MANAL AL DOWAYAN | Self-Representation in the Arabian Gulf
| I am . . . a Saudi Citizen, 2006
30.5 cm x 40.6 cm
What jobs suit my nature as a woman? This is a question that haunts me when I meet successful working women in my home country of Saudi Arabia. In this context, politicians, businessmen, society, and the local community surrounding the Saudi woman continue to ask these questions: Where can women work? And what can they do?
In this collection I examine my nature, and I wonder, is my nature as a woman another limitation on my potential that I need to overcome or accept?
In my search for answers I found inspiration from the history of Arabian women who have, for thousands of years, worked for their families while the men were away in the desert. Women have traditionally been the wage earners in the family, and only with the recent events of the oil boom and urban transformations in the region did women abandon this role. But things have now changed with “women making up 55% of undergraduates, but only 15% of the labor force” (Chu & Radwan, Time).
The 2003 Arab Human Development Report identified the “deficit in women’s empowerment” as one of three key impediments to “progress in the Arab world.” So it is no longer an issue of whether a woman should work, but rather, when can women become involved in the development of their country?
Women are increasingly joining the workforce and contributing their intelligence, energy and motivation to improving their lives and those of their families. They have also become contributors to their country’s economy and active participants in the decision-making process.
The collection “I am” hosts a variety of Saudi Arabian women who have performed important roles in Saudi society through their careers. At the same time, each photograph has a piece of traditional jewelry placed in an obstructive and unnatural way, questioning cultural traditions that prevent Saudi women from expanding their roles in society.
Although the history of the Arab woman inspires me, it is the modern Arab woman that motivates me and gives me courage. I hope that women with education and financial independence will become fully and actively involved in shaping the decisions that affect their future and the futures of their daughters.
—Manal Al Dowayan
Introduction: Self Representation in the Arabian Gulf
Ebtisam Abdul Aziz | Autobiography
Manal Al Dowayan | I Am
Tarek Al Ghoussein | Blue 2007
Madeline McGehee | Photographs
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