Nahla Ink is always that little bit extra proud to feature a Libyan artist, this time from my home city of Tripoli, Mohamed Khalifa Al Kharrubi (born in 1974), with a huge big thanks to art curator Najlaa El-Ageli, of Noon Arts Projects.
El-Ageli first presented the artist in London as part of the collective exhibition ‘Retracing a Disappearing Landscape’ at P21 Gallery, which later travelled to Spain at the Casa Arabe in both Madrid and Cordoba. The show had explored the direct experience of and fascination with memory and personal history relating to modern day Libya.
Since I have been intrigued by Al Kharrubi’s distinct style of Arabic calligraphy with the detectable Sufi undertones in his brush movement and the reinterpretation of the Arabic alphabet with the deliberately chosen words and phrases, in which we almost feel his active meditation on the meaning and the spiritual power they hold.
Having grown up and studied in Tripoli, he most recently completed a Masters of Arts at the Libyan Academy of Postgraduate Studies. His work so far has been exhibited in Libya, and outside Libya, mainly through international art fairs in Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Austria, the UAE (Sharjah), Egypt (Cairo), Algeria, Spain, England and Italy.
I recently connected with Al Kharrubi and asked some brief questions so I could share with Nahla Ink readers a little bit more about his artistic practice. As we communicated in Arabic, below is a rough translation!
Nahla: Why Arabic calligraphy?
Al Kharrubi: I am inspired by calligraphy because it has an amazing expressive ability in the diversity of its forms, with its flexibility, sequence and overlap. It is an authentic component of my identity and affiliation.
Nahla: What words or phrases do you use and play with and why?
Al Kharrubi: Often (no) is present in my paintings, perhaps to signify the rejection of the prevailing and opposition to the familiar, but the (no) form remains what attracts me to its distinction.
Nahla: What art materials and techniques do you use?
Al Kharrubi: I tend towards an abstract style using all materials, acrylic, oil, and offset printing inks by virtue of my first specialization in the art of gravure printing (graphics). Currently I have nothing but my tools and my drawings, technically branching out to them only.
Nahla: Is Libya, as an idea, related to your work?
Al Kharrubi: Yes, but through Tripoli, it bears the fragrance of history and the present.
Nahla: Being based in Libya, what are your hopes for the future?
Al Kharrubi: To stabilize the country, so that art can flourish and keep pace with the times.
Nahla: What do you most care about in life?
Al Kharrubi: Reconciliation with oneself.
Nahla: Give me five words that matter to you.
Al Kharrubi: Freedom then freedom, justice, art and knowledge.
Nahla: Do you have a message to relay through your work?
Al Kharrubi: My message in general is that everyone finds his passion, to define his goal and strive for it with all seriousness. Art itself is a personal message. Above all I try to express myself through it. I do not seek to change the world through art because it is not an educational tool but an aesthetic value.
Nahla: Is there anything you would like to share with an international audience?
Al Kharrubi: I paint if I exist, access to the whole world has become available and easy thanks to technology. We only have to master what we do and do what we love, and the world will see us as we are.
I am so excited to end the year by featuring the French-Moroccan street artist, COMBO. Highlighting his exhibition ‘Our Home’, that is currently on show at the Sulger-Buel Gallery in SE1, it is a treat to have this visual artist hosted in London and for a rare indoor display of his work, open to the public until 7 January, 2022.
COMBO, aka Combo Culture Kidnapper, was born in 1989 in Amiens, France to a Lebanese-Christian father and a Moroccan-Muslim mother. With North African and Middle Eastern roots mixed with a European consciousness, it gives him an unusual perspective reflected in the intricacies of his pieces and underlying messages.
Having graduated from Villa Arson in Nice, he began with graffiti across the French Riviera, spending some years experimenting with spray paint. After a short stint working as an artistic director for advertising agencies in Paris, by 2012 he decided to return and dedicate himself to street art, wherein his signature style, beginning to use wheat paste, imports and recycles popular cultural icons, urban myths, comics, cartoons, video games, paintings and photography.
Expressing a humanistic ethos, COMBO’s projects have been in parallel with significant travels around the world in which he chooses to engage as an artist. For example, in 2012, he infiltrated the forbidden area of Chernobyl to post advertising posters denouncing nuclear energy in relation with the anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima Plant. He also posted, in 2013, Google pages in Hong Kong that had been banned by the communist party, including for the arrest of artist Ai Weiwei. Later in Beirut, Lebanon he posted ‘Less Hamas, More Hummus’; and, at the start of 2017, he parodied posters of the candidates for the French presidential election by posting electoral billboards.
