It is hard to imagine that a shy, giggly woman like Ghada Al-Mohammedi is responsible for creating the colorful and expressive paintings currently on display at the French Consulate General in Jeddah.
The paintings convey a powerful call for equality of the sexes.
At 28, Mohammedi knows exactly what she wants to convey to the public: “My message is that a woman is a human,” she explained on the sidelines of the opening event on Tuesday, adding: “She is not of less value [than a man].”
The reality in her culture is different, according to Mohammedi. Women are painted with their head down, clearly suffering from the country’s mainstream views and opinions concerning their role in society. Statements in English and Arabic are written around them, giving the impression of a collage.
On the other hand, Mohammedi employs traditional Islamic and pre-Islamic patterns in her works. “I travel, through my paintings, to the past,” she said about the triangles, dots and other geometric figures in her more abstract works, which she uses to express the love she has for her culture.
The view that Mohammedi’s criticism about the role of women in her society appears to contradict her love for Arab culture is something the painter does not share but is unable to comment on. The two themes — women and traditional patterns — are even combined in some of her works, and despite her culture’s shortcomings, Mohammedi has a strong urge to proudly present it to the world, or, in this case, France.
French Consul General Louis Blin was full of praise for the young artist who graduated in sociology from King Abdulaziz University. She has concentrated on painting full time for the past four years, during which she had a solo exhibition in 2011 titled “The Woman of the Shadow” and in 2013 with French artist Magali Jeantelot at Alamia Gallery.
“Ghada Mohammedi paints the adult world with childhood lines and colors,” Blin said, describing her work, adding that through this, she invites her audience to introspect.
“Her paintings invite us to enter a world of tenderness,” he continued. “It is mainly a women's world, full of delicacy and fragility, filled with nostalgia for childhood.”
However, Blin noted that her work is not all about lively colors and patterns, as her paintings of women convey a strong sense of melancholy and “revolt that rejects any violence.”
It is a different way to express the things many Saudi women of her generation demand: more freedom, more equality, and a more visible role in the society they dearly love despite all its shortcomings.
Ghada Al-Mohammedi’s paintings will be on display at the Cultural Section of the French Consulate General in Jeddah until Oct. 30 during the consulate’s regular working hours.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014.