Find us this art season... TASHKEEL Nad Al Sheba Connectivity Opening 9 March | 7 pm Exhibition 10 March - 28 April 10 am - 10 pm Art Bus tours 17, 18 & 19 March Visit www.artinthecity.com for schedule SIKKA Tashkeel, House 10 Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood Open studios Opening 13 March | 6 pm - 10 pm 14 - 24 March | 4 pm - 10 pm ART DUBAI Madinat Jumeira Performances and installations by A.i.R. Dubai 2016 residents: Areej Kaoud, Jumairy, Lydia Ourahmane and Moza Almatrooshi Curator: Yasmina Reggad Assistant Curator: Miriam Al Muhairi 16 - 19 March DESIGN DAYS DUBAI The Venue, Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai Images (clockwise from top left): Display Bed v1.0, 2015, Omran Al Owais, exhibited at Connectivity | Windtower at Tashkeel, House 10, Al
Tanween by Tashkeel | Booth G08 14 - 17 March | 4 pm - 10 pm 18 March | 1 pm - 7 pm
Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood | Participants during factory visits as part of the Tanween Programme 2015/16 | Curator of A.i.R Dubai 2016 Yasmina Reggad in conversation with Aaron Cezar, Director of Delfina Foundation
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7-9 May 2016 Dubai World Trade Centre
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www.AMuseumInTheMaking.com BEIRUT, LEBANON
Photo Credit: Roger Moukarzel
Tribe Ad.indd 1
3/3/16 7:33 PM
rABiH Mroué i wAS FortunAtE not to HAvE SEEn wHAt tHE otHErS HAd witnESSEd FEBruArY 11, 2016 - April 16, 2016
MArwAn rEcHMAoui FortrESS in A cornEr, BiSHop tAkES ovEr jAnuArY 14, 2016 - MAY 7, 2016
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kHAlil rABAH wAlid rAAd MArwAn rEcHMAoui wAEl SHAwkY cHriStinE StrEuli rAYYAnE tABEt HodA tAwAkol BArBArA cAMillA tucHolSki AkrAM zAAtAri
AdmirAlitätstrAsse 71 - d-20459 HAmburg - gAlerie@sfeir-semler.com tAnnous building - lb-2077 - 7209 beirut - email@example.com www.sfeir-semler.com
JOËL ANDRIANOMEARISOA, AMINA BENBOUCHTA, WAQAS KHAN, NICÈNE KOSSENTINI, TIMOTHY HYUNSOO LEE, UBIK ART DUBAI 16-19 March 2016
Madera, 23 | 28004 Madrid, Spain | www.sabrinaamrani.com | instagram: @sabrinaamrani | firstname.lastname@example.org
After Images Stories from the mountains of Asir A project by Ziad Antar â€” Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist poems by Yahya Amqassim Opening and book launch by Kaph books Tuesday 1st March 2016 | 6â€“ 9 pm
Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut Waterfront The exhibition will be on view until March 15th, 2016
Issue 02 / 2016
Afra Bin Dhaher …………........... 22
Leila Alaoui ……...................…. 82
By: Cristiana de Marchi
By: Mitra Abbaspour
Hello World – We are launching this issue that coincides with Art Dubai’s 10th anniversary and where exciting creative platforms continue to appear in the UAE and the region. Like many of the galleries and initiatives that took off, the last decade has paved the way for this publication to be realized and have a growing audience on paper and on line.
Huda Lutfi …………………......... 50 By: Nabila Abdel Nabi
Ibi Ibrahim ………………............ 46
In Search of Lost Time:
By: Lila Nazemian
Rethinking Time and Speed
Lamya Gargash ………............... 60
in the Gulf ………...................... 96
By: Elisabeth Stoney
By: Laura Egerton
Almoutasim Almaskery ............... 116 PROJECT SPACE
By: Anna Seaman
We have gained so much in such a short time: our distribution is going further out into the universe and our niche has put us in the middle of some amazing initiatives, regionally and internationally—exposed to the bigger picture of the impact of what art can do in the world.
We did not start out the issue with such a strong ‘focus on women’ but after the loss of Leila Alaoui, we found ourselves looking at what some women in photography from this region have been working on.
By: Salwa Zeidan
Women are at the forefront, pushing the boundaries, creating new ones, using their access and talent to create awareness, mentor and inspire.
Lest We Forget:
ADPP: Game Changers for
Emirati Family Photographs ........122
Documentary Photography........ 110
By: Diane Chester
By: Inaya Fanis Hodeib
Mai Al Moataz …..............……. 106 IN CONVERSATION Reem Al Faisal ………………...... 28
Alaoui’s legacy and humanitarian efforts are celebrated with words from a few fellow artists. We thank her family & Fondation Leila Alaoui for sharing her images with us. Lulu Al Sabah led the way with an article introducing some leading feminists of the modern world. We were put at ease with Reem Al Faisal’s serene imagery and jolted into a surrealist landscape by Huda Lufti.
Lydia Ourahmane ………….....… 40
Negotiating Home: Resonating
By: Flounder Lee
Displacement ……...............….. 126
By: Shohini Chaudhuri
Go through our pages, and you will find the usual suspects, profiles of the Purists & the Poets; Afra Bin Dhafer’s poems, Mai Moatez’s prose, Lamya Gargash stays true to film. Reviews like In Search of Lost Time feature work from the last 60 years in the Gulf—a time when the region transformed the fastest, and discusses works that tackle time, speed (from very still to very fast) and acceleration in some way; Silvered Water, a film made up of 1001 images and Lest We Forget, a great conversation with Magnum’s Susan Meiselas.
A big thank you to our secret weapons Janet Bellotto and Woodman Taylor—where without their support this magazine would not be possible at all... AT ALL…
By: Janet Bellotto FILM
Art Dubai: Photography ………. 132
Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait.... 66
By: Woodman Taylor
Leading the way to
Special thanks go to PF our BFF our MVP this time around …. !!! See you at our booth at Art Dubai and PhotoLondon….(maybe).
social change ……………. 68 By: Lulu M. Al-Sabah
Cover by: Leila Alaoui from the series The Moroccans This photograph is one of three different covers of Tribe issue 02. These images are the last three posts Leila Alaoui made to her Instagram account. The Moroccans was on view in Paris at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, at the time.
BIENNIAL Through a Lens, with Darkness and Hope ………. 80 By: Veronica Houk
f tribephotonewmedia d tribephotomag www.tribephotonewmedia.com Publisher Mubarik Jafery
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This catalog is created as a showcase of creative works within the region. Its aim is to create awareness of the arts. Please note that the information in this magazine, including all articles, and photographs, do not make any claims. Any information offered is expressly the opinion of the creator/author of that material. The content created by the authors, creators and works on these pages are subject to copyright law. The reproduction, editing, distribution and any kind of exploitation outside the limits of copyright require the written consent of the respective author or creator. 7.05.16.9.3.4.5683.968
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CONTEMPORARY 1x1, Dubai • Ag, Tehran • Agial, Beirut • Aicon, New York • Albareh, Manama • Sabrina Amrani, Madrid • Artwin, Moscow / Baku • Athr, Jeddah • Ayyam, Dubai / Beirut • Blain|Southern, London / Berlin • Marianne Boesky, New York • Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Paris • Carbon 12, Dubai • Carlier | Gebauer, Berlin • Carroll / Fletcher, London • Marta Cervera, Madrid • Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai • Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai • Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Havana • Dastan’s Basement, Tehran • East Wing, Dubai • Elmarsa, Tunis / Dubai • Espacio Valverde, Madrid • Experimenter, Kolkata • Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai • Imane Fares, Paris • Selma Feriani, Tunis / London • Saskia Fernando, Colombo • Marie-Laure Fleisch, Rome • GAGProjects, Adelaide • Gala, Tbilisi • Taymour Grahne, New York • Green Art Gallery, Dubai • Grey Noise, Dubai • GVCC, Casablanca • Gypsum, Cairo • Leila Heller, New York / Dubai • Iragui, Moscow • Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai • Kalfayan, Athens / Thessaloniki • K h a k , T e h r a n / D u b a i • Krampf, Istanbul • Krinzinger, Vienna • Lakeeren, Mumbai • Lelong, Paris / New York • Christian Lethert, Cologne • Meem, Dubai • Mind Set, Taipei • Victoria Miro, London • NK, Antwerp • Franco Noero, Turin • Nubuke, Accra • Gallery One, Ramallah • Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore • Pechersky, Moscow • Project 88, Mumbai • Rampa, Istanbul • The Rooster, Vilnius • Sakshi, Mumbai • Sanatorium, Istanbul • Sarah, Muscat • Brigitte Schenk, Cologne • Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg / Beirut • SKE, Bangalore / New Delhi • Silverlens, Manila • Daniel Templon, Paris / Brussels • The Third Line, Dubai • Travesia Cuatro, Madrid / Guadalajara • Upstream, Amsterdam • Vigo, London • X-ist, Istanbul • Yay, Baku • Zawyeh, Ramallah • Zidoun-Bossuyt, Luxembourg • Zilberman, Istanbul • Special Project: Atassi Foundation MODERN Chaouki Chamoun / Alfred Basbous (Artspace, Dubai / London) • Samia Halaby / Moustafa Fathi (Ayyam, Dubai / London / Beirut) • Geoffrey Mukasa (Circle, Nairobi) • Yahia Turki (Elmarsa, Tunis / Dubai) • Adam Henein (Karim Francis, Cairo) • Abdur Rahman Chughtai / Syed Sadequain (Grosvenor, London) • Mounirah Mosly / Ahmed Nawar (Hafez, Jeddah) • Maliheh Afnan (Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai) • Hédi Turki / Rafik El Kamel (Le Violon Bleu, Tunis) • Shakir Hassan al Said / Faiq Hassan (Meem, Dubai) • Huguette Caland / Laure Ghorayeb (Janine Rubeiz, Beirut) • Ali Akbar Sadeghi (Shirin, Tehran / New York) • Muhanna Durra / Samia Taktak Zaru (Wadi Finan, Amman) MARKER Manila, Philippines: 98B COLLABoratory, Post Gallery, Project 20, Thousandfold and Roberto Chabet artdubai.ae
Art Dubai’s 2016 campaign references the fair’s ten year anniversary. artdubai.ae/visual-identity @artdubai
Anna Seaman is the visual arts writer for The National newspaper in the UAE. She has over 12 years of journalism experience, which also includes working for daily newspapers in the UK and a two-year stint as the editor of Brownbook magazine in Dubai. d anaoanna f anaoanna1 Cristiana de Marchi is an Italian/Lebanese artist, curator and poet who lives and works between Dubai and Beirut. She holds a Masters of Arts with first class honours from the Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy, and she conducts personal artistic and literary research besides publishing articles and essays in catalogues and magazines devoted to contemporary art. www.cristianademarchi.com d zoebilbeit f xiana11 Diana Chester is a Lecturer in the Arts at New York University Abu Dhabi. Her work exists within a hybridity of artistic mediums, including photography, sonic art and interactive design, and is preoccupied with the fusion of artistic practice and creative scholarship. Her current research looks at the relationship between artistic practice, the archive in cultural heritage and religious festivals in Asia as well as the Middle East. Elisabeth Stoney lectures in art history and curatorial studies at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. Her writings on photography, film and contemporary art are published internationally.
Flounder Lee is an artist/curator/educator (Assistant Professor of Studio Art at American University in Dubai). He received his BFA from the University of Florida and his MFA from Cal State Long Beach, both in studio art and photography. He has curated exhibitions such as Double Vision, Mapable, and TPS Reports and exhibited in numerous exhibitions including Barcelona Art Contemporani 11 and Bewegterwind. www.photoflounder.com f photoflounder
is central to her practice that also uses and expands with the mediums of photography, video, sound and performance, Her work has been exhibited in a variety of collective, group, and solo exhibitions internationally, including Beijing, New York, Toronto and Venice. Bellotto was Artistic Director for the 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA2014) held in Dubai with the theme of location. www.janetbellotto. com d janetbellotto f janetbellotto
Inaya Fanis Hodeib was born in Beirut. Hodeib received a Diploma in Painting and Sculpting from the Lebanese Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut in 2006. She has participated in several local and international collectives in New York, Norway, Holland, South Africa, Sweden, and Dubai among st others. Hodeib has had several published contributions in art magazines and books like reorient magazine, The Art Order, The Inspired Art Book and Freedom and Art book. www. inaya.hodeib.org f inaya_fanis_hodeib d ihodeib
Laura Egerton is a Dubai-based art historian, writer and curator. She was one of the founding team behind Art Dubai where she ran education programmes, selected art projects and was Curator of the Abraaj Group Art Prize for its first five years. She holds MAs in art history from Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. d lauralegerton f lauralouiseegerton
Janet Bellotto is an artist, educator, writer and curatorial initiator from Toronto, who splits her time teaching in Dubai as an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University, UAE. She creates projects that promote cultural exchange through curating and writing, with a current focus on photography and new media art in the MENA region. Sculpture/Installation
Lila Nazemian is the Curatorial and Special Projects Associate at Leila Heller Gallery in New York City. She received a BA in History from Scripps College in California, and an MA in Near Eastern Studies from NYU in New York. Her upcoming independent project consists of a curated show at Tehran’s Mohsen Gallery in April 2016. f lalocalila Lulu M Al-Sabah is the former Director of the Middle East at Phillips de Pury & Company. Al-Sabah previously contributed to Canvas magazine and to Eastern Art Report. She currently contributes to
Tribe magazine, which specializes on photography from the Arab world. In 2008 she curated an exhibition on modern artists from the Middle East at the Saatchi gallery in London. Al-Sabah launched JAMM, an art-consultancy firm, in 2009 and hosted the first contemporary art auction in Kuwait in 2010. She hosted further art auctions in Kuwait. She established a permanent exhibition space in Dubai in 2012. JAMM offers a comprehensive artmanagement and consultancy service to private and corporate clients and deals predominantly with new and existing art collection management, commissioning of artworks, exhibitions and contemporary art auctions. In 2015, Al-Sabah became a key member of a political campaign that aims to abolish a law that discriminates against women in Kuwait and similar laws across the GCC. www.jamm-art.com f jammartgallery Madeline Yale Preston is a photography specialist, independent curator and writer based in London and Dubai. Her doctoral dissertation at Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London explores contemporary photography in the Middle East. www.madelinepreston.com Michele Bambling is Creative Director and Curator of Lest We Forget, an innovative archival initiative recently launched under the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. She was curator of the National Pavilion UAE exhibition, Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the UAE, held at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in La Biennale di Venezia. Dr. Bambling is Curator and Editor-in-Chief of the exhibition and accompanying book, Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950–1999. Dr. Michele Bambling holds a Ph.D., M.Phil. and MA from Columbia University in art history. She received a post-doctorate Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellowship from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Miriam Lloyd-Evans is an Art Historian and is currently Lead Curator, International Engagement Team (Middle East) at The British Museum. Before this she worked as Head of Exhibitions and Publications at Edge of Arabia. She holds degrees from the Courtauld Institute of Art and Leeds University and has worked with Tate Modern and the Fitzwilliam Museum. Mitra Abbaspour is an independent curator and scholar based in New York. From 2010–2014, she was Associate Curator at MoMA working on the research project, book and digital publication Object: Photo. Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection 1909–1949. Recent publications include essays on Shirin Neshat and Lalla Essaydi. Presently, she is writing on the photograph archive of Kurdish history assembled by photographer Susan Meiselas. Nabila Abdel Nabi is an art historian and writer based in the UAE. She holds degrees from the University of Chicago and the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she recently completed an MA in Art History. She currently manages exhibitions at The Third Line in Dubai and has previously worked with the curatorial team of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Salwa Zeidan is a Lebanese painter and sculptor. After having spent her formative years traveling around the world, she eventually settled in Abu Dhabi, where she established her signature contemporary art gallery. Throughout her career of over 25 years, Zeidan has dedicated numerous works to peace, love and environmental awareness. Her artworks can be found in galleries and private collections from all around the globe www.salwazeidangallery.com f salwana56
Shohini Chaudhuri is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex. She is author of Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship (2014) and other books and articles on world cinema, critical theory and human rights. Currently, she is curating a film programme, titled Crisis and Creativity: A Season of Contemporary Films from and about the Arab World, to be held at the Mosaic Rooms, London, in MayJune 2016. Woodman Taylor’s interdisciplinary scholarship explicates performative practices of visual culture. He has published on a wide range of topics, from ritual uses of Buddhist icons to the poetics of visuality in Bollywood. Recent research includes the articulation of conceptual art by both Emirati and UAE resident artists. His essay and installation Cycling the City was commissioned by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for the 2014 Sikka Art Fair. With a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he has taught at the University of Illinois as well as at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. After curating numerous exhibitions of South Asian and Islamic art at Harvard and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Woodman now teaches art history and ethnomusicology at the American University in Dubai, where he chairs the Department of Visual Communication and is founding convenor of the AUD Visual Cultures Forum. Veronica Houk is a fourth-year student at New York University Abu Dhabi who will receive her B.A. in literature and art history in May 2016. She has written numerous articles for The Gazelle Newspaper, VegNews Magazine, and Electra Street Literary Arts Journal and worked at galleries and auction houses in the UAE, US, and Switzerland. She lives in New York and Abu Dhabi. f vh089
PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Cristiana de Marchi, curator, artist and critic.
