Sharjah Art Foundation presents a series of musical concerts, film screenings and learning workshops expanding on the theme of Sharjah Biennial 15 (SB15), Thinking Historically in the Present. Collectively, these programmes offer an array of engaging activities and events through 11 June 2023 in different venues across Sharjah.
Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor, the 15th edition and 30-year anniversary of the Sharjah Biennial is curated by the Foundation’s Director Hoor Al Qasimi. Al Qasimi elaborates on Enwezor’s proposal with a presentation of more than 300 artworks—including 70 new works—critically centring the past within the present. The artworks as well as the music, film and learning programmes span 19 venues in 5 cities and towns across the emirate: Al Dhaid, Al Hamriyah, Kalba, Khorfakkan and the city of Sharjah.
SB15 Music Programme
A series of concerts, performances and recitals will treat audiences to a range of genres and sonic experiences rooted in older traditions and cultures yet connected to newer musical forms such as jazz, blues, rock and soul. The music programme takes place between 12 March and 27 May 2023 at three venues in Sharjah: Sharjah Performing Arts Academy, Africa Hall and Cultural Palace.
South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, considered the leading figure in the subgenre of Cape jazz, opened the series on 12 March. The next performance in the programme is by Boubacar Traoré on 17 March. A symbol of Malian music since the 1960s, Traoré’s influences include American blues and Arab and West African Mandé music. Noura Mint Seymali, singer and songwriter from a family of Mauritanian musical figures and master of the ardin (a harp-like instrument) will perform on 18 March. Tinariwen, a collective of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of Mali and pioneers of desert blues, take to the stage on 31 March. Grammy Award-winning Youssou N'Dour, who helped develop mbalax, a style of popular Senegalese music, will perform on 6 April. Contemporary sonic poet Aziza Brahim, whose music evokes her Western Saharan roots and the city of Barcelona (where she currently lives) brings the series to a close on 27 May.
The music programme has been made possible with the generous support of Bank of Sharjah and Sharjah Government Media Bureau. All concerts are ticketed: General admission ticket: AED 100 while for concerts happening at the Cultural Palace, balcony seats: AED 150.
SB15 Film Programme
The SB15 Film Programme presents a series of film, documentary and experimental moving images by participating artists and other significant filmmakers. The line-up features varied and radical imaginations of Indigenous futures as well as subversive portrayals of resistance to the legacies of colonialism, highlighting the overall empowering nature of the filmic medium.
Running from 4 March to 10 June 2023, the film screenings take place at Sharjah Art Foundation’s open-air Mirage City Cinema in Al Mureijah Square as well as at other cinemas in Sharjah.
The March segment includes: The Living and the Dead Ensemble’s Ouvertures(2020) which reflects on Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture’s legacy as it follows the translation of an Édouard Glissant play from French to Creole. Screening on 9 March, John Harvey’s Still We Rise (2022) interrogates archival footage through a First Nations lens—a bold dive into the history of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the oldest continuing protest occupation site in the world. Never Settle: The Program (2018–ongoing) by New Red Order satirises the hollow promises of decolonisation and settler remediation, while INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./] (2016) by Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil re-imagines the Anishinaabe Seven Fires prophecy predicting First Nations people’s first contact with Europeans—both screening back-to-back on 18 March. Lee Kai Chung’s The Shadow Lands Yonder (2022) depicts the existential limbo of individuals inhabiting a newly created settler state in early twentieth-century Manchuria, and will be screening on 25 March.
Film screenings are free and open to the public.
SB15 Learning Programme
The Learning Programme includes exhibition tours with experts, workshops, talks, panel discussions, excursions, photo-walks and storytelling sessions that simultaneously engage with Sharjah’s history, diverse communities and landscapes. Conducted in Arabic and English, the SB15 Learning Programme unfolds across multiple venues, from Al Mureijah Square, Arts Square and Dasman in the city of Sharjah to Al Hamriyah, Al Dhaid, Al Madam, Khorfakkan, Dibba Al Hisn and Kalba, in the Foundation’s six Art Centres.
Learning Programme for Children and Families
The programme is carefully tailored to kindle the interests and aptitudes of children aged 6 to 15 years as well as their families. Young audiences can connect, converse with and learn first-hand from SB15 artists as well as locally based artists, art practitioners and community members through experimental walkthroughs, art workshops, games and a host of other events.
