Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Corinne

No face, No name female victims of car accidents in Saudi Arabia. 

Are Solo Shows any fun?  And Artist Manal Al DOWAYAN

Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan’s latest exhibition, “Crash”, which opened the first day of Art Week this year, goes against the grain of what we expect to see at a DIFC opening during Art Dubai. But this is precisely Manal Al Dowayan. 

 posted this April 14, 2014


Manal Al Dowayan And Her Recent Solo Show “Crash”
Manal Al Dowayan is a strong character and has a distinct voice. She is a fierce fighter for the ongoing struggle by women for equality and uses her art as a form of protest against Saudi Arabia’s strict religiously-inspired traditions.
In addition to challenging the status quo, “Crash” goes a step further and challenges the basic definition of what art is by presenting the research process as the work itself.

“And my voice must be hushed so as not to offend. So what will remain of me?”

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Al-Dowayan grew up in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on an Aramco compound.

The compound was a removed and Westernized environment and once she left its confines she was faced with the truth about women within Saudi society.

The women she saw were controlled, passive, and expected to behave within the confines of their marital chores and duties. Through her art, she delves deep behind the veil which wraps itself around these women and suggests an alternative.

“My name is being erased because of the shame of pronouncing it publicly”

In her most popular series I Am, Al-Dowayan is influenced by the feminist photography of Cindy Sherman and Shirin Neshat where she explores the roles of women in Saudi society, from journalists and doctors to United Nations officers and petroleum engineers.

Al-Dowayan also uses participatory projects such as Esmi (My Name), where she presents a collection of giant rosaries with women’s names written on each bead, inscribed by Saudi women who chose to take part in the artwork, as a platform to involve women in her community to take part in her art and its vision.

“I care about transmitting the message contained in my work as much as I care about the aesthetic,” she says.

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Al-Dowayan’s latest research-based artwork exhibition, Crash, brings to light the disturbing number of car accidents in Saudi Arabia in which female teachers are injured or killed.

For these women, the combination of low pay, a ban on driving, and unsafe roads and drivers, has created a highly dangerous and unstable situation.The accidents are regularly reported in Saudi newspapers, but because of Saudi tradition the names of the women are never revealed. Their faces are never seen and their names are not mentioned.

“These women are poorly paid, banned from driving and assigned to teach in remote areas far away from their homes. This forces them to pool funds and travel in groups. But the long distances, unsafe roads and the bad drivers they have to rely on become the cause of many accidents. In the newspaper reports of these accidents, there is no trace of the identity of the victims.

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People cannot mourn for victims who have no face or name, so this repeated reportage of anonymous crash victims just makes them numb towards the situation. I want to change the way society reacts to this grave situation by presenting the human stories behind the crashes,” Al Dowayan says.

The artworks on display present information on the crashes through newspaper clippings, along with Al-Dowayan’s own notes which give details of the crash. She also displays tweets from the women prior to the accident.

In one area of the exhibition, a series of framed road maps are presented with three data points marked by three simple pins. The locations marked on the maps were the teacher’s homes, the schools to which they were assigned, and the crash sites. These maps bring to light the long distances the women had to travel and the risks they were forced to take.

The irony here is how the Saudi government commissioned expert engineers to create these maps which were then used by Manal to plot this archaic cultural atrocity.

The artist asks, “How do you mourn if the suffering have no face or name?”

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In Crash, Al-Dowayan challenges us to be conscious of the images shown to us in the media by purposely presenting the information stripped of aesthetics and displayed matter-of-factly. Al-Dowayan then makes the emotional impact of these tragedies percievable by displaying tweets sent by the women before the accidents, along with a very touching video with narrations in first person of the stories of the victims.

The videos show the victims as young women with hopes and aspirations, casually sharing their problems and joys, and describing the simple mundane events of their day up to the moment of the crashes which abruptly took their lives.

