Pakistani woman becomes first international artist to hold solo exhibition in Medina

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani painter Rabia Zakir, who this week became the first international artist to hold a solo exhibition in Medina on International Women’s Day, hailed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plans to promote arts and culture in Saudi Arabia.

Zakir is well known in diplomatic circles for her portraits of Arab leaders, including the Saudi Crown Prince and members of the royal families of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. His portraits and landscapes hang in 50 embassies in Pakistan, mostly in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

In an interview with Arab News by phone from Medina, Zahir said she had seen a “clear change” in the arts and culture scene in Saudi Arabia “due to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s particular interest in of its Vision 2030”.

Her one-man show in the Kingdom, which she described as a “journey of faith,” was a sign of changing times.

“I am very proud to be the first female artist outside of Saudi Arabia to present her work in the holy city of Medina,” Zahir said. “I have no words to explain my happiness.”

Zahir said his exhibits include portraits of Saudi leaders and paintings depicting Islamic holy sites.

“He has landscape paintings of Haram, Masjid Nabawi, different places in Mecca and Medina that Muslims visit on their Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage,” Zakir added.

The artist said she was approached by the Saudi Society for Culture and the Arts about six months ago after officials noticed her work on social media.

“They offered to introduce my work to the Saudi public by organizing a solo exhibition,” she said, adding that the Pakistani government was not involved in the exhibition, which was an all-Saudi initiative.

Zakir also received an award from the Saudi Society for Culture and the Arts for “strengthening Pak-Saudi ties” and will hold a training workshop for young Saudi artists.

Fatma Ragab, the society’s exhibition organizer, said the body welcomes intellectuals and creators from all over the world.

“Zakir’s exhibition, which includes 27 artistic paintings, was a great success and attracted remarkable attendance and admiration from notable personalities, artists and intellectuals,” she told Arab News in a statement.

“This is a unique opportunity for Saudi nationals to learn about the fine arts movement in Pakistan and their rich artistic experiences.”

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