The Rich History Of North African Creativity In Focus At Abu Dhabi Art 2022

The Rich History Of North African Creativity In Focus At Abu Dhabi Art 2022

Despite many obstacles, this year's Abu Dhabi art showcases North African masterpieces.

Curated by Rashida Triki, an art historian and professor of philosophy at the University of Tunisia, the art fair's Focus section brings together galleries from across the Maghreb under the theme "New Beginnings."

Trickey says North Africa has a vibrant art scene with a constant flow of new art centers and galleries. But according to him, they face several problems.

“First, there is no real organized art market and no real financial support from the state, especially for young galleries. Additionally, most galleries do not have the capacity to support and support artists," he said. He added that the problem is compounded by legislative issues and lack of media coverage.

This makes Abu Dhabi Industry's decision to create a North Africa-focused program all the more important, Trickey said.

“For the first time in many years, we are seeing a focus on bringing together Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is good for our country because we have many problems, especially in politics,” he added. This sector also includes galleries in Paris and Switzerland, specializing in North African artists.

Art historian Rashida Triki (second from right) curates the Art of Abu Dhabi exhibition focusing on North African art. Photo: Abu Dhabi Art © Contributed by National Art Historian Rachida Trickey (second from right), Curator of the Abu Dhabi Art Focus Department on North African Art . Photo: Abu Dhabi Art

While the Libyan and Mauritanian galleries were unable to participate due to ongoing political unrest, Trickey said the trip to Abu Dhabi was "very daring" for other North African galleries due to the cost.

According to him, the Abu Dhabi art audience has a common creative heritage. XVI in the history of the region. and XVII. Over the centuries, artists have remained very close to each other. Now we have to create new contexts with them; It is very important to me because I believe artists are ambassadors of creativity and the rich culture of the Maghreb.”

As Trickey explains, painting entered North Africa through colonialism in the late 19th century and its development went hand in hand with subsequent socio-political transformations and revolutions.

Works by Moroccan artist El Medi Largo at La La Lande Gallery. Khushnum Bhandari/National © Courtesy of National Works of Moroccan artist El Medi Largo at La La Lande Gallery . Khushnum Bhandari/National

"I chose the concept of New Tomorrow because after the independence of the three countries, local artists decided to separate themselves from orientalism or exoticism and create new ways to create something new for their country."

This trend continues today: contemporary artists use new media as a response to social unrest and revolution in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. With this in mind, Tricky has worked with galleries to select a wide range of contemporary and contemporary artists who have shaped their country's art history.

Popular galleries include Le Violon Bleu in Tunisia, which displays a wide selection of abstract contemporary art from North Africa. Selma Feriani, daughter of the gallery's founder, told The National : "Most of these artists left North Africa for the United States or Europe, where they were influenced by different artistic movements. Then they returned home and started working through abstraction.

Work at Le Violon Bleu Gallery, Manarat, Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi Arts Festival. Khushnum Bhandari/National © National artworks at Le Violon Bleu Gallery during the Abu Dhabi Arts Festival in Manarat, Al Sadiya. Khushnum Bhandari/National

He points to the work of Hedi Turki, whom he calls "one of the most important Tunisian abstract painters". Born into a Turkish family, Turki studied at Lycée Carnot in Paris and held various jobs before returning to his homeland after his father's death. After studying in France, Italy and the United States, he developed a distinctive abstract style, working in grid-like areas and colored lines in acrylic works such as Souffleé de Printemps.

Also on one wall hangs a large painting by Abderrazak Sakhli. Feriani says: “It is a special fabric that he collects from factories and creates these canvases using his own drawings and forms from everyday life. Then inside you will find pictures of palm trees, eyes and some of his characters.

From the decorative movement of the Tunisian school, Feriani moved on to the isolation of the Algerian-born French artist and designer Mahjoub Ben Bela, in which a large Jerusalem tapestry is plastered on the wall.

There is also work by Farid Belkahi, one of Morocco's most famous contemporary artists, who uses metal, paint and leather using traditional techniques and natural dyes such as henna. Egypt is represented by the sculpture of birds by sculptor Adam Henin, a classic example of his work using bronze, wood, clay and granite to recreate ancient Egyptian statuary in modern form.

