MyWorld: Veiled Artist on TV

Even after almost three years here in Saudi Arabia, it’s still jolting for me to go out to a mall or grocery shopping, and just about all the women I see are wearing black veils covering their faces. I just can’t imagine going through life like that. The veil doesn’t seem to stop women here from doing what they want though. If anything, wearing the veil seems to make some women here more bold and aggressive – like taking cuts and not waiting in line for their turn. It’s as if they have anonimity so they take that as a green light to be rude or behave badly. Maybe it’s because wearing the veil makes them appear invisible to some, so they in turn overreact to get noticed. I don’t know. Anyway it is common to see veiled women on television here on talk shows and such, but this was the first time I ever saw a veiled woman artist instructing in the finer points of how to paint. I was intrigued at the bright colors she uses to paint with (because everything here is so black and white), plus the fact that she paints a lot of human figures and faces. I remember when I first arrived here, one of the first things my mother-in-law told me was that I shouldn’t have photos or paintings of my family on display in my own home. I have since been to other homes where this “rule” doesn’t seem to apply.
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About SusieOfArabia

American woman now living in hubby's homeland of Saudi Arabia
This entry was posted in Art, Clothing, Culture, Life, Middle East, Odd or Unusual, Photo, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Tradition and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to MyWorld: Veiled Artist on TV

  1. rantingcynic says:

    I can see both sides of the vale so to speak. One the one hand- People really look at the art, not the artist- this breeds a need to constantly focus on the art. On the other hand it’s a faceless recognition. I am not fond of the idea of covering the face, but I am not ethnocentric either. I do think the art holds something, a key to how she feels- her picture are not covered, this says something. They art good pieces.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • I don’t know – I guess I am of a different mindset. I found the way she was dressed to be very distracting for me from her art. I was really looking more at her than I was her art. I noticed the bright colors she used, but I didn’t really “see” what she was painting until after I got the photos up on the computer screen.

      • rantingcynic says:

        I find it amazing that the painting is of a woman without a vale. A self protrait maybe? something she wants to show but can’t or shouldn’t culturally speaking. It’s a shame I am not more versed in the cultures of the middle east. Please comment. Thanks.

      • I doubt that it is a self-portrait – it would rather defeat the purpose of her wearing a veil on her TV show. More than likely it would be a painting of a non-Muslim woman because it wouldn’t be right for her to show the face of another Muslim woman either. It could just be someone she made up in her head. I know I have drawn many people I have just made up in my mind.

  2. Pathfinder says:

    There are many Saudi women that appear on TV without head cover or veil, it is unusal to see veiled women in TV.

    Here are well known Saudi women that have different shows in TV:

    Muna Seraj:

    Ghada Musali:

    Muna Abusliman:

    Sala Alghamdi:

  3. Wow! This is so interesting. Very few in burqas in northern VA but we have many women in veils. I have neighbors in veils in Haymarket, VA! I’m surprised she is painting heads. Is she doing this in public? Could she get arrested for doing this?

    • Well, it’s an educational program on TV and she is properly covered the way she should appear in public here, so unless they make a law that Saudi women cannot appear on television – which there has been discussion about – she is ok for now. One thing that I have read is that a woman’s voice is not supposed to be heard by men here (according to the religion), however women speak when out in public here all the time. My understanding is that even a woman’s voice, like her hair, is supposed to be for her husband’s benefit only. Interesting that you have veiled neighbors in Virginia!

  4. Chiara says:

    Nice capture, especially in terms of colour. I would be really surprised if she paints like this normally. The abaya is all about public vs private, and here there is a camera crew (public) projecting her to the greater television public. Also it looks staged rather than actively painting. Most likely in private she wears her painting clothes, or a painter’s smock or some such. In private she doesn’t need to cover.

  5. ladyfi says:

    I can’t help but see this as symbolic.. .that underneath the black cloaks, those women are as vibrant and colourful as rainbows…

  6. Marleena says:

    Hi Susie,

    I interpret the contrast in this photo as showing how self expression can be achieved through mediums other than outfits, makeup, hairstyles, etc. and judging by her talent, is possibly a more effective means for some! But I guess that’s what artists are always doing with their pieces. Great capture. So did you pick up a brush yourself and do a few stokes or two? 😉

    ps my favorite “daily photos” are always the ones that include people…they are always the most engaging for me!

    • I do paint but I haven’t painted since I’ve been here. My paints are in the states and I can’t find the ones I like here. I am always too busy on the computer anyway….

  7. Jerry M says:

    Given what I have read about the Saudi religion, it is odd to see a woman with a face covering with paintings of faces, but then again, nothing about Saudi Arabia makes sense.

    • To me it’s baffling that a veiled woman would choose to paint women’s faces. I’d really like to talk to this artist to find out her reasons…

      • Jerry M says:

        Have you every painted? I have and there is no way for a black shroud to stay clean during painting. When I was actively painting all my clothes had paint stains. I am surprised this woman doesn’t wear an old fashioned artists smock.

      • I am a messy painter myself, Jerry! I had had the same thought about getting paint all over the black. I have a drawer full of special old painting clothes that I always wear.

  8. Dina says:

    What an eye-opening post! Many surprises for us!

  9. J Bar says:

    A very interesting contrast to the woman in the painting.
    Sydney – City and Suburbs

  10. geogypsy says:

    She certainly should be painting with this kind of talent, veil or not. I ‘d guess the bright colors may make up for dressing and living in such a black and white world.

  11. leif hagen says:

    Interesting commentary about veiled women’s behavior – I’m surprised!

    • Of course, not ALL of them act that way, but I have been literally pushed aside here or stepped right in front of by veiled Saudi women on more than one occasion like I’m the one who is invisible. Another reason for this could be that they are Saudis and this is their country and they feel that foreigners should come after them.

  12. Al says:

    It is a remarkable juxtaposition between the veiled woman and the bright paintings. This culture is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced.

  13. ewok1993 says:

    Very interesting post indeed. Another peek at life in Saudi.

    I have seen other Muslim women who did not have to wear a veil. Is there difference between them and the women in SA?

    Hope you have a lovely week.

  14. Wonderful photos as always, but I’m afraid I’ll never understand the culture or why women continue to live the way they do, but maybe there’s just no other choice. I did think it very interesting about them being sometimes rude and aggressive and I agree with your take on their behavior. Also interesting is the many brilliant colors this woman has used in her paintings. That says a lot, doesn’t it? Hope your husband is continuing to recover from surgery and that you have a great week!


    • It really does say a lot. Thanks so much, Sylvia – he’s making slow progress and still has bad days and pain – I hope in another month he’ll be a lot better.

  15. Carver says:

    Interesting post and I love the contrast between the veiled artist and the painting of the woman in bright colors without a veil.

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