REVIEW Images - Courtesy of the artists. Writer - Gabrielle Officer, visual arts writer.
Vantage: Layers of Meaning Art and Spirituality
‘What defines us as Muslim women?’ Stephanie Ravel,
in a new light. She evokes the multiple symbols in
a French photographer who converted to Islam asked
religion; symbols whose meaning, by their familiarity
She evokes one essential question surrounding faith: “should we have our own faith imposed upon us or should we interpret it ourselves?
this question to a group of artists. From this starting
to us, can become distorted.
them to question whether the threads of knowledge
In the exhibition Vantage, seven Bahrain-based female
and lightness. It is an intimate portrayal in which art
artists share their unique perspective on the common
and ritual meet.
theme, which is their Muslim faith, and how this relates to their identity as artists. The exhibition, a feature of
Ghada Khunji depicts light as an essential feature,
the 2015 Bahrain Spring of Culture Programme at the
the origin of all religion and art. She touches on
Al Riwaq Gallery, is an exploration of the relationship
the realities of coming back to her homeland
between art and spirituality.
after spending time abroad, having gathered new experiences which doubtlessly present a familiar place
point, a journey exploring the multiple facets of faith
are being woven in a way which is pleasing to Allah.
began. The group of participants—Ghada Khunji, Hala
In the black and white photomontage Echo, Mariam
Yateem, Mariam Al-Arab, Stephanie Ravel, Somaya
Al-Arab’s depiction of mosques at an angle that
The focus of the installation In Prayer by Tamara Saleh
Abdulghani, Tamara S. Al-Pachachi and Waheeda
emphasises their grandeur illustrates multiple driving
Al-Pachachi is on the niyyah (intention), as the energy
Malullah—includes both established and emerging
forces within the Islamic community. The “echo”
in the spiritual act of prayer which is seen as a direct
artists from different walks of life. Renowned Arab
produced by these often overlapping voices may
link to God and the universe. She calls for positive
artist Camille Zakharia and Bayan Al Barak Kanoo,
hinder one from hearing their own inner voice. She
and sincere intentions by photographing the hands of
owner of the Al Riwaq Art Space, both gave their
evokes one essential question surrounding faith:
several Muslims as they recite a du’a (prayer).
valuable insights about the artists’ work. The range of
“Should we have our own faith imposed upon us or
different angles expressed on the subject is apparent
should we interpret it ourselves?”
in the manifold of media displayed—photomontage, collage, mixed media and audio. While the pieces in
In her photomontage, Hala Yateem examines the
uniformly painted in white, to draw a parallel between
the exhibition can speak universally and feature some
meaning of jihad as the Mujahadat al Nafs (struggle
the materialistic value of currency and the status of the
common themes, they are also deeply personal, as
with the self) by using images of prayer to create a light
woman in the Arab and Muslim world. The creative
expressions of the artists’ inner worlds. How the theme
and bright geometric figure, a stark contrast to the
process which surrounded Vantage was a journey
resonates most strongly to them is a result of where
conventional dark interpretation of jihad perpetrated
in itself: from the process of introspection to the
they stand in their religious, artistic and life journey.
by the media in current times.
exchange of different ideas came the artists’ common
From their unique vantage points, each photographer provides an answer to the question.
In Personal Status, Waheeda Malullah utilises the imagery on coins of various monetary value, all
understanding that each is seeking different answers The neutral tones and interlacing of different materials
through religion. Vantage was an opportunity for the
in Sumaya Abdulghani’s piece create an organic feeling
artists to pause and reflect on their identity as Muslim
In the set of three artworks called i-Islam, Stephanie
which mirrors a simplicity found in nature. Read, the first
women as well as artists. The artwork produced acts
Ravel presents a self-documentation of her discovery
word revealed in the Holy Quran, is also the intention of
as a kind of mirror to the viewer, who in turn is invited
of the faith, from initial struggles to a sense of ease
the artist, who wishes to educate the viewer, and invite
to question him or herself.
Photography and New Media from the Arab world