incorporates the Western-centric pop culture she and artists like herself grew up with.
Al Hussan’s work often portrays women whose faces or heads are adorned with regional patterns, Arabic writings, and even flags.
She told CNN earlier this month that her work is centered on social criticism through art, and is usually focused on female characters as she attempts to demonstrate her current state of mind through her art.
"When I make a design, I do it because I have a feeling that I want to portray, not a message per se," she explained.
Digital artist and Riyadh-based electrical engineer, Mohanned Al Osaimi, also creates works in the same vein as Al Hussan’s. With a childhood spent in the presence of Western pop culture, Al Osaimi decided to work on something creative that pays homage to the icons he has been exposed to as well as to a culture from this region.
In his latest series, he has transformed famous Western pop icons, depicting them as people with Bedouin garments and styles. From Prince William (the elder son of Charles, Prince of Wales), clad in Bedouin attire from head to toe, to Queen B herself, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, in a black veil, serving coffee, Al Osaimi’s works are impressive in the quality of their execution and the amount of detail presented.
The 24-year-old artist told CNN in a phone interview that "My cousins and friends would tell me that drawing the veil on the head of a non-Muslim singer or celebrity is haram (forbidden). However, this is not how I perceive the veil; it is a cultural symbol to me.”
Al Osaimi often receives requests from around the region for high resolution versions of his works to use on different objects. That is why he has now partnered with a friend to create an online platform to sell merchandise with his designs on them.
Amongst the first Saudi artists to specialize in digital arts is Abdallah Al Harthy, who started his mesh of western pop meets the region back in 2010. Al Harthy started creating his pieces after seeing pictures of celebs visiting the region donning traditional headdresses.
As these stars never seemed to carry this region’s traditional attire quite right, Al Harthy thought why not dress them himself? A quick scroll through the 26-year-old's Instagram account reveals his creative illustrations of big names such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Kevin Spacey, and Drake, each one stylish in Arab traditional clothing.