Artists have long been known to bring culture to life through their work. This is particularly the case in the Sultanate of Oman, where patriotism and national pride frequently find their way into the art work of its citizens.
One of these artists is Samira Al Yaqoubi, a well-travelled, incredibly well-educated artist from Al Dhahira in the Sultanate’s interior. Yaqoubi was born in Kuwait, spent her formative years in Oman, and has since studied fine art in London, Amman, Moscow and St. Petersburg. But of all of the places she has lived, Oman has her heart because of its natural beauty. Her bright and dramatic use of colour in her paintings reflects Oman’s nature and its colourful, vibrant culture and heritage.
Oman is located on the south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula next to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, however it is geographically very unique compared to much of the rest of the region thanks to its variety of colourful and dramatic scenery. The capital, Muscat, is hemmed in by dusty brown mountains on one side and long, white beaches, clear blue-green seas and a series of islands and reefs on the other. Meanwhile, the vast, orange desert stretches for miles in the country’s interior, stopping at the edge of lush oases around which villages have sprung and huge canyons called wadis filled with water that stretch back out towards the ocean.
Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman (image: DST Oman)
Samira Al Yaqoubi is infatuated with Oman’s natural beauty, though she is particularly inspired by its oceans. The sea is a crucial cornerstone of Omani history and culture. Before the discovery of oil in the Sultanate, Oman’s economy was centred on the fishing industry. Even today, after almost fifty years of swift progress and modernisation in the Sultanate, you’ll see fisherman in their small, wooden boats preparing their nets on the beach in the morning and assessing their catch at the end of the day. Oman also has traditional trading links with countries in East Africa and Asia (the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar was once ruled over by the Sultan of Oman) thanks to its history of seafaring.
“I love the sea, everything about it inspires me. Perhaps it is because of my country’s close historical relationship with the ocean… Or maybe it’s just because of my zodiac sign” – Samira is referring, of course, to the Pisces fish. (image: Mutrah Corniche, Muscat, omanholidayarchitects.net)
One of Samira’s proudest achievements as an artist is a series of paintings she completed honouring a famous Omani dhow known as the ‘Jewel of Muscat’, which had been gifted to the government of Singapore but was destroyed in a storm off the coast of Indonesia in 1998. The series charts the entire life of the ship, from its construction by local shipbuilders, its maiden voyage, and its sad demise.
The Jewel of Muscat was wrecked in the Bay of Bengal in 1998 (image: ARAMCO)
Samira’s work takes on a number of different styles and mediums, often combining realist and abstract techniques to give the impression of reality merging with imagination. She likes to have fun with her work and is not afraid to branch out into using new techniques and styles. Although despite this variation, her bold, bright use of colour remains constant, as do the traces of Omani heritage.
A Gulf skyline from the sea, painted by Samira Al Yaqoubi.
Samira previously worked at the Ministry of Education, where she helped develop the art curriculum taught in Oman’s schools and universities. She says there is a lot of support for artists in Oman, particularly those whose work focuses on Omani culture, heritage, and traditional arts and craftsmanship.
An Omani silversmith crafts the traditional dagger, or khanjar, in Nizwa, Oman (image: Oman Tours)
Samira recently left her job to pursue her own business, selling her art and making jewellery in her small home workshop (she also studied jewellery making in the UK). She tries to focus on creating smaller pieces which people can take out of the country, in the hope that this will spread Oman’s beautiful culture and heritage overseas.
Samira’s work is exhibited at Ghalya’s Museum of Modern Art in Muscat, Oman.
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