Using the wheat paste method to help create and then move his artwork onto street walls, his most famous graffiti was the ‘CoeXist’ project in which he campaigned in France for religious tolerance by a visual text incorporating the signs of the three Abrahamic faiths: a Muslim crescent (for the letter c), a star of David for the X and a Christian cross for the T. In fact, he was attacked whilst painting the wall at Porte Dorée near Paris as part of this work.
Whether referencing current events or tackling controversial themes, COMBO is a master at ‘kidnapping’ cultural motifs that have historical or contemporary significance and then manipulating them in such a way that encourages or provokes one to think about underlying concepts, such as: freedom, civil liberties, capitalism, consumerism, religion and extremist politics. Advocating peace, harmony and diversity, COMBO has said: “My pieces work in a disruptive way, they surprise. They are where they shouldn’t be.”
With a pop-art sense of humour and some cynicism, COMBO also acts as a public commentator who enjoys his hybrid-mixed identity. In particular, he likes to push forward the ‘maghrebisation’ of certain Western consumerist objects by adding Arabic details to them. In doing so, he invites a critical interplay between Western and non-Western culture, although denouncing any superiority of one over the other. Rather, he demonstrates the added value of such globally recognised items when they are adopted by the Arab market and how they come to be adapted or altered for different local use.
In his current exhibition ‘Our home / دارنا ‘ – his first one in a London gallery – he has put together an installation that invites one into his imagined abode. As described by Najlaa El-Ageli, who curated the show: “The interactive installation works by recreating the intimate domestic space of a Moroccan sitting room and how it may be fantasized by the orientalist gaze, thus inviting the participant to discuss and investigate the evolution of the relationship between two complex cultural entities, using art as a space of a new narrative and perspective.”
On the walls of the gallery that has become his imaginary living room, COMBO has recreated some of his mural works from the past to the present and placed them in a way that they also reference his personal family story. He has also added a dining table on top of which are Moroccan ceramic items next to European and American popular consumer products, like Kellogg’s Frosties and Heinz Baked Beans, showing the interconnected realities as they sit innocently side by side.
And there is a lot more to discover in the mix of objects that are on the shelves, including the Moroccan fez designed by the artist with the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club logo and the beer bottles styled with tassels for fun! I highly recommend a visit before the exhibition ends.
Biography, some text and images courtesy of the Sulger-Buel Gallery.
Nahla Ink is so happy to feature the works of Alia Derouiche Cherif for the duration of the Autumn Season 2021. It has been a privilege to get to know the artist online and see her pieces digitally. The happy timing coincides with Cherif’s latest solo show at the Musk & Amber Gallery in the capital city of Tunis under the theme of ‘Tarab’, running from 14 October to 4 November, 2021.
Born and brought up in Tunisia, the 52-year-old versatile creative has several specialties under her belt, including: a Masters in Interior Design, a Masters in Sociology of Art and Doctorate in Science Techniques in the Arts (1997) from the Technological Institute of Art, Architecture and Urbanism of Tunis (ITAAUT). As a Professor of Fashion Design, she has been teaching at a training state college in the northern suburbs of Tunis for the past twenty years. She tells me this college is just a three-minute walk from the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Already exhibited widely in her home country, she even caused controversy at the Bardo National Museum back in 2019 when the Minister of Culture intervened to back and support her work to the surprise of the then Director who wanted to censor it! The image above was taken of the artist at the Bardo with the artwork in question behind her. It had led to the uproar because the text on it says: “The government does not like love”!
When it comes to her artwork, I was firstly drawn to Cherif’s project in relation to the depiction of Middle Eastern and North African women as found on old Colonial postcards. Originally taken by the colonisers during a certain time and age – when the art of Western photography was just blossoming and being experimented with – the shots portray the female subjects in a certain exoticized, romanticized and even fetishised way. A big question mark remains over how these individual women agreed to be pictured or how they were coerced into taking part.
So Cherif took the photographic images she found of these women and gave them a new aesthetic, a fresh interpretation and a current dimension, so that the male Orientalist gaze of the photographer is interrupted and replaced by that of an Arab woman fully in possession of her identity, gender and core human being.
There is, of course, extensive analysis regarding these Colonial photographs, the cameramen behind them and the general treatment of the indigenous populations; as well as the fact that these images are still in popular circulation today, mainly through the purchase and exchange of postcards by avid collectors and others interested in their historical value. Still for others, these images are proof of the arrogant Colonialist and his abuse, that again pertains to much academic debate and robust discussion.
About the postcards’ project, Cherif has said: “I always wanted to explore personal themes and the original idea was to do something creative with photos of my grandmother, but somehow it felt too close to heart and mind and I was blocked! So I looked for her beauty in other women as I found them in the photographs of a similar time.”
