Exhibit: Jewelled Tales of Libya

The exhibition Jewelled Tales of Libya, curated by Najlaa El-Ageli and Hala Ghellali, will take place at the Arab British Centre from 19 to 27 January 2017.

Jewelled Tales of Libya is a rare exhibition which will explore the diversity and historical identity of a country through its tradition of fine jewellery. By showcasing this rich cultural heritage, the exhibition aims to tell the stories behind the adornments and symbols that feature heavily throughout the geographical expanse that we know as Libya.

Alongside a display of 45 pieces of authentic Libyan silver jewellery from the 1920s to 1960s (comprising chokers, belts, headpieces, bangles, silver slippers amongst many other pieces), the exhibition will show 13 original vintage photographs, that belong to the curators’ private collections. Dating back to the early decades of the 20th Century, the images of Libyan women were taken by the Italian cameramen, (such as Aula, Nascia, Rimoldi and others),who established studios in Libya during the European colonisation and who contributed to the Orientalist strand of photography.

In contrast to this old collection, the exhibition will also feature more recent photographs taken by the talented Libyan photographer Sassi Harib, whose work captures the essence of Libya’s Southern women adorned in their jewellery.

Furthermore, Hala Ghellali, one of the curators, will be giving a talk about Libyan jewellery, its symbolism and the history of silver making in Libya on 24 Jan, 6:30pm – 7:30pm @ The Arab British Centre (admission is free).

Exhibition: Diana Matar’s Photography

An exhibition of photography by Diana Matar will be at Purdy Hicks Gallery (65 Hopton St, London SE1 9GZ) from 13th May till June 6th.

From the gallery website: Purdy Hicks is pleased to present their first solo exhibition by Diana Matar. Photographs from four series of works, mostly photographed in Egypt and Libya, will be shown in the exhibition: Evidence, Disappearance, Witness and Still Far Away.

Diana Matar’s work is concerned with memory. Often spending years on a theme, she attempts to capture the invisible traces of human history. Specifically she is concerned with power and violence and the question of what role aesthetics might play in their depiction. Her photographs are conscious of the past and are the result of a rigorous enquiry into the possibility that a contemporary image might contain memory. Time is an integral element in the making of her work, both in the sense that her photographs are often taken at night, where film is subjected to long exposure times, but also in the sense that her work arises from a cultivated patience that is attentive to the resonance of a particular place.

Works from Still Far Away have never been exhibited before. The colour landscapes focus on post revolutionary Libya and the silent resonance of its dictatorial and colonial past. Disappearance is a work that uses the enforced disappearance of the artist’s father-in-law as an anchor. Jaballa Matar, a Libyan political dissident, was kidnapped in 1990 and not seen by his family again. For six years, Diana Matar scanned through places—first in Egypt and Italy, where anti-Gaddafi dissidents were active, and later in Libya after the revolution – in search of traces of her father-in-law. Though her work is about Jaballa Matar, he is nowhere to be found in any of the photographs. The series is a sustained enquiry into how photography might convey the absence of a person no longer with us. For Evidence Matar systematically photographed architectural spaces used by the regime to disappear people over a period of 42 years. She has said their existence stands in as a kind of imperfect evidence to the events that went undocumented by the regime. In Witness Matar explores specific sites in Rome where the regime attacked dissidents living abroad. These four bodies of work explore the depths with which the regime affected society and intimate family life and they query the role photography might play in focusing on events often hidden from history.

Matar writes, ‘What ties my work together is its relation to history – if I photograph a building I am not interested in its structure, but what happened inside. If I make an image of a tree I am concerned not by the form of its roots or length of its trunk, but by what it has witnessed over the course of its life. When I take a portrait of a person I don’t care about what they look like, what fascinates me is what they have experienced in the past.’

