Thursday, February 23, 2012

Young Saudi Artists Exhibition at Athr Gallery

Athr Art Gallery held its opening reception of Young Saudi Artists Exhibition on February 21 for a crowd of more than 200 art enthusiasts. Unfortunately I was not able to attend because, like all women here in Saudi Arabia, I cannot drive - and my husband dislikes driving across town in the horrendous evening traffic. Many Saudi women are fortunate enough to have drivers to cart them here and there, but I am not so fortunate.

So the following morning my husband took me to the dentist (note: when we lived in the states for 30 years, not once did Adnan accompany me to the doctor or the dentist, but now that I have the legal status of a child and cannot drive, he has to take me). To his credit, afterwards he obligingly drove me over to Athr Gallery at the Mega Mall complex on Tahlia Street to see the art exhibition.

The spacious and bright Athr Gallery represents many artists who work in many mediums in Saudi Arabia. Although this particular group of 23 talented artists is called Young Saudi Artists, they range in age from 17 to 70. Sixty per cent of the gallery’s business comes from international sales. Mr. Hamza Serafi, one of the owners and operators of Athr Gallery, told us that the gallery doesn’t necessarily represent the best Saudi artists, but rather it looks for artists who are passionate, motivated and enthusiastic about their work.

Below are a few of the many works of art to be found at Athr Gallery right now. I tried to include artist information with each piece, but I did not have it available for all. Just click on the photos for an enlarged view. This exhibition will be on display through March 20th.

Special thanks to Mr. Hamza Serafi for so graciously welcoming us to the gallery, and also to Mr. Abdullah, a supervisor at Mega Mall, for his amazing assistance.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The Shield" - by Brooke Van Buskirk

"The Shield" is a poem about Islam, in particular about wearing hijab - the head covering worn by many Muslim women. It was written by Brooke Van Buskirk, an American writer who embraced Islam at the age of seventeen. Brooke has been a Muslim now for six years. Her poetry, songs, and essays are reflections of her passion for religion, politics, family, and those kind, fleeting moments in life where beauty can be known.

Below is a video of Brooke reciting "The Shield," followed by the poem itself.

THE SHIELD - by Brooke Van Buskirk

By day I wrap this shield around my head, across my chest
This world is a prison - my mind and heart I must protect
Why? Because without it there's no limit to be observed
What is modesty and decency?
Man can't properly determine
They say my choice to cover is old-fashioned
They say our religious practices are backwards
They spew cliché democracy and liberation
Little do they know there's little knowledge in what they're saying
My argument is that 'the times, they are a-changin'
And slowly but surely approaches an 'anything goes' day
When no rules apply
Whats wrong is called right
And crimes of the heart creep like a thief in the night
Modesty discouraged and nakedness condoned
We've forsaken the values mankind held long ago
Yes, history is riddled with mistakes and evil stories
But shall we not filter the good and maintain some of its glory?
Just think of it this way, I'm just dressing like Mary mother of Jesus
Or a nun
Or a woman who wants to be seen as an observant follower
A lover of Gods word
And you not mad at exploitation of femininity, but you mad that I cover
Sex may sell, but I'm not for sale
It's your path to bankruptcy, time will tell
My an expression of self-respect
And a rejection of a misogynist culture daily breathing down my neck
Telling me all my value lies in the guise of my demise.
Flaunting what Gods blessed me with, its lies and I don't buy it.
Because I'm told I'm so much more.
So, to avoid distracting you with what my momma gave me,
I'll let you focus on my core
I say the passing of time doesn't determine my beliefs
Islam teaches that truth doesn't change with the year
What's good is good, and what's wrong is wrong
And those values don't change as the years pass along
Our standards are lowered and we become desensitized
But regardless of what time it is
Men should lower their eyelids
When I pass along my way minding my business
this shield reminds them that yes, I'm religious
I don't want attention and I don't want your compliments
I'm not looking for love, so save your games for them
I'm a Muslim under here, I don't mind being a stranger
Coz if the norm is lady gaga, then we're all in danger
I'll be called a trader
I'm not scared of that label
Ethnocentric discourse in the west is the only reason
I have to write a poem to justify way that I dress
The cloth on my head
Which I love to wear
I'm not forced, which I struggle with,
But my choice is solid as stone
It's my comfort
My home
My will
My uniform
My suit
My command from God
My style
My identity
So let it be
My shield.

More of Brooke's work can be enjoyed at:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dust, Dust, and More Dust

For the past week or so, Jeddah has experienced high winds which in turn have created horrible dust storms. These dust storms do a lot more than make your mouth feel gritty and spew a layer of fine dust all over everything.

Here in Jeddah, it can mean schools and shops closing, increased traffic accidents, and trees being uprooted and turned into missiles. The roads of Jeddah are dangerous enough on a normal day, but add poor visibility into the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The blowing dust has also wreaked havoc on my allergies – and I’m sure many others in Jeddah are suffering from this same problem.

Thunderstorms were also predicted which can cause severe flooding problems in some areas of the city. Luckily the rain that has fallen so far has not caused any serious problems.

For more information:

Jeddah Daily Photo Journal February 2009 post about Dust Storms

Jeddah Photo Blog's January 2012 post about Jeddah's Dust Storm, with many photos

Arab News article "Life disrupted as massive dust storm envelops Jeddah"