For instance, one of our highlights includes a friendly game of cricket for players aged 7 to 10 that is premised around the reactivation of the junior cricket field in Al Mureijah Square, the site of artist Gary Simmons’ SB12 project Across the Chalk Line (2015). This event is planned in collaboration with the Sharjah Cricket Council. The Learning Programme for Children and Families is full of similar such stimulating activities organised with the support of collaborators such as the Sharjah Islamic Botanical Garden, Sharjah Heritage Institute, Sharjah Art Museum and Sharjah Documentation and Archive Authority.
School Visits Programme
A vital component of the wider learning programme, the School Visits Programme allows students to observe and interpret artistic practices beyond the textbook and classroom. It underscores the importance of art as an expression of lived experience and its relation to the world. Special guided tours of SB15 can be arranged for public and private school groups across Sharjah and the neighbouring emirates. Student groups will access select artworks within SB15 venues in Arts Square, Al Mureijah Square, Khorfakkan, Kalba, Al Dhaid and Al Hamriyah.
All tours are followed by workshops that focus on the Biennial’s themes or introduce students to the specific artistic techniques the works deploy. Registration is open throughout the Biennial.
The programme acknowledges and emphasises the pivotal role of libraries as dynamic centres, as sites for research, imagination, archiving and community building. Special reading sessions are planned for children aged 6 to 13, while the storytelling sessions, titled Story of the Ancestors, are open to all age groups and are narrated by people who have either lived in the area where the story is being told or have a strong background in its history and culture. The sessions take place once a month throughout the Biennial at various venues, including Khorfakkan, Kalba, Dibba Al Hisn, Al Madam and Al Hamriyah Art Centres as well as designated SB15 social spaces at Bait Abdul Raheem Jasem, Al Mureijah Square; Bait Obaid Al Shamsi, Arts Square; Old Al Jubail Vegetable Market; Al Hamriyah Studios; and Old Al Diwan Al Amiri, Al Hamriyah.
Learning Programme for Youth and Adults
The programme comprises three segments: Community Outreach, Adult Public Programming and University Initiatives.
The Community Outreach serves as a bridge connecting locally based artisans and artists with particular communities, from photographers to farmers, all the while nurturing a stimulating environment that encourages the sharing of interests and skills. Assuming the form of workshops, meetups, photowalks, supper clubs, excursions and open mic sessions, often in collaboration with SB15 artists, the Community Outreach programme explores the Foundation’s diverse locations while reflecting on the Biennial’s overarching themes.
The Adult Public Programme delivers a series of talks with artists, practitioners, scholars and historians. These discursive events amplify some of the most pressing issues in which SB15 has been invested, including heritage, memory and culture; race, gender and migration; violence, dystopia and resistance; as well as postcolonial and decolonial futures.
The University Initiatives segment makes the Biennial even more relevant to academic thought and discourse through close engagement with locally based universities. Faculty members from American University of Sharjah-College of Architecture, Art and Design, University of Sharjah–College of Fine Arts, New York University Abu Dhabi, and Zayed University-College of Arts and Creative Enterprises enabled the proposition of SB15 as a site for learning. The Learning Programme team supports faculty with teaching materials and resources and helps students respond to critical concepts raised by the poetics and politics of visual culture.
Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present
Sharjah Art Foundation brings together over 150 artists and collectives from more than 70 countries for the 15th edition and 30-year anniversary of the Sharjah Biennial. Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by the Foundation’s Director Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world, including the Sharjah Biennial.
Al Qasimi interprets and elaborates on Enwezor’s proposal with a presentation of more than 300 artworks—including 70 new works—critically centring the past within contemporary times. These works, as well as a wide-ranging programme of performance, music and film, activate more than 19 venues in five cities and towns across the emirate: Al Dhaid, Al Hamriyah, Kalba, Khorfakkan and the city of Sharjah. Among the many venues are sites within Sharjah’s historical quarter; buildings recently restored and transformed by the Foundation, including The Flying Saucer and Kalba Ice Factory; and repurposed structures that once served as a vegetable market, medical clinic and kindergarten. Free and open to the public, Sharjah Biennial 15 runs through 11 June 2023.
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. The Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region, and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions; and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture for 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019.
Alyazeyah Al Marri