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Al-Qatt: Saudi Historic Wall Art acknowledged by UNESCO

The curiously feminine, uplifting art form hails from southern Saudi Arabian women. This week, to preserve the decorative style, it has been recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

This style of interior decoration dates back over one hundred years, across 11 provinces in the Asir region. A local legend states that it began with young girls who—while playing outdoors with flower petals and cups full of water—made their own paints and created enchanting patterns on the walls of their houses.

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Asiri women have claimed the art as their own: the men build the houses, but it is the women who decorate them. The result is Al-Qatt, an entrancing geometric design which is visually pleasant. The artistic production process is said to have therapeutic effects.

This has been an inspiration to the old and young. Attending the Lyon Biennale this year during the fall, young Saudi visual artist Arwa Alneami spoke with Kawa, stating her fascination for the historic wall art, as well as her appreciation for its late ambassador, a famous Asiri lady named Fatima Abou Gahas.