Saudi Women Use Art to Examine Their Role in Society
CDHR’s Commentary: Despite the many hurdles and restrictions imposed on Saudi women by their government and male-dominated society, they are making their voices heard and demanding their rights as equal citizens known to their government, media, male compatriots and the international community. Due to the Saudi gender apartheid system, women have long been relegated to a second class citizens’ status and consequently denied their most basic rights such as freedom of movement, mobility and even access to lifesaving medication without their male relatives’ approval.
However, Saudi women are becoming increasingly more creative, bold and defiant, as exemplified by the art exhibit of three Saudi women that opened recently in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The exhibit focuses on “questions of identity and freedom” and addresses women’s issues and by extension the crippling attitude, policies and practices of the Saudi system toward women. Fittingly, the exhibit is called “Soft Power,” which testifies to the courage of these Saudi women who defy severe constraints and challenge their number one foe, the religious establishment, in a peaceful, but extraordinarily effective manner.
Not only are these three imaginative and creative women artists using their talents to express their feelings and point of view, they are also chipping away at the austere religious establishment’s severe opposition to images that depict anything they consider un-Islamic. Saudi artists, women and men, are beginning to use art frequently as a form of protest against the multitude of social, political, economic and other societal illnesses. Women are making measured progress in Saudi society, from art to law albeit at a snail’s speed, but they are determined to break all taboos placed on them for no reason other than their gender.