The walls of Fikra art gallery last week had a gender – they exhibited beauty, elegance, versatility, perseverance and a string of other virtues that abide in femininity. Every wall reached out to the viewer with a familiar aspect about women, showcasing with a good measure of complexity the ease with which they sashay through life’s challenges – with nerves of steel hidden within a garb of grace.
Dr Zahra Akbari, the curator of the exhibition by Omani women artists, who believes that the word ‘feminine’ itself refers to a doctrine, said, “Mankind has developed through ages and certain aspects of femininity has remained intact. evolved over the years but its roots remain dynamic and steady in society.”
A researcher in Sociology and Anthropology and an exponent of Modern Art, Dr Zahra said, “This exhibition is a presentation of five women artists whose art is not only revealed in their artworks but they also share a common feature – Women matter! This cooperation with four Omani artists has been enlightening and promising for a new movement in the horizon of Oman’s Modern Art. We give birth to humans, bring them up, educate them and share our entity with them. When women feel safe and healthy, the whole society flourishes. In particular, women in the Middle East need attention, and as an artist and sociologist, I always focus on them. The exhibition by women artists inspired many ladies to present their passion for art and revive their own interpretation of things around them in life.”
Dr Zahra Akbari’s works in this exhibition include three pieces of mixed media with the theme of feminine presentation of Omani motifs and essence, as well as a video art presented for the first time in Oman. This video art, called ‘A Woman Reveals a Woman’ is an exquisite display of the divine essence of women in a worldly sense of audio and vision. In an artistic cooperation with Payam Khakbaz, Dr Zahra bridges the traditional and modern symbolic features of Omani women with a combination of motherly chanting whispers to the children, henna designs, and the ‘hijab’ as strong female icons.
Naila al Mamari, an accomplished artist and one of the group of five women artists in this exhibition, said, “My paintings in this exhibition belonged to the symbolic expressive school and expressed the Omani identity through three basic elements – Omani characters (people) – Omani kumma (Omani cap) and the seas and marine environment (fish, water, coral reefs). I emphasised through it, the importance of the Omani heritage and the marine environment, and the extent of their association with the Omani fine artist, with different formations and modern techniques.”
Haneen al Moosawi, whose work was a combination of geometric shapes and lines (which goes back to being raised in a diverse artistic environment as her Dad works as an urban planner and her Mom is an artist), said, “I have a very calm and quiet personality. I found art to express my emotions freely, and I find it therapeutic as it helps me live in the moment. I would describe my artwork between Geometric Abstraction and Minimalism, and mostly use paper cut, sketching, and digital materials. Her artworks have focused on dying textile art, like Batik combine with Arabic calligraphy using various colours.
Dr Najlaa al Saadi, assistant professor, Sultan Qaboos University, Art Education department, explained that her artworks in the exhibition were inspired by real photos that her friends shared with her. The Collection stands for the deep beauty and meaningfulness of accessories, faces and gestures of Omani ladies.
“A friend of mine showed me her late mother’s picture and the way she stared at the camera with her beautiful dress and the veil moved me,” says Dr Najlaa, adding, “The actual textile which is used in this work is merged with the acrylic paint on the mosque’s altar, so that it maintains the harmony, movement of shades, and the scarcity of a feminine gaze.”
Dalia Mohammed al Bassami, an Omani Photographer, explained one of her works – Proud Elegance, saying, “She represents an Omani lady who hugged me in the mosque. We know her, even covered under layers and shades of colours, even though she is forgotten over the years. The fast current of events faded her face out, but her memory has remained subtle.”
She added, a little philosophically, “She has made a whole generation of progressive girls and boys. She has made you, she has made me. May be she is you, may be she is me.” Dalia has also presented a collage of four photos of a folk dancer blending with curves and melodies.