Diana Matar is an artist working with photography, testimony, and archive. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Matar has been the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award for Fine Art, the International Fund for Documentary Photography Award, and Arts Council of England Individual Artist Grant. A major installation of her work Evidence was shown in the major exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern travelling to Museum Folkswang Essen; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2014 – 2015. Her first monograph, Evidence, was published in November 2014 by Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam and chosen by New York Times Photography Critic Teju Cole as best book of the year. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Santa Barbara Museum, Santa Barbara and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Exhibition: Birthmark Theory (London)

The Libyan-Canadian artist Arwa Abouon will show her latest exhibition “Birthmark Theory” in London from October 20 until November 7, 2015 at the London Print Studio, with the support of Noon Arts.

‘I’m Sorry’ (half of diptych, 2012) http://arwaabouon.com

“Birthmark Theory will be a retrospective exhibition for a London-based audience on Abouon’s work going back over ten years, highlighting some of her most iconic and award-winning pieces to date. The 33 year-old’s unique approach has always been to use the motifs and symbols from her Islamic background and to juxtapose them with her Western-Canadian credentials. She creates pieces that reflect on what defines identity when one belongs to two different cultures. At the same time, she subverts any prejudices that may be held by outsiders regarding the same. Courageously employing herself and her family members as art models, her poetic diptychs and installations express and illustrate the possibilities of reconciling what might seem to be at odds influences, of a liberal versus conservative environment and also as to her being a woman. But in the process of introspection and the act of creation, she finds a happy individual medium to celebrate the colourful mix rather than this becoming a source of struggle or conflict.”

‘Al Matar Rahma’ (2006) http://arwaabouon.com

Abouon’s own description of the retrospective (from her website):

The subject of human biology within Islamic tradition describes the fetus receiving its soul and prewritten destiny within the mother’s womb on the 120th day of growth. This show represents a timeline of the body of work I was meant to create and grow with. Either a short or long spanned life, it is my birthright to live through it with all its lessons. We must remember our lives are uncertain, each evening we sleep and the morning after we awake, we thank Him for an opportunity to make it better once more.

 The following is a supplication, which we must recite when we wake in the morning: ‘All praise is for Allah who gave us life after having taken it from us and unto Him is the Resurrection.’ / ‘Alhamdu lillahil-ladhi ‘ahyana ba’da ma ‘amatana wa’ilayhin-nushur.’

 I title this show ‘Birthmark Theory’, because, through all my downfalls and accomplishments are important markers such as emotional scars to ‘wrinkles that indicate where smiles have been’. I must represent Him in this life and for me, these marks are but coordinates to the map which journeys me back to Him.

The Melting Pots: an exhibition of Libyan Art

NOON_Arts-the_melting_pots-FlyerNoon Arts, a collective of Libyan artists, will present an exhibition from July 14–23, 2015 at the Arab British Centre in London.

The Melting Pots “will showcase a mix of artwork that considers the open concept of a city in relation to both Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya. It will present the subjective interpretations of each artist as he or she depicts a deep relationship with either one of these two ancient metropolises.” The exhibition flyer continues:

With colorful paintings, intelligent photography and questioning installation art, every piece is a form of creative contemplation upon the history, the present and the future of these sister capitals as well as the realization that neither one can be easily defined. Both have gone through difficult phases and both have proved to be equally defiant, strong, resilient, embracing, deceitful, chaotic, glorious, alluring, haggard, tired, old and frail. And much more than that…

Despite all the odds both of these cities are still standing today and have become major works in progress that prove to be precious to the artists involved in this exhibition. Finally taking into account the recent witnessing of the oppression that lasted 42 years, these two dear Libyan melting pots – one that graces the West and the other that graces the East – will continue to simmer for many more years and decades to come.

The artists whose work will be in the exhibition are:

  • Najla Shawket Fitouri
  • Hadia Gana
  • Ibrahim Tawati
  • Adam Styp-Rekowski
  • Nawal Gebreel
  • Muftah Abudajaja
  • Hasan Dhaimish

Support Libyan art and artists and go see the exhibition if you’re in London! Here’s another image from the Arab British Centre’s website: