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Dialogue of the Present

The Work of 18 Contemporary Arab Women Artists

Curated by Suimee Keelan

12th April - 14th June 1999

Dialogue of the Present aims to increase public awareness of the work of contemporary Arab artists and reveals the myriad variations within contemporary Arabic art that include traditional geometric imagery with conceptual video work. Some of the participating artists have shown in Britain extensively while others are exhibiting for the first time. The combination not only represents a unique international selection of artists but also highlights different cultural interpretations of the functions of art.

The artists involved with the project are: Firyal Al Adhamy; Malika Aguezney; Jananne Al-Ani; Thuraya Al Baqsami; Rima Farah; Maysaloun Faraj; Betoul Al Fekaiki; Saadeh George; Mai Ghoussoub; Wafaa El Houdaybi; Kamala I.Ishaq; Leila Kawash; Sabiha Khemir; Najat Maki; Houria Niati; Azza Al Qasimi; Zineb Sedira and Laila Al Sawa.

The 'dialogue' unique to this exhibition is between women who share, reinterpret and thus preserve their Arab identity through their art. Dialogue of the Present features artists united by a common ethnic identity but whose circumstances see each of them negotiating very different cultural values. These span three continents - bridging East and West. Many of the artists live outside their countries of birth and often away from the family network, raising the issues surrounding identity and dislocation.

Earlier this year the exhibition was shown at the Hot Bath Gallery, Bath and then at the Plymouth Arts Centre. Later this year it will be exhibited at the Pitshanger Manor and Gallery in Ealing, and opening at the Brighton University Gallery in January 2000. There is a day Symposium entitled Displacement and Difference being held in conjunction with the exhibition, in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre on 24 April, 1999.

The project and accompanying publication, Contemporary Arab Women's Art, Dialogue of the Present, have been made possible by the generous support of HH Sheikh Dr Sultan Al Qasimi; the Foreign & Commonwealth Office; the Arts Council of England; London Arts Board; Kingston University; the Women's Art Library; Visiting Arts and the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Dialogue of the Present was inspired by the enthusiastic reception in the United Arab Emirates of Fantasy, a Women's Art Library's exhibition of British art, which was also curated by Suimee Keelan, the show toured the UAE in 1994.