In particular, Cherif researched the works of the French-Swiss photographer Jean Geiser (1848-1923), the photos developed by the Lehnert & Landrock Studio as well as those taken by Nathan Boumendi, who were all active in North Africa, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, roughly between the late 1850s to the late 1940s.
She said: “I was led to a new reading of these Orientalist portraits and began to make my version of the old postcards, blended with my memories and with a wink to the contemporary art sphere, so far removed from the universe of these women. I wanted to give the anonymous faces, who used to be photographed without informed consent, a new life that would allow them to proudly identify and become the beloved queens and shining icons that they truly are, whom I also cover with gold. Naming these women too who have no name is to revive them!”
Based on photomontages printed on paper or canvas, Cherif usually employs a mixed technique with acrylics, felt pens, inks, watercolours, pencils and gold leaf for her paintings. Her dual training as an interior designer and stylist also allows her to incorporate draped zelliges, the colourful handcrafted clay tiles best known for their Moorish geometric patterns and found throughout North Africa. Added to this is use of Arabic calligraphy, that usually denotes words of love, though other times the words have no meaning, they just stand for the beauty of the letters as they flow.
Cherif’s paintings are continuously evolving and her latest project ‘Tarab’ is truly to die for, as her figures embody heady feminine power and beauty with the light, the gold and shades of blue. In this she still draws upon her personal memories and reaches out to the collective female psyche, incorporating her Arab Islamic inheritance, as well as the local North African culture with its ornaments and motifs.
She explained to Nahla Ink: “The Tarab in Arabic means an aesthetic emotion of great intensity, an ecstasy caused by a dance, or to vocal and instrumental music. I wanted to find this emotion in my paintings, with the mix of some of the old work and current references. I also want to create the sense that space and time do not exist with the zelliges, as they remain the same from centuries ago, and finally there is a nod to celebrating love itself!”
Looking forward, Cherif is scheduled to take part in two exhibitions in 2022, one in Paris, France and the other in London, UK. In Tunisia, her work has been shown at the Bardo National Museum (Tunis), Alain Nadaud Gallery (Gammarth, Tunis), the Musk & Amber Gallery (Tunis), Elbirou Gallery (Sousse) and the Efesto Salon des Artistes (La Marsa).
This month I am extremely pleased to feature the Tunisian-Jordanian architect and visual artist Sondos Abdelmalak on Nahla Ink and share some of her pieces. Unusual her work most certainly is, but it has such an allure; that once viewed, it remains in your imagination for an unexpected while and with the yearning to see more. Also rare is the fact you can appreciate her work from different angles just the same, whether turned up or sideways!
I first became aware of Abdelmalak’s art last December through an article in the Arab press (http://www.https://alarab.co.uk) shared via Facebook, when I reached out to her and she responded positively. More recently, she also kindly invited me to the London Art Biennale 2021, held at Chelsea Old Town Hall in Kensington, when one of her paintings was exhibited.
Primarily qualified as an architect, Abdelmalak graduated from the National School of Architecture & Urbanism of Tunis in 2010. Currently living with her family in Vienna, Austria and working as such; for Abdelmalak, the art is a more recent development, having become a refuge away from stress and worries in the last few years.
In her own words, Abdelmalak offered: “Painting is my way to be free as a woman and as a human being. I run from the constraints and difficulties I face daily in my profession as an architect, in my life as a woman, wife and mother; to the white canvas, my white papers, my colours, my books and my music. My studio becomes my sanctuary.
“Due to my multiple moving during the last ten years, I have had the chance to live, to work, to paint and to exhibit my artworks in many countries, including: Tunisia, Jordan, The Netherlands, Malaysia, Austria, Italy, The UK, Sweden and India.
“Through my pieces, I try to translate women’s inner worlds and the experience of motherhood, as well as my emotions and dreams. My artistic practice is marked by experimentation; the experimentation in techniques, media, styles and subjects.”
For example, about her piece titled ‘Shaken Reflection’, Abdelmalak said: “She looks into the water… she sees her reflection. She sees what she thinks of herself, a reflection of her thoughts, never her real self. But what and how is her real self? She shakes the reflection and her thoughts with it. Maybe she will find her truest self in the moving and disturbed water.”
In the ‘Mother of Two’, the artist again challenges the idea of what it means to be a mother (usually associated with prosperity, joy, love and unconditional giving) and to integrate that with the reality of daily hard work, an exhausted soul and body, and sense of burden. Therein lies the struggle, how to maintain the balance between being a woman and being a mother.
