I AM, an exhibition by Arab women artists

Sunday 07/05/2017
Celebrating ingenuity. One of the paintings by Manal Deeb of the Palestinian territories in the I AM exhibition at the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Amman. (CARAVAN)

Amman - An inspiring visual art exhibition narrating the timeless and thought-provoking contribution of female Arab artists opened at Amman’s National Gal­lery of Fine Arts in the old and winding streets of Jabal Weibdeh district.
I AM, a peace-building exhibi­tion, which includes works from 31 acclaimed female artists from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian terri­tories, showcases the women’s vi­sion for a peaceful and harmonious future.
Organised by CARAVAN, an in­ternational NGO that works to build bridges between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and West through art, the exhibition celebrates the ingenuity of Mid­dle Eastern women. After its May 3-June 14 exhibition in Amman, CARAVAN plans to take the exhibi­tion to London and Washington.
The Reverend Paul-Gordon Chandler, founder and president of CARAVAN, said the exhibition was aimed at highlighting the contribu­tions of women.
“It originated from a desire to creatively and positively build on the message of the highly ac­claimed book written by former US President Jimmy Carter, who is much loved and respected in the Middle East, titled ‘A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power,’” Chandler said in a podcast posted on the the artist next level web site.
“In this regard, the I AM exhibi­tion focuses not on what women are missing and often do not have (such as equal rights) but rather on what they inherently do have and how fundamentally essential their contribution is in freeing our world from sectarian strife of any kind,” Chandler said.
Chandler said the simple depic­tion of the words I AM signals so much.
“I AM, as the title implies, shows the uniqueness of the individual, as well as one’s identity within the community and the world,” he said on the podcast. “It thus expresses the tension between the unique and the shared — unique beliefs, values and methods of worship paired with shared goals and de­sires for oneself, one’s community and the world.”
Bahraini artist Nabeela al-Khay­er brought her work to life after receiving guidance from Bah­rain’s rich heritage which dates to 3000BC.
“I am a painter; I love the im­pressionist style and love to have women as the main subject in most of my paintings. The presence and role of Bahraini women in our soci­ety played a big part in my work,” Khayer said.
The use of fabrics to highlight the colours and impressionist style, in addition to acrylic and watercol­ours, makes Khayer’s work unique.
Using gouache and ink, Helen Zughaib, an Arab American based in Washington, said she took inspi­ration from the strength and resil­ience of women.
“It was very important to me to take part in this exhibition as an Arab-American woman, living in America, to be able to show soli­darity with many women in the Arab world,” the Beirut-born artist said.
“Much of my work promotes the beauty and strength of Arab women and women in general. It is meant to express the solidarity and compassion I feel for women and children, especially those facing hardship of any kind. To let them know I am thinking of them, I am trying through my work to let their voices be heard,” said Zughaib, who has exhibited her work in New York, Paris and Washington.
The exhibition features Janet Rady, a specialist in contemporary Middle Eastern art with more than 25 years of experience of the Inter­national Art Market, as guest cura­tor.
With issues of women’s rights coming to the forefront around the world, Chandler said the time is right for I AM to showcase the in­sights and experiences of Middle Eastern women as they confront is­sues of culture, religion and society in “a rapidly changing world, both in the Middle East and the West.”
“We really believe it couldn’t be timelier for this strategic East-West artistic peace building initiative,” Chandler said on the podcast.
“The I AM exhibition celebrates the unique voice of women in shaping a harmonious world. While hundreds of governmental and non-governmental entities are strategically addressing the chal­lenges women face around the world, this initiative highlights what women contribute towards healing our world, because of their inherent connection to the sanctity of life, and their ability to nurture and protect it, thereby inspiring a legacy of harmony.”
“The exhibition also aims to ad­dress stereotypes and challenge misconceptions of the ‘other’,” he added.
The exhibition, shown in Am­man under the patronage of Jor­danian Queen Rania Abdullah from May 3-June 14, is scheduled to move to St Martin-in-the-Fields in London from July 3-August 20 before premiering in Washing­ton on September 5 at the Katzen Arts Centre at the American University.