The Sea of Life

Modern and Contemporary Art from The Kingdom of Bahrain

November 29, 2023 - March 26, 2024

Co-curated by Hayfa Aljishi and Lyne Sneige 
Sponsored by The National Arts Council - Kingdom of Bahrain and the RAK Art Foundation

The Sea of Life features the works of fourteen artists spanning different art forms and generations, exploring their connection to their natural and built environment and the symbolism of water in their lives. The title plays on the concept of ‘The Tree of Life,’ a widespread symbol of life among some cultures and religions. On Bahrain Island, water has been this lifeforce. Both the sea and the island’s fresh water springs are linked to its prosperity and regarded as a precious commodity to cherish and preserve, creating a powerful connection between the people of Bahrain and their natural environment. 

Learn more

Book appointment to visit in person

Photo: Ebrahim Bu Saad, The Lovers (1999), 79 x 59" Courtesy of the RAK Art Foundation

Visit the MEI Art Gallery

[Note: The Gallery will be closed beginning Dec. 21 and will reopen January 4, 2024]

The MEI Art Gallery is open to the public weekdays from 10am to 5pm (closed for federal holidays). Visitors are encouraged to register for a timed visit at the link below, but walk-ins are also welcome.

Book a visit

Opening Art Talk - The Sea of Life: Modern and Contemporary Art from The Kingdom of Bahrain

Co-curator and MEI Arts and Culture Center Director Lyne Sneige speaks with artists Mariam AlNoaimi, Ghada Khunji, and Jamal AlYousif about their work in MEI's latest gallery exhibition "The Sea of Life: Modern and Contemporary Art from The Kingdom of Bahrain." 

Learn more

Upcoming Events

Creators' Corner

An interview series featuring leading Arab and Arab-American actors, comedians, directors, writers and other ground-breaking creators highlighting their important contributions to the global cultural scene. Produced and hosted by Emmy-nominated journalist and producer Rhana Natour.

Learn more

Tribe Photo Magazine

Tribe is a non-profit publication focused on documenting photography, video and new media from the Arab world. As a global platform, its core mission is to create an archive and stimulate dialogue about the artists--emerging and established--who are defining their practice.

Learn more

MEI Art Gallery Exhibitions

2022 DC Arab Literature Festival

Event Recap

The Middle East Institute’s Arts and Culture Center and The Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation in partnership with the Cheuse Center for International Writers at George Mason University were proud to present a two-day, virtual literature festival featuring writers and poets from the Middle East. Panels explored the works and experiences of leading and emerging Arab authors and poets and the challenges of publishing and translating works from the Middle East.

Watch videos

International Arts Advisory Committee

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

Saleh Barakat

Touria El Glaoui

Leila Heller

Rose Issa

Adila Laïdi-Hanieh

Salwa Mikdadi

Venetia Porter


See Bios

National Arts Advisory Committee

Dana Farouki

Sheryl Fiegel

Anne Keiser

Amy Landau

Betty Sams


See Bios