Above all about her work, she said: “When I paint, I empty myself from myself. I paint my fears, worries, sadness and my dreams … When I paint, I draw the unseen, the thin lines I feel in the ordinary details of every day life.”
This August brings a tribute exhibition featuring the works of the late Libyan satirist and human rights activist Hasan ‘Alsatoor’ Dhaimish (1955-2016). Titled as ‘Resistance, Rebellion & Revolution’, it shows his prolific output of over 5,000 satirical cartoons spanning four decades, as well as a great selection of his paintings, at the Hoxton 253 venue in the N1 London postcode.
Passionately curated by his children, Sherif and Hanna Dhaimish, they are honouring his loving memory since his passing in 2016 at the age of 61, by sharing his life story through his various bodies of artwork, while also expanding on his personal journey as an exiled Libyan in the UK. Earlier this year also they launched a website where visitors can access the vast catalogue of his output, a biography and more.
His son, Sherif, had the following to say about the exhibition: “The hardest part of this project has been choosing what not to show. My dad was a multifaceted artist. Those familiar with his satirical work often didn’t know about the artworks he produced outside of the political arena; and many of those who knew him here in England had no idea of the reception his cartoons were getting across the globe, particularly when he started his own website. This exhibition is a celebration of his life and the works he created. He was a special man, and his story deserves to be told”.
Hasan had left Benghazi, Libya in 1975 at the age of 19. He settled in Burnley, Lancashire and soon started publishing his critical cartoons in magazines. Hasan’s satire gained popularity in the early 1980s when he began publishing cartoons for oppositional magazines such as Jihad, which was produced in London by Mahmood Suleiman Maghribi.
It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium, however, that Hasan adopted the pseudonym ‘Alsatoor’ (the Cleaver) and started gaining momentum with his satire thanks to the internet. A decade in education and a new career as an A-Level graphics teacher in Lancashire gifted him with a new range of creative skills, allowing his satire to grow with the digital age. Before beginning his own blog, he produced works for popular oppositional websites like Libya Watonona and Libya Mostakbal.
The Hoxton 253 show will have a dedicated display of his satire through the ages – from original magazines, to digital murals criticising Gaddafi and his regime, right through to his working during the 2011 Libyan Revolution and its aftermath, when Alsatoor was at his zenith. Hasan saw Alsatoor’s role as exposing corruption and voicing what he perceived to be the truth, no matter how harsh that might be. He understood and respected the power of ridicule, which is evident in the thousands of works he produced over time.
Coinciding with the satire is a series of paintings he produced outside of the political realm. During the 1990s, Hasan was on the path of artistic exploration and education. He began creating works that used afro-American culture as the subject. From an earlier age, Hasan’s musical taste came from rock n roll, motown in the 1960s, disco and funk in the 1970s, as well as reggae and dub.
However, it wasn’t until his discovery of jazz and Delta blues that the works began to influence his art. As Hasan joined college and then university as a mature student, he unshackled himself from the caricature, and began to use art as an expression from within as well as a political tool.
Hasan once stated: “During my fight against Gaddafi as Alsatoor in the 2000s, I found myself spending long periods working alone. I used to listen to jazz and classical music. The two were my companions on the long British winter nights while sitting in front of the screen. I liked jazz and blues music, it affected my artistic career.
“I loved it due to its melodies, its vitality, and the conditions in which it appeared. The suffering of black people in America at the beginning of the nineteenth century from slavery and racism was a reason behind creating this type of music. I felt a commonality in the suffering and persecution, which made me love it more, and I expressed that in a group of paintings and drawings.”
As part of the efforts to keep their father’s artwork alive and in circulation, Sherif has also published an accompanying limited edition art book that is available to pre-order at all bookstores. It is titled ‘Hasan ‘Alsatoor’ Dhaimish – A Libyan Artist in Exile’ (Pendle Press, 2021).
The exhibition launches on the 18th August with an opening night and will run for the next ten days.
After a short break from the Artist of the Month feature, Nahla Ink is back this June with a new creative whom I am super pleased to introduce to my readers and followers.
Palestinian artist Zaid Ayasa and I got in touch back in October 2020, when I discovered his art page on Facebook. I was taken aback then by his dynamic visual artwork as it approached the Palestinian story; and, its recurring themes of home, belonging to the soil, displacement, desire for peace as well as the right of return.
Using keys as a symbol and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem as the iconic backdrop, his pieces treasure all that is personal to the Palestinian, his verdant land and its fruits, for example, and the indomitable human spirit that has endured so much for so long.
