‘The heart of my family’: Saudi artist focuses on mother’s love

Author: NOOR NUGALISat, 2018-04-07 03:17ID: 1523049472720463300JEDDAH: Saudi photographer Najla Al-Khalifa is known for her striking landscape images, but the award-winning artist’s latest collection was inspired by a subject much closer to home — her mother.
Al-Khalifa showcased a series of images based on her family at the Sikka Art Fair in Dubai’s historic Al-Fahidi district.
The 10-day fair offered artists from the UAE and Gulf region the chance to exhibit works in the district’s heritage homes.
The internationally recognized Al-Khalifa said her mother had been a major influence on her photography career and was the inspiration for her latest collection.
“I was once out with my mother in the car and I noticed her hands. She always holds her hands in a specific way. I took a photograph of her without her realizing, and from then I got the inspiration to take pictures of my parents and family.
“Every person’s hand is unique, and along with different personalities, people have specific gestures that set them apart. I find that fascinating,” Al-Khalifa said.
The photographer’s mother helps guide her and is happy to offer opinions on her work. “The ‘heart hand’ picture is her favorite,” Al-Khalifa said.
“Perhaps she considered this particular photograph as a reflection of her, that she is a thriving heart for all her family. She asked for a united picture where we are all together. When we are united we are stronger.”
Al-Khalifa said she was surprised by visitors’ responses to her work.
“Many people at the exhibition related to the family aspect because everyone has a mother, either alive or dead. I would stand outside the room and see people’s astonishment.”
Some images in the collection featured transcriptions of Islamic verses.
“Every religion instructs people to take care of their loved ones. Our religion asks us to be close to our families, and be kind and gracious to them.”
Speaking on her nature collection, which highlights Saudi Arabia’s vast landscapes, Al-Khalifa said: “Many people think that Saudi Arabia is all desert, but I try to show the greenery we have and the mountains. When people see the different kinds of nature we have, they are astonished.
“It’s a joy to produce images that reflect our country. I try to show things that others don’t know about.”
The photographer also examines aspects of Saudi culture in her work.
“When I was young, we used to travel a lot. People who were told my nationality would remark that we were wealthy from oil. But I wanted people to reflect on the beauty of my country and to underline its diversity and beautiful heritage.”
Al-Khalifa said photography will always be important to her: “It’s my voice and a way to express myself. Photos are my wings — they help me take flight.”
Al-Khalifa has won 38 international and regional awards, including the International Photography Awards (New York), London’s Sony and the European Arab Photography Festival (Hamburg). In August 2015, she was the first Saudi woman to win the French Prix de la Photographie competition.
Main category: Saudi ArabiaTags: Saudi ArabiaSaudi Art Saudi art exhibition kicks off in Los Angeles‘Saudi Art Days’ builds a bridge between Kingdom and the worldYoung Saudi artists find a voice in major New York exhibit

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