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Abdulnasser Gharem’s  Solo Show, The Awakening

It was a cool spring evening in Dubai and the opening reception of Abdulnasser Gharem at Ayyam Gallery was but a few minutes away.

I learned from the news that Ayyam Gallery is owned by a Syrian who fled the civil war in Syria and moved his Gallery from Damascus to Dubai and is doing well.

The owner (Samawe?) has been paying the plane tickets for the Syrian artists who wanted to resume their art work in Dubai.

 posted this April 6, 2014

Ascending the escalator leading up to DIFC, I braced myself for a special experience.

Abdulnasser Gharem’s Solo Show, The Awakening

Certainly I will be stirred in the same way I did the first time I saw Abdulnasser’s work at XVA Gallery 4 years earlier and every time thereafter.

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This would be a particularly significant step for Abdulnasser as his first solo show following the historical sale of Message/Messenger at Chrsitie’s Dubai, which earned $842,500, the largest sum ever paid for a work by a living Arab artist.

For the people following Abdulnasser’s path and the events which lead to this point, it is impossible to separate the man from the work.

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Gharem is tall and broad shouldered. His bright amber-colored eyes exude wisdom and kindness, and his confidence is an art in itself.

During our conversation he shared the story of his artistic life.

Growing up, his early landscape and portrait techniques were self taught. When in the late 1990s Saudi towns and cities got their first internet, it gave him a way to engage with the world outside.

Gharem’s understanding of the world was transformed and he began reading every book he could possibly get his hands on.

“My art only began when I understood that there are many voices. I think you can also say that my education started when I left school.”

He perfected the ability to condense ideas of great complexity into forms of pure simplicity. This was a key element in getting his work authorized.

In 2009 when he created concrete barriers in response to the wave of terrorist attacks in Saudi, he put it very simply,

“I’m not against anyone. I’m with the subject. What interests me here are concrete walls, what they keep out. In Berlin, yes. In Baghdad, yes. In Israel and Palestine, sure (why?). But most of the all it’s the concrete barriers in my town and in my country that I’m interested in… These walls are temporary… We should see beyond them.”

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Much of his work has roots that appeared out of personal experiences dating back to his childhood.

“Rich people in Saudi keep horses, everyone else catches pigeons or doves and keeps them instead,” he explained about Message/Messenger. “It’s easy you set a trap using a basket or any kind of dome, and you leave out some water and sugar. Soon you have a bird. Keep the bird in that trap for twenty days and it knows that this is its home. It will not leave you.”

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Like much of his previous work, Abdulnasser continues addressing difficult issues in his latest solo exhibition, Al Sahwa (The Awakening). The title of the exhibition is a reference to the “Al Sahwa” movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s that gained force in public and university life both in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East.

In this exhibition, Abdulnasser examines a new kind of Awakening, based on creativity, dialogue, exchange of knowledge, discourse on art and education and an attitude of tolerance.

I am “hoping to launch a request for the restoration of the real Islam, which believes in pluralism and diversity, and together is committed against extremism.”

Walking up to the gallery, the first thing I noticed was the concrete block placed at the very front of the entrance, as they are always in his shows and galleries.

There is the initial observation of the art from afar, then there is the intimate interaction with the pieces, where he allows for discovery and a slow reveal of messages hidden in the work.

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Hemisphere and Camouflage are two of the largest stamp paintings Abdulnasser has made so far.

In Hemisphere an ancient warrior’s helmet is paired with a green dome of a mosque. The green on the dome represents the grandeur of the Muslim world and the faith that stands for peace. The dome and crescent in the work reference his previous installation, Message/Messenger.


Hemisphere, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

240 x 360 cm


Generation Kill2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

160 x 200 cm


Generation Kill, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

160 x 200 cm


Camouflage, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

240 x 480 cm


Pause, 2014

160 x 400 cm (Diptych)

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint


Concrete, 2014

Rubber stamps, digital print and paint

120 x 240 cm




June 2023

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