September 25 – October 10, 2018
Layers of Identity
AMANI ALTHUWAINI / MAHMOUD SHAKER / AISHA JEMILA DANIELS
“Each one of us has to make his way while choosing between the paths that are urged upon him and those that are forbidden or strewn with obstacles. He is not himself from the outset; nor does he just “grow aware” of what he is; he becomes what he is. He doesn’t merely grow aware of his identity; he acquires it step by step.”
-Amin Maalouf, In the Name of Identity, 2012
We all carry different elements that take part in forming the complexity of our identity. When we speak of identity we tend to oversimplify something that has various components, that emerge at different moments and that are constantly growing and changing. Identity is not limited to gender, religion or race, though they are the most frequent way used in trying to define and categorize people. It’s an entity with a complex network of internal and external factors constantly interacting with each other. In the process of self-discovery, it provides opportunities to unravel and understand how we choose to define ourselves. Identity is the incomparable definition and combination of elements that is specific to every individual. It is impossible for any two people to be alike.
This exhibition connects artists investigating different aspects of identity. To reach any form of understanding it is essential to begin with curiosity in its purist form: a desire to learn and to discover. This is where the artists begin their search, each choosing a focus to uncover and explore. Aisha Jemila Daniels confronts herself, taking an honest look at her emotions, delving deeper to find the true essence of her nature. Mahmoud Shaker tackles the subject of loneliness from an inner and social perspective, breaking a barrier by the mere act of addressing it and offering an insight to its dynamics and possibilities. Amani Althuwaini turns her attention towards culture and rituals, observing their transformations and questioning where we are as a society.
When we free ourselves from preconceived notions of identity, we’re better equipped to see things from different perspectives, understand ourselves and support the development of our society.
Mahmoud Shaker is a Kuwaiti author and emerging artist. He stared writing at the age of 13 and has since then published six novels. His creative sensibility and need for expression lead him into the field of visual arts, where his thoughts and ideas found a place to grow and transform into entities that extended beyond the written word. In his first exhibition he explores the feeling of loneliness, an emotional state experienced by many and often endured in silence.
When encountering loneliness, it manifests not only as a state of mind but is also felt with physical intensity. To be lonely is to constantly feel alienated, disconnected, detached and unable to relate to or be understood by others. It’s finding yourself in the shadows of an empty space, surrounded by people without feeling their presence, and getting lost in your own mind with only darkness to keep you standing still. It is this aspect of loneliness that Shaker mentions in his work, translating and exposing the inner thoughts and emotions of feeling isolated. He does this by using different mediums and by transforming the space in a way that is evocative of these feelings, taking us into the mind to reveal fragments of its inner workings.
Shaker brings to light an issue usually concealed and commonly seen as shameful. This obscurity hinders growth of any kind, and its avoidance only produces further strain and creates greater distances. If addressed, we can find that reasons for being in this situation can arise from questions and uncertainty regarding self and society. It can instead be taken as an opportunity to discover and transform aspects within ourselves to reach self-acceptance, emotional maturity, insight, and a renewed ability to relate to others. Hussain begins with a release of thoughts revolving around loneliness, searching for a deeper understanding of his identity and proposes this as a basis for further development and awareness.
Althuwaini is a Kuwaiti artist born in Ukraine in 1989. She holds a Bachelors degree in Architecture from Kuwait University, which has influenced her methodical approach of collecting information and meticulous process of creating artworks. In 2017 she went on to receive her MFA degree at Goldsmiths, University in London and has been continuously involved in artistic practices. Her installation work was shortlisted for the BLOOOM Award by Warsteiner in 2017 and in 2018 she was selected to attend the International Designer’s workshop in the V&A museum. She has exhibited extensively throughout London and Kuwait and has shown her work in Prague, Dubai, Brazil and Bolivia.
Being half Kuwaiti and half Ukrainian, ideas of identity and culture have always been the driving force behind Althuwaini’s work. This duality provides a unique perspective, allowing her to become the spectator, observing and analyzing the different aspects that form part of cultural identities. Using an interdisciplinary approach, she combines individual and collective narratives with symbols that are open to different cultural interpretations. She finds places where identities come together and exposes behaviours and rituals that are often taken for granted. Further investigation led her to themes of luxury and socio-political aspects relevant to Kuwait and the Gulf region.
In her latest series of work she explores the tradition of the dowry in Islamic culture and the Middle East, focusing on its transformation and current practices. Trade, capitalism and influences from the West have altered the rituals and offerings of dowries, resulting in a collision of cultures and modern interpretations of wealth; where more is more and symbols of prosperity are derived from the west.
Althuwaini’s use of mixed media and two-dimensional forms helps join ideas of modernism, superficial display, commodity fetishism and gender; a direct response to today’s customs that translates to hybrid objects that represent a more globalized ritual.
AISHA JEMILA DANIELS
Aisha Jemila Daniels is an African American visual artist based in Doha, Qatar. She graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Photography. She is a postgraduate student on fellowship at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts Qatar, where she will be receiving a Master of Fine Art in Interdisciplinary Design. Aisha has trained and worked in the field of visual arts for nine years, having exhibited and done collaborations in Africa, the Middle East, North and Central America, and Europe.
Visual Narratives is a self-portrait series that acts as a tool for self-reflection. What strikes first when encountering Daniels’ works are the vivid patterns and traditional attire. With this she reveals a part of her identity, a dynamic energy that echoes throughout her compositions as a tribute to her roots but also as a space for discovery. In the images the viewer also sees the artist confront herself and observe internal conflicts as she tries to find a solution. It’s about the vitality of facing oneself, to discover who one is for what they are, whether they like what they see or not. This examination aims to bring the self into perspective, to expose the different emotions that take place within, in an attempt to reach a better understanding of personality and identity. Though it’s not always easy to decipher the true nature of feelings, the artist takes a stance essential to encouraging growth and development; one of honesty, withholding of judgment, and with a curiosity that leads onto further exploration. The images shown are a documentation of emotional dynamics, their variations and how they interact individually as well as with each other. The emotions can be: humility, strength, growth, pain, anger or love…and these can be present all at once.