SAUDI TALES OF LOVE - PhMuseum

SAUDI TALES OF LOVE

Tasneem Alsultan

2015 - Ongoing

Saudi Arabia

My project, saudi love stories, began as a personal venture. With my marriage at the age of 17, and being a mother of two children at the age of 21, I knew I would surface in some way as a character exploring concepts of love and marriage in Saudi. But my teenage diary seemed to be a redline that I resisted bringing into the story. For the last 12 years, I blamed my marriage on my parents. I repeatedly questioned how they allowed me to marry at the age of 17, and why they never supported my need for a divorce later on. They had always argued that they never encouraged me to marry that young, and that their objecting the divorce was for the sake of the kids. I didn't understand them. I saw myself as being alone. But I was inspired by the empowered cross section of Saudi women who opened up their lives to me, and I finally faced my diary. So out came my dairies of the age of ten, and sixteen. Funny enough, I wrote in that personal journal till a few weeks before my marriage. I wrote how worried my parents were. And how my father was very skeptical of this young man. I was sixteen when my ex-husband proposed, and my pages were filled with stories of my teenage angst against my mother. I saw how I used the escape of her motherly love, as an escape to the arms of a man I didn't know...Hence, I wanted to be Shahrazad in a 1001 Arabian nights. A story teller of other misfortunes and romantic endings. I followed the stories of a widow, a happy marriage, twice divorced, and that of a young child—to name a few. I also delved into the many gems I shot from my wedding photography business in Saudi (with permission from my clients). I see the irony in being a divorced wedding photographer. But nevertheless, it was through these stories and from reading my own diary, that the project as a whole, gave me a sense of closure.

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  • Excerpt from my teen diary before marriage.

  • When you finish high school, people start asking when are you getting engaged. When you're married, they ask when are you having a son. It's as if, the man you marry, and the man you bring to the world are the only reason for your existence.” Norah, fashion designer. Riyadh

  • Society constrains the definition of a divorcee. What you can or can't do, remains under the control of others. As an independent single mother, I've made peace with the sacrifices i've had to make, but also managed to find happiness on my own. Nassiba, fashion designer. Jeddah

  • “I’ve been married for 64 years. Have raised six men, and three daughters. I have more than thirty grandchildren. Yet, I can’t legally sign, or travel without a male guardian. Outside of this house, my youngest grandson has more authority than me”

  • My daughters often say "Mama, I never want to get married. I just want to have kids, like you" Seeing their mother go through a tiresome 10 year struggle for a divorce, they have a negative view of marriage. They love their Uncle Hamoodi. He takes them out, buys ice cream and watches films with them. How minor is his role in their lives, and yet the young girls think of it as grand…

  • “I married my college classmate in dental school. Sharing two children and a happy marriage, we finally bought our dream house. The day after signing the lease, he died in a motorcycle accident. Then, my father died. I was legally required to have a male guardian. I now wait for my son to turn 16 to take that role. Until then, my step brother whom I have never met decides on my behalf.” Mai, dentist. Jeddah

  • “In Saudi, you can't marry a man who doesn't share the same tribal roots. Your uncles can go to court and have you divorced if they object that they don't see the marriage fit for the family name. It's happened to many, and I expected to be one of them. I took care of my dying mother as a teenager whilst my father had already remarried. I also worked instead of finishing school, to raise my siblings. Although I didn't expect a difference in nationality with my husband as a hindrance, it took over a year for the paperwork. My father, surprisingly, didn't object at the time. But he did warn me of the consequences. I don't regret the decision to marry, but I do realize that my Yemeni son won't have the same privileges as a Saudi.” Afrah, photographer. Jeddah

  • Ghadeer, a wedding planner that has never been in love or married, stands in her privately owned ballroom. She has 70 male employees working for her. "When people ask why i'm still single, I reply that I'm married to my job."

  • Ouhood, scuba diving in red sea port of Jeddah: “We women often joke that we can’t drive, but we can dive”

  • We can't drive, but we can ride.

  • "My parents are divorced. My brother is divorced. My friends are divorced. Everyone I know who married out of love, isn't anymore in love. I got divorced, not once, but twice. After my divorce, I realized I needed to pursue my own happiness. I moved to my own place, painting each wall with my daughter. I only see her two nights each month. Divorced mothers get nothing. Not the money, not the children.” Ohoud, art director. Jeddah

  • "I first met her on Twitter, then later in person. Wanting nothing but fun, she told me off... I met her again at an ice cream shoppe. She charmed me with her happy ice cream dance.” Raneen and Hisham were both previously married and divorced. Now married to each other, they realize their mistakes. "We didn't believe in love, and were too cynical. We also thought of marriage as a duty. After we stopped searching for the one, that’s when we met each other.”

  • Ghadeer, a wedding planner that has never been in love or married, stands in her privately owned ballroom. She has 70 male employees working for her. "When people ask why i'm still single, I reply that I'm married to my job."

  • " I was 15; He was 18. It was after a train ride from my city to his, on our wedding day, that I met him. I relied on him, for everything. And, with time, we fell in love. The struggles of raising nine children bonded us." Najiba, housewife. My grandmother is 80 years old and my grandfather has dementia. He relies fully on her now, searching for her in every room when she's not in his sight.

  • "My parents are divorced. My brother is divorced. My friends are divorced. Everyone I know who married out of love, isn't anymore in love. I got divorced, not once, but twice. After my divorce, I realized I needed to pursue my own happiness. I moved to my own place, painting each wall with my daughter. I only see her two nights each month. Divorced mothers get nothing. Not the money, not the children.” Ohoud, art director. Jeddah

  • We can't drive, but we can scooter.

  • My daughters often say "Mama, I never want to get married. I just want to have kids, like you" Seeing their mother go through a tiresome 10 year struggle for a divorce, they have a negative view of marriage. They love their Uncle Hamoodi. He takes them out, buys ice cream and watches films with them. How minor is his role in their lives, and yet the young girls think of it as grand…

  • Mai’s daughter, weekly attends a young girls gym in Jeddah. She aspires to be an actress and acrobat.


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