Manal Al Dowayan is a photographer currently living and working in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. Manal understands her photographic practice as a tool to raise awareness around gender issues in Saudi Arabia. For I Am (2005-2007), she erected temporary photographic studios in the home of her subjects, and produced a series of black and white portraits of veiled and heavily made-up Saudi women, posing next to material attributes conventionally associated with male professions. In each portrait, a piece of traditional jewelry is placed in an obstructive and unnatural way, questioning the weight of cultural heritage in defining the role of women in Saudi Arabian society.
Manal Al Dowayan was born and raised in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. She partook in a range of courses in differing art institutions in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Bahrain and London. In 2009 she attended the Clore Leadership program and was one of the artists-in-residence at Delfina Foundation. In 2010 she was a resident artist at Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in Dubai, and 2011 she was a resident artist/intern at The Townhouse Gallery in Egypt. She was a British Council Cultural Leadership International participant in 2010.
Al Dowayan has participated in numerous touring group exhibitions including the British Council’s Common Ground project in 2006, the Saudi-Italian artist exchange, Nawafith (2007/09), Freedom to Create (2011), and Edge of Arabia (2008-11). Manal has also exhibited regionally and internationally, in Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Korea, India, Bahrain, the UK, USA, UAE and Saudi Arabia. She won an international call for artists for the Imagining Ourselves anthology in 2003, which was managed by the International Museum of Women in San Francisco. Her photograph Pointing to the Future was exhibited in New York at the 49th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2005. Al Dowayan also exhibited her work during the 2009 and 2011 Venice Biennale and the 2010 Berlin Biennale and Contemporary Istanbul.
Her artworks are part of the permanent collections of the British Museum, the Jordan National Museum of Fine Art, the Abdul Latif Jamil Foundation, Delfina Foundation in London, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), the Nadour Foundation in Germany, and the Barjeel Foundation in Sharjah. Manal is represented by Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in Dubai.