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Saudi Arabia: A Changing Landscape

The Newseum, Washington DC

Kate Seelye, Vice President of the Middle East Institute, introduced a panel exploring changing landscapes in Saudi Arabia, from the perspectives of an artist, a photographer and a veteran journalist. 

Considering the cultural and social transformations reshaping the kingdom, the panel took visual cues from diverse sources, including: the work of Ahmed Mater, who has dedicated almost a decade to documenting the rapidly shifting urban landscape of the holy city, Mecca; Ayesha Malik, whose projects are grounded in the ‘not-quite-American-not-quite-Saudi' compounds of Dhahran; and photos from the Middle East Institute’s Colbert Held Collection, a unique archive of over 18,000 color Kodachrome slides of the region, donated by former U.S. foreign service officer Colbert Held.

The collections highlight often overlooked Saudi stories, adding breadth and diversity to limited international perspectives on the kingdom. With this arresting imagery as a starting point, the conversation traced change while contemplating an artists’ active role in documenting and directing such social transformations.   

Another perspective was added by Deborah Amos, an award-winning NPR international correspondent, who has covered Saudi Arabia for decades. 

US Cultural Tour

Washington DC

New York

Los Angeles 

  • KSA/LAX exhibition in Downtown Los Angeles Arts District


  • Michelle Kosinski – CNN Sr. Diplomatic Correspondent, U.S. State Dept.


  • Ahmed Mater – Artist and director, Misk Art Institute
  • Ayesha Malik – Photographer based between Riyadh and New York
  • Deborah Amos – International correspondent, NPR

About the Speakers

Michelle Kosinski is CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent responsible for covering the State Department. Previously, Kosinski served as the network's White House correspondent during the Obama administration. She joined the network in 2014 and contributes to all CNN programs and platforms. Kosinski is based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

Ahmed Mater is director of Misk Art Institute, a Saudi cultural organization working to encourage grassroots artistic production in Saudi Arabia and enable international cultural diplomacy and exchange. A physician turned artist, Mater is one of the most significant cultural voices documenting and scrutinising the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia. His practice embraces the paradoxes of science and faith. Entwining expressive and politically engaged artistic aims with the scientific objectives of his medical training, he fuses the two realms to explore their connections and contradictions.

Ayesha Malik is an American originally from Pakistan. She was born and raised in the city of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which she made the focus of her book, ARAMCO: Above the Oil Fields. She graduated in 2012 from Parsons The New School For Design with a BFA in Photography. Shortly after, she returned to Saudi Arabia to continue photographing. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as first assistant to beauty and portrait photographer, Ben Hassett in New York City. Currently, Malik divides her time between New York City and Saudi Arabia working on self-directed photo projects.

Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning "Morning Edition", "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition". Amos is the author of Lines in the Sand: Desert Storm and the Remaking of the Arab World. She travels extensively across the Middle East covering a range of stories including the rise of well-educated Syrian youth who are unqualified for jobs in a market-drive economy, a series focusing on the emerging power of Turkey and the plight of Iraqi refugees.

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