Portraying Culture Through Art
Marking the 15th anniversary of the Shaikh Ebrahim Center, the centre has put together an exceptional display allowing viewers a unique opportunity to discover The Kingdom’s cultural and architectural heritage through art
BY ANAAM IKRAM
An image of growth and development throughout the years, the Kingdom of Bahrain has always been welcoming to the various people and cultures from across the world, but Bahrain’s own heritage and culture is one that has always stood out and has resulted in many making this tiny island their home. From the rich history of pearling to the rising entrepreneurial culture, which has allowed the new generation to add to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the country, Bahrain’s global image is evolving all the while keeping the core of its heritage and lush history close to heart, making it an ideal destination for tourists, businesses, and residents alike. Looking back at the country’s history, the detailed media recalls the general public and officials sharing the same vision for progress and the key individuals and leaders at the time strived to pursue this dream. One of the most highly respected individuals involved was Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, who was a pioneer in the fields of education, culture, and social sciences, and would reach out to the world leaders across the globe, in the hopes to gain more knowledge on culture, philosophy, and the arts. As Muharraq was the capital of Bahrain at the time, it was the nucleus for all major public and governmental projects, and from where the decision makers would administrate. In 2002, the Shaikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Research was set in Muharraq up to not only preserve the memory of the late Shaikh but also to further provide a platform that would further encourage exploring philosophy, literature, poetry, culture, and the arts.
One of the leading centers for culture, Shaikh Ebrahim Center has also been responsible for restoring over 20 traditional houses in Muharraq and have been converted into smaller locations dedicated to preserving the Kingdom’s cultural heritage. Marking the 15-year anniversary of the center’s opening, Shaikh Ebrahim Center has invited 15 artists to commemorate the history of Bahrain through their unique art pieces, which are being displayed in 15 of the historical houses.
Conceptualised and curated by Melissa Enders-Bhatia, Head of Art and Exhibitions at the center, the 15/15 exhibition looks at the Kingdom’s cultural and architectural heritage through contemporary art, as the various artists come together to showcase their perception of Bahrain and its history. Looking at the various traditions and practices within the Bahraini heritage, which not only form the identity of the country, but also provoke thought and dialogue are at the crux of the exhibition. The artists were invited to create site-specific artworks inspired by the history of the buildings at the center, their architecture, or the personalities, missions, and crafts to whom the individual buildings are dedicated to – each the artwork having a direct connection with the respective building their art is displayed at.
Held at 15 locations around Manama and Muharraq, the art exhibition previewed on 15 December 2016 and will remain on display till 15 March 2017. Visitors have the chance to explore each house and learn about the art that was produced but what specific elements from a house were taken as inspiration to create the pieces.
Rashid Al Khalifa
Khalaf House – Memory of Manama
Trained in England, Rashid Al Khalifa’s artistic journey has taken him from landscapes and figurative paintings in the early years to abstract and color field painting, mounted on unique convex canvases. Through his retrospective at the Bahrain National Museum in 2010, Rashid Al Khalifa came to the attention of the wider art world. The artist has recently expanded his color field work to enamel paint on chrome convex structures. Al Khalifa’s creations have been exhibited internationally, and reached the 56th Venice Art Biennale and the tRio Biennal in Rio in 2015. Rashid Al Khalifa is a leading figure in Bahrain’s art world – as an artist, an avid supporter of the arts and founder of the Bahrain Art Society.
Adnan Al Ahmed
Mohamed Bin Faris House for Sut Music
Educated in France, Adnan Al Ahmed is a painter and muralist with a long and distinguished artistic record. Over the years the artist has developed a unique painterly style characterized by simplified and geometric figures and compositions. Inspired by music, poetry, philosophy and personal memories, Adnan Al Ahmed’s work seeks to express deeply personal memories and thought processes that are simultaneously fundamentally human. The artist has exhibited prolifically in Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt and Europe, particularly France. In 2014, he was awarded the Order of Efficiency First Class by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Khalil Al Hashimi
Educated in the fine arts in Russia, Khalil Al Hashimi is one of Bahrain’s most renowned sculptors. Working predominantly in bronze, stone and wood, this artist’s works are versatile in their material and in the concepts that drive them. The artist’s particular strength is his ability to transform the nonphysical into the physical and reduce ideas to their bare elements, resulting in his abstracted and minimal aesthetic. The artist’s Bird series of 2010 has achieved an iconic status, marked by elegance of composition and superior execution. Khalil Al Hashimi has been exhibited widely throughout the Middle East and Europe. In Bahrain his work has shown at the Bahrain National Museum, the Bin Matar House and Albareh Art Gallery.
