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From the Saudi creative scene, a Filipino flight attendant launches an international artistic career

MANILA: When the coronavirus pandemic halted international travel, Erika Cadiz stayed in Saudi Arabia instead of returning to the Philippines – a decision that quickly paid off as her childhood career dream came true.

Raised in the suburbs of Bataan, a province 120 km from the Philippine capital, Cadiz became a flight attendant with a Saudi airline in 2017.

She would split her life between Manila and the Middle East until coronavirus health restrictions ended worldwide air travel and forced her to choose just one. She chose the unknown and risked everything to join the art scene she saw flourishing in Saudi Arabia.

“I always loved art growing up, but it wasn’t something I thought I would pursue as a career. I thought that even though I dreamed of becoming a painter, it was something I had to put aside. temporarily because it would not put food on the table,” Cadiz told Arab News.

In February 2021, she transformed her room in Riyadh into an art studio and started selling small paintings on social media.

Initially, she had no contacts in the industry or local galleries, but local artists supported her foray into the art world and offered advice.

Erika Candiz exhibits her works at the Atoze art exhibition at Mawhub Arts Gallery in Riyadh in March 2021. (Supplied)

“In a place where art is thriving, everyone is eager to see your art. Although contemporary art is considered new in Saudi Arabia, the art scene is very dynamic, trendy, rich and the artist community is open to everyone, no matter where you come from,” she said. declared.

“I’ve met people who are way ahead of me in the industry and who really encourage me and support me in every way possible. Many galleries organize exhibitions open to expatriates. They openly support diversity.

Barely a month after setting up her home studio, she had the opportunity to exhibit her work for the first time alongside other new artists at the Atoze art exhibition at Mawhub Arts Gallery in Riyadh.

“A good friend tagged me online and urged me to participate. I remember I had a week to make five paintings,” she said.

Its first successful exhibition opened doors to other opportunities, including the Kulay Pinay (Filipino Colors) exhibition organized by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Saudi National Day art exhibition at the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum.

Conservatives took note of his work, quickly paving the way for it to be disseminated abroad.

His first international appearance was at the Dynamic Correspondence exhibition in Bologna.

“It was only a dream of mine to see my paintings hanging on a wall in Italy,” she said, calling the experience “surreal” given that it happened only a few months later. his entry onto the artistic scene.

Soon she also found herself in Venice and Rome, where she participated in the Rome International Art Fair.

She also began receiving offers of commissioned artwork from clients drawn to her colorful style, which she describes as “the intersection of retro-realism and expressionism,” inspired by her travels and experiences as a woman in her new country.

Erika Cadiz attends the Kulay Pinay (Filipina Colors) exhibition organized by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh on November 26, 2021. (Supplied)

“Since moving to Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed all the societal changes. Now women have more opportunities in their chosen careers, an advocacy I deeply support,” she said.

“The fact that I am from the Philippines and am a woman who can excel in the arts in another country, especially in the Middle East, is something that I am proud of.”

She embraced both her identities: as a Filipina and as a resident of Saudi Arabia.

“I became the most independent me in the Middle East. I moved without knowing anyone. I had no family,” she said.

“The struggles I have gone through have shaped me into my most authentic self, both as a person and as a creative. »

After years, Cádiz can once again divide its time between its two homelands. But she is now able to fully pursue her new career, as she ventures into her native country’s art scene with an apprenticeship in art gallery management in Manila, while maintaining her main studio in Riyadh.

“It makes me feel mobile as an artist, and that’s my dream: to not limit myself as an artist. I want to be able to represent different cultures as I grow in this industry,” she said.

“I have two homes in my heart as an artist. I take the Philippines and Saudi Arabia with me everywhere.

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