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My Father’s House:

the architecture of cultural heritage Further Press Information

 

30th October – 11th December 2010 

As an exhibition, initially commissioned by the British Council for a tour of the Gulf States and Arabian Peninsula, My Father’s House approaches the subject of cultural identity from the inside out. The show hopes to remind its audiences to look at the spaces they inhabit, and engage in the debate about development of their built environment, to ensure that it reflects a true sense of their personal and communal identity. Architecture is the physical evidence of the narrative of a society – it both reflects and defines cultural identity – and the new cities of the Gulf region are confident and bold expressions of intent and ambition. Given the region’s nomadic and trading past, and its oral tradition of story-telling, perhaps it is inevitable that, rather than preserving structures in order to maintain a sense of continuity from past to present to future, as Gulf societies evolve they instead renew and re-invent themselves cyclically, every generation or decade, perhaps even more rapidly now. My Father’s House contemplates, from more personal viewpoints, the representations that these societies are maintaining and constructing of, and for, themselves, exploring how they choose to imagine themselves. While their projects aren’t necessarily nostalgic for the past, the artists do, from their particular perspectives, observe how the language of architectural heritage is being used in a contemporary context. They consider the ownership of cultural identity, and show that it is located not just in the traditional tourist sites of monuments and museums, nor in those new public edifices of Gulf society - the hotels, shopping malls and residential complexes but in the private, everyday spaces in-between. Ultimately, whether explicitly or implicitly, the artists in My Father’s House ask of their viewer, “Where and how does a nation, a city, a community or an individual locate its sense of self? Where do we see our own sense of cultural identity in the built environment around us? What part of our heritage best conveys the memory and the story of us?”

Wed Abduljawad, Once upon a Time, 2008 For this project, Wed Abduljawad used the most archaic form of photographic equipment, the pin-hole camera, which has no lens but simply allows light through a tiny ‘pin-hole’ onto the photographic plate or paper. The resulting Images, with their vintage quality and dynamic perspectives, describe the nature and decline of Balad, the historic district of the port city of Jeddah. By fusing these images with recordings of the personal recollections of the inhabitants of this once lively, now neglected area, Wed alerts us to the loss not only of the tangible heritage of architecture, but also the intangible heritage of oral history. Both elements have been essential to the social structure of life in Jeddah, a crossroads of cultural influences, where personal stories and ideas have traditionally been exchanged. But in the relentless desire for the latest goods and products, who now is going to listen to, appreciate, or preserve Saudi Arabia’s past? Wed Abduljawad was born in 1982, in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where she now lives and works.

Hafiz Ali, Once upon a Time, 2008 Hafiz Ali meditates on the contemporary medium of story-telling: cinema is not only a channel of cultural influence, but also, and particularly in Qatar, the architecture of the movie-theatres themselves has shaped and changed social habits. Hafiz’s short documentary film recounts the history of cinema in Qatar, from its introduction in the 1940s, with open-air screenings staged by oil companies for their workers (and therefore a men-only activity), to the plush theatres now incorporated into every shopping mall (making it an acceptable leisure activity for families and women). Moreover, the films themselves introduced new role-models and symbols, vistas and dreams to Qatari society, from Egyptian epics depicting historical figures of Arab pride such as Antar ibin Shaddad, to Western epics such as Titanic depicting romance and escape. Hafiz Ali was born in 1973, in Doha, Qatar, where he now lives and works.

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My Father’s House:

the architecture of cultural heritage Further Press Information

 

30th October – 11th December 2010 

Camille Zakharia, Distorted Memories, 2000-2006 The changing character of Bahrain is the subject of Camille Zakharia’s series Distorted Memories, a metaphysical journey around the island he has made his home. Though the individual pictures appear to be realistic, they are in fact composite collages, through which Camille tries to capture his own, personal impressions and recollections of places – landscapes and cityscapes, deserts and villages - which are already lost. Camel markets and traditional shop-windows have been replaced by commercial complexes; festivals and elections have come and gone, surreal situations and odd juxtapositions may or may not have occurred. Through his images Camille also raises questions about the reliability of memory, the very basis of history and identity.

Camille Zakharia was born in 1962 in Tripoli, Lebanon. He currently lives and works in Bahrain. www. camillezakharia.com

 

Tim Loveless, Reconstructed Histories, 2008 Tim Loveless’s project, which he undertook both in Oman and the UAE, reflects on what parts of its heritage a society chooses to preserve. He visited archaeological and historical projects, examining the restoration processes, and reflecting on the different significances and functions of monuments. He found that such cultural sites are rarely integrated into the everyday fabric of the community, so there is little sense of local ownership of heritage. Moreover, those historical buildings which are being preserved recount a particular, official, version of history: the state symbols of power (forts and palaces) rather than the mundane constructions of ordinary people (such as the mud villages of Oman). Tim Loveless was born in 1966 in Sussex, UK. He currently lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. www.timloveless.co.uk

Lamya Gargash, Presence, 2007 The Emirates are in a state of continual metamorphosis; there is no place for decline and neglect, skins are shed and discarded as the States grow and change. The interiors in Lamya Gargash’s evocative photographs are being deliberately vacated and replaced in favour of new structures – new skins. Lamya enters these buildings uninvited, a rogue historian documenting empty rooms, and the traces of their inhabitants, using only the available light. The images she captures are painterly– in places impressionistic, elsewhere exquisitely detailed - the compositions are formal. Thus Lamya gives dignity and significance to these buildings - memorials of the first burst of confidence at the start of the oil-boom thirty years ago – and the lives lived in them.

