In 2011, collaborative duo Shadia and Raja Alem were selected to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with The Black Arch installation at La Biennale di Venezia. Between the two contemporary artists, also sisters, Shadia is the visual artist while Raja is the writer. According to the siblings, they experience an incomparable, spiritual bond that allows them to excel at their creative endeavors together.
The stainless steel, cast iron, fabric, and stone piece stood 23 11.5 feet as a visual and audio representation of the sisters' past and present. The piece incorporated many metallic reflections on a rounded mirror, along with projections of photographs and sound. Through the visual display, the piece stood as a vision of two worlds and two cities, Mecca and Venice. The audio, inspired by tales told by their grandmothers and aunts, represented Mecca, the city in which they grew up. The two parts blended together to form the symbolic piece According to the project statement, “The black represents the barrier, the unknown. The arch, an invitation to a journey: from darkness to illumination.”