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Never Never Land

Arwa Alneami

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Signs state that the management ‘strictly forbids lifting your abaya...or screaming while on the ride. Offenders will be removed.’ Here I decided to start my project by taking the viewers with me on a journey to live and feel what is like for women in the theme park with all its fun and restrictions.

Still photography and video are used to present a powerful and original insight into leisure activities in Saudi Arabia. Through this approach I want to convey the same feelings I had during my visit, to let my audience get closer to understanding how these women enjoy themselves, despite the red line. The reaction to the work has been bittersweet. Many people have told me they find it humorous but discomforting, yet interesting to view.

Saudi Arabia

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Arwa Alneami

Saudi Arabia, 30

Arwa Al Neami was born in Khamis Mushait, a modern city in the Asir province of Saudi Arabia. Originally from the mountain village of Rijal Alma, Arwa grew up on the King Khalid Military Airbase, where her father was military Dean. In 2000, she joined the influential Al­Meftaha Arts Village in Abha, the first art centre of its kind in southern Saudi Arabia. Having won Saudi's prestigious Southern Region Arts Award under the patronage of HRH Prince Khaled Al­Faisal in 2005, Arwa struggled for acceptance and inclusion in the regional contemporary arts scene because of her position as a Saudi woman from a traditional background. In 2012, Arwa moved to Jeddah and began to present socio­political work to local audiences including at the historic Mostly Visible exhibition curated by Ashraf Fayadh. Since then she has exhibited across the Gulf including at Art Dubai with Athr Gallery and the British Museum's Words & Illuminations exhibition where she presented photographs of the Radwa Al­Sharifa ceiling at the Prophet's Mosque. In pursuit of realizing this project, Piece of Paradise, Arwa became the first female to photograph inside the Masjid Al­Nabawi in Medina—the second holiest site in Islam after the Masjid al­Haram in Makkah and the second mosque built in history, holding the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad. Her latest project Never Never Land gave the title to a group show at the EOA.P gallery, curated by Amal Khalaf, project curator at the Serpentine Gallery, London, and in which Arwa participated with a first selection from the project.

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