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Rise of the Saudi Female Artists

Suspended Together - Manal Al Dowayan

Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has seen an increase in public galleries exhibiting modern art along with a home grown, and still growing, movement of artists who are acquiring international status.

Saudi Arabia is making its mark on the contemporary art scene and women are at the core of it.

Pushing boundaries through art seems to be their bold, but voiceless, protest. With their works being largely feminist in nature, they pose questions and spark conversations about politics and women’s rights in the conservative kingdom.

The women artists of Saudi Arabia are challenging the traditionalist gender roles and social norms and using their art to express the injustice they feel exists in society.

Where in much more recent years, the Saudi government has encouraged women to seek work and educational opportunities, promising abilities to vote in the Shura Council – which is the appointed consultative council that advocates women’s rights in the kingdom.

These minimal, yet effective, changes in society, have set into motion a growing culture of female artists. highlights some of the most prominent Saudi Arabian female artists who are making their silent protests seen in a world where women are considered to be secondary to men.

Manal Al Dowayan

She worked as a creative director within an oil company, whilst producing art for 7 years until she became a full time artist in 2010. Manal Al Dowayan had found her place as in artist in the evolving art industry in her region. She has become one of the leading advocates of contemporary artists in the Middle East and works mostly with photographs and installations. Dowayan’s work is feminist at its core. Since establishing herself as an artist in the Middle East, she is now internationally acclaimed for her works including ‘Suspended Together”, and “Light from the Middle East” which was part of an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Dowayan’s installation, 'Suspended Together', presents an assembly of interlocked doves made from fiber-glass with stickers on their bodies. The doves are covered in permission slips that women in Saudi Arabia must have signed by their husbands or male guardians to have permission to travel.

Samiah Khashoggi
Samiah Khashoggi is an interior designer and painter who also puts together the regular art exhibition, Saudiaat. Attaining her degree in Interior Design in the United Kingdom, she is also an assistant professor of Design at Dar Al Hekma College.

Samiah Khashoggi is better known for her involvement with Saudiaat; the platform for contemporary female artists. As well as featuring their artwork, Saudiaat supports local female artists and educates the public about the techniques involved in their work.

Hana Hajjar

Hanna Hajjar is an artist and political cartoonist. Her earliest cartoons dealt with the war in Palestine and called for an end to it. She is one of a few strong female figures working for an Arab publication and the only female political cartoonist in Saudi Arabia. Her drawings deal with a variety of topics, both political and social, including gender inequality and economics. In the past she has been careful not to push boundaries too far, with her borderline controversial art, in order to maintain her career and the ability to continue to publish her work.

Sarah Mohanna Al Abdali

Sarah Mohanna Al Abdali is the first Saudi Arabian street artist in the KSA.

Having studied graphic design, she set about spray-painting graffiti in the historic section of Jeddah with the aim of provoking debate. For example, one piece of graffiti commented on overdevelopment in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

Al Abdali's art work has been presented at the British Museum, in the exhibition "We Need to Talk" in Jeddah organized by the Edge of Arabia.

Her art merges graphic design with elements from popular Saudi and Arab culture.

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