Hala Al Khalifa
Shaikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Research
With degrees in Fine Arts from Tufts University (Boston, USA) and Slade School of Fine Arts (London, UK), Hala Al Khalifa’s artistic repertoire includes multiple media, ranging from painting to installation and video. The artist has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions in London, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. In Bahrain her work has been shown at the Bahrain National Museum, Al Riwaq Art Space and the Bin Matar House. Her solo exhibition “Sea” (Bin Matar House, Bahrain, 2013) was a milestone in the artist’s oeuvre, exploring the legacy of pearly diving in Bahrain’s heritage and national identity through gigantic and interactive fishing net installations and video.
Hanan Al Khalifa
Abdulla Al Zayed House for Press Heritage
Hanan Al Khalifa‘s fascination with photography dates back more than 30 years. While she travels widely with her camera as companion, it is in documenting Bahrain, the place where she was born and raised, where her passion truly lies. Over the years, Hanan Al Khalifa has gathered a massive archive reflecting the rich and diverse spirit of the island of Bahrain. She is currently the president of the Photography Club at the Bahrain Art Society.
Haya Al Khalifa
Memory of the House
Haya Al Khalifa’s is a writer and documentary photographer living in Bahrain. Her photographic work focuses on the changing cultural and natural landscape of Bahrain. Her series “A View from Above” (2011) captured the rarely seen canopy of the island of Bahrain. More recently, the artist has completed two environmental portraiture series, “Shimmering Sands” and “By the Sea,” in which she uses studio lighting outdoors and in the natural environment of her subjects. Haya Al Khalifa’s work has been selected for group exhibitions in Bahrain at the Bin Matar House, Al Riwaq Art Space, and the exhibition “Recreational Purpose” at the Bahrain National Museum (2014).
Ayesha Al Moayyed
Al Nukhida House
With a recent master’s degree in Fine Arts from Goldsmith’s University, London, artist has already made a remarkable impression in Bahrain by being the youngest winner of the country’s coveted Al Dana Prize, the highest honor the country bestows on its artists during the annual Fine Art Exhibition. Ayesha Almoayyed’s work is inherently experimental and encompassed drawing, photography and installation. Central to her work in an exploration of Bahrain – it’s society and transformation of the built and natural environment. The artist has exhibited in Bahrain and the UK.
Jaffar Al Oraibi
Jaffar Al Oraibi is a painter and works mostly in oil on canvas. Featuring towering male figures and an array of animals, his large canvases explore issues relating to social pressures and gender expectations. With a fluid and gestural technique and dominant use of black, his works are a strong voice in Bahrain’s art world. His exhibition “The Man” at Al Riwaq Art Space in 2010 brought the artist to wider attention, followed by two shows at Cuadro Art Gallery (Dubai, UAE) in 2011 and 2012. Jaffar Al Oraibi has participated in international artist residencies in Paris, London and New York.
Al Nuzul House
Ebrahim Bu-Saad was educated as an artist in Iraq and is a founding member of the Bahrain Art Society. BuSaad is a brilliant calligrapher and colorist, and both elements are always present in his paintings, drawings and prints. His work is inspired by his immediate surroundings – the alleys, people, old quarters and dhows that characterize the old town of Muharraq, where he was born. With a great zest for life, women, birds and musical instruments feature prominently in the artist’s oeuvre. Ebrahim Bu Saad’s work has been shown in Bahrain, the Cairo and Sharjah Biennales and is the recipient of the Al Dana Award (Bahrain) and the Golden Palm Award (Qatar).