Now that the world had to witness yet another threatened-forced eviction of Palestinians (families living in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem) and the horrible events that unfolded since, including at the Al Aqsa Mosque and attacks on Gaza, it is more relevant than ever to keep attention on local developments there and ensure we take the humanitarian stand by calling out this apartheid regime and join calls for positive change.
Zaid Ayasa was born in Nablus, Palestine in 1984 and grew up in Jenin. He is now living and working between Jenin and Ramallah. His artistic education saw him graduate with a BA in Fine Arts & Interior Design from Al-Najah National University, Nablus in 2008.
Utilising a variety of mediums, Ayasa’s techniques and materials include digital and free hand drawing, sketching and painting. Many of his digital projects were necessary as choices have been dictated to by the worsening economic situation and the high cost for materials and artistic tools, such as brushes, colours, oil and acrylic on large canvases.
His passion for art however has no limits, open to all forms and dimensions. He has said: “Art preserves my soul from coarseness. It moves me slowly but surely, almost invisibly, yet radically onward and upward. Its fuel feeds the fires within me and allows me to experience and express passion and inspiration. To me, it is an endless opportunity of moments and connections with inspired meanings.”
Ayasa is also a professional musician who plays the darbuka, aka a goblet drum. He is fascinated by rhythmic multiculturalism and diversity, with a specific passion for traditional folk and indigenous music.
Describing his love for music and movement, he’s said: “As such, rhythm is my addiction. I hear and watch all vibrations and hues of sound emanating around me. Drumming is like a primal, more guttural, unarticulated call that rises up in me an unleashed yet healthy expression, as well as the desire to unravel, to play, to fly, to pray.” He has performed in many shows in Palestine, Jordan, the UAE and Italy.
Currently Ayasa is working as a freelance graphic and branding designer, with a focus on advertising and branding campaigns. This professional niche has seen him twork in the UAE, as well as in Palestine, Jordan, Romania, Italy and the UAE.
He is also involved with projects that open up dialogue and discussion concerning the Palestinian reality of land and peace issues. His focus is on the human being, the daily details of worries and dreams, frustrations and joys, life in general as well as the personal.
Through his art, Ayasa attempts to highlight the interactions and constant negotiations for the Palestinians; with the miseries, the nonsense, the siege, blockade, the apartheid wall, the roadblocks, the tragedies, the calamities, the racism, the right to land and property, private space, and peace.
Revolving around types and forms of artistic resistance, heritage and clothing, Ayasa has contributed to the Palestinian Cities and Women Project, and the Man of Jerusalem Project. Always he asks the existential ‘why’ of the wars and the dead. Why the occupation, the violence and lying? Isn’t life too short and none of us are immortal? Is it possible to live in peace?
He’s said: “I regret not having been too active with regards to exhibitions and shows. The art scene in Palestine is suffering from the daily miseries of the occupation, poor economic conditions, lack of time, all coupled with the lack of interest on the side of the Palestinian Authority to showcase artists and provide them with institutional support.”
Ayasa has exhibited in Palestine, Italy and the UAE.
This artist’s desire is to be in a large open space where he can offload the lines, ideas, and themes that linger in his mind and soul, to rendezvous with his many selves on a short trip and sit down and talk about a better future under a blue sky and warm sun. Looking forward, he wants to secure a scholarship for postgraduate studies in art.
Marking the beginning of the New Year 2021, Nahla Ink is super glad to bring the works of the Algerian artist Yazid Kheloufi. He and I connected on Facebook and I fell in love with his work straight away; the poetry, the spirituality, the elegance and profound contemplation of the sacred as well as the reverence for the Arabic alphabet.
A versatile artist, his work includes etchings on clay, ceramic sculpture, paintings, installation, graphic design and photography.
Biography (Courtesy of the Artist)
Yazid Kheloufi is an artist originally from the region of Maghnia (Wilaya of Tlemcen) in Algeria, where he was anchored from an early age in a land steeped in history and mystical practices; these are the traces of a multi-faceted heritage, which can be found in his works, as he draws upon his roots to extract the beautiful, linking a great spiritual tradition to a culture enriched from various sources.
His work as a contemporary plastic artist, indeed reflects, like his spiritual practice, a certain maturity. The line dance and profusion of graphics (letters and symbols) inspired by Arabic poetry, as well as on a spiritual lineage, are a common thread in his artistic creation, integrating into an Arab literary heritage. The spellings and text complement each other and call on one another, managing to account for the intimate momentum that inspired the writing; the letters also register a spiral movement symbolising the movement of the soul.
Conversely, when he tackles the concept of emptiness, on a mixed clay support, he reveals a complex simplicity, encrusting modelled letters imitating the ancestral stucco, that of the Arab Andalusian masters; he then gives them a new more contemporary dimension. Whatever the medium, the purity and the power of Kheloufi’s work are such that the line seems to disappear, as if to go beyond matter.
