Culled from a newspaper clipping, this disassembled image depicts fully veiled women, clothed in the traditional black abaya, engaged in study. Each section of the photograph is inscribed with an archaic Arabic word, all synonyms for "courage" and appropriated from a tenth-century text by Abu Mansour Al-Tha’alby Al-Naysaboury. Rendered in black plexiglass, the three-dimensional, anachronistic words create a tension and contradiction between these stereotypical representations of today’s Saudi women and their underlying humanity.
Manal Al Dowayan is one of the best known among the new generation of Saudi artists; she works mainly in the medium of photography. Her series The State of Disappearance, to which the print Courage belongs, is the artist’s personal investigation into the portrayal of Saudi women in print media, especially newspapers. The series is a commentary on the seeming invisibility of a large sector of Saudi women, who are customarily shrouded in black when in public.
Komaroff, Linda. Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015.
Komaroff, Linda. "Islamic Art Now and Then." In Islamic Art: Past, Present, Future, edited by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, 26-56. New Haven, New York, and London: Yale University Press, 2019.