Advent of Feminist Influences in Saudi Arabia – Art Breaks Another Stereotype
It is always a positive feeling when a rudimentary stereotype is broken, especially by the oppressed. It was, hence a great feeling to discover the unexpected feminist edge to a set of contemporary works of art from Saudi Arabia. The visitors to the show titled Genera#ion: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in San Francisco which is scheduled to take place at the Minnesota Street Project from the 11th of August to 6th September. The Minnesota Street Project is a recently developed gallery complex in the ratty Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco.
Creative producer for the show Aya Mousawi mentions that the Middle Eastern contemporary art isn’t well represented in the US especially on the West Coast, New York though has a lot happening on those lines. Mousawi further mentions that things do seem to be changing though.
This Thursday the majestic two storey tall atrium at the Minnesota Street Project would proudly showcase a sculpture by Manal AlDowayan. This elegantly pointed sculpture is essentially a cascade of translucently thin golden leaves that are placed in honor of the ancestors of all the women from Saudi Arabia who have participated in the project. The women traced back their matrimonial lineage, as far back as they could and inscribed the names of the women forebear on each of these delicate leaves to challenge the prevalent suppression they faced in their lives.
In another gallery is displayed a 2016 video titled Elementary 240 by Njoud Alanbari which focuses on a cheerful Muslim girl playing cheerfully with a pink mural as the backdrop. Once you focus on the mural is when you see the dark side of the work as it depicts eight swords underscoring the eight things forbidden to the Muslim women beginning from taking drugs to listening music that has not been authorized and pre-approved by the government.
Abdulnasser Gharem, the prominent Arabic artist and advocate of the arts has helped spearhead this particular show and is well represented here. A number of his works including a 2007 video showing a bridge outside Khamis Mushait – the city inscribed with the word sirat (the path) from end to end titled – The Path are displayed here. This work was an effort to bring to focus the double disaster that happened here. The bridge collapsed during the floods due to the weight of people on it killing people in a great number, and then there was not even a satisfying investigation done or any other actions taken in this regard.
Gharem mentions that in this exhibition the artists are making an effort to confront art as an image of the society by placing themselves as the mirrors, instead of the customary practice of analyzing art and society separately as two different entities removed from each other. The exhibition is sponsored by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, a space that is funded by Aramco the giant oil company, is organized by Culturunners, a London non-profit organization, and would be graced by the presence of many of the artists whose works are represented here.