Bahrain Artists in Birmingham @ulafaa

I dropped by the IPS ( International Production Space in Birmingham School of Art)  that flowed from pieces from Bahrain Artists presented by the Bahrain based Ulafaa Initiative in the foyer.  It is a rewarding show with insights into how young artists are making their voices seen and heard locally and internationally.  I asked the curator Tamadher AlFahal about the show’s origins and she invited me to the talk she was presenting (as part of her PHD) that evening and an open invite to a further panel discussion about the cultural production of the Arab Gulf that is happening on the 19th @ 5pm in the IPS :’AS NOTED/UNNOTICED’ a part of “I AM KHALEEJI”; a series of events and happenings that offers prelude to the contemporary art scene of the Arab Gulf.

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free Hugs campaign
slow down female walking
three prints
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From the discussions  it is clear the art scene “within the Arab Gulf (or GCC) has been through a state of flux. Typically exposed to Western audiences, and the greater art world, as a strongly diluted stereotypical image of the Middle East. The Arab Gulf’s distinctive art identity remains undervalued.

This project addresses the misconceptions of the contemporary art scene in the Gulf, it offers an alternative view that is diverse, unique and vernacular in attempt to understand its complexity and dynamics.  Specifically focusing on shedding light on the Gulf art scene as a distinctive voice within the Middle East. “

Issues of identity, religion, gender are clear in the work on show, but the range of video, photography, graphic and printed artworks are strong in their own right.  There are plays with sign posts (literally) and the two photographic/print based pieces – The rise of Maliha @ecstasybash and My Ghutra is Me @stefanistan deal directly with issues of personal image and identity in clever, creative and insightful ways.  ‘Maliha : a Name meaning having beauty, kindness and strength’ and ‘Ghutra’ the traditional male headress and as one of the subjects told the artist : ‘the eyes are the window on the soul, but first tell me how you wear your ghutra and I will tell you who you are……’ Both pieces are portrait based although the whole portrait is not shown in either works. 

@ecstasybash’ instagram bio is understated : “Photographer , Slightly Artistic, mildly photographic”.  Her website also provides further insight into the inspirations for The rise of Maliha.

The show is also referred to By the Book @ulafaa



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