Afra Bin Dhaher: A Dreamlike Initiation On reading photography and narrative paths through images Afra Bin Dhaher’s introductory statement to her new
possibility of happening was in a private space and
body of work Hymns to a Sleeper exhibited at Tashkeel
photographs or videos were the only tools for their
in Dubai replicates the diary model while a strong
circulation. The theatrical quality of these photographs
narrative approach reverberates throughout these
is undeniable, carefully staged, rigidly directed and
works, which in most cases connect a text with a
firmly impersonated. More than the documentation
photograph. The texts are written by the artist’s sister
of a performance as intended in the artistic world, we
Shaikha, results from a conversation about the thoughts
see here a frozen frame from a theatre play, as if these
and intentions behind the images that do not literally
images were “stills” from a video documenting the
explain the images, they rather add a shade of mystery
action taking place on stage—like those photographs
and a layer of meaning, thus becoming a clue and an
hung in the foyer introducing the theatre public to the
indication of the direction—one among many—that
experience awaiting them once the lights are shut
we could take to interpret these photographs. Set in
off—a concentration of movement and progression,
an initiatory language and structure, these texts, which
and their intentionally paused abstraction.
although introduced as enlarged captions, seem to be
“poetic method.” The images show a familiarity with,
in fact a corroborative accompaniment to the visuals,
The “austere emptiness” evoked by Andrew Starner
and are actually reminiscent of, medieval altarpieces,
that almost incarnate the value of a mystic suggestion
in his introductory essay reflects the atmosphere of
where the exiguity of characters and the controlled
and create a flow of attention, a tension between the
these constructed, collaged spaces where multiple
reduction of the interior spaces—often opening on
photograph and the word.
dimensions, views and perspectives merge into one
an outside better suggested than depicted, with
layer.2 Like in ancient papyrus scrolls, eye-view and
an intentional, metaphoric allusion to a space of
The captions, that work in conjunction to the
lateral visions are paired thus suggesting an ultimately
transition—are plastically minimised to the advantage
photographs, are used to explore what a piece of
unnecessary sense of depth. The magnificence of
of a silhouetted, simply outlined and not personified
text does to an image…. There’s an amalgamation
this visuality almost entirely lies in its distance from a
individuality, where the use of a mask, that is already a
that’s happening across different disciplines. 1
conventional approach to viewing. The construction
character, discourages any temptation of re-enacting
of the space is carefully manufactured to impersonate,
these dreamlike fantasies.
Performance is another field of exploration, as Afra Bin
evoke or suggest the scenic quality of an artificial
Dhaher attempts to answer the question if there can be
environment, one where the human figure can appear
Hymns to a Sleeper was held at Tashkeel in Dubai
a performance without a live body. Regardless of the
and disappear without leaving a void.
from 21 January to March 3, 2016. The exhibition is
apparent naivety of the question, the issue assumes
part of Tashkeel’s Critical Practice Programme, started
an unquestionable importance. What we see in these
… the fixity of the photographic image is always
photographs is not properly the documentation of
contending with its own movement away from itself.
a performance—a situation that has been almost
The theatrical quality of these photographs is undeniable, carefully staged, rigidly directed and firmly impersonated.
normative in social context where under specific
Regardless of their clear attempt to explore a subject
circumstances performance could not take place or
and a time, these photographs do not show any
be received in a public context—therefore its only
archival tendency, as they are fully permeated by a
in 2014 to support local artistic talent.
1. Hymns to a Sleeper (exhibition catalog), Tashkeel, Dubai, 2016, p. 15. 2. Andrew Starner, “Am I intruding?: Some thoughts on Afra Bin Dhaher’s Hymns to a Sleeper,“ ibid., pp. 7-11. 3. Ibid., p. 9.
They watch White as he ascends. Their eyes fix on his figure as it is raised into the skies like a feather. They do not know what is happening.
House of III (2015) Archival pigment print, 101.6 x 109.22 cm
White sees a bird. White: (Cries in awe.) Never have I seen such beauty and majesty in a creature! Bird: Come for you have not seen beauty yet. The sunrays sprinkle onto his face, he takes a deep breath, looks upwards and smiles.
Nocturne (2015) Archival pigment print, 101.6 x 109.22 cm
The wise owls say Sing of the night Go dance and play Like stars of bright And wish you may And wish you might But of one star pray You not lose sight It is the brightest star of all
Soliloquy (2015) Archival pigment print, 101.6 x 109.22 cm
On a rooftop, on a cool starlit night, sits White. Oh stars, how bright you shine tonight! If only I could know what you know, see what you see or hear what you hear. Eternal stars, what do you think of us? Of our archaic follies and fumbling which you have witnessed ever so long? A breeze comes bringing with it a distant lulling music. Do you hear that? You must be, for I see your radiance flickering against that infinite darkness! She shuts her eyes and listens.
By The Window (2015) Archival pigment print, 101.6 x 109.22 cm
Yellow and her Hoopoe gaze through a window. Hoopoe: Look Yellow, look at the faraway mountains and tell me, what do you see? Yellow: [Squints.] I see…mountains. Hoopoe looks at her doubtfully. Yellow: I see magnificent, mighty mountains against a sunlight backdrop! Hoopoe: What do you see?
Yellow: [Squints and concentrates.] A cluster…? I see a dark cluster moving on the peak of that mountain. Silhouettes…why, they’re birds! Hoopoe: That is the dance of the golden sparrows. They welcome a newcomer into their flock.
A Winter’s Day (2015) Archival pigment print, 101.6 x 109.22 cm
White sits crossed-armed reclining on a white plastic chair with a smile on his face as he looks into the distance. We hear the whistling winds of the desert caressing the sands and the murmur of young girls fidgeting about. White: [Stands. Rummages in his pocket, takes out some figs wrapped in a tissue that he’s been saving to share.] “Blue. Yel-lo…” Yellow ascends to the sky with inflated cotton candy bags. Blue watches. She takes a picture. CURTAIN
IN CONVERSATION Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Salwa Zeidan, artist and curator.
Reem Al Faisal: A Photographer’s Journey 25 years of experimentation in photography It has been almost a decade that I have had the
SZ: What do you personally consider the most
pleasure of working with Reem Al Faisal, witnessing
incisive moments of your work and / or career?
the development of her striking work. Prior to even
RAF: I believe the periods I have spent on Hajj
knowing Al Faisal, I bought one of her photographs
and in China, that led to the related series I created
at Christie’s many years ago—I simply fell in love with
are the most important ones of my career. They
the black and white simplicity, accompanied by the
were definitely pinnacles both from an emotional
strength of expression and an unmistakable statement
perspective and overall in my artistic practice.
one can see in all her works. SZ: Does your work as a journalist influence your Our collaboration came subsequently. It has been a
work as a photographer?
pleasure for me to exhibit her art at the Salwa Zeidan
RAF: No, not in any way—I believe these are two
Gallery and offer it to both regional and international
separate interests in my life.
collectors. Our collaboration has continued to blossom ever since.
SZ: You published several books, combining your work as a photographer and as a journalist
This brief interview was made following her exhibition
in documenting your journeys and those of
Nass (People) in Jeddah, which is now on view as
others. The subject of journey in general seems
her first solo show in the United Arab Emirates—at
to play a big role in these works. Are you a
the Salwa Zeidan Gallery showroom in March 2016,
Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi.
RAF: Yes, I consider traveling an essential part of my photography. I see myself as an observer in the world
I am happy to say that this year the moratorium I imposed on myself will end since I’m exhibiting in my gallery in March. I haven’t exhibited any of my work in my own gallery since it opened in 2008.
Salwa Zeidan (SZ) In your opinion what role does
and essentially an outsider. This is what I believe is
the artist have in society?
the role of an artist. You need to step back to see
SZ: How do you choose your subjects? What
Reem Al Faisal (RAF) I believe that an artist’s primary
something better and from a different perspective,
role is of enlightening and uplifting society—
to study it better. Therefore, artists should always be
RAF: Light inspires me, as well as this certain feeling
moreover, the artist should strive to inspire the world
outsiders, looking at things from a certain distance.
of the eternal that I believe is hidden in all things.
SZ: What do you search for in your journeys?
SZ: Lots of your photographs show people
What kind of experiences do you wish for?
from all around the world, interacting with their
SZ: When did you start photography and what
RAF: When I travel, I do not wish for anything more
surroundings and just doing normal things,
or who were your early passions and influences?
than to listen to the place I’m photographing and
following their own destinations, without even
RAF: I started photography around the age of nine.
its people. The place speaks through my images
noticing the camera. Why do you choose to
I have always drawn my strongest influence from
without me having to impose any my own self
shoot them in this anonymous way rather than
poetry, philosophy and history.
into the image.
to become better, through guiding it toward noble action, virtue and through giving hope.
Un Bain De Lumiere Chine, from the retrospective Chiaroscuro (1998) Tea Plantation, Silver gelatin print, 70 x 90 cm
RAF: As I have mentioned before, I want the people I photograph to give me the image
SZ: Do you consider your work to be Islamic art?
they want to show of themselves. I do not impose my own ideas and thoughts upon
RAF: I believe so, in the sense that it is inspired by Islamic philosophy. In the art sense,
them. My role is to shine a light on the place and let it express itself.
I believe it to be modern art—a Western art inspired by Western schools of thought.
SZ: Street photography in Saudi Arabia is not as welcomed as in the rest of the
SZ: You opened a gallery in 2009 in Dubai, the first gallery in the Middle East
world. It can even land you in jail if you don’t have permission from the government.
devoted to fine art photography but you don’t exhibit your own art. Why is that?
Did you ever get in trouble while shooting on Saudi streets?
RAF: I am happy to say that this year the moratorium I imposed on myself will
RAF: As a matter of fact, yes I did get into trouble many times. In some ways, I still
end since I’m exhibiting in my gallery in March. I haven’t exhibited any of my
do. However, now the laws allow photographers to practice anywhere—but the main
work in my own gallery since it opened in 2008. I wanted all photographers and
problem still lies in the culture of the people that don’t like being photographed, not
artists to feel comfortable, knowing that the gallery is a place where the focus
in government laws.
will be on them.
Untitled, from the retrospective Chiaroscuro (2016), Silver gelatin print, 70 x 90 cm
Untitled, from the retrospective Chiaroscuro (2016), Silver gelatin print, 70 x 90 cm Previous page left: Untitled, from the retrospective Chiaroscuro (2016), Silver gelatin print, 90 x 70 cm Previous page right: Morocco (2010) from the retrospective Chiaroscuro, Silver gelatin print, 90 x 70 cm
Untitled, from the retrospective Chiaroscuro (2016), Silver gelatin print, 70 x 90 cm
Untitled, from the retrospective Chiaroscuro (2016), Silver gelatin print, 70 x 90 cm
â€œWhen we feel everything is lost and find ourselves in complete darkness, there always remains a glimmer of light; we sometimes call it hope, or inner guidance. Marvels are everywhere, even when it comes to darkness and silenceâ€? Reem Mohamed Al Faisal Al Saud.
NEW MEDIA Images - Courtesy of the artist and Ellis King, Dublin. Writer - Flounder Lee, artist, educator and curator.
Lydia Ourahmane: Challenging Systems Echoing connectivity and conflict through mobile phones Lydia Ourahmane is an Algerian-born artist who
public stoning of a neon sign; the sign reads TOO
lives and works between Algeria and London. She
LATE FOR AMBITION, in English. The work lives
is currently the international Artist-in-Residence for
on as a six-channel video installation including
Art Dubai 2016. Her work covers a wide range of
five-channel audio, broken neon tubing and rocks.
materials and topics, most recently focusing on
It is set in one of the main hangouts for migrants or
the migration from Algeria and its causes.
those who facilitate them and youths going about their frustrated days and nights. The chaos of the
In 2014, Ourahmane created The Third Choir, a
situation is echoed in the stilted jerky movements
sound installation consisting of 20 Naftal branded
of the camera, the roar of the crowd. Even the
oil barrels, a radio transmitter and 20 phones. The
size and number of video screens add to the
phones play audio from the transmitter which is
overwhelming feeling of the work.
amplified and distorted by the barrels. The sounds
It’s always about connectivity and about how your voice can be heard. Phones are so much a part of our existence now, she says, that platform is so relevant for today
are somehow both familiar and unrecognizable;
In a piece directly about the migration, Haraga
they teeter on the edge of understanding, creating
(The Burning), Ourahmane received three one-
an ambience in the room that probably reflects the
minute videos from Houari, a 25 year old who had
feelings of many migrants after arriving in Europe.
attempted crossing into Spain earlier in the year.
Ourahmane is an inquisitive and determined artist.
