We should all be proud of Mona Khazindar, Saudi curator and historian, the first lady ever to serve as director general of the Paris-based L’Institut du Monde Arabe “IMA” (or Arab World Institute “AWI”) who has been working as a curator of contemporary plastic art and photography with the museum and a supervisor of the permanent art collection of the Institute for over 32 years now. In her point of view, the importance of her role in IMA lies in being able to highlight the Arab Culture, to expose the meeting point between both civilizations of the East and the West, and to establish close and distinct links with artists, museum officials, art collectors, and critics in the field of modern and contemporary art, in which she has specialized. One of her significant statements is:
“There are lots of expectations,” she said. “I have to prove that Saudi women are no less capable than men
and no less capable than other Arab women. I have to prove that I am no less capable than my male
predecessors from other countries.”
Being the vice president and one of the founding members of “Al Mansouria Foundation for Culture and Creativity”, she is really so concerned with promoting Arab contemporary arts and enhancing culture. Collaborating with different notable and prestigious art institutions, Khazindar is marked by a spectacular experience and a major impact. She is really an eminent and outstanding figure in Saudi Society, particularly the art scene.
Ever since she was young, destinies perfectly worked for her excellence in arts and culture; she was born in the United States where her father, Abid Khazindar a critic, an author, and a journalist was studying and her mother, Shams Al-Hosseini Khazindar, an editor responsible for the women’s page in Al-Yamamah Newspaper. In such an art-and-culture involved family, she grew up and learned the value of art in human lives. The well-known litterateur father was keen on providing her daughter with the special care and interest to support her passion for languages and art. They used to share books and novels and to spend their time in literary discussions. In Paris, where she lived for 38 years, she studied comparative literature at the American University and got her master’s degree from the Sorbonne. We can say that she is multilingual; she can fluently speak English and French besides being a native speaker of Arabic and so she was able to translate so many important theses later.
Ms. Khazindar’s endeavors to enrich the world of art and culture are undeniable. Yet, she doesn’t pass up a chance to represent her homeland; Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is apparently clear in different situations – presenting a visual history of Saudi Arabia in an event held at Princeton University, where she has displayed the Saudi’s landscapes, cultural heritage, and contemporary aesthetics, highlighting the artistic and cultural side of the kingdom that should be borne in mind along with its Islamic character. That’s separate from being a co-curator of the first Saudi pavilion in the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale, in 2011. Ms. Khazindar has successfully conducted lectures in the United States and Europe talking about Saudi contemporary art upon request of The King Abdul-Aziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran. She has an unforgettable statement in this regard:
“In the beginning, I always thought that the images we have of Saudi Arabia by non-native artists were images
related only to religion and religious heritage,” she said. “Why? Because Saudi Arabia is the cradle of Islam, with
many Islamic holy sites. But what I discovered with my research is that Saudi Arabia is a country that has fascinated
and still fascinates artists of different origins and for different reasons. It’s a country that is difficult to access, and
when something is less accessible, it becomes more desirable. It’s also about the discovery of oil, and the desert. And
because of all this, we do not have one sort of theme or image.”
Among her many accomplishments is her first book “View from the Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mixed Media Art” that was published in 2014. She is currently working on another book entitled “Visions from Abroad: Historical and Contemporary Representations of Saudi Arabia” to be published soon in 2019, unveiling so many impressive discoveries about non-native artists representing Saudi Arabia throughout different ages, from hundreds of years ago until today.
She was the first Saudi female to be elected “Woman of the Year” in the New Arab Woman Forum “NAWF”, in 2012. Recently, Ms. Khazindar was selected to the 44th rank in The World’s Most Powerful Saudis list for this year, 2018, and previously got the 73rd rank in The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women list, according to Arabian Business Magazine.
All of this would serve to prove the fact that Saudi women have been always capable to achieve self-fulfillment in different arenas at both the domestic and global levels.