Lamya Gargash was born in 1982, Dubai, UAE. She currently lives and works in Dubai. www.lamyagargash.com

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My Father’s House:

the architecture of cultural heritage Further Press Information

 

30th October – 11th December 2010 

Tim Hetherington, Vital Structures, 2008 During his travels in UAE and Yemen, Tim became fascinated with marginal or transitional places - the new, and unlikely, sites of wealth and commerce. An inhospitable and arid valley in the emirate of Fujairah becomes a luxuriant university campus; the Yemeni coastal plain – currently a militarised zone - is the putative location for a bridge spanning the Bab al-Mandeb, where the development of a new Gulf-style free-trade zone is proposed. Also rather than looking at iconic architecture, he found himself drawn to ordinary structures. Islam, water and oil have informed the development of the region, and are essential to modern Arab life, yet mosques, petrol-stations, cisterns and towers - the everyday receptacles of the prayer, fuel, and water - are so habitual that their details usually go un-noticed. Tim found an inherent style invested in these most prosaic of buildings, and in his images he reinstates their glamour. Tim Hetherington was born in 1970 in Liverpool, UK. He is currently based in New York. www.timhetherington.com

Camille Zakharia, Al Bilad, 2008 Camille Zakharia travelled to Oman, a country which, unlike desert states elsewhere in the region, has for centuries benefited from water, both in the form of the ground water for agriculture, and the sea for fishing and boat-building. His mosaic of images charts a fictional water course from the mountains to the coast, from traditional villages to new urban areas. Camille traces the uses and influences of water: it supports life, it shapes society, it provides livelihoods, it gives pleasure, and it is an essential part of Muslim ritual. But today, the mechanisation of water management is changing the process of farming and the actual landscape– even the desert is now being encroached upon both by reclamation for cultivation and by urban development - as well as the planning, design and construction of the built environment.

Camille Zakharia was born in 1962 in Tripoli, Lebanon. He currently lives and works in Bahrain. www.camillezakharia.com

Boushra Almutawakel, Strata, 2008 Yemen, of all the countries on the Arabian Peninsula, has a rich and unique architectural heritage and Sana’a is an organic living city, where the vernacular is honoured even in new Gulf-style villas, where a traditional mafraj (a salon with floor cushions) and qamariyah, (stained glass and stucco windows) can co-exist with swimming pools and gilt furniture. Boushra Almutawakil’s images of homes in Sana’a are portraits without people and she brings the same dispassionate, non-judgmental eye to each household, whether the poorest of the poor living in urban slums, the inhabitants of the Old City (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) or the newly rich living in suburban mansions. These rooms are very much inhabited, and they attest to the expediencies and aspirations, and the pride and dignity, of the householders. Boushra Almutawakel was born in 1969, Sana’a, Yemen, where she continues to live and work.

     

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My Father’s House:

the architecture of cultural heritage Further Press Information

 

30th October – 11th December 2010 

     

Hazel Thompson, Measure of a Woman, 2008 Hazel Thompson’s work investigates women’s roles in contemporary culture and documents how the pace of modern lifestyles impacts on their traditional status and functions within economic and social structures. She explores the influence of the built environment on women, and the influence women exert on their environment, both public and private. Working in Qatar and Bahrain, Hazel spent time with five women in each country, spanning five age-groups, from students in their 20s to widows in their 60s. Travelling with them through their everyday lives, Hazel observed how the women move through the different spaces, and negotiate and shape their surroundings. These serial portraits give insight into how women in the Gulf define themselves, how they construct their identities, and how they contribute to their culture through, the arts, media, science and business. The journey through the generations describes the recent history of change in both the physical and cultural landscape of their societies. Hazel Thompson was born in 1978 in Surrey, UK. She is based in London. www.hazelthompson.com

THIS WILL BE THE 100TH EXHIBITION PRESENTED BY THE BRUNEI GALLERY, SOAS BRUNEI GALLERY, SOAS THORNHAUGH STREET RUSSELL SQUARE LONDON WC1H 0XG

OPEN: Tuesday – Saturday 10.30 – 17.00 CLOSED: Sunday and Monday ADMISSION FREE T. 020 7898 4046 (recorded information) F. 020 7898 4259 E. gallery@soas.ac.uk

For further details of the exhibition and events please visit www.soas.ac.uk/gallery

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My Father’s House:the architecture of cultural heritage  

My Father’s House: the architecture of cultural heritage

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