Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa

Reflections: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa is an exhibition at the British Museum until 15 Aug 2021.

Much of this is about politics, protest, repression and the challenges of life especially for women, as well as abstraction and the human figure. It also includes a particularly wide-ranging section on faith also discussed in the catalogue (Venetia Porter with Natasha Morris and Charles Tripp)

‘By His Will We Teach Birds How to Fly No. 4’ by Ibrahim El-Salahi. Reproduced by permission of the artist

The inspiration for this drawing, by Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi (born in Omdurman, Sudan 1930),  came from seeing his father, a devout Sufi, who, while praying, would point his index finger outwards, creating a shape resembling the beak of a bird. Part of a series created by El-Salahi in 1969, the title alludes to the verse in the Qur’an:  ‘Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of [the air and] the sky? Nothing holds them up but [the power of] God. Verily in this are signs for those who believe’ (Surat al-Naml verse 79).

Avoiding the old umbrella term of Islamic Art this exhibition puts faith in context also of migration and identity:

Leila Alaoui (1982-2016), ‘Natreen’ (We are waiting). Photographic lambda print, 2013. Funded by the Art Fund. (c) courtesy of the estate of the artist who died as a result of injuries sustained in a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso at the age of 33, while on an Amnesty International assignment. The French-Moroccan artist was known for her sensitive portraits of people from regions affected by conflict and unrest across the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. Alaoui regularly worked with NGOs, and used her photography to reveal human narratives in crises, migration and displacement
Nidhal Chamekh (b.1985), Nos visage No XI (Our Faces No XI). Ink on paper, 2019. Though influenced by the popular culture of Tunis, the modern politics of Tunisia, and his experiences living in Europe, Nidhal Chamekh’s artistic practice transcends specific geographic and social subject matter. The artist works in a range of media, including drawing, painting, video, sculpture, and installation; the results, figurative but fragmented, are marked by a chaotic dynamism


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