Artist Statement (Courtesy of the Artist)
“Since my earliest age, I have been inhabited by letters and I have always wanted to understand the meaning of the wonderful Andalusian-style epigraphies; perched in the various mosques and shrines of my region (Tlemcen wilaya) that is rich in its civilisational past. I try to reproduce them in the ancestral way of the great sculptors of letters from the Andalusian era, whose names remain anonymous as their great artistic achievements were often attributed to the names of caliphs and Emirs!
“It is a purely personal involvement and a tribute that I wish to pay to these great figures of Islamic art. In my work I attempt to treat phenomenologically “the art and aesthetics of emptiness” as well as the poetics embodied in the alchemy of the “artist-instant-matter” relationship.
“The image, also, being of the order of the sensitive, pushes man towards materiality and tactility; while words go beyond these limits. The impression left by an image is above all sensitive, while the impression coming from words is abstract, emanating as it does from reason, soul, heart and the interiority of being. Everything has both an apparent image and an underlying image. The image of the thing is not limited to its appearance, it also includes its interiority; for that is its truth and meaning, joining in this the power of words.”
Nahla Ink is chuffed to bits to feature the Nubian (Egyptian-Sudanese) Fathi Hassan as Artist of the Month of December, 2020. Thanks to the Sulger Buel Gallery and arts curator Najlaa El-Ageli for giving Nahla Ink the opportunity to share his artwork to coincide with a current online exhibition. His solo show, titled ‘Soul Taming’ will be virtually accessible until the end of the year. All the images below are works by the artist that form part of the gallery display.
Fathi Hassan & Soul Taming (Text Courtesy of Sulger-Bulger Gallery)
Fathi Hassan is an artist, a poet, a dreamer; but, most of all, he is a dynamic creative set on taming his wild spirit and wandering soul through his art, meditations and poetry. Hassan’s visual work pulls the viewer firstly with its bold lines, then the floating texts, figures and symbols. Once that information and layer is absorbed, his pieces translate into a higher level of alchemical synthesis. His articulation unto the canvas is a deep form of poetry.
Essential to his work is the exploration of identity, as he constantly challenges, superimposes, writes and links events, past and present, to contemplate possible futures and potentialities. Hassan’s diasporic adventure for almost four decades reflects the displacement and the journey between the different spaces, times, perspectives and memories. His creations also reveal a love and passion for classical music and Opera, wherein his lines translate into visual melodies of emotions. His attention to numbers, codes, letters and musical notes are also weaved back into his compositions reflecting a multidimensional orientation.
His tapestries can also be experienced as archival material containing delicate traces of his Nubian culture and its place in the Arab world, wherein the Arabic calligraphy intersects and blends into symbols. In some instances the letters and the words sharply cut through the Nubian-African heritage to suggest a struggle and the fight for domination and survival. This suspended state is a powerful reminder of not only the past, but also inherently of what is happening today politically, socially and culturally.
Ultimately Hassan’ work is to record, store, archive and tame the memories of dreams, souls, life and desire. His quest to pin down a hybrid-cultural form of self and identity continues and is ever so resonant with what is happening now. His utilising of the desert and forest imagery is a tool to reflect upon the injustices and inequalities of the human condition and existential state of being. He also does a brilliant job in bringing forward a Sufi elemental landscape as well as responding to the more recent crisis relating to Covid-19, referring to the traumatic post-Arab Spring period, the rise of the conservative right in the West and the deconstruction of democracy.
Artist Biography (Courtesy of Sulger-Buel Gallery)
Fathi Hassan (aka Akkij Fathi) was born in Cairo in 1957 to Nubian-Egyptian parents. His family were forced to leave their homeland of Nubia when the Aswan High Dam was built in 1952, flooding a vast area now under Lake Nasser. Whether in photographs, paintings, installations, drawings or, often, directly on walls, his texts are deliberately illegible intended to highlight the plight of lost languages and oral history as a result of colonial domination.
In 1979, Hassan had received a grant from the Italian Cultural Institute in Cairo and moved to Naples, Italy where he enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti and graduated with a thesis on the influence of African art in Cubism.
He was one of the first African and Arab artists to exhibit in the Venice Biennial in 1988; and, over the past 40 years, participated in numerous solo and group shows in Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, the United Kingdom and New York. For many years he has worked productively with renowned curator Rose Issa and currently lives and works between Edinburgh, Scotland and Italy.
