Since 2002, more than three hundred poets, musicians, artists and speakers have showcased work and debated issues at Muharraq and Manama’s historical houses, thanks to the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohamed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research. The island’s leading cultural centre has spent the last 15 years saving these houses from decay, restoring them in order to preserve and celebrate Bahrain’s heritage. Now, the centre has commissioned 15 of the nation’s best and most promising local artists to create site-specific projects in 15 of these buildings. And the exclusive works will be unveiled at the launch of an exhibition, called 15/15, on Thursday December 15.
The whole idea has been conceptualised and curated by Melissa Enders-Bhatia, curator and head of art and exhibitions at the centre. She explains: “Located in traditional urban conglomerations of Muharraq and Manama, the houses of the Shaikh Ebrahim Centre present a unique point of departure for examining the interplay between traditions and heritage.
“A meeting of traditions, which root us and form the bedrock of our identity and contemporary practise, which probes, questions and looks into the future, forms the core of 15/15.”
It’s a unique opportunity to discover the country’s cultural and architectural heritage through the prism of contemporary art, she says. There is an air of mystery surrounding it all, and nothing will be known about the work until the reveal this month. So, rather than looking at the art, we get the lowdown on the amazing artists involved...
15/15 runs December 15-March 15, 2017. Sat-Thu 9am-1pm, 4pm-5pm. Various locations, www.shaikhebrahimcenter.org.
Rashid Al Khalifa
Bait Khalaf, Manama
Rashid Al Khalifa, founder of the Bahrain Art Society, trained in England and his artistic journey has taken him via landscapes to figurative paintings and convex canvases. His work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Venice Art Biennale and Rio Biennal.
Ibrahim Al Arrayed House of Poetry, Manama
After a career in the US, focused on fashion and then documentary photography, international award-winning artist Ghada Khunji returned to Bahrain and now focuses her art on her identity, gender and mortality.
Hala Al Khalifa
Shaikh Ebrahim Center, Muharraq
The US- and UK-educated artist explores painting to installation and video. While she’s participated in exhibitions from London to Egypt and Qatar, Sea (Bin Matar House, Bahrain, 2013), was a milestone event. It explored Bahrain’s legacy of pearl diving.
IQRA Children’s Library, Muharraq
Playful exploration is the hallmark of Malullah’s photos, videos and installations. She examines the world of women in her community. Characteristically, Mallulah produces extensive photographic series, which are then presented in a stop-motion format.
Khalil Al Hashimi
Kurar House, Muharraq
Educated in the fine arts in Russia, Al Hashimi is one of Bahrain’s most renowned sculptors. Working predominantly in bronze, stone and wood, this artist’s works are versatile in their material and themes, and are abstracted with minimal aesthetic.
Al Nuzul House, Muharraq
BuSaad, a founding member of the Bahrain Art Society, is a brilliant calligrapher and colourist. His paintings, drawings and prints are inspired by his surroundings – the alleyways, people and dhows that characterise his home town of Muharraq.
Adnan Al Ahmed
Mohamed Bin Faris House for Sut Music, Muharraq
The painter and muralist, who was educated in France, uses simplified and geometric figures and compositions in his works. He seeks to express personal memories that are fundamentally human.
Mohamed bin Faris Music Hall, Muharraq
Samra is a pioneer of conceptual art in the region. His oeuvre spans painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation. He explores existentialist, political themes that question the status quo.
Haya Al Khalifa
Memory of the House, Muharraq
Haya Al Khalifa is a writer and documentary photographer whose work focuses on the changing cultural and natural landscape of Bahrain. Recently, she did two environmental series, Shimmering Sands and By the Sea, when she used studio lighting outdoors.
Jaffar Al Oraibi
Lukmatina CafÉ, Muharraq
Towering male figures and an array of animals feature in Al Oraibi’s works, which are mostly in oil on canvas. He explores societal pressures and gender expectations with fluid, gestural technique and the dominant use of black.
Al Nukhida House, Muharraq
Almoayyed is the youngest winner of the country’s coveted Al Dana Prize and recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from London’s Goldsmith’s University. Her work is experimental, encompassing drawing, photography and installation.
House of Coffee, Muharraq
US-educated Fakhro is one of the most distinguished abstract painters from the Gulf. Her large canvases are inspired by the memory of experiences and places. A central figure in the development of Bahrain’s art scene, Fakhro is also a writer, art critic and lecturer.
Hanan Al Khalifa
Ibrahim Al Arrayed House for Press Heritage, Muharraq
While this photographer travels widely with her camera, she is more passionate about documenting her home country of Bahrain. She is currently the president of the Photography Club at the Bahrain Art Society.
Bin Matar House, Muharraq
Zakharia travelled extensively before arriving here more than 20 years ago and was one of three artists to represent Bahrain in its first pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale. He is a photographer and collage artist, focusing on memory, displacement and identity.
Buzaboon house, Muharraq
Sharif is a formidable painter and a long-time favourite of auction house Christie’s. Figurative and, at times, almost abstract, the artist explores themes of alienation and indifference. He’s a founding member of the Bahrain Art Society and a lecturer at the University of Bahrain.