He shared video he shot during the crossing. The
To create The Third Choir she had to be. The
migrants in the videos are hopeful and excited,
work took 11 months of planning, six declined
sharing what they are going to do when they reach
perception. The video clips, some shot by the
proposals, and hundreds of emails, phone calls
Europe. Unfortunately, they were caught and sent
artist and some found, illustrate the script that
and visits to acquire the permission to export the
back to Algeria. For use in her work, Ourahmane
Ourahmane wrote during the residency.
barrels from Algeria. Many of the sounds were
set the videos to play on your phone when you
recorded during this whole process. This work was
connect to a Wi-Fi network running in the gallery.
the first art allowed for permanent export from
Overall, Ourahmane’s work deals with the systems that humans are governed by, systems which we
Algeria since 1962. It was important to Lydia to use
This is a similar setup to her piece for Art Dubai,
build but often follow without thought. She feels
Naftal oil barrels because the company controls
Felt Fiction. The work will be displayed on visitors’
that we have the ability to change them but that
so much of the economy of Algeria, but when oil
phones when they connect to the free Wi-Fi
the traditional format of protest is sometimes
leaves the country, it is sold under brands such
available throughout the fair, each time getting a
ineffective in this regard. She works within the
as BP or Shell, which subsequently come under
different snippet of the overall piece. Ourahmane
language and “with the tools of the system to
criticism for the economic woes in the country.
says, “It’s always about connectivity and about how
instigate a possible other.”
your voice can be heard.” Phones are so much a
The situation in Algeria plays a central role in
part of our existence now, she says, “that platform
A.i.R Dubai is organized by Art Dubai, in partnership
another of Ourahmane’s works, Too Late for
is so relevant for today.” Text plays a primary role
with Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai
Ambition. The creation of the work involved a
in the work, which deals with oversaturation of
Culture), Tashkeel and the Delfina Foundation.
The Third Choir (2014) 20 Naftal Oil Barrels imported from Algeria, CZ5HE Radio Transmitter, 20 Samsung E2121B Phones, 300 x 500 cm Installation views and authorization forms
The Third Choir (2014) 20 Naftal Oil Barrels imported from Algeria, CZ5HE Radio Transmitter, 20 Samsung E2121B Phones, 300 x 500 cm
The Third Choir (2014) 20 Naftal Oil Barrels imported from Algeria, CZ5HE Radio Transmitter, 20 Samsung E2121B Phones, 300 x 500 cm
Too Late for Ambition (2015) 6 channel video, 5 channel sound, broken neon, stones; screenshots, variable dimensions
Haraga â€“ â€˜The Burningâ€™ (2014) Wireless video transmission Installation Wi-Fi info and screenshots
She feels that we have the ability to change them but that the traditional format of protest is sometimes ineffective in this regard
PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Lila Nazemian, curator.
Ibi Ibrahim: An Amorphous Journey Finding his voice through creative processes American-born and Yemeni native Ibi Ibrahim was
In his Sitara series, Ibrahim focuses on the vibrant
time, I wanted so badly to provoke myself.” His
raised throughout the Middle East and reflects his
traditional cloth used for centuries by older Yemeni
second European residency took place at Berlin’s
multi-cultural mindset through his photography,
women. This fabric functioned as a symbol of
Glogau Air. These experiences have been crucial
film and most recently, painting and multi-media
individuality and pride for women. Now, the black
in enabling Ibrahim to explore new directions in his
art. While most of his works are inspired by his
abaya is the prevalent garment used for veiling
photography and develop work in other mediums.
immediate surroundings, his artistic practice has
in his country. Ibrahim’s series is both a tribute to
His new photography focuses on the transience of
steadily evolved to reflect his personal experiences
the sitara’s cultural symbolism and a challenge to
color, light and shadow through the lens of quotidian
and life stages over the past decade.
his society. His photographs of seemingly naked
objects as metaphors for the rise and demise of his
women cloaked in the sitara have instigated heated
homeland—a fresh departure from his past work’s
In his early 20s, Ibrahim developed a desire to
reactions from both men and women in the online
overtly political and social undertones.
take photographs and began shooting intimate
Yemeni community. With these photographs, Ibrahim
portraits of his nephews and close friends in
succeeds in exposing the many layers of opposing
In fact, while Ibrahim often returns and adds to older
Yemen. He moved to New York in 2009 to distance
and overlapping beliefs that coexist throughout
series, the new direction in his practice has been a
himself from familial and social pressures he faced
Yemen and its diaspora regarding tradition, the role
stimulating change which he equates with maturing:
at home. “I am a self-taught photographer, turned
of women and society as a whole.
“I look at my work I made in 2010, and now I further
self-taught painter, turned self-taught multi-media
understand what my 23 year old mind was thinking
artist. I am inspired by my surroundings, my own
Ibrahim has also worked on a series of self-portraits
at that point. I was often too literal, and I find that
emotions and experiences. I am always curious to
in which he exposed his innermost emotions for the
my abstract photographs from the past few years are
find different ways to share my personal story, or
world to witness. Traveling all over the world, from the
very much related to them. I am just a 28 year old
underline the corrupt government of my country
shores of Goa to the back alleys of Washington D.C,
now, and I use different words to speak and different
or pay tribute to musical legends that once sang
he expands upon the visual possibilities of creating
ways to express my thoughts.” Ibrahim’s new work
about the beauty of my country, Yemen.”
his photographs. Many works from this era function
is imbued with subtle revelations of emotions and
as a storyboard documenting the artist’s fears, pains
experiences that he reveals to his audience: “I want
Ibrahim’s early series touch upon issues of
and loneliness. These candid displays not only delve
to connect the viewer with the photographs in the
sexuality, gender and tradition in the Middle
into the realm of emotions, but also do not shy away
most intimate way possible. I want you to look at
East and often in his native Yemen. Social Codes
from his passions.
the work, and relate to the pain, the loneliness in the
is based in part on events he witnessed while
photo, because loneliness can also be so beautiful.”
living in Sana’a. In the series he explores pervasive
In 2014, Ibrahim participated in the Cité Internationale
sexuality within various Muslim communities—
des Arts residency in Paris, where his practice took
Ibrahim lives and works in Berlin. He recently
albeit with a purposefully Western aesthetic taste
a clear departure: “Being an artist in residence in
completed a residency at the Beirut Art Center (BAR)
for the Orient. Much of Ibrahim’s photography
Paris certainly was an inspiration towards the artistic
in February 2016. He was invited to participate in
addresses the uneasiness with which Muslims
shift I made. I was encouraged and inspired by my
the 2016 Tashkent Biennial and his works are in the
view and digest sexuality from within their own
friends at the residency. I seem to have been always
public collections of Colorado College, and the
the artist who often provoked his audience, but this
Barjeel Art Foundation.
Fatima ll,Â Archival pigment print, 105 x 70 cm
Girl Moment,Â Archival pigment print, 30 x 45 cm
Untitled,Â Archival pigment print, 60 x 40 cm
PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line. Writer - Nabila Abdel Nabi, art historian.
Huda Lutfi: Evoking Cultural Complexities Collage cutouts conjuring up fantasies and fears
Photography features prominently in her latest work,
suggests that relations between commodities
The use of the infinitely reproducible medium of photography to document the massproduced object of the doll produces an affective doubling which comes as a lament and a warning.
in which Lutfi continues her technique of collaging
have ultimately supplanted the relations between
the quality of a palimpsest, where time and space
cutouts from newspapers, advertisements and,
people. The mannequins looming over the city
are condensed, yet can spit out all the idiosyncrasies
most recently, personal documents. The impulse
metonymically refer to the lumping together and
and impossibilities of the urban fabric simultaneously.
to incorporate her own photography was catalyzed
eventual loss of identity, which occurs through
“In manipulating the photographed images, I
during the 2011 revolution in Egypt, when Huda felt
commodity fetishization becoming increasingly
continuously fabricate, multiply and reconstitute
the urgency to record pivotal figures, and moments
symptomatic of our globalized condition. Fearful
these lifelike objects, conjuring up fantasies, desires
in the uprisings. Her recurrent engagement with
of the notion that “plastic dolls made in China seem
and fears in material form. The political, however,
dolls, arguably the Surrealists’ object of choice,
to have taken precedence over the Mulid doll,”
seems to return, this time popping up in ambiguous
continues in this series, which highlights the figure
Huda points to the creative tradition as a casualty
and discrete forms, parodying the politics of a
of the mannequin as a ubiquitous feature in the
of mass production. This opens up into the multi-
failed state of things,” Lutfi explains. An ‘urban
Cairene cityscape. “Perhaps this is my attempt
faceted nature of dolls—as objects upon which to
archaeologist’ and cultural bricoleur, the process
to escape from the politics of the city and, more
project parallel lives, or create alternate universes.
of utilizing, appropriating and reconfiguring found
importantly, to explore and document this obsession
Lutfi presents us with a psychogeography of the city
objects allows her to create alternative frameworks
with mannequins —what may be veritably called
as a system of illusions.
of interpretation—part fantasy, part documentation.
A cultural historian by training, Huda Lutfi’s practice
the Society of the Spectacle that, “all that was once
since the early 1990s has constituted an archival
directly lived has become mere representation” is
process of scouring, collecting and embedding
wrought here on Lutfi’s canvas with refreshing vigor.
found material into her work. Lutfi has been
Repetition features powerfully, both as a technique
excavating and reconstituting narratives about the
and a formal trope in the collages. The use of the
urban fabric of Cairo for much of her artistic career.
infinitely reproducible medium of photography to
Through her acts of historical layering, Lutfi activates
document the mass-produced object of the doll
objects, as cultural artifacts, to speak to us about the
produces an affective doubling which comes as
past and the future. In this way, she reactivates the
both a lament and a warning.
cultural memory of objects and people that have been wrestled, neglected or discarded from history.
Various threads emerge which tie into Lutfi’s previous
Her work often juxtaposes Pharaonic, Islamic, Coptic
engagement with dolls, but what strikes one about
and Mediterranean visual iconography.
these new works is the sense of the teeming, spilling, march of multitudes through the city. Yet here Lutfi
a mannequin obsession or fetishization—in the
Her inclusion of photography continues to make
popular culture of the market,” Lutfi suggests. In
Working largely with images of Cairo’s downtown
Lutfi’s work truly contemporary in the way it indexes
works such as The City goes Pop the mannequins
district, Lutfi aggregates them in order to reveal
the present moment in Egypt’s visual culture, while
operate as the protagonists in the social dynamics of
layers of the city in a mode that suggests an
intertwining it with the past—an apt metaphor for
the city. Guy Debord’s message in his seminal work
archaeological cross-section. Her cityscapes possess
our current artistic landscape.
Imagining the City (2016) Mixed media collage on wood panel, 60 x 40 cm
The City goes Pop (2015) Mixed Media on wood panel, 120 x 200 cm
Previous page: Gazing (2015) Mixed media collage on wood panel, 40 x 55 cm Crossing The Red Line (2011) Photo montage and painting on archival paper, 190 x 90 cm
Cycling By The Nile (2011) Mixed media collage on paper, 56.5 x 76.2 cm
PROFILE Images - Courtesy of Emirati Expressions, Lamya H Gargash and The Third Line. Writer - Elisabeth Stoney, art historian.
Lamya Gargash: Inside Abu Dhabi Dubai artist investigates the cultural hubs of the capital In her recent suite of photographs, commissioned
it is the arrangement of tables and chairs or
for the biannual Emirati Expressions exhibition of
the formality of a majlis that suggests human
Emirati art, Lamya Gargash explores the world of
presence. An image of the abandoned library of
Abu Dhabi’s social clubs and sporting associations.
the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation suggests that
Her images reveal some surprises as they disclose
some of these places too have been left behind.
a layer of community life, the grass roots of the
The complex, which was designed in the 1970s
cultural institutions, that is not widely known.
by the architectural firm of Walter Gropius, was planned as the first national library—today it is
Working alone, without the presence of the club
threatened with demolition.
members, Gargash documented the club rooms and facilities of ten different associations including
This is a recognizable assignment for the artist,
the Writer’s Union, the Jujitsu Federation, the UAE
whose work over 10 years has located a local
Football Association, the India Social and Cultural
approach to the modern built environment of the
Center, the Marine Club and the Armed Forces
UAE region. Her projects have often sought out
interiors of the modernist architecture associated with the wave of urban development that swept
Gargash works slowly, with a heavy case of
the region around the time of the ittihad, the
different cameras and film stocks (negative,
unification of the emirates in the optimism of
slide film and polaroid), returning for reshoots,
the 70s. But while the photograph can analyze
preferring the pace and the suspense of ‘film’,
architectural forms and reduce them to design,
i.e. film-based photography, which she refers to
this has not been of interest to Gargash, whose
In 1974, with a plan to promote sports to the
as a ‘dying medium’, that she hopes nevertheless
photographs of spaces record the energies and
nation’s youth, the Abu Dhabi Town Planning
to continue working with for a few more years.
dynamics between people and places. It has been
Department launched the project for Sports City.
She manages her final print production remotely,
her work, like the work of Todd Reisz and George
Today, the large-scale sporting complex on the
negotiating with European laboratories where her
Katodrytis, both architects, that has inspired a
outskirts of Abu Dhabi, a kind of Brasilia of sport,
negatives are scanned and prints handmade to
renewed interest in the modernist architecture of
is overshadowed by the attractions of Saadiyat
the region, an awareness that blossomed in 2014
and Yas islands. Gargash’s camera recognizes
with the exhibition created for the UAE Pavilion
that public works projects like Sports City and the
at the Architecture Biennale of Venice.
Cultural Foundation, with their clear social focus,
The photographs, always interior views, are also slow and considered. The compositions
Her projects have often sought out interiors of the modernist architecture associated with the wave of urban development that swept the region around the time of the ittihad, the unification of the Emirates in the optimism of the 70s
are no longer typical of visionary architecture – or
are attentive to furnishings and other details, in
A sweeping aerial view of the grandstands of
of the investment that drives it. It seems that across
particular to discarded things, like an idle plastic
the futuristic Zayed Sports Stadium, the jewel of
her cultural club series, the nostalgia that marks
bottle or an image on a TV screen, objects that
Zayed Sports City, is a reminder of a recent past,
each photograph is the rediscovery of the golden
Gargash calls ‘things left behind.’ Many times
when development meant something different.
era of public building in the emirate.
Library, The Cultural Foundation, from the series Documentation of Clubs in Abu Dhabi (2015) C-Type print, 70 x 52 cm
Stadium 2, UAE Football Association, Zayed Sports City, from the series Documentation of Clubs in Abu Dhabi (2015)Â Silver gelatin print, 60 x 60 cm
Stadium 1, UAE Football Association, Zayed Sports City, from the series Documentation of Clubs in Abu Dhabi (2015)Â Silver gelatin print, 60 x 60 cm
The Globe, The Cultural Foundation, from the series Documentation of Clubs in Abu Dhabi (2015)Â C-Type print, 70 x 52 cm
FILM Images - Courtesy of Doc & Film International. Writer - Shohini Chaudhuri, educator and film historian.
Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan: Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait Creating a new cinematic language from online archives again in Syria… I got the impression that the whole
exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed feels
cinematic language, with its close-ups, wide-angle
helpless that he can only watch online footage of
shots and tracking shots, was being reinvented”.
the Syrian Revolution and its bloody aftermath.
