Arthur D'Souza, one of the driving forces behing Elham, gives Time Out the lowdown on the underground art scene in Bahrain
Elham sounds a bit shadowy. What exactly is it and how did it come about? Providing a forum for like-minded individuals and a platform for emerging and latent talent, Elham seeks to encourage and promote the arts in Bahrain at a grassroots level. Elham is not a writers’ circle, a photography club or a group of artists exchanging ideas. It is all of this and more. In fact Elham’s vision is all encompassing and inclusive of all talent.
Why do you think it is that Bahrain has such a vibrant creative scene? The make-up of the local people and the successful assimilation of different cultures from around the world results in greater interaction, making it more conducive to creative pursuits.
Do you ever find that the small size of the island limits people creatively? In fact the size of the island encourages dialogue on a more personal level, which in turn ignites the embers that creatives thrive on. The ability to think creatively is only limited by the individual himself and is not a direct reflection of the geographic size of the island.
What, for you, are the main positives of being part of a collective like Elham? Sitting in a room with people who speak the same language was, to me, the first evidence of Elham at work. The group provides me with the opportunity to flourish as an artist and has instilled a certain confidence in my ability to grow creatively. Elham shares in your successes, but more importantly, is there to offer a helping hand when you need it. Can you tell us a bit more about your own work? I am a photo-based artist employing a technique that I refer to as ‘positively paper’. It involves the use of overlaying BW film positives (of photographs I have taken) with under layers of coloured paper. Ideally a first-hand look at the art is recommended as I use a layer of clear glass between the positive film and the coloured paper when framing which gives the material more of a 3D effect, but makes for poor representation on my website www.arthurdsouza.com. I have also very recently started exploring the world of acrylics, producing a few pieces on wood.
Elham has been up and running now for three years. Can you tell us about some of your favourite events/shows so far? The three-day LiveArt ’08 festival over this year’s F1 weekend was memorable. It featured a live painting by several contemporary artists, screenings of short films and digital photography supported by a live DJ and performances by rock and rap musicians, making this Elham event a definite favourite of mine. Also, as a wannabe rock star, some of my best Elham moments have revolved around music, the best being the jazz night last December. That said, no two Elham events are the same, and I have enjoyed every single one never knowing what to expect, and more often than not, getting more than I anticipated.
Does the fact that you are an unregistered organisation and can’t raise any money hinder you in any way? When it comes to large events that need infrastructure and equipment beyond our limited resources, being an unregistered organisation is a disadvantage. The support from local galleries and venues combined with the occasional dip into our own pockets has kept the monthly meetings alive. But, as we grow, we recognise the need for a more structured and long-term strategy to fund our activities and this may mean registering Elham.
Tell us about your plans for the forthcoming season? Our first objective is to expand the core group and include more people in the planning and implementation of our events and make the Elham membership more proactive. Apart from our monthly meetings and satellite events (workshops, music concerts etc), we plan to hold a mega arts festival next April that will cover art, literature, poetry, photography, film and music. The arts festival will be held at various venues across Bahrain and will be accessible to all. Elham is also recording a CD of original material composed and performed by members, which will be released with the Elham anthology later this season.