An exhibition of contemporary Saudi art at the Arab American National Museum outside Detroit is giving Americans a new and different look inside the kingdom.
“Most Americans really know nothing about the people of Saudi Arabia or what goes in day-to-day life,” says Devon Akmon, director of the museum, located in Dearborn, Michigan, an area with the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States.
“For us, this show wasn’t so much about changing perceptions of Saudi Arabia, but about opening a window … on the diversity of ideas and philosophies within that society,” he said.
Epicenter X features artwork in a wide array of media — paintings, drawings, collages, calligraphy, photography, videos (including animation) and filmstrips. Seventeen artists are represented, as well as 20 female artisans who painted three large Qut murals in the age-old style that adorns homes.
On display at the Arab American National Museum are Ahmad Angawi’s lenticular photo showing the Masjid al-Haram, the Great Mosque of Mecca, in the 19th century and modern times. It is the same piece that was on display in Riyadh at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia when President Donald J. Trump toured its galleries in May. Another Angawi work at the U.S. exhibition shows 3,600 microphones Angawi used to capture people’s voices and street sounds in Jeddah.
Ayman Yossri Daydban, a Jordanian national born in the Palestinian territories and a prominent figure on the Saudi art scene, has three pieces in Epicenter X.
Daydban is currently finishing 3 1/2 months as the museum’s artist-in-residence. “I have had many residencies, including in Dubai, Berlin and Paris,” Daydban, speaking through an interpreter, told the Associated Press. This one has been rejuvenating and “makes me feel brave to ask questions.”