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Saudi artists display their work in university gallery

Speaking to society and society’s issues is the focus of a new University of Memphis art exhibit from Saudi Arabian artists.

The Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM) is featuring the “Desert to Delta†exhibit from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Memphis is the ninth city out of eleven to host it. The exhibit will be on display until Jan. 6, 2018. 

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Eyad Maghazil’s bloody toy soldiers in “Breaking News” represent the constant deaths on T.V. up-close and unfiltered. Maghazil studied to be an architect, but decided to become an artist and filmmaker to “show the real world.”

Culturunners, a nonprofit organization that sends Saudi artwork around the world, offered the exhibition to AMUM in winter of 2016, and after a series of meetings, the artwork was chosen and displays were in the works, Warren Perry, assistant director of AMUM, said. The artwork displayed was chosen from a large group of amateur Saudi Arabian artists, many of whom were under 35.

“In preparation for the exhibition, we reviewed hundreds and hundreds of works of art from Saudi artists,†Perry said. 

The exhibit aims to point out people problems in the government, society and environment, much like other exhibits that have been displayed at AMUM, according to Perry.

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“It’s a whole new generation out there,†Perry said. “They’re trying to see what they can do with respect to women’s rights, politics, religion and the environment.â€

Perry said Memphis as a whole benefits from exhibits like this because the artists are taking a role in politics and human rights, and they inspire local artists of Memphis.

“This exhibition gives us a lens toward a part of the world, with which many of us are not familiar,†Perry said. “With respect to these young artists, their part is very dynamic.â€

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Musaed Al Hulis’s “Relieve Us With it, Oh Bilal” illustrates a prayer rug made of car jumper cables that represent the energy Hulis gets from praying. His work’s themes were based on contemporary Islam. 


Perry said Saudi Arabia has many aspects similar to other countries, including being home to major artists, but the country has been disregarded due to the idea that “Muslims are radical fundamentalists.â€

Perry said the artists took unimaginable risks in displaying their artwork, which might disregard the ideals or laws put up by the government. 

“The fact that we have this work says something about their ability to make a statement and to get people to listen,†Perry said. 

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Manal Al Dowayan’s “Tree of Guardians” has women’s names on the leaves creating a form of family trees. Women were often left off family trees, and Dowayan allowed women to write their names and create their own.

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