Manal Al Dowayan

Few artists understand metamorphosis as keenly as Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan. Long invested in interrogating the gender-biassed customs that impact the condition of women in Saudi Arabia, Al Dowayan is a sensitive yet critical witness to the cultural metamorphosis engulfing the Kingdom.

All images Courtesy by the artist

Her practice, formally speaking, regularly shifts and evolves—from the assertive black and white photographic portraits of highly skilled working women in her early I Am series (2005), to the research-driven Crash (2014) documenting media silence on fatal road accidents involving commuting women schoolteachers. Equally recognized for her work in sound, neon, and sculpture, Al Dowayan is perhaps best known for the participatory installations Suspended Together (2011) and Esmi-My Name (2012), the result of workshops offering channels for thousands of women in the Kingdom to address unjust social customs.
Al Dowayan’s practice navigates a territory where the personal and the political overlap. Her works spring from lived experiences—these intimate encounters with social injustice, the pangs of memory and forgetting. Yet her pieces are consistently galvanizing, sparking identification and engagement, particularly among women around the world. Her voice is strong, and it resonates.
Unsurprisingly, the artist’s gaze unravels the expected tensions running through the fiber of Saudi society—public vs private, traditional vs modern, community vs. the world. But as the Kingdom races towards further change, Al Dowayan’s artistic engagement with this new metamorphosis promises to be bolder and more incisive than ever.

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