Once upon a time, in a city named Riyadh, in a Kingdom called Saudi Arabia, a little girl was born.
Although her parents gave her almost everything money could buy, she was not happy. She hated school, and felt the world was brimming with mean grown-ups and scary dark holes for her to fall into.
Being an only child, she had to learn how to entertain herself. Even though iPads did not exist in those days, she found many ways to do this: mainly by reading, colouring, playing with the fabulous Miss Piggy, and watching cartoons… excluding Alice in Wonderland.
Schoolteachers told her that Saudi girls could either become doctors, teachers or seamstresses. ‘Home Economics Class’ proved that holding a needle and thread could result in disastrous consequences, the role models standing before her proved that teaching made you ugly, and if doctors say “oooops” someone could die!
Then, one bright and sunny day, instead of saying “Girls, pull out your oil pastels and draw something,” the art teacher said, “Let’s go out into the school courtyard and draw something.” Halla drew the sunflowers. For the very first time, Abla Qamar said: “You have a talent.”
The ten year old ran home to her father: “Baba, may I please borrow your paint box?”
From that moment on, the world started to look beautiful. Over the span of two years, Ms Liz Thompson visited every Wednesday and taught Halla about art and writing. When it was time for university, her parents did not allow her to study in an Art Academy abroad, and since Saudi Arabia still doesn’t have one, she resigned herself to studying boring, boring business administration at King Saud University.
After graduating she got married, and after the birth of her first two out of five children, she began writing and illustrating for children, and launched her own publishing house ‘Dar Jerboa’ (Later known as: ‘Halla’s Books’) in 1997.
On April 23rd 2017 in Barcelona, Comanegra publishing house launched her book titled ‘One Hundred’ in both Catalan and Spanish. This is the first Saudi children’s book to be published outside the Arab-speaking world.
October 4th 2017 marks the launch of ‘Halla’s Designs.’ It involves designs inspired by Saudi culture and heritage. They range from the funny and quirky to the classic and educational. This is what Halla’s eldest daughter dubbed as her “Pop Art” period.
“Some people have encouraged me to never stop painting, it’s like asking me to never stop breathing” – HK
Inspired by the resilience, courage and toughness of the cute and unusual, bouncy desert animal, Halla represents herself with the symbol of twin jerboa to represent her writing in two languages.