Silvered Water is an exploration of the medium
Online, he meets Wiam Simav Bedirxan, a Syrian
as it crosses boundaries into digital and mobile
Kurd in the besieged city Homs, who asks him
formats, suggesting these have altered cinema’s
what he would film if he were in Syria and then
formal possibilities. Among its new characteristics
sends him her footage. The epistolary format of
are the jerky, pixelated partial views taken from
exchanges between him and Bedirxan is linked to
camera phones. Assembled YouTube posts
Mohammed’s absence from Syria and his longing
lend the film its stories-within-stories structure,
to bridge that gap. Layered into their stories are
similar to One Thousand and One Nights, where
stories of the ‘1001 Syrians’ who anonymously
Scheherazade’s storytelling is a way of averting
micro-narratives of everyday experiences of
posted their videos on YouTube.
execution. Similarly, for these filmmakers, the
conflict, often ignored by mainstream media, it
camera is a survival kit, affirming they are still alive.
portrays ordinary people’s lives, caught between
Mohammed belongs to a generation who began
I got the impression that the whole cinematic language, with its closeups, wide-angle shots and tracking shots, was being reinvented.
In the documentary film Silvered Water (2014),
Syrian government forces and opposition fighters,
filmmaking in the 1970s with Syrian state support.
Filmed by victims, perpetrators and activists, the
some of them jihadists. Bedirxan helps set up a
His previous films, including Sacrifices (2002), used
footage is very harrowing and shows torture,
school for children, as schools, like most civilian
political allegory to circumvent censorship. His exile
executions, corpses, maimed animals and orphans.
infrastructure, no longer function. Dedicated to one
to Paris followed death threats after he demanded
Repeated several times is YouTube footage
of these children, Omar, who walks pluckily on war-
Syrian political prisoners be freed.
of a teenager’s arrest and torture. Although
torn streets and is tragically killed, the film attempts
not explained in the film, this video was one
to retrieve these experiences, in danger of getting
Like other 2011 Arab uprisings, the Syrian Revolution
of the triggers for the Syrian Revolution. Not a
lost or suppressed as the war rages on.
was a revolution of the image. Previously, the regime
conventional documentary, Silvered Water does
tightly controlled image-making. Change promised
not seek to contextualize who or what we are
Inability to act becomes the basis of the creative
by the revolution gave forth to a creative outpouring.
seeing: anonymous images float free from their
act, releasing moments of breathtaking beauty, such
Often at great risk to themselves, ordinary citizens
original intentions and referents. This, together
as the ending where the word ‘liberty’ is inscribed
(but also militias) created and uploaded images
with Mohammed’s poetic voiceover musings on
in blood on newly fallen snow. A repeated image
of protests and the regime’s brutal crackdown to
cinema, seemingly jars with footage of real people’s
is a newborn baby whose umbilical cord is being
communicate them to the wider world.
suffering, and has troubled some viewers. The
cut, about to enter a world of unbearable horror.
typical response to images of atrocity when viewed
Although the sentiment may not universally appeal,
These untrained filmmakers make striking choices of
on television news or the Internet is indifference.
in Silvered Water, the search for cinematic beauty
subject and composition. Mohammed remarks: “For
Does Silvered Water offer an ethical alternative?
is, ultimately, a form of resistance against tyranny
me, the history of cinema seemed to begin all over
I would argue that it does. Through its focus on
and death, a reminder of what life is worth living for.
Clockwise: Destruction of the city of Homs #1 and #2; Poster image for Silvered Water
ESSAY Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Lulu M. Al-Sabah, art consultant.
Leading the Way to Social Change Feminist Photographers in the Arab World The images that mobilize conscience are always
There are many historical examples in the West that
linked to a given historical situation. The more general
demonstrate the effectiveness of images to awaken
they are, the less likely they are to be effective…
consciousness. In the beginning of the 20th Century,
photographs cannot create a moral position, but they
Lewis Hine was appointed staff photographer to the
can reinforce one—and can help build a nascent one.
National Child Labor Committee in the US, and his
Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)
photographs of children working in cotton mills and coalmines influenced legislators to make child labor
Socially engaged photography mostly focuses on the
illegal. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) influenced the
marginalized segments of society, be it the poor, the
development of documentary photography with
mentally ill or those who become victims of historical
her photographs of migratory farm workers, which
and geopolitical circumstances. The marginalized
she created for the US Farm Security Administration
communities are distanced from political power and
(FSA). She humanized the dire living conditions of
economic resources by virtue of an aspect of their
farm workers and their families who had come west
identity—be it their class, their race, their religion
to escape the drought, which destroyed millions of
or their way of life, which differentiates them from
acres of farmland.
the mainstream. In general Arab women are socially, economically and politically marginalized because of
Some of the great photographers of the past turned
their gender compared to women in other regions.
to socially engaged photography to shine a light on
Some Arab countries have a social system that
those with no voice. Ansel Adams (1902–1984), best
focuses on traditions and kinship policies, which
known for his majestic black and white photographs
has curtailed freedoms and fundamental rights from
of Yosemite National Park, photographed life inside
a gender perspective.
Manzanar, a WWII internment camp in central California for Japanese-Americans. Published as
Where are the Arab feminist photographers? By
Born Free and Equal (1944), Adams wanted to raise
feminist I mean those who believe in complete social
the consciousness of his fellow Americans rather than
and economic equality between men and women.
have them give in to the race hate that motivated
In her famous essays on photography, Susan Sontag
the enemy. Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971)
wrote, “Photographs really are experience captured,
managed to enter Russia when she was sent by
and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its
Fortune magazine in 1930 to take photographs
inquisitive mood.” Who better to raise consciousness
of Germany. She began to increasingly support
on matters pertaining to women in the Arab world
leftist causes despite the negative impact it would
than Arab women photographers. Their photographs
have on her lucrative advertising work. In 1936 she
can influence mindsets and instigate social change.
documented the racism and exploitation of the
Some of the great photographers of the past turned to socially engaged photography to shine a light on those with no voice. deep South. Bourke-White was the only woman contracted to LIFE magazine. Her photographs of Buchenwald and other concentration camps were, for the majority of Americans, the first evidence of the atrocities occurring.1 Boushra Almutawakel, a Yemeni photographer whose work often focuses on issues of gender, firmly believes that socially conscious photography can lead to social change because it brings certain issues to the surface, encouraging discourse, debate and dialogue, which are all foundations and steps to actual change. She says, “A single photo may bring about public outrage, as did the photo of the little Syrian boy washed up dead on the shore. There are photos throughout our modern history which 1. Juliet Hacking, Lives of the Great Photographer, London: Thames and Hudson, 2015.
Farah Salem, Cornered (Untitled 9) (2015/2016) Photography, performance, 90 x 60 cm
stay etched in our minds and convey the history or the socio-political mood of the
the camera for cultural reasons… the artists themselves sometimes don’t want to be
times: the images of Kennedy being shot, the little girl running naked after a napalm
too obvious when it comes to raising these taboo topics because their reputation as
attack in Vietnam, that young girl from Afghanistan with those unforgettable eyes.
women needs to be ‘clean’… visually communicating an idea concerning such matters
I know a fellow colleague whose photos were used as evidence against a particular
through photography may require more raw honesty, which isn’t always ‘pretty art’…
group in Liberia, and they were brought to justice… As they say a photo is worth a
honesty isn’t pretty and fluffy all the time.”
thousand words, so images can be a powerful source for positive change.” Lamia Maria Abillama, a Lebanese-Brazillian photographer agrees, adding, “Just consider
In Salem’s series entitled Cornered, the viewer sees a woman dressed in white, crouched
the work of Wayne Miller on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the struggle to prevent
in a box, with her head down, in various locations. The artist describes this series as
countries from developing nuclear power; the work of Paul Fusco on Chernobyl who
“the experience of being in the middle of beautiful nowhere, yet remaining trapped
raises the awareness and the urgent need to update obsolete equipment to prevent
in a box that has been created by either society or ourselves.” In her Dove series, a
people from industrial and ecological catastrophe; the work of Sebastian Salgado on
woman is dressed in a billowing white abaya instead of the traditional black one and
the appalling conditions of miners in Brazil; the work on the drought, on famine in
walks on the street, resembling a dove. Speaking of this series, Salem says, “It began
Biafra; in India on workers with Eugene Smith, among others.” The history of social
from my frustration from having to follow a typical cycle set up for me in my culture
photography is a testament to its impact on government policy and activist movements.
because of my gender. We need to remain on the inside; whether it is by wearing traditional clothing, at home, certain activities or career paths. Effectively, hidden
In the Middle East, it is sometimes a treacherous road to become a socially engaged
from the world. Rather than dealing with the negative aspect, I decided to approach
photographer, particularly for women. Farah Salem, a young Kuwaiti photographer,
it positively and inspire women to break the cycle instead, marking a fresh start, a new
often highlights the discrepancy between the genders in her work. In explaining
dawn for women. She is placed in the cluttered ‘dirty’ streets of the city, yet remains
why there are such few female Arab photographers tackling the subject of female
pure. A dove is meant to be set free and not be caged. A woman can handle herself
oppression, she says, “It is because photography is a medium that expresses raw
no matter where she is. Women can choose their own freedom and their own paths
reality, it may be a challenge to use it to document women who are usually hiding from
and they don’t need anyone to protect them with generalized rules and regulations.”
Previous page: Farah Salem, The Dove, Route to freedom (2015) 49.5 x 74.5 cm
Bushra Al-Fusail, #BikeForYemen campaign (2015) Following page: Amani AlShaali, Naïve (2014) Archival pigment print, 110 x 110 cm Courtesy of the artist, The Empty Quarter Gallery
For Bushra Al Fusail, a 29-year-old Yemeni photographer and a woman’s rights activist,
artist says, “I had solidarity from Yemeni women who got on bicycles but they had to
it all starts with the family. Her family was completely against the idea of her becoming
stop because the air strikes did not stop. UNDP began to encourage women in Aidan
a photographer. As she explains, “Take a photo, publish it but don’t say your name.
to bike because it is calmer there and there are no air strikes. They did this in order
The culture, the community and the society do not accept that. In the beginning, when
for women to continue their daily lives and for those who have small businesses.” In
I did my first exhibition, people would call my family and ask, ‘Why is your daughter
response to Al Fusail’s campaign, there was solidarity from Yemenis abroad—they
in the media? Her face is appearing on TV and newspapers.’ That was a huge thing.
rode on their bikes in 12 major cities around the world.
Until now I fight this… It is stressful when it comes from your roots. From your own house.” Her family did not attend her earlier exhibitions, which includes 10 KG of
Al Fusail describes herself as a feminist photographer because her body of work
Justice in 2009, Fashion and Identity in 2010 and Threads of Life in 2012, which all
specifically focuses on women’s rights. After visiting villages only one hour away from
took place in Yemen in association with foreign embassies. In time, however, they
the capital, she realized that girls were only educated until the sixth grade. As the
began to appreciate her pictures and take pride in her work. The artist says, “They see
artist explains, “From the first grade to the sixth grade they have afternoon classes
how passionate I am about it, how many people are talking about my photography.
but after sixth grade it is both morning and afternoon shifts. They are not allowed
At the end of the day, my mother suffered as well so she started making the links.”
to go because they need to stay at home to clean and cook. They are raised to believe that their job is to cook and clean for their brothers and their fathers. That is
On April 21st 2015, Al Fusail and 15 Yemeni women showed up in support of the
considered more important than their own education. These girls are mentally and
#BikeForYemen campaign spearheaded by the artist through social media, which
physically strong. At the age of 10 or 12 they are cooking, cleaning and taking care
called on women to ride bicycles through the war torn capital of Sana’a. Due to the
of goats.” In Al Fusail’s photograph, the viewer sees a woman covered except for
fuel shortages in the country, a result of the Saudi led coalition’s blockade of Yemen’s
her eyes. The woman is holding a book in one hand and a pencil in the other whilst
port, women were stuck at home while men got around on bikes. It was especially
standing by a stove. The message is clear: a woman’s education is more important
infuriating for the women who had jobs and were self-sufficient before the war. As the
than cooking and cleaning.
Amani AlShaali, an Emirati photographer, began creating fine art images because
features a group of women covered in black. It is about conformity, blending
it felt cathartic. It felt like therapy. As she states, “For years, I was dealing
in and the loss of identity. The artist is referring to a nightmare scenario where
with depression and I felt like I was able to express my thoughts and feelings
each person is the replica of another.
by creating images. I was able to tell my story without saying a word.” Her photographs feature women, often dressed in flowing fabrics. The diffused
AlShaali believes that women in the Middle East are afraid of raising issues that
lighting and muted tones contribute to the dreamy effect. Her photograph, titled
cause controversy, especially because those who do challenge common beliefs and
Naïve, tells the story of a girl who is innocent and naïve and has been stricken by
traditions are viewed as too daring and bold. She says, “That alone goes against how
the pain caused by those closest to her. The blindfold suggests that she is too
women are expected to behave or act. The simplest example I can think of is when
blind to see what is right in front, or above her—a rain of knives coming at her
it comes to arranged marriages, mothers looking for brides for their sons frown upon
from every direction. Despite it all, she stands strong. In Darkness Beckons, the
choosing someone who’s too ‘out there’.” AlShaali’s personal struggle with depression
artist created a composition that alludes to the Cherokee legend about the two
has made her gain awareness of mental illness and how it is viewed in society. As she
wolves inside of us. As the legend goes, one wolf is evil and represents anger,
says, “I am trying to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses. I hope that
greed, resentment, jealousy and self-pity. The other wolf is good and represents
by creating the type of images I create, and by being so open and wearing my heart
joy, peace, love, kindness and compassion. This picture is about the times when
on my sleeve, I can get people talking about it and accepting it as an illness, and not
the evil wolf tries to drown the good wolf. A photograph titled What About Us?
a taboo subject that they should be ashamed of.”
Maha Al-Asaker, Undisclosed
Kuwaiti photographer Maha Al-Asaker agrees with AlShaali’s sentiment and goes
me, the feeling of being a woman in a small society where women are criticized and
further by saying that, “People in our region tend to hide the issues rather than raise
judged once they do anything outside of the norm.”
them. Raising any issues concerning women causes controversy and pressure from society.” Al-Asaker is currently based in New York where she creates commercial
Saudi Arabian multi-media artist Manal Al Dowayan felt she was being pigeonholed
photography to support herself and fine art photography as her passion. She attended
with the feminist label. Her brilliant, thought-provoking work encompasses black and
the International Center of Photography in New York to hone her craft and believes
white photography, sculpture, video, sound, neon and large-scale installations, some
that there would be more female photographers if there were a school in the region
of which involve community participation. When she showcased her 2005 photograph
that taught the medium either as a fine art or documentary. In her series entitled
series entitled I AM, which features Saudi women who perform important roles in Saudi
Belonging, the artist addresses “the feeling of being a woman who struggles to fit
society, followed by another series in 2005 entitled The Choice, which challenges
into the society. It also references the double lives that many people have in Kuwait.
the restrictions placed on women due to local traditions, she became boxed into a
It essentially speaks of being different in your own skin.” In her Undisclosed series, a
specific category of artist. The irony was that by fighting for women’s rights through
woman’s face is obscured by a leather belt, lettuce leaves, written pages, a sadu bag
her art, she was further restricted and given less access and opportunities than her
among other materials. It is a further investigation as to how culture shapes individuals
male counterparts. Al Dowayan decided to shed the label in order to be considered
and the pressure of restrictions and constraints on one’s individuality. Al-Asaker refuses
an artist first and foremost rather than an artist defined by her chosen subject matter.
to consider herself a feminist photographer because, as she says, “I don’t like labels
Some of her recent work continues to challenge and examine the state of Saudi
and I don’t see myself within them… I am trying to explain the complexity inside of
women and their representation, yet she refuses to be the poster child for feminist art.
