12.1 Dialogues on the Art of Arab Dress: Sit Down and Make Yourself Uncomfortable: Meet The Postcard Women!
Event Description: Meet the founder of the Imaginarium postcard project, artist and art historian Salma Ahmad Caller, and the artists, experts, and researchers – Afsoon, Alia Derouiche Cherif, Hamida Zourgui, Hala Ghellali, and CritTeam’s Eugenia López Reus & Miguel Jaime, who all have been involved in the Making The Postcard Women’s Imaginarium project since 2018.
These artists each have personal histories entangled with the narratives of the Postcard Women. They have been making work in response to colonial postcards of women from the late 1800s and early 1900s that were posted from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.
Their work challenges and questions the racial stereotypes that these postcards create decolonise the lens, and takes a deep dive into the MENA region and cross-cultural legacies of heritage and adornment that make this archive so fascinating, important, and problematic.
In reclaiming the Postcard Women these artists ask us to sit down and make ourselves uncomfortable by looking closely at how women from these regions have been constructed as marginalised, exoticised primitive ‘others’ and to now take the women out of the one-dimensional colonial space-time and re-contextualise them. And in so doing interrogate not only the orientalist and colonial frames surrounding each woman but our own complicity in maintaining the hierarchical typology that these cards were part of instilling.
1- Salma Ahmad Caller was born in Iraq to an Egyptian father and a British mother and grew up in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. She now lives in the UK. An artist, art historian, and writer, Salma considers herself a disruptive body, a hybrid of cultures and faiths. Her work explores her mixed-race identity, cross-cultural experiences, text/image relationships, and forms of embodiment, materiality, and memory, drawing on personal intimate family histories and vulnerability as a way to destabilise larger narratives. Uncanny juxtapositions and hybrid forms are used to investigate how the private and political collide and intertwine, using techniques of collage, assemblage, drawing, watercolour, photography, projection, installation/sound, and more recently film. Salma also writes art theory, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Her theoretical background in research on the meanings of ornament in non-Western cultures through frameworks of anthropology of art and cognitive science/physiology are used to decolonise and break down boundaries, categories, typologies and terminology that characterise hegemonic colonial and patriarchal formations. With a Masters in art history and art theory, and a background in medicine and pharmacology, and several years of teaching cross-cultural ways of seeing via non-Western artefacts at Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, she now works as an independent artist and teacher.
2- Afsoon is an Iranian-born, London-based artist. She works predominantly in collage but has used various media such as linocut, watercolour, photography, ceramic, pastel, and etching. She usually spends long periods researching her chosen subject to make pieces that often combine text with images while merging Occident and Orient ideas. Her work is humorous, playful, and sophisticated and feels simultaneously familiar and foreign.
Afsoon has taken part in numerous solo and group shows, biennales, and museum exhibitions. Her pieces can be found in prominent collections such as the British Museum, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum), and the Berger/YSL Collection.
3 – Hamida Zourgui is a French-Algerian mixed media artist based in London. After completing her MA in art history and sociology she worked in museums and art spaces as a mediator and freelance art journalist. Growing up in France with an Algerian background has always played a major role in the construction of her identity, which then became the core and heart of her artistic expression. Hamida’s mixed media artwork focuses on the creation of bridges between her two cultures. Dual citizenship is echoed in the duality of references, and in the inspiration behind her themes and preoccupations. For Hamida, her work is crucially an homage to colonised women and colonised bodies. Orientalism is a word anchored in her research, as it is often the only lens employed to represent/misrepresent Algerian women in art and imagery.
Hamida’s digital and analogue photographs are incorporated and transformed within collage works. These Arabic pop-art-inspired transformations aim to narrate a new Algerian woman, giving her a renewed potent visual presence. Nostalgia, womanhood, and colonisation are three themes to constantly grapple with and reconcile with the present realities of Algerian women.
As part of the Muslim female artists, collective VariantSpace Hamida has had her work shown in London and New York. Her talks were an important part of the Pop Art from North Africa Collective exhibition at the P21 Gallery in London.
4- Alia Derouiche Cherif is a visual artist born in 1969, who grew up in Tunis. In 1991, Alia obtained her MA in interior design, and in 1997 a doctorate in science techniques in arts at the University ITAAUT. She has been teaching fashion design for over 20 years and has participated in various key group exhibitions in Tunisia – Bardo museum, Alain Nadaud gallery, Musk & Amber gallery, Elbirou gallery, Effesto gallery, Le Cap gallery, City of Culture of Tunisia.
Alia’s outstanding solo exhibitions took place at the Musk & Amber Gallery Tunisia, in September 2018 and 2019, and again in October 2021. Her rich work collages together many layers of Tunisian cultural heritage both past and contemporary. Her painting fiercely reclaims ornamental techniques from Orientalist painting by asserting the complex meanings and cultural contexts of Islamic and multiethnic Tunisian patterns and calligraphic forms.
5- CritTeam (Eugenia López Reus and Miguel Jaime) is an art-research duo that emerged in the UAE in 2013. Their work explores intersections of art, architecture, and culture, questioning common notions of tradition, ornament, and identity. CritTeam’s work is rooted in both digital and traditional media such as photography, photo collage, and drawing, which they expand to include theoretical writings, video, installations, and design proposals. Their practice explores post-avant-garde discourses of colonialism, orientalism, modernism, and non-western ornamental art. They both hold PhDs in architectural design and have been educators and researchers at universities of Europe, America, and the Middle East. Their work has been published and exhibited at various institutions in Europe and the Middle East such as the Sharjah Art Foundation (2016 & 2017), the University of Edinburgh (2017), The XIV Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (Santander 2018), The 8th Biennial of Contemporary Textile Art WTA at Museum of Garment and Ethnologic Heritage Research Center (Madrid 2019), “The best design of the year” at Barcelona Design Museum DHUB (2021), among others. CritTeam has been nominated for the Art FAD Awards 2021 for best Artistic Creation by FAD’s Artists and Artisans’ Association. Since 2018 CritTeam is based in Barcelona.
6- Hala Ghellali was born and grew up in Tripoli, Libya. She lived in France where she completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Comparative Literature. After several years of teaching at the University of Tripoli, she lived in Italy, Egypt, and Syria before settling in the USA. She is particularly interested in Libyan history, cultural heritage, vernacular poetry, and the contemporary art scene. Hala’s family ancestral connection to the art of weaving and traditional clothes has been a source of inspiration for her own research and work. Passionate about Libyan adornment and jewellery making, she has extensively researched its history, meanings, and ties to neighbouring countries. Her research and writing also embrace photography with a focus on Orientalist photographs and postcards made in local studios during the period of Italian colonisation of Libya and she has co-curated an exhibition on the theme of jewellery in Orientalist photography and related postcards. Hala’s book on Libyan adornment and jewellery, the outcome of years of intensive research will soon be published by BLKVLD.
Date: 20th September 2022
Time:12 Noon NYC, 5pm UK, 8pm UAE
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