House of Coffee
Educated in the US, Balqees Fakhro is one of the most distinguished abstract painters from the Gulf region. Her large canvases are inspired by the memory of specific experiences and places. In her work, she investigates pre-historic art and objects as surfaces and the primal as a site of memory in the region. One of the most prominent female artists in Bahrain, Balqees Fakhro has been a central figure in the development of the country’s sector and is also an active writer, art critic and lecturer. The artist has exhibited widely in the Middle East, Europe and the US.
Ibrahim Al Arrayed House of Poetry
US educated photographer Ghada Khunji has recently returned to her home Bahrain after a 20 plus year sojourn in New York. Khunji’s photographs document both landscapes and people from all over the world and are known for the inherent dignity of their human element. After a career focused on fashion and then documentary photography, the return to Bahrain has led to a substantial shift in the artist’s focus. In a reversal of perspective, Ghada Khunji’s works of 2015 and 2016 focus on the artist herself, her identity, gender and own mortality. Ghada Khunji is the recipient of numerous international photography award, including the Lucie Award, the Prix- Pictet and the Julia Margaret Cameron Award.
IQRA Children’s Library
Playful exploration is the hallmark of Waheeda Malullah’s photographs, videos and interactive installations. Malullah examines the world of girls and women in her community as well as the cultural and religious norms, rules and systems that govern their life. Characteristically, Mallulah produces her artwork in extensive photographic series, which are presented in a stop motion format. Waheeda Malullah was invited to participate in the Sharjah and Cairo Biennials in 2009, culminating in her participation in Bahrain’s national pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale in 2013. A recent retrospective at the Bin Matar House (Bahrain, 2016) showed the full scope of her impressive photographic oeuvre for the first time.
Mohamed Bin Faris Music Hall
Educated in Paris, France at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Faisal Samra is a leading Arab artist and pioneer of conceptual art in the Middle East. The artist’s oeuvre spans painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation. Always one to break with conventions, the human body is central to Samra’s work as he explores existentialist and political themes, questioning the status quo and our perception of ourselves. His recent exhibition “Global Warming” at the Bin Matar House (Bahrain, 2015), critically explored the events of the Arab Spring through a juxtaposition of paintings, installation and video.
A precocious talent, Abdulrahim Sharif studied Fine Art at the Ecole National Superieure in Paris and Parsons School of Art and Design. As one of Bahrain’s leading artists, Abdulrahim Sharif is a formidable painter. Figurative and at times verging on abstraction, the artist touches on themes of alienation and indifference, and equally well explores/experiments purely formally in realm of color. His most well recognized image is that of the artist with a cigar and hat. A longtime favorite with Christie’s, the artist is well sought after by collectors in the Middle East. As a founding member of the Bahrain Art Society and lecturer in fine arts at the University of Bahrain, Sharif plays a central role in Bahrain’s art world.
Bin Matar House – Memory of the Place
Camille Zakharia is a documentary photographer and collage artist. Born in Lebanon, Zakharia has led an itinerant life that has taken him to the US, Greece, Turkey, Canada and finally Bahrain, where he has lived and worked for over 20 years. His collage work focuses on memory and displacement, identity and belonging. Additionally, the artist has one of the largest archives of documentary photographs on the changing urban landscape in Bahrain. Camille Zakharia is regularly featured in prestigious photography exhibitions and biennials worldwide and was one of three artists representing Bahrain in its first national pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale in 2013.
- Artist talk – Saturday, 11 February 2017, 4pm at the Bin Matar House – artist Camille Zakharia will lead a tour of “Close Up,” a retrospective exhibition of 15 years of the artist’s photography work in Bahrain
- 11 March: Shaikh Ebrahim Centre will have a curator-led tour of the exhibition with provided shuttle buses departing from the Bahrain National Museum parking lot at 4pm. By registration only at:
For more information:
Shaikh Ebrahim Center, Muharraq
9am-1pm / 4pm-7pm
(00973) 1732 2549
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