Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) presents a major survey exhibition of Zineb Sedira’s work, spanning three galleries in SAF’s Al Mureijah Square. For over 17 years, Sedira has explored notions of family, tradition, oral history, migration and the intergenerational transmission of knowledge, often through a personal lens. Although these concerns have recently become the focus of wider public attention, the artist has long underscored the enduring existence of these issues in her work.
In order to expand understanding of the artist’s practice and its development, the exhibition will feature a number of Sedira’s well-known works. Mother Tongue (2002) portrays the struggle to find a common language in which to share knowledge and experience across time and space. Saphir (2006) explores the notion of return, and the multichannel video Image Keepers (2010) revolves around Sedira’s conversations with the widow of a prominent photographer, who devoted himself to documenting the Algerian revolution. The exhibition also includes rarely seen videos, such as The End of the Road (2010), and recent sculpture and installation.
Together with her previous work, the exhibition will present two new commissions. In her installation Sunken Stories, Sedira focuses on the wooden dhows that have long facilitated trade to and from the Arabian Gulf as she ponders how places are shaped by the movement of people, goods and culture across the sea. In Air Affairs, Sedira contemplates the Emirate of Sharjah through its historic British Imperial Airways (BIA) airport. She retraces the BIA route from London to Sharjah to Karachi and creates a travelogue informed by her journey. Her new installation, Laughter in Hell, is an expansion of Sedira’s long-running interest in traditions of oral history, and more profoundly, the performative transmission of knowledge across generations. Examining the dark humour that emerged during Algeria’s ‘black decade’ (1991–2001), a period of internal war resulting in the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people, this work considers how joke telling becomes a way for trauma to be emotionally assimilated within society. In the face of ever-present violence, laughter becomes a political, spiritual and palliative practice of resistance.
This exhibition is curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director, Sharjah Art Foundation.