Rome showcases culture and heritage of Kingdom through lens of Saudi artist 

JEDDAH: History, art, culture, heritage and the natural beauty of Saudi Arabia were showcased in a special exhibition in Rome by the renowned photographer, Susan Baaghil.

The personal exhibition by the Saudi pioneer photographer, titled “Art and Culture of Saudi Arabia,” opened on Oct. 6 as part of the annual Fourth Day of Arab Culture event, organized by the Italian-Arab Society in Rome.

The exhibition included images of the Two Holy Mosques, archaeological sites, Al-Ula Open Museum, the Rub’ Al-Khali desert, Al-Ahsa, Abha and Najran, cultural heritage sites in the Kingdom, as well as pictures highlighting popular folklore and traditional costumes.

The halls of the Rome municipality headquarters, Sala Promototeca, were host to the event. It was attended by Italian civil society activists, representatives from Italian political parties, intellectuals and writers, in addition to a number of Arab ambassadors to Italy, including the Saudi envoy.

The ceremony included a musical performance by members of the joint Italian military band, which played an Arabic hymn, “Talah Al-Badru Alayna.”

Baaghil expressed her happiness at the invitation to present the culture and heritage of her country, while she also feels a sense of belonging to Italy.

She told attendees: “I am really happy to be invited by the Italian-Arab Association to participate in the annual event of the Fourth Day of Arab Culture. I could not think twice or decline this invitation because Italy is a special place for me.

“My participation in this festival represents an extension of my international participation around the world, to present a brilliant and honorable image of Saudi and Arab visual arts in such international cultural forums.”

She expressed special thanks to the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Rome for his encouragement and support.

“And, above all, I would like to thank the king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, and the crown prince, for their grant of women’s rights and empowerment.”

Baaghil said that she was delighted to be part of the exhibition for the first time. “The event has given artists like me a chance to display images.  

“I also wanted to participate because Saudi culture is something that I can relate to easily and I wanted to show my perspective on it through images.”

She said that her participation in the event was part of a moral duty to spread the Saudi people’s culture and build bridges of communication and knowledge between nations.  

Baaghil considers art and photography a universal language that brings people together and contributes to promoting peace and coexistence, noting that art must play a role in consolidating relationships.

“By doing this, it has been positive for the general community in Italy to see who we are, and to see that people from all over the world not only come to the Kingdom to live, but also we have a culture, we have traditions, we have a lot to share,” she said.

Baaghil’s contributions have won her international recognition. In 2007, she was honored by the former president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, who awarded her the Italian order of knighthood, with the title “Cavaliere della Repubblica.” It was the first golden solidarity star medal granted by the Italian republic to an Arab artist.

She was the first Saudi photographer to capture the Hajj from a helicopter in 2006, and was assigned by the American embassy in Riyadh to photograph the women of the White House.

Over the past 40 years, she has participated in more than 155 local and international exhibitions in Spain, China, Japan, Switzerland, the US, Morocco, Jordan, Italy, France, India and Turkiye.

“I would like to confirm that I, as an international Arab artist, have many international participations, and I am proud to introduce the Italian society to Saudi Arabian culture and heritage through my art. I consider art and photography a universal language, the language of the world and the language of peace and coexistence among peoples,” she said.

Baaghil said that she was keen to decorate the hall of Sala Promototeca with more than 100 images expressing the Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage.

She also made sure to display photos of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Italian attendees expressed their admiration for the pictures — “amazing, picturesque and expressive” were some of the comments — and their eagerness to visit the Kingdom. 

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