Some of Hassan’s work is in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, London and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC and Farjam Collections among many others. He is the subject of numerous publications and writings by major critics, curators and experts, from Rose Issa, Achille Bonito Oliva, Maurita Poole and Liliane Karnouk to Kathleen Goncharov, Francesca Petracci, Elizabeth Harney and Enrico Crispolti. He also features in the recent book ‘Lumieres Africaines’ published by Langages du Sud (2018).
About the Sulger-Buel Gallery
Sulger-Buel Gallery is an art gallery specialising in the contemporary art of Africa and its diaspora. Founded in 2014 by Christian Sulger-Buel, the gallery provides a focus for those wanting to explore one of the fastest developing, ground-breaking and important areas in contemporary practices — Modern & Contemporary African Art.
Whilst addressing a variety of artistic mediums including drawing, painting, sculpture and photography, the gallery is led by a diverse and international team of specialists. Sulger-Buel presents a dynamic exhibition program, produces innovative publications and offers consultancy services; visitors, curators and collectors alike can experience its cutting-edge shows at the London space a stones throw away from the Tate Modern as well as at international art fairs across the globe.
About the curator Najlaa El-Ageli
The ‘Soul Taming’ exhibition has been curated by Najlaa El-Ageli of Noon Arts Projects. She is a British-Libyan architect who in 2012 founded Noon Arts, a small private foundation, to explore the newly burgeoning Libyan arts scene and creative movement that had followed the 2011 Revolution. Its aim was to spot and nurture the work of talented local artists and bring it to the international stage.
After curating a number of successful exhibitions featuring contemporary Libyan art in the
UK, Libya and Malta, another big project came in 2015 when Noon Arts was commissioned
to curate the Imago Mundi Libya catalogue for the Benetton Foundation based in Italy. This
led to the publication of a substantial art book that travelled the world. And, soon after this, she began to liaise with other artists from the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that led to more shows exploring newer themes and turning to work as a freelance curator from a London base.
She has gone on to curate exceptionally well-received exhibitions, including: ‘Textural
Threads’ (done in collaboration with Arts Canteen in London), ‘Jewelled Tales of Libya’
(held at The Arab British Centre in London), ‘Pop Art from North Africa’ (held at the P21
Gallery in London and Casa Arabe in Madrid), ‘Waves’ (at Sulger-Buel Gallery) and ‘Retracing A Disappearing Landscape’ (this showed at the P21 Gallery in London, Casa Arabe in Madrid and Cordoba).
Nahla Ink is thrilled to share the artworks of one of my favourite Gazan-Palestinian artists, Mohammed Joha. I first came across Joha’s work when he exhibited at the Rich Mix venue in East London circa February 2016. I was then introduced to him by Arts Canteen director Aser El Saqqa who curated that show titled ‘Joha – The Journey’. And so ever since I have been following his artistic development.
Featured this November are Joha’s works that belong to his most recent project, entitled ‘Fabric of Memory’, that sees his focus return to his home town of Gaza. He has been developing this idea since 2017 and is still ongoing. The pieces here are all textile and paper collages on canvas. They have already been exhibited in Dubai at the Tabari Artspace Gallery (January 2019), then at Art Abu Dhabi (November 2019), followed by a show in Kuwait at CAP and they will again be the basis of a solo show at Beirout Contemporary in Lisbon, Portugal (January 2021).
Artist Statement on ‘Fabric of Memory’:
Mohammed Joha: “How many times are we supposed to rebuild Gaza? How often are we supposed to memorise a new geography? How many new geographies will Gaza ‘wear’ each year? Nobody knows the answer to these questions, and it’s not even necessary, because these intuitive questions will find the many possible answers by themselves and raise many other questions about the reasons of what is happening in Gaza.
“The imposed, hated ‘renewal’ is a perpetual story with ongoing wars that affect everyone and everything alike – human beings, creatures, and things. Every two years, Gaza is forced to take off its old robe and put on a new architectural dress; the clothes-changing and the adaptation to it are exhausting and impoverishing Gaza every time more. Instead, it is longing for stability and continuity on the map.
“Gaza has become a space that has no routine at all: when it’s war, it’s difficult to call it war, and living repeatedly through such radical transformation makes it almost impossible to cope, every time again, with a profoundly altered geography. The course of the streets, the shape of the houses, everything is different now. Here was a street surrounding a public park, and there was a hotel next to a tower, and an apartment building hosting a grocery store on its ground floor. Everything has changed!
‘A few years ago, there had also been a hospital, a government department, an institution, and a branch street open to another street… none of it is left.”
Indeed, Gaza is in all of our hearts, that will never change!
