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Underground Art in Saudi Arabia

by Ahmed Al Majid (2740 words)

In a country dominated by ultra-conservative Islam, espousing unorthodox opinions or behaviour can be dangerous and even fatal. In spite of this, Saudi underground artists are finding each other, making connections and even emerging from the shadows.

For most people Saudi Arabia is a land synonymous with oil wealth, the Al-Saud monarchy and the ultra-conservative Wahhabist branch of Islam. They know that women are forbidden to drive, bloggers are flogged for criticising the government, and that the morality police (officially, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice or CPVPV) arrest people for dancing at birthday parties. What is less well-known, however, is that Saudi leads in both the production and consumption of original web content in the Middle East and North Africa region, and that it has produced some of the area’s most critically acclaimed and profitable works of contemporary art. It is a country where street artists organise exhibitions and DJs spin fresh beats at raves.

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