It is a further investigation as to how culture shapes individuals and the pressure of restrictions and constraints on oneâ€™s individuality.
Ghada Khunji, (left to right)That was Then (2015) 122 x 75 cm This is Now (2015) Photo canvas, wood, lace material and incense, 122 x 87 cm Courtesy of the artist
After 25 years of living in New York City, award-winning photographer Ghada Khunji
Public Relations from Indiana University, and following the outbreak of war in Iraq,
has returned to her native Bahrain. Khunji had studied photography at the Parsons
that she returned to the US. The artist says, “I remember when I first went to New
School of Design and completed the documentary program at the International
York I wanted to be a fashion photographer. Very quickly I realized there was a
Center for Photography. In 2006 she was named the Lucie Discovery of the Year
sense of fakeness to it all so that was how I got into documentary photography,
(the Oscars of photography) and in 2007, she won the Grand Prize in American
by going to the Dominican Republic and immediately falling in love with the
Photo magazine’s first Images of the Year Competition. Other awards have followed.
public, with the underdogs, those who don’t have a voice. So that has carried me
She is known for documenting landscapes and people from all over the world,
on throughout my career because I truly believe in these people. I relate more
with a humanist element that Edward Steichen once described as “the essential
to the underdogs, whether they are male or female… Photographs don’t have a
oneness of mankind.” Since returning to Bahrain two years ago, she discovered
language so there are no barriers.”
a different side of herself and began experimenting with photomontage. The new works, which feature the artist, speak of her upbringing and the assumptions
Khunji’s favorite photographer is Diana Arbus because she made the viewer
people make at face value about others or women. In speaking about women, she
look really closely. And Arbus herself felt like a marginalized outsider, meaning
says, “What I realize now is that it is not necessarily being in an Arab country that
she felt the same as the so-called freaks that she photographed. The artist
makes us limited, because you can be just as limited in New York City. Women in
says, “You cannot photograph the underdogs in India then stay at the Taj hotel.
general have been pushed down in most societies. There are just different levels
When I went around and photographed, as Arbus would do walking around
of it. As females, there has always been a kind of pressure to push us down and
the park, using tinfoil to exaggerate the reflection when she put on the flash, I
I think that is where feminism comes from.”
really looked. So when I traveled, I lived like those I photographed. Living the truth.” When Khunji exhibits her new work, featuring her own face, it is her way
Khunji was raised in an open-minded family; in fact it was her father who gave
of telling others that she is willing to expose herself because she wants others
her mother her first camera on their honeymoon and her father who gave Khunji
to also feel that sense of freedom. She says, “I want to feel victorious letting
her first camera at the age of six. It was only after obtaining a college degree in
the females know that we can do it.”
Lebanese-Brazilian photographer Lamia Maria Abillama is the daughter of a well-known
some found it bizarre, some funny. However abroad, people were fascinated or even
political family whose life was shaped by the Lebanese civil war (1975–90). She pursued
moved emotionally, some of them had tears in their eyes.” In her mirror series, Abillama
advanced legal and diplomacy studies, first at the Sorbonne in Paris then at Boston’s
composes a story within a story. It is an approach that references the social use of portrait
Tufts University at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In time she left it all
photography yet takes it further by critiquing a society that is deeply centered on the
behind for photography. In 2006, Abillama attended New York’s International Center
image itself. The presence of mirror doubles increases the objectifying of identities. The
for Photography. Her first series, which was inspired by her Brazilian grandmother, was
mirror reflects the multiple hidden faces of those photographed.
on Rio de Janiero’s Society Ladies. This series led to many important commissions in the United States.
Abillama does not consider herself a feminist in the strictest sense because she thinks that male and female attributes are too different to be considered the same. However,
Her second series, Clashing Realities, depicts a range of Lebanese women dressed
she believes in equality between the sexes, particularly in the eyes of the law. She is
in camouflage whose lives have been affected by years of war. Abillama maintains a
in favor of laws that protect women from violence and the law permitting Lebanese
neutral stance as she photographs prominent Lebanese politicians as well. When asked
women to give their nationality to their children. She believes that men and women
how the public responded to this series when shown in the Middle East versus in the
should be offered the same salary for identical qualifications and that women be given
West, she says, “In the region, people are used to violence and conflict. When they
equal access to the jobs that men have. She also believes that honor killings should
saw the women wearing the camouflage uniform, some people found it interesting,
be abolished because “they are barbaric.”
Previous page: Untitled, from the series Clashing Realities (1987) Digital C-print, 80 x 80 cm Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Tanit Following page: Boushra Almutawakel, Mother, Daughter, Doll (2010) Digital C-Prints, 60 x 40 cm each
Yemeni photographer Boushra Almutawakel is proud to call herself a feminist
sentiments that the artist did not believe or share. As Almutawakel explains, “What
photographer. She says, “First as a woman and a human being who believes that
I don’t like about [Mother, Daughter, Doll] in the West is that it is preaching to the
everyone has certain unalienable rights, I believe women should have equal rights
choir, and in some instances where those that are misguided or ignorant use it to
and opportunities as men, girls as boys do, and I always am aspiring to get the same
indicate that not only do the West think that the Islamic World is backward and
rights for myself as a woman in a patriarchal society and world, as well as for my
oppressive, but a female Muslim also thinks the same...see? So it must be right?
four daughters. I also try to express these feminist views in my work. I am certainly
I had even considered not showing the Hijab series outside to avoid this, but then
a feminist through and through.”
decided against it. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision. I never intended to add more fuel to the fire. But as an artist I wanted to express myself, and to tell
Almutawakel was living in the US at the time of the September 11th attacks, which
our stories, from our own views, not by some Western expert or journalist, so I felt
led her to focus on the negative and positive perceptions of Arabs and Muslims.
I owed it to myself not to censor myself. Can’t be a critic and an artist at the same
Her Hijab series explores the perceptions of women in particular and includes
time so I took a leap of faith and here we are.”
photographs of Fulla dolls, which resemble Barbies with headscarves, which are marketed for Muslim children. The public reception of this series in Yemen was mostly
There are other Arab photographers who bring light to women’s social, political and
positive, prompting questions on Islam and the rights and duties of women. On the
economic issues in the region, such as the Jordanian photographer Tanya Habjouja,
negative side, some were indignant that Almutawakel seemed to be questioning
not to mention the feminist photographers from Iran, such as Shadi Ghadirian and
society or God. Over the years Almutawakenl noticed that more and more women,
Shirin Neshat. Still, there is an urgent need for many more. Sometimes it is necessary
and specifically girls even as young as 8 years old, were covering up. Many were
to look back at the great photographers of the past for inspiration. Claude Cahun
wearing both the hijab and the niqab. The artist felt that this has little to do with
(1894–1954), for example, lived without concern for convention, prejudice or personal
Islam and more to do with culture and tradition. She says, “This practice, the over
safety. Indeed, when she found herself living in France under Nazi occupation,
covering of women [and girls] for the reputation of the family and female was too
she risked her life to spread her own artistic anti-fascist propaganda. Cahun was
much of a burden to carry. Instead of covering the women more, they should teach
committed to the idea that art should be used for political purposes. My hope is
the men to have more respect for the women and themselves.”
that the photographers interviewed for this article will bring about a change in consciousness to those in the Middle East and abroad, leading to a greater number
Her observations led to a series entitled Mother, Daughter, Doll, which features the
of individuals using socially engaged photography for social change.
mother, daughter and doll in various stages of covering. In the final image, they are completely covered in black, a shockingly sad and depressing sight. Although
This article is written in memory of the late Moroccan photographer Laila Alaoui.
this series was mostly well received in Yemen, it did result in a lot of debate, with
Alaoui was last on assignment in Bourkina Faso for Amnesty International for a
some male members of the audience labeling it as blasphemous. In contrast,
women’s rights photography project. She had a passion for helping women, girls
some people in the West praised her for being brave and considered her a hero,
and marginalized people tell their own stories.
BIENNIAL Images - Courtesy Biennale des Photographes du Monde Arabe Contemporain. Writer - Veronica Houk, visual arts writer.
Through a Lens, with Darkness and Hope Biennial of Contemporary Photography from the Arab World The timing of the first Biennial of Contemporary
and challenging work, it was just a matter of time
Photography from the Arab World, which took place
until Paris, still one of the most active cities in the
in Paris from 11 November, 2015 to 17 January , 2016,
photography world, staged an event dedicated to
should have been perfect. To begin, the exhibition
photography from the Arab World.
opened amidst the height of photography fever that
consumes Paris in November, thanks especially to the
Everything in the art world was lined up for the
schedule of Paris Photo, the world’s most important
Biennial, which was held at the IMA and MEP as well
photography fair. Larger trends in photography,
as six other galleries and public venues throughout
especially by Arab artists and in Arab countries, also
the city. Curators Gabriel Bauret and Géraldine Bloch
signaled that 2016 would be an auspicious inaugural
presented a total of seven exhibitions, a collective
year for the Institute du Monde Arabe (IMA) and
exhibition called Histoire(s) contempoiraine(s)
the Maison Européene de la Photographie (MEP)
[Contemporary History(ies)] showcasing works by
to co-found the Biennial. The number of dedicated
30 artists and six solo exhibitions.
photography festivals, biennials, and fairs has been steadily rising around the world. Photo London,
“The idea is to emphasize artists who transmit
founded in 2015, is perhaps the most notable addition
a real point of view, with a certain distance and
to the global scale. Other well noted examples include
reflection developing through time, and employ
and the globe, was submerged in mourning. On
Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
contemporary forms of photography,” Bauret says.
16 January just one day before the Biennial closed,
International Photography Awards (HIPA) Dubai,
“What interests us is a vision of the world today. We
the distinguished French-Moroccan photographer
Fotofest Houston, Photomed Beirut, and Gulf Photo
have intentionally marginalized the photography
Leila Alaoui whose work was on exhibition was hit
Plus’ Dubai Photo Week. Prestigious institutions are
of reportage that immediately illustrates the pages
by the gunfire in a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou,
also more frequently exhibiting artists from Arab
of dailies and magazines that depict news of the
Burkina Faso and died days later in the hospital.
countries. A small number of examples can speak
Arab world, and uses forms, which are at the end
Alaoui had traveled to the West African country on
to these trends: in 2009, Catherine David curated a
of the day rather repetitive. This does not mean,
assignment for Amnesty International for a women’s
huge, three-part project focused on Arab and Iranian
however, that the aims of the artists gathered for
rights photography project.
photographers at Paris Photo; in 2014, FotoFest
the Biennial are detached from today’s world and
Houston presented View from the Inside: 49 Arab
the problems it currently faces. On the contrary, the
These two atrocities, of course, did not have
Photographers to resounding critical applause; and
artists speak of society, culture, religion, politics and
anything to do directly with the art world. Their
She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from
even the ‘Spring.’”
effects touched everyone, whether interested in art
Iran and the Arab World, first exhibited in Boston’s
The idea is to emphasize artists who transmit a real point of view, with a certain distance and reflection developing through time, and employ contemporary forms of photography
or not. But rather than setting them apart as painful
Museum of Fine Arts, is continuing its third year of
In reality, the event was punctuated on both sides by
reminders of violence and persecution, they should
exhibition at prestigious institutions across the United
tragedy. Just two days after the fair opened, the city
open up conversations about how Arab photography
States. As people around the globe are increasingly
was plunged into anguish when terrorists unleashed
connects and responds to these global events and
noticing Arab photographers for their intriguing
attacks in central Paris and Saint-Denis. The city,
Mouna Saboni, La Peur, Égypte, Aya (2015) Courtesy Biennale des Photographes du Monde Arabe Contemporain, copyright Mouna Saboni
“The city was plunged in torpor and talking about the Arab world had become
Alaoui’s photographs passionately combat such a perspective. Her photographs
a delicate exercise,” Bauret wrote to me after the exhibition’s close. “Of course,
in the solo exhibition Les Marocains at the Biennial present Moroccans—her
in the days that followed, nobody wanted to go to museums; trying to distract
fellow countrymen though Alaoui was also French—in empowered, even
yourself became impolite. But in the end, the Biennial appeared little by little
glamorous poses that are reminiscent of Richard Avedon’s portraits. They dispel
to find its role, which was to lighten spirits and, as I highlighted above, offer the
the construction of faceless, monolithic and exoticized “Arab” or “Moroccan”
public the possibility to access a nuanced discussion of the Arab world, and above
identity. Alaoui, like Dorothea Lange and Laura Gilpin, makes us look into the faces
all one that refuses conflation.”
of her subjects, and we grow from being confronted with their independence, personality and subjectivity.
In fact, visitors actually increased as the biennial progressed, as people turned to this photography to reflect on the attacks on Paris. Indeed, these events emphasize
“Alas, the last days were darkened by the cruel disappearance of Leila Alaoui, at
the need for artwork that offers multiple perspectives on Arab countries and their
the very moment when her beautiful portraits of Moroccans were taken down at
cultures. Andrea and Magda’s Sinai Park series, a solo exhibition displayed at the
the Maison Européene de la Photographie,” Baruet wrote of her work. “This young
Biennial, is particularly poignant here. The photographs address the aftereffects
woman had all the future before her and was overflowing with plans, each one as
of terrorism in Egypt: photographs of abandoned hotels, disintegrating beach
generous and humanistic as the next.”
umbrellas and determined Russian tourists attest to how terrorist attacks decrease tourism in countries associated with that violence, transforming a location into a
Still, as Paul Strand said of photographers’ biographies, “Your photography is a
“non-place.” As IMA President Jack Lang expounded in his preface to the biennial,
record of your living.” In a sense, a dedicated photographer’s portfolio represents,
photography offers viewers with the opportunity to take more than superficial
if only partially, her persona and vision. But we might add that photography is a
glances at the Arab world to “overcome stereotypes and entrenched positions”
record of living in general, as Alaoui’s and her colleague’s photographs demonstrate
we hold about the region and its people.
so poignantly—the lives of human subjects; the landscapes they avoided or inhabited; belongings, coveted and carefully arranged or forgotten and strewn
While he is correct that “the Arab world today is the victim of prejudice,” many
about. The photographer and her subject can both be found behind the camera’s
point out that we should not view it only through the lens of victimization. Leila
lens: the gaze of the camera’s subjects always meets the viewers.
TRIBUTE Images - Courtesy of Fondation Leila Alaoui. Writer - Mitra Abbaspour, curator and scholar.
Leila Alaoui: A Passionate Vision 10 July 1982, Paris – 18 January 2016, Ouagadougou The vibrant life and passionate vision of French-
The construction of cultural identity and the
Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui was tragically
circumstances governing migration were the themes
extinguished by wounds she sustained in a violent
that are woven throughout Alaoui’s photographs.
attack in Burkina Faso. Alaoui was there on assignment for Amnesty International to create a
The indelible portraits of The Moroccans emerge as a
photographic report focused on a women’s rights
love letter from Alaoui to the country where she grew
initiative. In her still burgeoning career, she garnered
up. Inspired by the cross-country journey of Robert
great respect and acclaim for her artwork as well as
Frank’s The Americans and harnessing the long
tradition of itinerant African studio photographers, Alaoui set out on her own road trip through rural
As a tribute to the contribution and legacy of her
Morocco. On market days, where people from the
photography to our collective understanding of
surrounding villages would gather at the town center,
the world’s localized and migrant communities,
she would set up her black backdrop and asking only
and to honor the strength of her voice as a young
that they face her, photograph those who desired it
photographer from the Arab world, we have
on their own terms. The clarity of her artistic eye and
assembled the following portfolio of pictures from
innate ability to connect with and garner trust from
her series The Moroccans. Interspersed with her
her subjects has made this series iconic within her
photographs are statements from a few of the
oeuvre. In The Moroccans, Alaoui offers a picture of
artists who knew her as an artist and a person.
her compatriots free of external, touristic agendas.
