• Issue
  • Apr 30, 2024

Manal AlDowayan: Immortal Traces

Installation view of MANAL ALDOWAYAN‘s Now You See Me, Now You Dont, 2020, at Desert X, AlUla, Saudi Arabia.

For a long time, Manal AlDowayan did not see herself as an artist. Having grown up in the Saudi Aramco residential compound in Dhahran during the 1980s, she witnessed few, if any, examples of full-time artmaking, let alone by women. Confining her practice to her spare time, AlDowayan studied computer science at Boston’s Suffolk University and, after graduating in 1999, became a programmer at the oil company where her father worked. During her MSc at London Metropolitan University, AlDowayan secretly enrolled in nearby art classes, yearning for the chance to explore her practice further. Finally, in 2003, a one-year photography workshop in Spain culminated in her first-ever exhibition, the group show “Looking Through the Glass” in Burgos. Her work—in particular, multiple series of black-and-white portraits—was met with immediate acclaim, receiving praise for her candid, critical depictions of Saudi identity, both individual and collective.