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Meet the Female Arab Artists Making Waves at the Venice Biennale

The 58th Venice Biennale officially opens on May 11. One of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world, this year’s core exhibition – May You Live In Interesting Times – includes 79 global artists, and runs alongside 90 national participations in pavilions spread across the city. In anticipation of the festival’s opening, we round up the Arab female artists and curators making a mark on the 2019 edition of the world’s oldest contemporary art biennial. Here are those to look out for :

Larissa Sansour

Danish-Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour will present Heirloom at the Danish Pavilion. Sansour’s work – which crosses multiple mediums – situates conflict and displacement within science fiction, with previous works imagining herself as the first Palestinian to journey to the moon. Curated by Nat Muller, Heirloom will consist of film, a sculptural installation and an architectural intervention that contemplates memory, history and identity.  

Tamara Chalabi

Tamara Chalabi is curating – together with Paolo Colombo – the Iraq Pavilion at this year’s biennial. Fatherland will present the work of Iraqi-Kurdish artist Serwan Baran, which was commissioned by The Ruya Foundation. Chalabi founded the foundation in 2012, with the aim of building bridges with the world, as well as aiding and enriching culture in Iraq. The Venice exhibition – the first time Iraq presents a solo artist at the biennial – will consist of a commentary on the masculine and paternalistic dimensions of the political culture in Iraq and the region.

Zahrah Al Ghamdi

Contemplating the role of art in times of crisis, Dr Zahra Al Ghamdi will present After an Illusion at the Saudi Arabian Pavilion. Al Ghamdi is best known for site-specific installations made from natural materials like leather, rocks, and sand.  For the Venice exhibition – which is coordinated by Dr Iman Al-Jabreen and Dr Nada Shabout – she will recall abandoned spaces from her childhood, bringing them into the present and therefore into future memory.

Nujoom Alghanem

The 2019 UAE Pavilion will present Passage, a site-specific video installation by Nujoom Alghanem. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Felrath of Art Reoriented, Passage will use the language of film to expand on the Emirati artist’s experimentation with contemporary Arabic poetry.

Rula Halawani

Rula Halawani is the only female Arab artist to be exhibiting within the biennial’s central exhibition May You Live In Interesting Times. The Palestinian artist, who lives and works in East Jerusalem, is known for capturing the difficult reality of living under a protracted political conflict. The title for the exhibition – which is curated by Ralph Rugoff, the director of London’s Hayward Gallery – suggests that art might be able to guide us during times of uncertainty.

 Katya Traboulsi

Running alongside the biennial, a number of other events and exhibitions will be taking place across Venice. One of these the ANIMA MUNDI Its Liquid International Art Festival – will include Lebanese artist Katya Traboulsi’s project Perpetual Identities, which consists of 46 hand-crafted replicas of Lebanese war bombs, reimagined using the different cultural iconographies associated with the identity of 46 countries.

Amal Khalaf

One of the many collateral events taking place across Venice will be an exhibition called The Wait. The show, curated by Amal Khalaf from London’s Serpentine – together with Tasneem Al Shurougi and Kaneka Subberwal – will consist of seven Bahraini artists who cross various mediums, including performance and installation.

Joanna Hadjithomas

Together with her husband and partner Khalil Joreige, the duo will be presenting a newly commissioned work within a group exhibition produced by the V-A-C Foundation and Omar Kholeif. Running throughout the same period as the biennial’s core exhibitions, the show seeks to question the notion and function of time and how it relates to new forms of consciousness, action, and sight in the twenty-first century.

The Collective Works of the students at Zayed University

Works by art students, faculty and staff members from the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be on display in EMERGE III: Converging Lines. Artists include Afra Al Dhaheri and Maitha AlMazrouei.

The 58th Venice Biennale will take place from May 11 to November 24, 2019

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