In the Heart of Another Country: The Diasporic Imagination Rises
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After having debuted at Deichtorhallen Hamburg at the end of 2022, In the Heart of Another Country, a grandiose group show curated by Dr. Omar Kholeif (Director of Collections and Senior Curator at the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF)), is currently being held at SAF and will end on 24 September 2023. The title of the exhibition refers to the eponymous memoir of Etel Adnan, a celebrated Lebanese-American poet and artist, written in 2004. The show delves into the concept of home, longing, and belonging by various diaspora artists and sheds light on how mobility across geographies has shaped the frame of today’s global art.

Etel Adnan, Journey, 2018. Etching. 45 × 76 cm. Edition of 35.

According to Dr Kholeif, the exhibition was inspired by “historically exploring the false assumption that there is a ‘singular’ form or aesthetic that denotes the art of the ethnic global majority”. In his opinion, this could hardly be the case “in the age of constant movement whether physical or virtual”, so by staging In the Heart of Another Country he aims to “reclaim the diasporic experience as a meaningful condition […] contoured by the specific experiences and contexts of artists.” Commenting on the selection of art practitioners and art pieces, Dr Kholeif says that the diasporic is presumed “as someone for whom movement in and out of space and time is implicit to their existence.” From this point of view, being or becoming diasporic “can become a site of empowerment, of efflorescing creativity.”

In the Heart of Another Country showcases 179+ artworks drawn from the SAF Collection and created by more than 60 artists across three generations, such as Sarah Abu Abdallah, Etel Adnan, Khadim Ali, Minam Apang, Shiraz Bayjoo, Huma Bhabha, Huguette Caland, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Adam Henein, Lubaina Himid, and many others. A lot of these artworks have rarely been seen outside of their original context or have never been displayed at all. Dr Kholeif adds that many of the works on view were created or conceived in Sharjah. It should be mentioned that the exhibition pays special attention to overlooked artists and historical figures to fill in the gaps in representation throughout history.

Saloua Raouda Choucair, Composition in Yellow, 1962-1965. Oil on panel. 51.4 × 81.3 cm

Divided into six sections, the show spans six galleries in Al Mureijah Art Spaces. Each of them is dedicated to a particular theme. Architecture by Other Means (Gallery 1) features the works in which the idea of belonging to a place is presented in geometry, minimalism, and architectural forms. The Salon (Gallery 2) examines the possibilities within the domestic arena. Reclaimed Portraits: Invisible Acts of Repair (Gallery 3) displays portraiture works by artists reclaiming self through surrealism and abstract images. Interstellar Lives: A Wayward Ethnography (Gallery 4) is about disentangling the ocular perspectives of ethnography, while Trace Mapping (Gallery 5) examines the different forms of mapping and migration. The final exhibition part in Gallery 6 titled The Cartography of an Exhibition brings together art pieces underpinned by history and memory.

Anwar Jalal Shemza, Advancing and Receding, Yellow Ochre on Olive Green, 1963. Oil on hardboard. 61.2 x 122.3 cm

In the exhibition, among the works on view is, for example, Slippers and Wire (2009) by Emirati artist Hassan Sharif. Composed of a giant pile of colourful plastic flip-flops tied with wire, this installation symbolises material accumulation. American artist Nam June Paik is represented by his TV Buddha installation comprising a Buddha sculpture placed in front of a video camera. Highlighting the difference between East and West through this work, the artist also addresses the modern society’s self-absorption driven by the media and technology. Visitors can also have a look at Memorial to Lost Words (2017–2018) by Pakistani artist Bani Abidi (a sound and sculptural installation based on letters of Indian soldiers participating in the World War I and Indian folk songs from that period) and The Ballad of Special Ops Cody (2017) by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, a stop-motion video riddling a complex discourse on war but also on the diplomatic issues of representation and repatriation.

Hassan Sharif, Slippers and Wire, 2009. Thongs and copper wire. Variable dimensions.

To learn more about In the Heart of Another Country, please visit the show’s official web page.

You might also be interested in visiting An Ode to Portraiture at Ayyam Gallery and Summer Allegory at XVA Gallery.