MIDDLE EASTERN WOMEN'S (STREET) ART IN CONTEXT
TUESDAY 3 DECEMBER 2019, 6-8 pm
INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF MUSLIM CIVILISATIONS
ATRIUM CONFERENCE ROOM
AGA KHAN CENTRE,
10 HANDYSIDE STREET, LONDON N1C 4DN
Bahia Shehab, A thousand times NO, graffiti, Cairo 2011
This is the third in a series of events inspired by AKU-ISMC’s new book and current exhibition by Lebanese-Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab at the AKC Gallery.
Renowned curator Rose Issa and academic Lucia Sorbera end this series by reflecting on the aesthetic, conceptual and socio-political concerns of artists in the Arab world over the past four decades and the new shape of women’s street art, the challenges they face and the legacy of feminist revolutionary art.
Rose Issa - Arabicity / Ourouba
Rose Isa will discuss the aesthetic, conceptual and socio-political concerns of the Arab world over the last four decades as reflected in a series of art exhibitions titled Arabicity/Ourouba which she curated from 2009 at the European Parliament, later at the Blue Coat Gallery in Liverpool, and then in Beirut, culminating in her latest publication “Arabicity” (Saqi, 2019). Her focus is on artists – including Bahia Shehab - who explore themes related to memory, identity, destruction, reconstruction, conflict and peace-issues affecting the Arab world in the light of 21st-century upheavals. Across diverse media, from painting to installation and video works, their unique artworks mirror the pulse of the region, countering desolation with beauty, and tragedy with humour. They reveal how artists, with different approaches and visions are challenging the confines of their identity and reshaping the parameters of their cultural traditions. In chaos they discover that which endures.
Lucia Sorbera - Where do we go now? Feminist Street Art after the 2011 Egyptian Uprisings
Between 2011 and 2014 street art flourished in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities, giving materiality to young people’s desire to re-appropriate public space. Graffiti soon became a visual journal of the revolts. Women artists, who alongside writers and intellectuals participated in the revolution both as activists and narrators, contributed to this new artistic wave by producing feminist narratives of this historical moment. Feminist Egyptian revolutionary art, by high profile artists such as Bahia Shehab and Huda Lutfi, was produced in parallel to that of young emerging artists, such as Hind Khira. Displaying diverse degrees of complexity, the nuances in the work of feminist artists can be better appreciated in light of the intellectual and political legacy of a century of feminism. Eight years after the 2011 uprisings the spaces to produce street art appear dramatically reduced in Egypt, as part of the broader political oppression that has gripped the country. Yet it would be misleading to assert that the movement of women’s street art is over. Rather, it is taking new directions.
This paper discusses the new shape of women’s street art, the challenges they face, and the legacy of feminist revolutionary art in contemporary street art produced by women. It does so by focusing on the experiences of women artists in an informal neighbourhood in Cairo, Ezbet Khairallah, where art is a powerful tool for social cohesion.
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