National Pavilion UAE - Who we were, what we are – by Munira Al Sayegh
  • Who we were, what we are – by Munira Al Sayegh

    Review of  <Re:Orient> in Barjeel Art Foundation. 

    Through the ‘Western Looking Glass’, the word, the Orient studies the shaping of Arab Societies, through highly romanticised imagery which depicts the disconnect between the, then Colonists and the actuality of the time. During this time a lot of work was produced, to fuel that market, how ever amid the production for ‘the other’, art was produced which spoke for the people, at this highly tempestuous time in the Arab worlds history.

    This space visits favorably subjective art from the time between the 1950’s and 1970’s magnifying work that grew from the Levant, North Africa, Arabian Gulf and Iraq. The work, found in these segregated walls, depict, a major turning point in the Arab world; the moment of transition of these states from being colonies to gaining independence. With that said, this left the viewer a little disconnected with the suggested idea of “The Orient,” found in the title.

    The Barjeel gallery reinvented the insides of its walls, removing everything that is ‘gallery-like’ in nature, and replacing it with much more of a museum feel. Walking into the space you are greeted with the title on the wall, and as you walk through the room, you begin to discover that each country has its own room, and each room homes great works of art from that specific country. The layout, although very solemn and safe, also suggested some sort of favoritism, giving more space to some like the Levant, and closing off others like Iraq. The experience leaves you in conversation with the context and subject matters found in the art.

    To conclude the body of work exhibited although from another time, speaks to the modern day Arab world. History repeats itself, and reinvents itself, and with this work that is shown, it is taken out of its 50’s through 70’s context, and is put in todays context, giving it another dimension towards its importance, transporting its importance, over decades, only to have thought it solved and spoke to a body, of people whom are independent, only to find themselves yet again, at the beginning of that same circle.

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