The "Once Upon a Time" exhibition, currently on display at Ahlam Gallery in Riyadh, is a poignant tribute to the late Saudi artist Zakia Al-Dubaikhi. Her remarkable body of work, which spans various themes and periods, takes center stage at this exhibition, serving as a testament to her enduring legacy and artistic vision.
Zakia Al-Dubaikhi was a trailblazing artist who fearlessly addressed unconventional themes, notably Saudi women's rights, during a time of limited discourse. Her art extended beyond social commentary, celebrating the multicultural Eastern Province where she grew up, inspired by its diverse community.
The exhibition is a labor of love, hosted by Al-Dubaikhi's daughter, Basma Al-Zamil, and her husband, who are dedicated to preserving her mother's artistic legacy. Al-Zamil highlights the importance of keeping her mother's name and work alive, emphasizing the enduring nature of art.
Zakia Al-Dubaikhi's artistic journey began in Dammam, where her father's support fueled her passion for painting. Despite the challenges of a Saudi artist's career in the 1980s, her persistence and guidance from renowned female Saudi artists led to her work gaining recognition and being exhibited in cities like Dammam, Riyadh, and Jeddah.
While her artistic pursuits were briefly set aside as she focused on her family and career as an English teacher, her passion for painting never waned. She continued to nurture her artistic inclinations and even used her knowledge to inspire her students.
Regrettably, Al-Dubaikhi's dreams of a solo exhibition and art gallery went unfulfilled; she passed away in November 2018. Nevertheless, her family has committed to sharing her art across the Kingdom, from Dammam to Jeddah, and internationally in Manama, Bahrain.
The "Once Upon a Time" exhibition, open from September 27 to October 2, has attracted diverse admirers, including Tania Mehanna Cantone, the wife of the Italian ambassador. She lauded Al-Dubaikhi's art for depicting Saudi women's yearning for freedom and change from 2000 to 2016.
Another guest of honor Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, an artist and cartoonist, praised Al-Dubaikhi's work, highlighting her strong ties to environmental and heritage themes. Her paintings offer a distinctive view of the Kingdom's history and the Gulf region.
Zakia Al-Dubaikhi's art is a reflection of her multifaceted interests, including Indian culture and her affection for cats. Al-Zamil recalls her mother's fascination with Indian culture, evident in her paintings, which incorporate elements of music, food, and traditions.
Zakia Al-Dubaikhi's art captured a transformative period in Saudi Arabia's history, bridging the era before and after Vision 2030. In her own humble way, she documented the changes taking place in the country, leaving behind a visual record of her times.