Context of Saudi Street Art Research Paper

Total Length: 3679 words ( 12 double-spaced pages)

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Indeed, the national flag was the British Union Jack with a swastika in the middle of it. The story is that V, a prior victim of the plague, seeks to usurp the government through a combined effort of eliciting the people's help (which happens at the end of the movie), the assassination of the leader (known as the Chancellor) and the destruction of the Parliament building by using a fertilizer bomb sitting on a train (not unlike the Oklahoma City bombing in the United States, except that that was in a box truck parked in front of the building). So as to correlate all of this to what the art relating to the Guy Fawkes mask means, the depiction of the Guy Fawkes mask, the "V" symbol and the anarchy symbol all at the same time is not-so-veiled threat against the government that the people can and might absolutely rise up against the government in the form of unified action that the government may or may not be able to quell.

However, some of the art that rises the rancor of the Saudi government is not what one may think. For example, some of the art scattered around Saudi Arabia is actually centered on the Saudi government being too lenient and lackadaisical about respecting the religious traditions and patterns of an area. Not unlike people who raise a clarion call whenever a historical site is disturbed or "redone" in countries like Israel, there is no shortage of sites and locations just like that in Saudi Arabia. As it relates to the Saudis and Muslims in general, there is perhaps no better example of this than Mecca. There has been a ton of commercial redevelopment in Mecca and this has rankled many people who believe that the preservation or at least non-commercialization of the area should trump the interests of the business in the country or the government. Some artists have made it a point to rise up and openly protest this pattern in cities like Mecca and others. Once such artist is Sarah Al Abdali. Only 22 years old, she stencils graffiti around Jeddah as a blatant and open protest against the commercialization of areas in Mecca (Guardian). An example of the work of Sarah Al Abdali is featured in the fourth appendix of this report. Abdali is on record as saying that she loves the simplicity, form and function of street art and she views it as a very easy way to speak to and reach out to the people. She noted in a 2012 interview that she started with simple shapes. Her work has obviously evolved since then but she still keeps things basic and to the point. Indeed, the work in the fourth appendix is just a pair of photographs but the paragraphs obvious have a point to make (Edge of Arabia).

There are a couple of tangential topics that the author of this report wants to make it a point to cover. These include other forms of art that Saudi Arabia and its government tends to regulate or allow for depending on their preference and the perceptions involved as well as certain sects and stripes of people that run with or afoul of the preferences and regulations of the Saudi government, both as they operate within Saudi Arabia as well as outside of it. One such topic is the history of Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism and how it correlates, especially in terms of art, to Sufisim in the general Islamic prism. Wahhabism, of course, is indicative of the extremely conservative sects within Saudi Arabia and is typified by people like Prince Nayef (Doran, 2004). Nayef and people like them are often at odds with people on the other side of the spectrum and one of the major things they argue and toil about is the role of the religious forces in the governmental part of life. Obviously, this debate and conflict has a demonstrative and major effect on the people of Saudi Arabia but it is certainly not limited or specific to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, there are many countries in the Muslim world throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia that are partially or heavily tinged with Islam, the Muslim faith, and/or sharia law.

Many people favor this relationship between the government and Islam while many others reject it, even if it's in a muted and/or anonymous fashion. Obviously, street art is one of those functions whereby people can have a voice of sorts but without absolutely endangering their future and/or safety by enraging the government.
Some view this is as cowardly but others would take it to be a way to have a voice without getting one's self necessarily killed, jailed or at least harassed by the people and/or the government. To involve the other mentioned sect of people above, that being the Sufistic Islamists, they are those that believe in a form of Islamic mysticism. In other words, it is a particular sect of Islam. However, some people within the Sufi faith are actually fairly secular in nature. However, that is not the norm. However, despite of the overall level of Sufism and its relation to Islam, there is always a strong correlation between morality and the curriculum taught to students and this is especially the young (Mahmood, and Khan). The implications and applicability of all of that to Saudi Arabia may seem clear and obvious to outsiders but the Sufistic faith is actually banned in Saudi Arabia. Even so, it was encountering resurgence as far back as 2006 (Ambah).

Another tangent that should be mentioned is the general support that art receives in Saudi Arabia in general. Obviously, street art is generally frowned on and is rigorously controlled but the constriction on art in Saudi Arabia absolutely goes far beyond that and affects all strains and flavors of art to one degree or another. As noted before, the public uprising in Egypt and other countries in the Arab and/or Muslim world, also known as the Arab Spring, has caused things to bubble up a bit in Saudi Arabia as well. Granted, it is not up to this point as vitriolic and violent as it has been in countries like Egypt. The use of art as a release valve and as a form of protest is common in Saudi Arabia because art is by no means encouraged or created by the Saudi government. Indeed, countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia make specific use of art even for therapy and there are actually learning programs and majors related to the same. However, the same is not true of Saudi Arabia (Awais). However, even if the government of Saudi Arabia is not forgiving and permissive about the local art being on display, art is making its way into less regulating countries and is sometimes even featured in specific galleries like the Brunei Gallery in London, England. A work of art from that gallery is featured in the third appendix of this report (Determann).

A similar exhibit appeared in Los Angeles in the United States. Appearing in 2011, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) featured the works of Ahmed Mater and Abdulnasser Gharem. Contrary to what one may expect, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir was quoted as saying "exhibits like this strengthen cultural ties between our two nations. The exhibit was referred to as the "Edge of Arabia" exhibit. While anything sanctioned or spoken about in such a manner like this is probably not the same flavor of art that people in the Saudi power structure would like to stamp out, but it is contrary to the usual pattern that the Saudi government engages in (PR Newswire). On top of that, anything that is permitted openly by a country like Saudi Arabia is obviously filtered and controlled quite heavily. Otherwise, they would in no way endorse or support it via their ambassadors or any other official channel or line of communication. Ahmed Mater, the same person referenced in the Saudi ambassador-approved art in Los Angeles, actually ran afoul of the Saudi government as noted in a 2011 story that noted that Mater was facing censure for this work "Evolution of Man" in 2010 (Art Newspaper). The work was actually displayed in Israel, a country that much of the Arab world does not think rather highly of and for a litany of reasons. While the above is obviously a bit different from street art which is considered a crime or at least undesirable in many to most corners around the world and despite the fact that street art is the focus of this report, these tertiary points prove that Saudi Arabia is very controlling of the message their people try to send to the government itself as well as the rest of the world, and they even….....

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