[-empyre-] Art and Saudi Arabia

Sean Foley foleymtsu at gmail.com
Tue Feb 4 02:55:48 AEDT 2020

Over the last two decades, Saudi Arabia has witnessed a cultural
renaissance in film, literature, online media, stand-up comedy, and the
visual arts. On multiple occasions, Abdulnasser Gharem, one of the
country’s foremost artists, has argued that he and his colleagues fill a
critical social role, telling the *New York Times* in 2016: “That is your
role as an artist, to bring out the option that the politician can’t say
and that the religious man can’t say… You bring out the solutions that
people can’t say.” Three years later in an interview with Spain’s *El Pais*,
he stressed that art is “a form of soft power” through which you “can
change people’s behavior.” “People,” he added “need to listen to the
artist.” Is Gharem right? What role could he and other artists like him
play in a country in which an absolute monarchy and clerics have long
wielded enormous power? What could Gharem and artists tell us about the
Kingdom in 2020?
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