Saturday, 17 November 2012

Arab Women’s Art

A decade has passed since the first major touring exhibition of contemporary Arab women’s art took place in Britain, curated by Siumee Helen Keelan and accompanied by the publication entitled Contemporary Arab Women’s Art: Dialogues of the PresentFocusing predominately on work produced in the 1990s, it foregrounded the rich and diverse creative practices of five generations of Arab women artists working and living in the vastly different geographies of the Middle East, North Africa, and the diaspora of London.
In total, the exhibition included the work of 18 artists from Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 
All of the artists discussed here relocated to London between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s — some as the result of voluntary or involuntary exile and others for professional reasons. The three generations extend from the painter Laila Shawa (born in 1940 under the British Mandate in Gaza) who trained in Cairo and Rome and the artist and singer Houria Niati (born 1948 in French-occupied Algeria) who moved to London in 1977, to the younger artists Jananne Al-Ani (born 1966 in Iraq) and Zineb Sedira (born 1963 in Paris), who both trained in London in the 1990s.
For instance, Laila Shawa’s large-scale silkscreen prints Children of Peace and Children of War from the Walls of Gaza series, initiated in 1992, are powerful images that foreground the far-reaching effects of war on generations of Palestinian children. Using the media-generated visual language associated with American pop art, the repeated silk-screened image of the young boy on the gaudy colored surface presents an endless cycle of victim and aggressor. In the background are Shawa’s photographs taken over several years of the graffiti appearing on the walls of Gaza — a differently- positioned form of communication.

Fran lloyd

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