Art or vandalism? Saudi graffiti artists face uphill battle
Graffiti pops up around the world. It is often a form of political expression. (AFP/File)
Many young Saudi graphic designers brush up on their talents by creating single letter graffiti art, and one of the most popular Arabic letters to do this is the letter ض (dhad). But graffiti artists in the Kingdom are struggling to gain acceptance in society due to the general view that graffiti is a public nuisance and not a form of renegade art.
Artist Ous Ghazzal created a group with several other young Saudi artists whose sole purpose is to decorate streets and cars with Arabic letters in multiple graffiti styles and colors. They went on to open a store but the group has faced problems securing financing for their projects, marketing them and navigating bureaucratic red tape.
“From the very beginning, we have faced numerous hurdles. We knocked on the doors of several government departments and private companies to get some financial support but to no avail. Our store is the first of its kind in the Arabian Gulf for promoting the art of graffiti. We are proud of creating miracles with the language of our fathers and forefathers. We want to elevate the position of Arabic letters, especially the letter dhad, which is a distinguished one, in the art of graphic design and graffiti,” he said.
Their store, which is aptly named “ض”, houses dozens of materials graphic designers may need and also provides training to those who are interested in graphic design and graffiti free of cost. Ghazzal unveiled plans to expand the store in order to accommodate the growing number of trainees. “We are always striving to conduct graphic competitions and visit galleries across the Arab World.”
According to Ghazzal, the group’s graphic design projects are now getting international attention. “In the recent past, we received two invitations: One was from Paris for La Tour 13, which was the world’s largest collective street art exhibition, held in October 2013, and another from an international gallery titled 'Just Writing My Name' held in the German City of Koblenz,” he said.
“It is not an easy task to get entry into such international projects in the absence of any funding and unfortunately, we are not receiving any support and assistance. We tried our best to get support by approaching the mayoralty, chamber of commerce and industry, and branch municipalities. However, we found that it is very difficult or almost impossible to reach the concerned officials. There were few cases of getting a chance to meet officials, but there were no serious efforts to materialize the promises offered by them,” he added.
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