The Moroccans are some of the most powerful portraits ever taken by Leila; but perhaps this series marks the most outstanding images ever produced about Morocco. The grace, beauty and humanity of these captivating faces penetrate deep in one’s soul, without any form of exoticism or sentimentality. - Shirin Neshat
Souk de Boumia, Moyen Atlas, (2011) from the series The Moroccans ,150 x 100 cm
Essaouira (2011) 150 X 100 cm from the series The Moroccans
Tamesloht (2011) 150 X 100 cm from the series The Moroccans
I met Leila in 2003 when we were working on Shirin Neshatâ€™s video installation Mahdookht. We were gathered in a beautiful orange grove when Leila, accompanied by our producer Hamid Fardjad, arrived. At the time she was 20 or 21 years old. I vividly remember how distinct and lively that first encounter was. She was young, beautiful, extremely curious and passionate, with an unmistakable aura about her that no one in our group missed. Soon after she and I started to work with our cast of 10 small children. The way in which she connected to and was able to directly communicate with these children was incredible. They simply loved her and listened to her. Years later, I saw Leila a few times in New York. She had become a photographer in her own right and not surprisingly her subject matter became human faces and the human condition. Of course, anyone can shoot a picture, but the ability to connect, to make people drop their fences and capture what is essential about them is a talent that not everyone possesses. Leila was one of those rare talents. Leilaâ€™s loss will always be an open wound for anyone who came into contact with her, particularly for the international art community who lost an amazing talent at such a young age. I will never understand why the lives of those who are most promising are so often cut short, but everyone of them leaves an impact and legacy that can never be forgotten. Leilaâ€™s images and legacy live on and that is what matters! - Shoja Azari
Chefchaoun, Rif Mountains (2011) 150 X 100 cm from the series The Moroccans
Previous pages left: Clockwise from upper left: Souk de Moulay Abdeslam Ben M’Chich, North Morocco, (2010); Jemaa El Fnaa, Marrakech (2011); Rif Mountains, (2011); Jemaa El Fnaa, Marrakech (2011), from the series The Moroccans Previous page right: Clockwise from the upper left: Jemaa El Fnaa, Marrakech (2011); Untitled; Khalima Bride, South Morocco,(2014); Merzouga, (2011), from the series The Moroccans
I consider myself hugely privileged to have had the chance to know Leila Alaoui. She was a friend and so it is hard to say goodbye. What I remember most in this moment of painful leave-taking is her talent, intelligence, wisdom, and kindness. She was an extraordinary young woman, full of love and life. She will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry. - Lalla Essaydi
Souk de Tounfite, Moyen Atlas (2011) 150 X 100 cm from the series The Moroccans
Jemaa El Fnaa, from the series The Moroccans (2011) 150 X 100 cm
Jemaa El Fnaa, Marrakech (2011) 150 X 100 cm from the series The Moroccans
Leila was a very special, kind being that really cared for people that needed help, I will always remember her smile even when not smiling, she stillÂ smiled...Â will miss her always, Allah Yarhamha. - Hassan Hajjaj
Jemaa El Fnaa, Marrakech (2011) 150 X 100 cm from the series The Moroccans
REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Laura Egerton, art historian and curator.
In Search of Lost Time: Rethinking Time and Speed in the Gulf Artists exploring exhilaration and aspiration at Brunei Gallery
The title of the show is the English translation of
Farhad Albutairi, the first Saudi stand-up comedian
one of the most famous works of 20th century
to appear on stage professionally in the Gulf states
fiction by the French novelist Marcel Proust. Part
and Khambalah, another comedy show which
of what makes the novel so significant is its lack
tackles issues such as employment, oil revenue
of a decisive plot and shifting time frames. The
and social media. A brilliant scene charts the day
exhibition was brought together over four years by
Snapchat arrived in the Kingdom.
Al Maria coined the term ‘Gulf Futurism’ to describe the rapid urban development which came about as a result of sudden wealth through oil revenue, governed by a generation brought up removed from the landscape of the desert but immersed in a screen-mediated existence of Bluetooth mobile phone videos.
in Kuwait and Amal Khalaf from Bahrain, working in
The proliferation of internet use in the Gulf is
existence of Bluetooth mobile phone videos. Her
London. Khalaf and two of the participating artists,
a theme explored by artist, writer and social
video sequence The Gaze of Sci-fi Wahabi (2008)
Sophia Al Maria and Monira Al Qadiri, are part of
commentator Sophia Al Maria. She coined the
examines how the real is being eliminated from
the collective GCC whose art practice focuses on
term ‘Gulf Futurism’ to describe the rapid urban
everyday life as we increasingly view the world
structures that govern contemporary Gulf culture.
development which came about as a result of
around us through a screen. Disorienting flashes of
sudden wealth through oil revenue, governed by a
pixilated environments morph in and out of focus
The first work visitors encounter when entering
generation brought up removed from the landscape
as if running through a time machine: the one film
the building is an installation by the artist Ajlan
of the desert but immersed in a screen-mediated
is shown on four screens like a distopian musical
The last time I visited an exhibition at the Brunei
Gharem, Abdulnasser Gharem’s younger brother.
Gallery in School of Oriental and African Studies,
It is a steel mesh cage rising to a green-tinted point
University of London was in October 2008 for
representing a minaret on a mosque. Photographs
Edge of Arabia, the very first presentation of
of the installation, Paradise has Many Gates, are
contemporary art from Saudi Arabia. Since then,
in the main exhibition downstairs, with stills of
Edge of Arabia has organized exhibitions across
the entire mosque structure placed in the desert.
the world and the artists who took part in that first
Worshippers populate it day and night. Both
exhibition, such as Ahmed Mater, Abdulnasser
through his own practice and the output of the
Gharem and Manal Al Dowayan, have become well
Gharem Studio in Riyadh, which is a much needed
known. In Search of Lost Time takes off where that
incubator for artists to debate and explore their
first exhibition stopped, presenting examples from
ideas, the younger Gharem is following his brother’s
the next generation of artists from Saudi Arabia,
lead in pushing boundaries and casting off subtle
alongside others affiliated in some way with Kuwait,
waves of controversy. Space in the exhibition is
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as
given over to a rotating selection of video works
work from the earlier generation of conceptual
by practitioners under the age of 25 (now 50% of
artists from the Emirates, such as Hassan Sharif,
the population in Saudi Arabia) who have been part
Abdalla Al Saadi and Mohammed Kazem.
of the studio. Also featured are extracts from the satirical YouTube series La Yekthar, spearheaded by
two curators, Abed Al Kadiri from Lebanon, working
Ajlan Gharem, Paradise has Many Gates 1 and 3
canon. A smiling, puppet-like head of Saddam floats around, as does a globe, a
following a heritage museum model to being branded, western, mega museums,
bus, a brain and the artist’s mobile phone while boys play fight on rocks and animals
starting with The Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar designed by I. M. Pei. In powerful
computer-enhanced images, the museum models sit surreally in a hellish landscape of flames or rubble. Most disturbingly they become targets seen through the clouds
Animals have always played an essential role in Bedouin culture, but their way of
from a low flying aircraft: this image in sepia feels as if it is from an even earlier war.
life is under threat with the hyper-development of urban capitals. Abdalla Al Saadi’s Camar Cande’s Journey is a nostalgic pilgrimage across the northern Emirates,
The discovery of oil and how that has affected Gulf lifestyles is a common theme
examining man’s relationship with the natural environment and with animals. He is
running through the show, examined in contrasting formats. Found images are
accompanied by a donkey and a dog on his trek. Travel Prayer by Monira Al Qadiri
used in Raja’a Khalid’s Minor Histories Archive which focuses on often absurd
is a short video shot at a camel race, with a soundtrack of childish traditional music
moments. One such moment is recorded on the cover of Fortune magazine in
and a voice reading a traditional prayer for travelers. Camel racing used to be a
1976, the introduction of golf to expats living in the desert working for the Arabian
sport that clearly demonstrated the exploitation of the South-Asian population in the
American Oil Company. Hassan Sharif’s Barrel combines performative sketches from
Gulf, as young boys were used as jockeys. In recent years they have been replaced
1985 with a life-size sculpture of an oil barrel produced in 2011. Camille Zakharia’s
by a remote control whip attached to the camel’s back, controlled by the owners
Coastal Promenade documents fishermen’s huts which are being destroyed as the
who drive around the tracks in their pick-up trucks. The relentless movement of the
Gulf lifestyle changes from a sea culture of pearl-diving, to land reclamation for yet
camel, a symbol of desert culture, governed by technology, exerting itself to no
more urban projects.
clear conclusion, is symptomatic of today’s society. At the entrance of the exhibition is a quotation from the influential book Cities of Al Qadiri’s Myth Busters have an altogether more salient message. Inspired by
Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif: ‘How is it possible for people and places to change
the research of French scholar Alexandre Kazerouni, this photo series juxtaposes
so entirely that they loose any connection with what they used to be? Can a man
the mega museum projects (both realized and unrealized) of the Gulf states with
adapt to new things and new places without losing a part of himself?” Perhaps
footage from the second Gulf War in Kuwait in the early 1990s. Kazerouni claims
most moving is Sami Mohammad’s modest bronze statue of a Water Carrier from
that policies towards the creation of art museums did a 360-degree turn from
1966, the pregnant female figure powerfully resolute—a timeless pillar of strength.
Previous page, clockwise: Monira Al Qadiri, Myth Busters I â€“ IV (2014) Archival pigment prints, 40 x 50 cm Monira Al Qadiri, Myth Busters V (2014) Archival pigment print, 35 x 50 cm
Monira Al Qadiri, Myth Busters VI and VII (2014) Archival pigment prints, 35 x 50 cm
Monira Al Qadiri, Myth Busters VIII and IX (2014) Archival pigment prints, 35 x 50 cm
CamilleÂ Zakharia, Coastal Promenade, Hut 25 Muharraq (2010) Archival pigment print, 50.8 x 50.8 cm. From the National Museum of BahrainÂ Collection
CamilleÂ Zakharia, Coastal Promenade, Hut 5 Muharraq (2010) Archival pigment print, 50.8 x 50.8 cm. From the National Museum of BahrainÂ Collection
Raja’a Khalid, Desert Golf IV, from the Minor Histories Archive (2014) Archival pigment print
Found images are used in Raja’a Khalid’s Minor Histories Archive which focuses on often absurd moments. One such moment is recorded on the cover of Fortune magazine in 1976, the introduction of golf to expats living in the desert working for the Arabian American Oil Company 106 tribe
Rajaâ€™a Khalid, Desert Golf I, from the Minor Histories Archive (2014) Archival pigment print Bottom: Rajaâ€™a Khalid, Fortune / Golf, form the Minor Histories Archive (2014) Archival pigment print
PROJECT SPACE Images - Courtesy of the artist. Writer - Tribe
Mai Al Moataz: Proof of Presence A layering of poetic light through an obsessive process
Tribe reviews the work of Bahraini artist Mai Al
as they present emblems of nostalgia, innocence
Moataz and the journey that she takes in realizing
and femininity. With hints of isolation and sparkles
her striking black and white photographs.
of imagination, she explores the subjects of her portraits as a paradox of the internal versus
Mai Al Moataz’s work annotates the dichotomies
the external, and where they meet, using time
that are continually reconstructed between one’s
and space to deconstruct the fictional from the
selves: the internal struggle. The rift between
the expected and the actual—the hidden and the apparent, the emotional and the composed,
Her process is inherently filled with anxiety. She
vague yet specific, vaguely specific—creates the
awaits faithfully to see what was shot during the
space in which the light passes through the double
year due to the lack of black and white film labs on
the islands of Bahrain. She travels to find darkrooms around the world to process the film and print
Her latest series is emotionally loaded, yet carefully.
from her negative. Her travels are incomplete
It is an annotation of the self, which reaffirms the
without sourcing new equipment, testing different
context in which the work was born into—an
films, compulsively shooting and, when in luck,
environment where the natural byproduct is none
compulsively printing; then time stops.
other than the puzzle of consolidating one’s many selves: the identity crisis.
Proof of Presence consists of two negatives layered and set into the darkroom enlarger with extra-long
She presents a nostalgic ode peppered with
exposure times of 500 to 1500 seconds (8–25
undertones of acceptance; a façade by merging
minutes). The negatives were shot using a large
seemingly incompatible worlds into one, where
format film camera on black and white film. The
the possibility of the annulment of a fixed identity
prints, produced using warm-tone fiber-based
is a dream.
light sensitive photographic paper, are then processed in two different developers before fixing
Obsessed with producing portraits using black
and washing. The final result reflects a series of
and white film, she creates photographs through
superimposed multi-layered veils (or just layers)
a meticulous and labor-intensive process, which
through which parts of the images appear only
can be seen as a deeply personal cathartic ritual.
where the light passes through both negatives,
Her images are romantically solitary and ethereal,
literally portraying the rift ever so poetically.
Left to right: Peace and Pearl, from the series Proof of Presence (2015) Silver gelatin prints, 50 x 60 cm
Left to right: Patience and Passion, from the series Proof of Presence (2015) Silver gelatin prints, 50 x 60 cm
The Annotated Self From the archive of my feelings I remember when I found myself Composed of thoughts that decompose (s) like a rose. That rot from the inside Before out. Suspended between veils Consumed In peace and clean calm;
The pain escaped through a crack that halved me And the light seeped out of my skin As my endless feelings bled from within is it strong enough to save me? And when I was done Crippled by my fingers I washed my hands clean just as though nothing had happened The pain evaporated
as the light seeped out of my skin and rose out of the paper as it always does.
Left to right (top): Polarity and Purity; (bottom) Parity and Penance, from the series Proof of Presence (2015) Silver gelatin prints, 50 x 60 cm
FOUNDATION Images - Courtesy of the artists and Hester Keijser. Writer - Inaya Fanis Hodeib, artist and visual arts writer.
