Library Circles: Another Empty House
   Reading 2 min

The latest edition of Library Circles, a series of research, talks, and experimental interventions by Emirati practitioners held at the Jameel Library, features Another Empty House. Conceived in 2020, it is a project by artist and researcher Juneida Abdul Jabber; architect and interior designer Shahnaz Hashim; and researcher and lecturer Zahra Mansoor. One can familiarise themselves with the project until 30 October 2023.

Another Empty House is dedicated to the experience of the Gulf Malayalis, migrants from Kerala (an Indian state) working in the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The project explores the phenomenon of vacant domestic houses in the state which are built by these migrants. Usually huge and luxurious looking, yet empty for most of the year, the houses are lived in only for a couple of months when their owners come back to India to spend vacation or for weddings/festivities. Jabber, Hashim, and Mansoor aim to answer the question: what and who are these buildings actually for? Through collecting tropes in films, advertising, videos on YouTube, and oral histories, the collective attempts to understand this socio-economic and political issue.

Juneida Abdul Jabber, Shahnaz Hashim, and Zahra Mansoon, Weight of Emptiness, 2021. Video collage, 3 min. (on loop).

In their work, the three researchers note that for those Malayalis who have to work abroad, building a house is first of all a measure of success. The structure’s size reflects pride and ambitions. It also serves as a status symbol and displays wealth when it comes to arranged marriages for children. Besides, the Mappila Muslims of Kerala forming the majority of the Gulf Malayalis tend to build houses big enough to contain separate spaces: rooms for men and those strictly for women.

The research of Jabber, Hashim, and Mansoor also includes delving into how the Gulf Malayalis influence Kerala’s political and economic situation. The migrants contribute greatly to the state’s economy. However, the migrants’ houses have a negative impact on the regions where they are built in. They not only require greater resources and space, but also cause an increase of local real estate prices and living expenses.

To get more information about Another Empty House, please visit the project’s official web page.

You might also be interested in looking at Samur by Chinese artist Zheng Bo.

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