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As we are celebrating the 2nd anniversary for the historical royal decree of lifting the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, it is significant to pause and reflect over how Saudi female artists have celebrated that announcement. Here we exploring their artistic journey, and how they have used their artwork to reflect what driving meant to them.
Starting with Tagreed Al Bagshi, a champion of documenting driving, that was a big on her agenda since 2010. Through her series I Can Dream, She reflected the need for driving. Drawing many powerful images, such as There is no Empty Seat for Driving a Car (2014)
“When I started presenting the issue of women driving in 2010, … Imagination was the most powerful element in expressing this societal discourse,” she recalled.
Truly that imagination led to many outstanding paintings once driving becomes a reality. Women drive a car (2018), 111 and other paintings were born through her brushes. Sending another powerful message through the car’s plate “MLK meaning King in Arabic and the other car plate has AZM meaning Determination” reflecting how women are in control of their lives now and determined to succeed.
Drive 111 even gain international fame and was a social media sensation when singer Rihanna posted the painting on her Instagram account, with a message supporting Saudi women driving.
“love to see progression. women will now be able to drive in Saudi Arabia artist"
Last year, Al Bagshi painting on driving reflected her observations of the changes on women daily lives now.
“daily observations of public life are documented within this artwork…a woman drives her car with her friends or family members.. going out to finish her errands,” Visit Instagram
She also painted the future of ambitious women titled Driving to the moon, having a woman in a NASA car. Visit Instagram.
That ambition wasn’t exactly felt by artist Skna Hassan. For her the issue is more emotional. In 2016 her idea to host an exhibition with other artists about women driving was rejected. Yet that didn’t stop her from continuing her work, producing many pieces raising awareness about women’s issue, while waiting for the right moment to reveal them.
When the announcement came in 2017, she published one of her work, a woman wearing a crown holding a car dearly to her heart. When she was asked about her work she said:
“I care about issues that surround my community. Women driving is one of those issues and I painted about it.The work in which the woman embraces the car is an old work, one that was withheld because of my demand for driving in the past.”
On the day of action in 2018, she posted her painting of a determined queen behind the wheel who is ready to drive. With the caption:
“Saudi queens drive cars. Today we see history and live it in all its details .. It is frustrating to know that we are many steps behind the world to get to this day .. But it is reassuring that we have reached .. Therefore we feel the joy of reaching .. Congratulations to every mother, sister and friend” Visit Instagram.
Visual artist Noor Alsaif, expressed that old frustration in her 2017 collection Wait in red. She reflected the issue by showcasing women “playing driving” with their toys.
In one picture a woman filling the gas in her toy’s car, while on the other the doll Barbie is enjoying a ride while three women watching her and holding their driving wheels.
On the day of driving in 2018, however, Noor praised the decision and all the progressive steps by the government to empower women while sharing these artwork. Visit Instagram.
Yet, other Saudi artists have chosen to express their joy with the decision, on the day of action and even a year after.
Artist, Ahlam Alshedoukhy, portrayed the meaning of solidarity and unity in her painting ‘Bentley’ that she posted on the day of driving. There a group of women riding together in a Bentley, while men are watching and one of them holds her car plate (BNT 111, meaning girl 111) referring to women number1 priority.
Her other painting shows a group of Saudi women standing together in front of the car, and the historic date in Hijri calendar 10/10 engraved there.
Ahlam, 2019 collection titled “My prize”, reflected happiness with the “driving prize”. A woman carrying a car as a trophy and in another one a woman driving her man happily. Visit Instagram.
Fatimah Alnemer artwork on driving took similar steps. It wasn’t only celebrating the decision but it reflects women empowerment and leadership as part of vision 2030. In her collection tilted Bint 2030, meaning Girl 2030, she targets the ambitious younger generation. That was also reflected in her cars plates carrying the same digits.
“ It addresses a vision for women driving not just from the point of view of transport but the role that women should play in transforming thoughts, policies and systems in Saudi Arabia,” she explained.
This year she also reposted her work on the 10/10 (Hijri) anniversary. Visit Instagram.
Lastly, artists and illustrator Hayfaa Hasanain artwork, sends a message to every woman who drove that day: “A queen on the road,” showing a woman wearing her crown, behind the wheel and her plate in Arabic “I drove 2018”
That one Arabic verb QDT ( I drove) sums it all. It was celebrated in a car plate surround by followers. In which the artists comment “Finally I drove the car in Saudia… 2018” Visit Instagram.
Written by Sheikha Aldosary:
A journalist, storyteller, and founder of Saudi Women Stories. A storytelling platform for women in Saudi Arabia to tell their stories, show their diversity, and present their inspiring journeys to change and success.