ADPP: Game Changers for Documentary Photography Mentoring innovative practice through collaboration In September 2015 the Prince Claus Fund (PCF)
IFH: How did Return of the Soul come together?
celebrated the opening of the exhibition Return
HK: Having been the curatorial advisor of the 2014
of the Soul as part of Unseen Photo Fair. Return
ADPP, I was commissioned by the PCF to help
of the Soul brought together exceptional Arab
showcase the achievements of the program. For
photographers who have participated in the Arab
Athr Gallery in Jeddah I had already developed
Documentary Photography Programme (ADPP),
a similar group show with Reem Falaknaz, Omar
a joint initiative of the PCF and the Arab Fund for
Iman, Samar Hazboun and Natalie Naccache. For
Arts and Culture in collaboration with Magnum
Return of the Soul we added Faisal Al-Fouzan’s
project on migrant workers in Kuwait. Aside from the highlighted photographers, both exhibitions
Inaya Fanis Hodeib (IFH) spoke with curator Hester
included a comprehensive overview of all nine
Keijser (HK) about the exhibition.
completed projects, adding images by Eman Helal, Amira Al-Sharif, Hamada Elrasam and Zara
IFH: Tell us a bit about your background and
Samiry. One of the program’s objectives was to
role as a curator.
train photographers in creating spatial installations
HK: Initially, I was headed for a career in philosophy,
of their work as a way to explore various modes
HK: The ADPP is a seven-month, intensive mentoring
but I’m a person who likes to practice rather than
of communicating their stories across local and
program, with two workshops in Beirut, and monthly
preach. So I turned to the visual arts, because
international audiences—because nowadays you
meetings with the mentors—Randa Shaath, Eric
it offered more freedom to explore ways of
can do so much more than just print, frame and hang
Gottesman, Tanya Habjouqa, Peter van Agtmael
comprehending the world. When the internet came
a photograph on a wall! The individual presentations
with Susan Meiselas as head program advisor. Its
of age, I immediately adopted it as a platform to
were developed in close collaboration with each
aim is to nurture a broad range of documentary
connect with like-minded people. First via message
of the photographers, with whom I shared my
photographers who are strongly rooted within
boards, later via my blog on photography, which
experience with various printing techniques and
their culture and their region, and to enable them
received an unexpected following. Eventually, my
presentation models. What was really wonderful
to tell the stories they feel need telling from their
online presence led me to curate exhibitions for
was the tireless support of the PCF in helping source
perspective. Those are not necessarily the ones
galleries in the Middle East, which I took as an
materials that otherwise are not always available in
Western media is asking for, and it is often difficult
opportunity to expand my interest in photography
the Middle East, and the extraordinary inventiveness
for Arab photographers to gain support for such
from the Arab world and the Global South. I
of their technical team in finding elegant and cost
personal undertakings. Hence the need for such
learned a great deal from working in the hyper-
a program. Based on their project proposals,
commercial gallery environment, but its demands
Its aim is to nurture a broad range of documentary photographers who are strongly rooted within their culture and their region
participants are tutored individually by one or two
are vastly different from mine when it comes to
IFH: Tell us more about the ADPP mentoring
established photographers, who help them identify
advancing photography, so in 2014 I declared my
program and how it contributed to developing
where advances can be made, and encourage them
independence by founding Stead Bureau.
the vision of each of the photographers.
to explore solutions beyond their comfort zone. For
Samar Hazboun, Beyond Checkpoints (2014) Installation view
example, in the case of Natalie Naccache, there was a breakthrough moment when
that covered the door to the Fund’s office spaces. During the exhibition, visitors
her mentor suggested she take her sketchbook collages, which she had made in
and office staff of the PCF had to pass the checkpoint every time they entered
collaboration with her subjects, as the starting point, rather than produce a classic
or left the building. It was positioned so that one of the surveillance cameras was
reportage on the emotional limbo displaced Syrians find themselves in.
at eye level, to reinforce the impression of constantly being watched. Of course, the irony was that everyone in Amsterdam could pass the checkpoint unhindered,
IFH: A very impressive installation of an Israeli checkpoint stands at the
which is of course very different from the Palestinian reality. You can imagine the
entrance to the PCF offices. Many seem to be both amused and intimidated
tension this piece created. I believe that being able to make such installations on
by its presence and the dark reality it represents. Can you take us through
a scale maybe not previously imagined by the photographers is one of the ways
the making of this piece?
in which both mentors and sponsors of the ADPP can help them advance their
HK: In Beyond Checkpoints Samar Hazboun explores a series of births that took
artistic practice. Hopefully, we’ll see similar opportunities arise for the next group
place at Israeli checkpoints by pairing portraits with relevant belongings of the
of participants to graduate from the program.
Palestinian subjects involved. It’s a deceptively straightforward looking but deeply moving work. Especially the portraits affected me greatly as I was preparing the
Hester Keijser is an independent curator, critic and author specialized in
files for printing and sat face to face to the parents who suffered such abuse and
contemporary photography. Previously, she developed exhibitions for The Empty
losses. To give such a commanding presence to one’s subjects is the mark of a
Quarter gallery in Dubai, and was the creative director of East Wing, a platform for
gifted photographer. The installation you refer to is an image of the Shuhada
photography founded in Qatar. Now operating as Stead Bureau, she maintains a
Street checkpoint in Hebron. It was printed almost life-size on photo wallpaper
strong commitment to emerging photographic practices from the MENASA region.
Samar Hazboun, Beyond Checkpoints (2014)
Al-Shuhada Street Checkpoint, Hebron. At least three births have been documented at this checkpoint.
Reem Falaknaz, (clockwise) Installation view; Wadi al Qaar; Wadi Kub From the series The Place of Perpetual Undulations (2014)
The Place of Perpetual Undulation is set in the valleys of Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate in the northern part of the United Arab Emirates. This series gives voice to the landscape there, to the mountains. Their voice is shaped by interactions with the living. The series also looks at the patterns that underlie the spaces they occupy.
Faisal Al Fouzan, Friday Gathering (2014) Archival pigment prints
The Friday Gathering project is an in-depth exploration of the living conditions of low-income migrant workers in their humble accommodations in Kuwait, bordering on high-end neighborhoods and landmark architecture. These workers are living on the margins of society though they play a key role in shaping and maintaining their physical environment.
PROFILES Images - Courtesy of the artist and The Empty Quarter Gallery. Writer - Anna Seaman, visual arts writer.
Almoutasim Almaskery: Wo-Man A choreography of switching roles Confronting an Arab woman dressed in traditional
notice is the man’s clothing and when their eyes
Arab men’s clothing would be an arresting, if not
are open, you can see how strong and how willing
confounding or confusing moment. Having the
they are to go the extra mile and when their eyes
woman starring directly back at you, the viewer,
are closed you can see how fragile they are. The
makes the experience ever more unsettling. This
whole project is just an observation on the position
unsettling of the viewer is precisely photographer
of women in today’s society and I chose different
Almaskery’s intention. He instantly makes you
nationalities of women to photograph because it
take a second look. The clothing generates the
is a globalized change.”
decoding of a male message from the image, but clearly the model is not a man, but a woman.
Almoutasim Almaskery is an Omani photographer
This intentional cross-coding of gender based
who fuses tradition with modernity and strong
signs short-circuits normative readings of his
social commentary. If there were one word to
photographs, forcing the viewers upon their
define the way that Almoutasim Almaskery works,
second viewing into seriously questioning society’s
it would be patiently. The Omani photographer,
framing of gender and identity.
34, who is represented by The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai, can take several years to
By pairing photographs, the first with the wo-man
complete a series of work.
staring back at you, the second with her eyes shut Almaskery also stages a viewing choreography
His began his first series, on pearl diving, while
that intends to make viewers consider two aspects
studying for his BFA in Photography at the
of women. For him, the wo-man’s frontal stare
American University in Dubai, at the time the only
visually conveys the power of women. This is
BFA in Photography offered by an institution in
commit himself fully to the subject. It is also this
contrasted with a view of the same figure with
the Gulf. He currently has three projects on the
choice that gives the final results such a classic feel.
their eyes closed, which Almasakery intends to
go and will only exhibit works when he is fully
Even in his street photography, which Almaskery
have decoded as representing the fragile aspect of
satisfied with his results.
says he is always thinking about—admitting he
woman, at least as construed in Arab communities.
never goes anywhere without his camera—he “In my opinion, all the great photographers that I
captures an energy in his subjects that makes his
The androgynous images are shot in pairs, one
have worked with really take their time. They will
images really powerful.
image with the subject’s eyes open and another
not be rushed. For me, photography is my life
with them closed. The use of light and shadow
so I don’t mind committing endless hours to any
“I like to talk,” he says of his technique. “To take
is deeply pronounced, which is, in general,
project. It doesn’t feel like work.”
a good photograph you have to get into the soul
something that characterizes Almaskery’s work.
The whole project is just an observation on the position of women in today’s society and I chose different nationalities of women to photograph because it is a globalized change
of the subject, so I talk. That way I become more
The series is compelling and very strong. “When
Technically, Almaskery likes to shoot with analogue
than a photographer, I become a therapist and a
you see the photographs, the first thing you
film. He says it forces him to concentrate and
friend. The last thing I do is take the photograph.”
Left to right: WO-MEN 2.1; WO-MEN 2.2 , from the series WO-MEN (2012) Archival pigment prints, 100 X 66.5 cm
Left to right: WO-MEN 1.1; WO-MEN 1.2, from the series WO-MEN (2012) Archival pigment prints, 100 X 66.5 cm
Left to right: WO-MEN 3.1; WO-MEN 3.2 , from the series WO-MEN (2012) Archival pigment prints, 100 X 66.5 cm
Left to right: WO-MEN 4.1; WO-MEN 4.2 , from the series WO-MEN (2012) Archival pigment prints, 100 X 66.5 cm
IN CONVERSATION Images - Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950–1999 courtesy of the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Writer - Diana Chester, artist and educator.
Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs A Conversation with Susan Meiselas and Michele Bambling Diana Chester (DS): I first met Michele Bambling five
Michele Bambling (MB): Thinking about the value
years ago in Abu Dhabi, and we have collaborated
this project would have beyond a classroom
on a variety of projects since. Susan Meiselas and I
exercise, I realized there was only so much that I
first met several years ago at a coffee shop where
could teach and far more that I wanted to learn.
we discussed the Lest We Forget project and the
I admired Susan’s work in her book Kurdistan: In
United Arab Emirates (UAE). I feel very honored to
the Shadow of History and the akaKURDISTAN
have participated in the interview that culminates
project. I wrote her to ask if she would consider
in this article, and excited to share with you these
helping us with the creation of what became the
exchanges on art and cultural heritage, as discussed
Lest We Forget book.
between two brilliant women. Susan Meiselas (SM): Michele initially sent me an Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950–
e-mail about the project and approximately 200
1999 is both the name of the Emirati vernacular
images of the work in categorized folders. When
photography book discussed in this article and
the images first came in, there were so many I did
the associated exhibition at the Warehouse 421
not know how to respond to them. There was no
Gallery in Mina Port, Abu Dhabi. The book and
narrative structure, just groupings. It was really
exhibition utilize collective memory, interview, inter-
during our first Skype call when Michele convinced
generational response and creative expression as a
me to work on the project, that I committed and
means of developing and growing a collection of
then Skype and email became the connective tissue
Emirati photographs and memory. Lest We Forget
of our collaboration over the next years.
grew out of a project in Michele’s class at Zayed
with the primary resource of their snapshots. They asked if they could explore their photographs
University, where students creatively explored
How did you decide on the design and form of
through the use of artistic language. That is why
photographs from their family albums.
the Lest We Forget book?
it’s an artist’s book. The book reveals information
SM: This book is a very unique object. The physical
through design—inspired by the interventions
Kurdistan In the Shadow of History was the book
object of the book, the aesthetics were expressed
that the students saw in Susan’s work. It consists
that brought Susan and Michele together in their
through every inch of how it was being conceived
of die cut circles, transparency overlays, employs
collaboration on Lest We Forget. Both books were
and created, both were tied to the shared values
penmanship and type, etc.—all stemming from
made by American women who were living and
we discovered we had.
their research process and a desire to engage the
working across borders, in collaboration with the communities featured in the books.
The breakthrough happened when people began to recognize that a photograph from one Emirati family would be of interest to a fellow citizen, and how these personal memories are complimentary to the official history of the Emirates.
reader in interactive scrutiny of the photographs. MB: This speaks to collaboration. When I took
The book is filled with singular, personal snapshots
the students to the library they were not finding
and stories while it constitutes a collective narrative.
What brought the two of you together, and how
books that would tell them about the photographs.
Their study of family photographs also resulted in
did your collaboration on the book grow over
Grappling with a lack of secondary sources on the
the creation of multi-media works of art, which are
the past five years?
subject, I encouraged the students to work closely
exhibited along side the book.
The book comes in a box in reference to the practice of keeping photographs in boxes. The exposed stitching of the spine is integral to revealing our process of making the book. Like the labels of old photo albums, the book was typed on vintage typewriters from family homes.
How has collaboration informed this project?
when they start to flip through the 434 pages. It’s more about how the Emirates
SM: The premise of this project is collaboration, between Michele and myself, the
was experienced and captured by the Emirati people who took the photos for their
students and us, the students and their families, and the students and their peers.
own purposes over the course of the late 20th century.
Our collaboration was a process that unfolded over a long period of time. Michele and I come from very different backgrounds and experiences, and the richness
What were your big take away moments while mentoring students through
of the exchange, in some ways, is based in that. Our collaboration is an organic
the process of developing a collection and book of their own cultural heritage?
process; it evolved, but it was risky. People always want
SM: One of the first exchanges we had was about the object,
to know what it is going to be, what it is going to do,
the photograph as an artifact with borders, with tears and
how it’s going to function, and why we are investing in it?
with muted surfaces.
When you talk about community-based work, the deep
MB: We did not work with photographs as objects until we
value of the relationships you are building are important.
worked with Susan. It was a significant turning point when
In the case of Michele, it is the relationships she built
Susan suggested, “Let’s photograph the photographs and
with her students. Relationships are built on layers of
not scan them, so that the reader can discover the three
trust along with the shared belief that this will become
dimensionality of the photograph through a shadow, or an
something—and that takes a leap of faith.
Can you tell us about your experience creating a book
SM: This contributed to the students valuing the
of vernacular photography in the UAE?
photographs; the question is whether or not this translates
MB: This kind of investigation of vernacular photography
to the reader. I think the other big moment was when
had not been done before in the UAE, especially not
individuals realized that they were contributing to something
collaboratively, and not with the intended aim of building
that was going to be part of a collective project. That was
a collective memory and a seminal archive. For the book
a key moment.
to take shape there was a necessary slow process to undergo. The students involved needed to recognize what was important about the project for themselves and
MB: One other lesson that came out of this process is that students began to discover
ultimately for the nation. It was not until the contributors felt the value of the project
by looking through the lens of the camera what interested the photographers,
that it took off. The breakthrough happened when people began to recognize that a
in other words, what interested the people making the pictures, rather than the
photograph from one Emirati family would be of interest to a fellow citizen, and how
subjects that the photos capture. The example of pairing; they discovered there
these personal memories are complementary to the official history of the Emirates.
was a predilection for capturing compositions of twos. This is quite different than
It is not an encyclopedic look at the Emirates, which some people may think it is
subject matter categorization, like compiling baby, wedding or desert photos.
Ali Al Omaira and Ali Al Omaira, Abu Dhabi (1970) Courtesy Shamsa Ali Rasheed Naser Al Omaira
How is the book organized, and who made these decisions?