Biography courtesy of the artist:
Mohammed Joha was born in Gaza, Palestine in 1978 and currently lives and works between Paris and Italy. He graduated in Art Education from Al-Aqsa University inGaza in 2003, the same year he participated in a workshop residency in Darat Al Funun, Khalid Shoman Foundation in Amman-Jordan, supervised by artist Marwan Kassab Bacchi.
In 2004, Joha was the winner of the A M Qattan Foundation’s ‘Hassan Al Hourani Young Artist Award’, when he was elected Artist of the Year 2004. This allowed him to reside in the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2005, 2008 and 2017-2018, where he developed and strengthened his artistic personality.
Besides being selected for international workshops and residencies, Joha has participated in exhibitions worldwide. He has been working in the field of painting and has gathered a remarkable artistic experience. He is one of the most interesting artists from Gaza,Palestine who stands out by a very elaborate personal style of painting, a masterly combination of various artistic elements in his compositions, and most sophisticated messages. Through mixed techniques of painting, collages, installation, together with a most spontaneous, expressive style, much of his work has explored the questions and conditions of childhood and the loss of innocence and freedom experienced by generations of children in Palestine.
The overcoming of physical and psychological barriers imposed by conflict; revolutionary social and political events; resilience and identity are recurrent themes. The closer his works are examined, the more complex they become, in texture, content, and narrative. These multilayered, transformed representations of reality leave room for imagination and interpretation, because they are inspired by universal values and reflect the memory of a collective entity, without being bound to cultural restrictions or temporary or local individualistic gestures.
It is with great pleasure that Nahla Ink features some of the works of the contemporary Egyptian artist Hany Rashed. At the top of his game, Rashed is in his element challenging both current Egyptian socio-political and individual concerns in a colourful, subversive, creative and prolific way from his base in Cairo.
Born in 1975, Rashed is mostly self-taught although significantly he studied under the well known and highly respected Egyptian painter Mohamed Abla for a number of years. Utilising various artistic tools and methods, Rashed’s expressive creations and interpretations tend to excite, delight and invite viewers to think for themselves as to his underlying messages.
Over the years, Rashed’s paintings have used popular imagery and cultural icons which draw upon social trends that affect young people in Egypt, such as exaggerated materialism, issues of sexuality and state control over rights and freedoms. Whenever he creates, he brings a dose of irony to the different sides to Egyptian life and his generation.
From the beginning of the 2011 Revolution, Rashed visually documented the historical uprisings and their impact on the local Cairenes through his work. For example, he brought the comic character ‘Asa7by’ (2012) to make fun of the abuse of Internet memes whilst his ‘Bulldozer’ series (2015) was a playful deconstruction and repositioning affecting the people and society. On a more personal level, his ‘The Last Farewell’ (2017) expressed feelings about a real family tragedy.
Most recently and as featured on Nahla Ink, Rashed has produced a new series of paintings under the title of ’90 Days in the Studio’, a reference to the imposed global quarantine due to the Corona virus; when he was stuck in his studio for three months and didn’t go out except for food. The project was done in four developmental stages.
Explaining to Nahla Ink, he offered insight into the thought processes behind this incredible series that took him altogether 90 days to complete.
Rashed: “The first stage was depicting in the abstract which gave me a sense of freedom and yet there was also a hint to a bit of violence with reference to the pressures of quarantine, being stuck at home and the feeling of suppression. The abstraction came from being stuck, but it then transformed into liberation through colour and the bursts of energy. I was producing action through abstraction rather than thinking.
“The second stage became about drawing and including myself in the visual narrative. Normally my work is about people and going out; but, now, I was all alone. So I drew myself with the abstract background, like being isolated in a world of my own. The work reflects that.
“Whist in the third stage I introduced the image of an airplane, taking into account that there were no airplanes flying during this period and little travel. I tried to show the airplane as inflated and changed its appearance because it is not able to move. Again, I put the airplane with the abstract background to put a focus on what is currently happening and things being stationary.
“Lastly, the fourth stage was about the concept of a room and enclosed space. I tried to use different rooms to show a connection between the quietness or stillness of a room with the explosion of colour – from the abstract stage – to show again an element of the violence and the movement through sports, like riding a horse.
“This 2020 period has had its challenges for sure and I am an artist who has been very influenced by time, history and current affairs. With every canvass the aim is to archive time, space and what is happening during lockdown. In general, I wanted to direct attention to the silence of a room, the idea of explosion and violence in the abstract, and then again movement like with the airplane or with the sports.”
Some of Rashed’s work forms a part of the private collection of the Tate Modern Gallery in London, UK. He has also been exhibited in many solo and collective shows in Egyptian galleries and in Europe.