“Saudi is going through a lot of change and street art is the perfect medium to experiment in. It's something very new here. I started with very random shapes but I wanted to develop more concepts that people could relate to. I like street art because it's there for the people. You don't need to overdo your ideas, it's a simple way of expressing yourself.”
1989 born and lives in Jeddah.
Sarah Al Abdali originates from the land of Hejaz. Her personal exposure to Hejazi culture has given her a sense of responsibility towards it, especially since in the past four decades, the region has undergone a drastic ideological and urban transformation. She has grown up with a deep appreciation of the land, architecture and heritage of the coastal region of Hejaz, which is a recurring theme in her work. Al Abdali’s continuation of exploring the language of expressing her interest in Arab culture and Islamic philosophy, from graffiti to comic illustration and painting, labeled her as one of Saudi's first graffiti artists as she developed more street art concepts where people could relate to.
Al Abdali studied graphic design at Dar Al Hekma College, and continued her studies with at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts in London. This 2 year Master's programme offered her the opportunity to experiment with various traditional crafts from the Islamic world, including: woodwork, ceramics, miniature painting, mosaics and plaster carving.
Al Abdali has also participated in international art festivals such as RHIZOMA in the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and #COMETOGETHER by Edge of Arabia East London (2012), and exhibited in a number of local and international galleries and museums such as the Saatchi Gallery and the British Museum. Currently, she works as a consultant for Turquoise Mountain Trust and the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Antiquities and has developed a program to support local female artisans.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- At first glance, it looks like a standard road sign to Mecca, the Saudi Arabian pilgrimage site for millions of Muslims every year.
But look again at this piece of graffiti art and you see that the Ka'ba, the cube-shaped building at the spiritual heart of Mecca shown on its genuine road signs, has been replaced by a cluster of high rise buildings.
It is the work of Sarah Mohanna Al Abdali, a 22-year-old graphic design graduate, and she sprayed it on walls around her home city of Jeddah as a comment on overdevelopment in Mecca, the holiest Muslim city. It is a bold statement to make in the socially conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the method -- spray painting walls in public places -- even more so. "At first I was worried about how the conservatives would react and whether I would get any bad comments, but no-one has said anything," said Al Abdali, who works as a university teaching assistant.
"Saudi is going through a lot of change and street art is the perfect medium to experiment in."
Al Abdali began experimenting with graffiti about six months ago and is one of a small but growing number of street artists in the kingdom. A blog, Saudi Street Art, displays some of their work. "It's something very new here," she said. "I started with very random shapes but I wanted to develop more techniques that people could relate to. "You don't see a lot of street art here, there's just vandalism. I'm excited to be doing something new. I like street art because it's there for the people. You don't need to overdo your ideas, it's a simple way of expressing yourself. And it's free, which you don't see in many forms of art."
Al Abdali sprayed her Mecca sign on walls around the historic area of Jeddah where it would be seen by as many passing people as possible. "I didn't want it to be a beautiful artwork, I wanted to create debate," she said. She was pleased with the response it received.
"People took photos and shared them on Facebook and Twitter," she said.
"Some people related to it because it was straight to the point; other people didn't care. It's interesting to hear the different views every time someone comes up and asks me if I did it."
Al Abdali is also gaining recognition. She was one of four artists chosen to exhibit at an off shoot of the Edge of Arabia show, the first major contemporary art exhibition in Saudi Arabia, according to its organizers. In a country where a lot of culture is controlled by the government, Al Abdali is one of growing number of young rebels finding their own way of pushing boundaries.
Read the full article here.
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