SM: The artistic response to what they found progressively led to the installations of
MB: It very much was a collaboration. Susan and I were both in the studio, but after we
the exhibition. It wasn’t that you just find the photograph, you place the photograph,
talked about making a visual narrative through association, we sat back, the student Raisa
you tell a story around the photograph. It’s inside this unfolding of history that is
stood up and started pacing around the table, dropping a few of the photographs into
shared collectively that you have an even more personalized reading. And so some
a sequence. The other students, without being invited by her, slowly stood up of their
of the projects that you see in the installations don’t actually translate back into the
own volition and put other photos in between; we were just watching them. It was very
book. I remember at one point I was surprised that none of them—I don’t think
interesting, almost like a dance in the way they were moving in and around each other.
any of them, after seeing a photograph of a relative, wanted to go out and make another photograph of that place or that person. That really surprised me, because
SM: Particularly because it was choreographed around tables that were all linked. We
so often you have a then/now approach. Instead what they did was work with the
kept adding tables as they included the images that they liked. In some ways it was
computer and Photoshop to blur faces to see different generations. The stitching
obvious that when they saw people holding their phones or standing in front of cars,
was a wonderful response to making something one’s own artistically.
there is a certain graphic connection. The thing that is interesting is that they were able to
MB: So they were using art as a tool for investigation more than anything else.
distinguish the really great pictures i.e. a particular man standing in front of a car was not just like every man standing in front of a car. So we saw them distinguishing or learning to
SM: Which is a completely different dimension that this project takes, and that to me
curate by making a comparative evaluation, by looking at the photographs themselves.
was exciting. That happened because they were young women in an arts program, and they wanted to make it something their own, not just a record of history. They
How did the student’s artistic responses to vernacular photographs become
wanted to make it something of their own.
a part of the book? MB: This idea of documenting their process was really important, and that grows
MB: I think that’s why people respond to this book and exhibition so well, because
as the project goes on.
it doesn’t feel like a heritage project, it feels like contemporary art and it shows how
Left to right: Photographing the photos for the book, Sequencing photographs for the book, Recording oral histories
the past is still relevant to this generation in authentic
is in this picture and what do you know?” And in many
the book, but with the book release, the collaborative
ways that one wouldn’t expect to see.
cases they didn’t know very much, and they had to go
process continues to evolve through community
back to their families and ask.
engagement and contribution to the collective memory
Can you talk about the role narrative plays in
of the UAE.
development of the book.
MB: And there is a third layer, looking at the photographs
SM: There are two layers of narrative going on here. One
to see the progression of time. The photographs
CS: The Lest We Forget book is a beautifully crafted,
is turning the pages and progressing through the book as
themselves speak to the history of photography, starting
interesting and culturally engaging document that raises
the reader, this takes you out of the headspace of being
with the early black and white and sepia images, and
important questions about art, cultural heritage and
the maker who is creating something, and challenges
ending up with the color photographs of the 1990’s.
collaboration. As Susan marveled during the interview,
the students to assume the position of being the reader
Photographic history comes through simultaneously
“This goes back to the idea of the author being privileged.
of the material they are making. This was a very key
with vernacular Emirati history, captured in the images
When I think about what is going on in the discussions in
moment, and kind of an exciting moment for them. It
shot over time.
art history today, the process of collaboration tends not
was then easier for them to start to eliminate what they
to be valued in the same way. There are some institutions
didn’t need, kind of like a path of stones between two
What is the relationship between the Lest We Forget
that value the curator as an identified author, yet very
points; how many do you need to get from here to there?
book and the corresponding exhibition?
often the curator is anonymous. This is an area that
And they started to have the sense of how to build the
MB: When we spread pages from the book across a large
begs more thought, not to mention arts practice that is
structure very intuitively.
table in the exhibition, visitors began to recognize people
community based, and its value or lack of appreciated
and places in the photographs, providing information
value.” Artistically speaking, I hope that this book will
The second narrative is of the photograph, not just what
about the photographs that we didn’t already have.
further the discourse on art and collaboration in cultural
is in the composition but what is outside of it, and what
That’s when collective memory—stemming from this
heritage documentation, while serving as an important
they add in. That was a second stage of recognition, and
collection—started to have real relevance and value for
reference for multi-generational meaning-making in
it actually began very early on. We asked them, “Who”
the larger community. Part of the story is the making of
present day collections development.
REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artists and Barjeel Art Foundation. Writer - Janet Bellotto, artist, educator and curator.
Negotiating Home: Resonating Displacement Two institutions shed light on universal themes of place through art The Aga Khan Museum (AKM) located in Toronto,
works by several artists that compel the viewer
the cow attempts to join the others and moves
is dedicated to presenting an overview of the
to contemplate stories of displacement. Sansour,
toward the path that could alleviate this lonely
contributions of Islamic art and Muslim civilizations.
Abidin and Nabil, having left their home origins,
situation. It is clear that the calculation requires
Through the values of pluralism, it is engaged
continue their practice in other world cities, and the
a leap of faith, but the cow charges and jumps
in cross-cultural dialogs through art, including
works resonate the challenges of their homeland.
to the other side, which unsuccessfully leads to
contemporary exhibitions and performances. In
its death. As the video continues to play on a
Sharjah, the Barjeel Art Foundation (BAF) holds
Based in London, Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour’s
loop of continued loss, it can remind the viewer of
a vast collection of modern and contemporary
Nation Estate, consisting of C-prints and video, is
the alienation caused by war through the simple
Middle Eastern and Arab art, and has a mission
widely known. The 9-minute video is divided into a
amputation of a bridge.
to build global partnerships with other cultural
sequence of floors in an imagined skyscraper, each
institutions. It is also clear that both institutions
representing a different location and the physical
Like the striking architecture that is sweeping with
actively engage their audience through diversity
divides in Palestinian terrains. A pregnant female
art and gardens at the AKM, Home Ground by
and highlighting the global importance art. Home
character leads viewers through the building where
far embraces a cultural bridge of understanding.
Ground: Contemporary Art from the Barjeel Art
the lobby contains familiar Palestinian landmarks.
Foundation is an exhibition organized by the two
With a futuristic look, she travels through the
Youssef Nabil, born in Cairo and now living in
institutions, which opened at the AKM Summer
different environments, that are stark in comparison
New York, creates a dialog between leaving one’s
2015, curated by Suheyla Takesh, curator and
to most living places. On the Mediterranean floor,
homeland and death, in his first film You Never Left
exhibitions manager of BAF.
the woman walks by what seems to be part of a
(2010). He maintains a quality found in his well-
shoreline captured in a room, with waves crashing
known nostalgic-like hand colored silver gelatin
Home Ground consists of a selection of 12 artists’
against a sanded boat. This still echoes a dark
prints. The narrative unfolds in a death and rebirth
work from the Barjeel Collection: Adel Abidin,
end that continues to be revealed by migrants
scenario, where at one point the character emerges
Asim Abu Shakra, Charbel-Joseph H. Boutros, Dia
in search of hope. In what is also captured in the
out into a luscious grove and palm trees. The film
Al Azzawi, Jawad Al Malhi, Khaled Jarrar, Larissa
photographic print, another floor has the artist
cycles through moments that reflect and tread
Sansour, Manal Al Dowayan, Mohammad-Saeed
watering an olive tree that has grown through the
ever so carefully on the difficulties of migration
Baalbaki, Mona Hatoum, Raafat Ishak and Youssef
tiled interior. In the background we can see the
and the potential prospect that the future in a new
Nabil. Place, identity, struggles and other universal
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, suggesting this
environment may bring. Moments in You Never Left
themes are represented in the range of works
moment of optimism for a future to return to a place
are reflective of a desire for being home bound,
that include photography, installation, sculpture
that is far from the sterile environment evoked.
and a hope ultimately of freedom.
Memorial, a video by Finnish-Iraqi artist Adel
Home Ground: Contemporary Art was on view
Founder Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi expresses
Abidin, opens with an industrial environment. A
at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, 25 July,
that the exhibition “…is an attempt to narrate,
place changed by urban development, a herd of
2015 to 3 January, 2016, and on view in 25
through art, the personal stories of the Arab world.”
cows graze on one side of a broken bridge, while
February to 1 September, 2016, at the Barjeel
Home Ground includes videos and photographic
another is far removed on the other side. Slowly
Art Foundation, Sharjah.
Youssef Nabil, You Never Left #I and #2v (Diptych left) (2010) Hand coloured silver gelatin prints Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line
Previous page: Larissa Sansour, Nation Estate – Mediterranean (2012) C-print, 75 x 150 cm Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi Adel Abidin, Memorial (2009) Three channel video installation. Duration – 00’02’56 min (loop) Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi
PREVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artists and galleries. Writer - Woodman Taylor, art historian and ethnomusicologist.
Art Dubai: Photography Premier art fair contributing to photography and new media As the premier art fair in the Middle East, Africa and
local gallery scene, and to support it. Art Dubai
South Asia, over the past decade Art Dubai and the
really stands out in terms of the huge diversity of its
galleries that exhibit at it have increasingly promoted
audience base—collectors and curators, plus artists,
the work of photographers and new media artists.
gallerists, critics and other arts professionals fly in
In an interview with Tribe magazine, Fair Director
from around the world for Art Dubai, and they’re
Antonia Carver affirms the growing importance of
joined by the local arts community, which just grows
photography and new media at Art Dubai .
and grows each year.
Has the role of photography changed at the
Art Dubai galleries exhibiting photographers and
fair over the past 10 years since Art Dubai’s
new media artists from the Arab World include:
founding? Absolutely—in line with other major fairs, and the
Galerie Brigitte Schenk
contemporary art world at large, photography has
from Cologne, Germany, which focuses on
been increasingly embraced as an art form—and
contemporary art and has been representing
we also see photographers that had been seen
Middle East, North Africa and South Asia artists
as documentarians or reporters also having an art
since 1999. Will exhibit work by photographers
practice alongside their investigative work. This
Tarek Al-Ghoussein and Halim Al Karim.
Photography has been increasingly embraced as an art form—and we also see photographers that had been seen as documentarians or reporters also having an art practice alongside their investigative work
year we have a photography gallery participating
in the fair for the first time—East Wing, from Dubai/
As a Kuwaiti of Palestinian origin, much of Tarek
Doha—while many of our regular participating
Al-Ghoussein’s work deals with how his identity is
yet their contribution and even their presence is
galleries are showing photography, whether by
shaped in a context of inaccessibility and loss. Most
rarely publically acknowledged or ever pictured.
artists working solely in the medium or by artists
of his work explores the boundaries between
Here Al-Ghoussein captures what remains after their
that have photography as part of a multi-media
landscape photography, self-portraiture and
presence is erased.
practice. The renown of artists working in video in
performance art. At Art Dubai Galerie Brigitte
this region, particularly the Beirut school, has also
Schenk will highlight photographs from
In Halim Al-Karim’s Dust 6, water and dust interrupt
helped push photography and film in general.
Al-Ghoussein’s new Windows on Work series which
the surface of Karim’s iconic frontal image. This
through a view into the front windshield of empty
seems to be a haunting reference to his horrific
Have the sales been an indicator of what is to
workers’ buses capture the personal effects, from
experience during the first Gulf War, when in the
come? Many young collectors find photography
prayer rugs to tissue boxes, that are visual markers
military force opposing Saddam’s army he hid in
more accessible than other media while some of
of immigrant drivers’ absent presence. In his artistic
the desert, living for nearly three years inside a hole
our collectors specialize entirely in photography.
move, rather than including himself within the frame,
that he had covered with rocks. In his photograph,
The team, together with the local galleries, has
Al-Ghoussein’s practice has shifted to examining
which seems to evoke this experience, water marks,
really worked hard to encourage collectors locally
traces of the many immigrants who spend years
appearing like tears descending from the eyes,
and regionally to get involved in the fair and the
of their lives building the utopian cities in the Gulf,
transforms the face into a crying icon.
Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Windows on Work, WW2610, WW0176 (2015â€“2016) 130 x 190 cm Digital Print Diasec Mount, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Brigitte Schenk
Kader Attia, the end and the beginning (2014) Two lightboxes, 96 x 120 x 15 cm Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Krinzinger
East Wing Gallery from Dubai is the first photography gallery to be included in Art
between two spaces, between these disparate places. Verdant farm countryside
Dubai. In her Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots series (reflecting a popular proverb
with overgrown concrete foundations laid out as a grid from France is contrasted
in the Levant, which means, “Tomorrow never comes,” or “In your dreams”), Tanya
with a palm tree village scape from Algeria, with a village well built up organically,
Habjouqa captures the deep sorrow yet continuing hope of women left in the most
with rounded stone courses. At the well are the remains of the traditional mud and
dire situations, often without husbands and loved ones, lost to the war in Syria or the
wood apparatus for sending a bucket down into the well, next to a modern metal
attractive lure of immigration.
hand pump painted bright blue. Here Attia juxtaposes the old tradition next to the new, this in an ancient oasis setting.
Yet, as with the apricots being held out by one such abandoned woman through her confines behind a curtain, there always remains a flicker of life, of hope or a cherished
Gallery One from Ramallah, established in 2014 to represent artists in Palestine and
memory. It is this poetics of Habjouqa’s photographs, the underlying and interwoven
abroad, will be exhibiting the photography of Bashar Alhroub. In Alhroub’s Toys 1 an
narratives she skillfully taps—of love, life, death and unhappiness—that make them
army of toy soldiers begin invading, taking over a polished globe, visually alluding to
ever more moving. These photographs were taken while on assignment for the UN
imperialist forces appropriating large areas of the world, both in the colonialist past
High Commission for Refugees.
and the neo-colonial present.
Galerie Krinzger from Vienna, Austria will be exhibiting Arab photographers Kadir Attia
Gallery GVCC from Casablanca, Morocco, which is a platform for women artists
and Abdulnasser Gharem. Kader Attia’s the end and the beginning will be on display
from the Maghreb, will be exhibiting artists Zoulikha Bouabdellah and Rita Alaoui.
during the art fair. In his dyptich, with two photographs mounted next to each other
Bouabdellah’s photocollages evoking views through geometric mashrabiyya screens
on lightboxes, Attia alludes to his own double identity, having been born in France
and Alaoui’s still-life photography of a dried bouquet of roses next to a weathered
but then growing up between France and Algeria, and his negotiating his identity
animal skull nuance narratives from the interiority of women’s secluded lives.
Bashar Alhroub, Toys 1 (2016) C-print on archival paper, 100 X 66.5 cm Courtesy Gallery One
Tanya Habjouqa, from the series Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots Courtesy of the artist and the East Wing Gallery
Hala, 19, playfully illustrates the proverb â€œtomorrow there will be apricots.â€? Divorced from her husband after only 25 days, she had been forced to marry her abusive cousin after her father was killed. She feels she is slowly dying inside the apartment, and her only release had been a laptop she used to write poetry and stay connected to Syria through Facebook.
Tanya Habjouqa, from the series Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots Courtesy of the artist and the East Wing Gallery
Um Mohamud, 35, had little room in her Peugeot as she fled Deraa with her five children after her fighter husband was killed. She paused and filmed a mobile video of her home in case she never saw it again. She took this wooden tray her husband had bought her on a trip to Beirut.
Halim Al Karim, Dust 6 (2014) Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Brigitte Schenk
THE THIRD LINE March 14 â€“ April 16, 2016 HASSAN HAJJAJ La Salle de Gym des Femmes Arabes
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Hassan Hajjaj, B.P.F.C., 2006, metallic lambda with wood sprayed black gloss frame, 96.2 x 137.7 cm
SARA NAIM When Heartstrings Collapse
Photography and New Media from the Arab world