Selma Feriani with tapestry by Amina Saudi. Khushnum Bhandari/National © Tapestry by Milli and Amina Saudi with furniture by Selma Feriani . Khushnum Bhandari/National

Next door, her gallery Selma Feriani features the work of Amina Saudi, a Tunisian Moroccan artist who transforms traditional Berber tapestries into contemporary art. "It's important," Feriani said. "The only Tunisian tapestry master.

“He works like an artist: he creates his colors using natural pigments found in the garden, the market or outside the home. Use cumin, herbs etc.

Every year he publishes two abstract tapestries of different amazing sizes. Feriani refers to Ait Hai , a tapestry that creates geometric intersections of shapes. "This tapestry mixes cotton and wool, and here her experimental piece uses modern geometry and color, symbols of the sun and sky." In some of his works, he also reveals the colors of the city that inspires his works.

Others explore their own stories and the lives of their parents and grandparents through more concrete, abstract images that she freely weaves together. "Some elements, such as faces, are figurative, but in general the presentation and composition are abstract," says Feriani.

“We brought his work because I think it's important to show that there is no contemporary art or contemporary art without this reference to our heritage and culture, especially when you come from a country like Morocco or Tunisia. We have more than 3,000 years of history, we have a lot of artists and knowledge.”

Elkamel's work in Slimane occupies the 11-meter wall of Abu Dhabi Art Khushnum Bhandari / Il Nazionale. © The National Courtesy of Slimane Elkamel Abu Dhabi's 11m wall art covered by Khushnum Bhandari / The National

The striking section is completed by a series of 11-metre wall works. Among them is the work of Tunisian artist Slimane Elkamel, whose work was the subject of a major retrospective this year at the Arab World Institute in Paris.

Presented by La La Lande Gallery, Elkamel's work in Abu Dhabi Art is an interesting style of painting that depicts overlapping images, symbols and motifs inspired by the folklore and poetry of his rural Sidi Bouzid. His largest work at the fair is a seven meter acrylic on canvas valued at $120,000.

"I'm happy to come here because it shows the high standards of contemporary artists," Elkamel told The National . His translator and La La Land's Tunisian director Iles Messaoudi is also happy to be in the capital.

Tunisian artist Slimane Elkamel owns poetry, politics and folklore in a rural village. Photo: La La Land Gallery © People's Artist of Tunisia, presented by Slimane Elkamel, featuring village poetry, politics and folklore. Photo: La La Land Gallery

Explaining Elkamel's creation, Messoudi said: “He is inspired by his childhood because Slimane is from the place where the Tunisian revolution started. That is why his paintings, in addition to translating the stories of his grandparents and his family, sometimes take on a political and social character with another, deeper dimension."

Messaoudi's art is also political in nature and is exhibited at the Swiss Foreign Agent Gallery. Through painting, collage and embroidery, she combines tradition and modernity to explore social issues and stereotypes in the Middle East.

He approaches one of his " Help " pieces on display at the Near East Institute in Washington The poignant satirical drama depicts the part of society during the pandemic, as well as the global inequality that the pandemic has revealed.

Through Stained Glass Windows by Elis Messoudi Presented by Foreign Agents in Abu Dhabi Art. Khushnum Bhandari/National © Abu Dhabi National Art with stained glass windows provided by foreign agents courtesy of Elise Messaoudi . Khushnum Bhandari/National

“This article is about the epidemic with a bit of humor. It's fictional, and we see different social strata: the poor, then the rich, those who have a private jet, and those who don't need to wear masks.

Meanwhile, there's an even more hilarious picture of the first party Messaoudi attended in Paris as France emerged from lockdown. His other works are also displayed in a room with glass plates on the walls and various paintings around.

Pointing to one work, he says: "This is a mirror", opens the other side and adds: "This is the other side of the mirror." Masaudi is a tribute to the bold creative spirit of North Africa willing to go "outside" and a testament to Abu Dhabi Art's commitment to connecting art with the global art scene at the crossroads of Manarat Al Saadiyat culture.

Scroll down to see photos of the award-winning Christo and Jean-Claude installation by Abu Dhabi Art .

Urban Fabric was created by Roudhah Al Mazrouei, an Emirati national, Gerald Jason Cruz from the Philippines, and Jennifer Tsai from Taiwan. All photos: Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation

Urban Fabric was founded by UAE national Rudha Al Mazrui, Filipino Gerald Jason Cruz and Taiwanese Jennifer Tsai. All photos: Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation.

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