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 explore 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 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)
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.
Last year, Al Bagshi painting on driving reflected her observations of the changes in women’s 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,”
She also painted the future of ambitious women titled Driving to the moon, having a woman in a NASA car.
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.
“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 the 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”
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 this artwork
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. They’re 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.
“ 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.
That one Arabic verb QDT ( I drove) sums it all. It was celebrated in a car plate surround by followers. In which the artist’s comment “Finally I drove the car in Saudia… 2018”