Being Borrowed Egyptian Migration
Being Borrowed: On Egyptian Migration to the Gulf
   Reading 3 min

Being Borrowed: On Egyptian Migration to the Gulf is a group exhibition at the NYUAD Project Space. First presented in Cairo in 2022, it is brought to NYUAD within the framework of the Research Kitchen Al Mashhad, which fosters research engaging with the Emirates and the region. Curated by Farida Youssef, Farah Hallaba, and Ali Zaaray, the show will run through the 7th of February, 2024. 

Being Borrowed grew out of a collaborative workshop held by the Anthropology Bel ‘Arabi (Anthropology in Arabic) initiative. Its founder, Farah Halaba, started working on the topic of migration from Egypt to the Gulf because of personal experience. She lived in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) for the first 18 years of her life, and her father has been living there “temporarily for 30 years” and cannot come back to Egypt due to financial issues. According to Halaba, the workshop “started out of a feeling of empathy and helplessness towards [him]”.

Sally Abo Basha, He Stayed There. Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo, Egypt, 2022.
Photo: Nadia Mounier, “Being Borrowed”, 2022.

The participants of the workshop — temporary migrants — wrote about living in the Gulf and described how the migration affected them and their memories. The results presented a general experience of an Egyptian who arrived in the region, was brought up there, and left it to pursue higher education. 

With the help of Farida Youssef, the writings produced by the workshop’s participants were turned into visual representations. The exhibition features diverse art pieces (photos, videos, installations, textiles, etc.) by 21 Egyptian artists. Through their works, they explore the themes of social class, aspiration, family dynamics, belonging, stability, death, and the temporary nature of human migration.

Among the exhibits is, for example, Not Denying Melancholy by Farida Serageldine Kamel, an artwork paying tribute to the abaya she got used to wearing while living in the Gulf. It shows that expats pick up customs in the Gulf, which they begin to miss when they come back home. Another art piece on display is Deferred Homes and Boxed Objects, an installation by Lina El-Shamy that demonstrates the melancholic preparations of moving.

Being Borrowed: On Egyptian Migration to the Gulf (installation view). NYUAD Project Space, Abu Dhabi, 2024.
Photo: Vidhyaa Chandramohan / The National.

About the curators

Farah Hallaba graduated from the University of Kent (UK) with an MA degree in Social Anthropology and Visual Ethnography. In 2019, she started @anthropology_bel3araby (Anthropology Bel’Arabi) to publicise anthropology in an accessible way and in Arabic. Since then, Hallaba has been doing short videos and organising workshops about social class and migration to the Gulf. From 2021 to 2022, she was a resident fellow at the Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CILAS), where she taught Ethnographic Studies.

Farida Youssef, a Cairo-based critic, writer, and curator, earned her MA in European Philosophy from University College London (UK). Her main field of interest is the relationship between art and spatial theory in 20th-century thought. In 2018, Youssef was a Meerut Fellow at the British Museum; she researched the Egyptian collection through the lens of contemporary philosophy. In 2021-2022, she was a residential fellow at CILAS and in 2023, she received the apexart’s International Open Call for her proposal The Valley of Walls. In addition, Youssef has published academic chapters, articles, and exhibition catalogues on 20th and contemporary visual culture.

To get more information about Being Borrowed: On Egyptian Migration to the Gulf, please visit the show’s official web page.

You might also be interested in attending I Write Your Name at Foundry Downtown.

To stay tuned and be sure that you will not miss our latest art news, you can join our Telegram channel.