The Unknown Sailor (2023)

Abdulrahim Salem
The Unknown Sailor
Performance: live painting and music, ink on canvas, palm frond, palm fibre and jar
90 minutes, 210 x 700 cm
Produced by Sharjah Art Foundation
Courtesy of the artist


Emphasising Arab heritage and identity, Abdulrahim Salem’s practice grapples with elements of magic, mysticism and folk traditions. The Unknown Sailor (2023) is a live painting performance set to the Emirati sea shanty Yamal, a song traditionally performed by Nahhamin, a group of singers who accompanied pearl divers and fishers to sea when their labour became particularly strenuous. A live performance of the Yamal guides the creation of a new painting by Salem during the opening week of SB15. Facing the sea, the ensuing canvas speaks to the role of colonialism in shaping and dictating maritime shipping routes and supply chains.