All eyes are on Saudi Arabia, as the gulf nation embarks on a drive to transform itself through a series of economical, political and cultural reformative measures. Its youth are taking the latest developments in their stride and show a strong inclination to become part of this watershed moment. One among them is Ayah Al Bitar, 26, a product designer currently based in Dubai.
Narrating how her now popular Wisada seat is symbolic of what’s happening in Saudi Arabia, Ayah Al Bitar says that to reflect the changes in the industry, there was a lot of 2D materials, such as books and movies, but there was nothing tactile. Al Bitar stresses that these 3D items don’t have to be massive, but they can convey a powerful message. “For example, the pink breast cancer ribbon, or the Sheikh Zayed emblem pin – once you’ve put it on, you do not have to explain anything; you’re already part of the movement,” she says. “For me, when I was thinking about what I could create that relates to the culture and something that inside homes and closer to people, not in the streets, I realised it had to be done through an item which people already use, albeit in a more refined form.”
Apart from the message, the Wisada seat also imbibes humour – a tongue in cheek reference to how the seat came about. “In the year 2013, the ban on women to ride bikes was lifted. However, the law also stated that it had to be done in the presence of a male authority. How could two people sit on the bike, let alone ride it? Other reasons such as high temperature and the availability of chauffeur-driven cars made the freedom sort of redundant. Still, a lot of people didn’t take it well and attempted to ride bikes, only to get into accidents. I wanted to react to it in a more constructive manner,” explains Al Bitar.
How different is life in Saudi Arabia now than, say, five years ago? “It’s not very different, but subtle nuances are there for us to see internally within the community,” observes Al Bitar. “Simple tasks such as having a male salesperson in stores, and women walking down the street are subtle manifestations of the cultural changes.”
Read the full interview with Ayah Al Bitar in the July issue of Commercial Interior Design
Photo credit: Aasiya Jagadeesh, ITP Media Group