When thinking of The Kingdom of Bahrain, or any country in general, the prompt working field eco system that comes to mind revolves around four main categories, those that are business, law, architecture, and medicine. Regardless of how a country is founded on those four sectors, appearing on the forefront lines of the emerging fields, are sectors related to the arts.
One cannot ignore how much of a role that the arts play in our lives, nor can one dismiss the fact that it somewhat enhances things within life, mentally, as well as emotionally. On our tiny little island, the arts are pretty much a niche, one that individuals take on and lose themselves within it, myself included.
Amongst those individuals is Latifa Al Khalifa, the director of an upcoming art consultancy, with the name that takes a light hearted play on her nickname “Toofa” – Too Far Co. A company that is about championing creatives, as well creativing a space wher artists can develop challenging, and uncompromising artwork, and exhibitions. The company’s main focus is to offer educational programs in partnership with London-based Blake College, promoting as well as selling the artworks of local, as well as regional artists, and providing a platform for them.
All art organisations, whether on a small or large scale, that fit into the par level, concentrate on an artistic medium – be it photography, or a type of minimalistic art. With Too Far Co, the specialty lays within Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, with a keen focus on Bahraini artists. The company is still at a start-up phase and thus only has the capacity to represent 6 artists at first, in addition to all of the educational programs, and blog.
To every budding Picasso, comes an initiating stroke – as to that, Latifa recalls how she started curating art exhibitions back in 2013, and as she moved back to Bahrain, she found it frustrating to be an independent curator. Amidst her frustration, Latifa was introduced to the start-up community, and soon found that government companies, such as Tamkeen and Bahrain Development Bank, were providing them a tremendous amount of support. Coming to the conclusion of approaching them with an alternative avant-garde arts consultancy idea, the Rowad team selected her as a winner, and offered her a space at the Arts Cluster in Andalus Park, neighboring to a myriad of creative and art-related companies.
Being alongside the neighboring companies, and their communal aim at enhancing the art scene here in The Kingdom, Too Far Co.’s educational programs which are UK- accredited are affordable, mentored by professionals within the field, as well as are assuring that the individual taking them will leave feeling comprehensive and enlightened.
The educational aspect with Too Far Co. seems to be a priority and specialty. Picking up on the art scene in particular, Latifa expresses her strong view on how both local, as well as regional art scenes host a whirlpool range of talents – be it from active artists, to people who genuinely have potential, and that is where the tendency of frustrations is present, with the exception of VCU in Qatar and a few programs in the UAE. Latifa feels that frustration is present with due to the unavailability of affordable and comprehensive art school programs that prepare an artist for all aspects of making art their identity and profession. She feels one negative aspect of the unavailability of the educational ethics is how artists themselves perceive criticism – criticism is vital in the growth of an artist’s style and artistic vernacular.
For and artist, criticism itself triggers an emotional inflection within the artist, and from that they learn how to emotionally create or derive art. Reflecting on that, what makes local and regional artists stand out, in Latifa’s opinion, are their stories. If you, as a viewer of their art can absorb the moment or feeling that they want to convey, be it love, sorrow, or a rollercoaster of their temperamental emotions, and escape the trappings of your own mind, and become empathetic – that’s what makes them.
Although, this isn’t always the case, or so Latifa says. At times, the sight of an emerging artist that’s trying to fit into a shoe that’s 10 times bigger than their size worries her. It is apparently all down to how they want to achieve success or be commodified in Western art market, and thus that undervalues them, their experiences, and their truth.
From the desire of having artists be themselves to their truest potential and educationally grow within their scales, Latifa hopes that her enthusiasm for the arts would spread. As to that, she hopes to see Too Far Co. growing, and being able to represent around 20 artists. Additionally, she hopes to gain the support and sponsorship to represent in-house curated exhibitions, and events all over the world, and most importantly to have an up and running residency and arts educational program that competes with regional counterparts.
Is Latifa maybe aiming for the stars? Is she trying to orchestrate constellations that create light strokes in Bahrain’s skies? Maybe, but from what it sounds, and looks like, her diversely creative team and herself will surely create grass root projects that give Bahraini artists, and Bahrain the attention that they need and deserve.
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