Three years ago in the safety of middle-class Australia in my leafy green suburb, I'm not quite sure I would have been comfortable to be in a room with so many covered women.... not because I'm anti-Muslim but because it was something that I had never been exposed to. I'd always been in the white majority and there weren't a lot of niqabs in my neighbourhood. That's not a good thing or a bad thing, that's just how my life was...
But now Saudi is home for the next little while and it's not so scary, it's my new normal and I still find it intriguing... Who is that woman under the veil? Would she be a member of my girl gang if I still lived in Australia?
Last month I flew to Abha with Turquoise Mountain to document a group of women from the conservative south of the country.
Nine beautiful souls coming together in a workshop sponsored by the HRH The Prince of Wales Charity that works with local artisans to promote and preserve the ancient wall art painting known as Al Qat that originates in this area. Traditionally only painted by the females of the house, women would gather in groups and decorate the walls of their mud huts.
Turquoise Mountain assists these women by providing art materials and supplies to ensure that their work continues and potentially may become commercially viable. This project provides these women with a purpose, an income and potential. It empowers them and it was incredible to spend time with them.
Despite the veils and language barrier, it was interesting to observe the different personalities of the group; there were leaders, followers, quiet achievers, extraverts and it was no different to any other gathering of women from anywhere in the world. They all have instagram and snapchat and they all love coffee and sweets!
These ladies ranging in age from late 20's through to a lady in her 80's, have successfully completed by hand 500 pieces to be hung in a luxury hotel in Riyadh. They have a real sense of pride in their work and they have a few requests... some glasses for those in the group who are experiencing eyesight deterioration and some more art paper.
Take a bow ladies... I don't know your names, I only saw one of your faces but I felt your good vibes a million times over and you've made a lasting impression x
Happy International Women 's Day 2018