When twenty-two polymorphous countries share the same linguistic, geographic, and historical sphere, and often the same religion, is there a common cultural link?

This inaugural exhibition Arabicity | Ourouba is a response to this question; it explores Arab concerns conceptually, aesthetically, and socio-politically. It shows how Arab artists resist stereotyping, challenge the confines of their identity, reshape the parameters of their traditions, and bring visual poetry to life.

Arabicity | Ourouba highlights the different routes and roots that artists from the Arab world choose. The artists express their response to the personal, national, regional, and international issues affecting the Arab world. Why do we do what we do and accept what is done to us? How we can resist clichés, injustice, and opportunism?  Through a variety of media, Arabicity | Ourouba explores the ideas of impermanence and existentialism. 

The exhibition hopes to shed some light on the rich but fragmented narrative of Arab contemporary art, recognizing the artists’ vision and acknowledging the tightrope they cross, skillfully and subtly, in order to express themselves and transcend nationalism. The subject matter is not so much about politics nor polemics, but about describing the complexity of the world through a visual multi-layering of Arab contemporary history. 

Works are on loan from collectors in London, Zurich, and Beirut. A special thanks to Shamiyana Collection for their loans and financial support. This exhibition is accompanied by the publication, Arabicity: Contemporary Arab Art (Saqi Books, 2019), co-edited by Juliet Cestar and Rose Issa, with contributions by Dr. Georges Corm, Michket Krifa, and Etel Adnan.

Rose Issa

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