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Art After War
Kuwait’s National Works at the 55th Venice Biennale
Author Noura Alsager and Thanks N.Hamad for sharing with us.
Under the patronage of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, Kuwait’s first pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale features the work of two acclaimed Kuwaiti artists: sculptor Sami Mohammed and visual artist and professor Tarek Al-Ghoussein. Through its focus on structures of grandeur, National Works examines the development of art and nation in Kuwait post-independence. Curated by Ala Younis, the pavilion also raises critical questions: how do buildings or sculptures convey grandeur? Is it about size or subject? And how do these structures interact with individuals?
Despite depictions of construction, much of National Works exposes the destruction of Kuwait. The Iraqi occupation of 1990 emerges as the second most important event in Kuwait’s history after independence in 1961. The Gulf War transformed such “symbols of grandeur” into symbols of resistance. Although formerly associated with newfound wealth and development, these structures have since borne the marks of lost power and aggression. From 1991 forward, “national” took on a new meaning.
On display for the first time outside of private grounds are Mohammed’s most notable works-the bronze sculptures of Kuwaiti emirs Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah (1972) and his brother Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah (1989) commissioned by local newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam. In addition to the two sculptures, Al-Ghoussein debuts several photographs of Kuwaiti landmarks from his series, K Files, an ongoing project that merges family photographs and documents with a new set of works shot specifically for the 55th Venice Biennale.
At this pavilion, Mohammed’s works are displayed in parts. But though the sculptures are segmented, their unity remains in the pictures and stories that show their progression-from idea, blueprint, gypsum, and finally to bronze.
The shimmering figures are Kuwait’s first two emirs after its independence from Great Britain in 1961. Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem established the first constitution and decreed the first National Assembly. During the reign of Sheikh Sabah Al Salem, Kuwait instituted its first university and nationalised its oil sector. Miraculously, the sculptures survived the violence and looting of the Gulf War; but as the story goes, Iraqi forces hounded their maker to cast a statue of Saddam Hussein. For the seven months, he lived in hiding and grew a beard.
Al-Ghoussein’s photographs also self-portraits, taken at locations of significant national value. We see the artist amidst the shattered Salam Palace, beneath the curves of the National Assembly, at Abdullah Al Salem High School, hanging on a pier at the manmade island of Um Al Gaz, at the Nasr Sporting Club, sitting in the lower level of the Stock Exchange, and finally, at the Al-Rai Al-Aam headquarters where Mohammed’s statues for decades stood.
Most of these buildings were constructed during the 1960s and 1980s, and represent the country’s modern urban landscape. Many would also recognise them as iconic; for instance, Kuwait’s National Assembly signifies both political independence and an artistic vision. Overlooking the Gulf, its prominent curves give the impression of a tent-like structure. On the other hand, Salam Palace-the former residence of state guests-appears as a mansion of ghosts. Iraqi forces occupied the palace during the invasion, and after the war, left it completely defaced.
The photographs portray more than just grand twentieth century construction, however. With the presence of the artist in every frame, we notice the relationship between structure to individual. In the picture taken at Al Nasr Sporting Club for instance, Al-Ghoussein appears as a black speck, only visible in comparison to the vast rows of dull, empty bleachers.
The photographs also make us question the meaning behind the selection of structures. Why Al Nasr Sporting Club and not any other stadium? Where are the iconic, Aga Khan Award-winning Kuwait Towers? Are they too cliché? Do they lack the macabre quality of the broken Salam Palace?
On a micro level, National Works focuses on two disparate interpretations of what constitutes art, of what can pass as “national,” and of what we see as ‘grandeur’. The works exhibited belong to a time when structure was art, and when art was valued-articulating the schism between Kuwait post-independence and Kuwait post-war. After 1990, nationalism became the antithesis of invasion, liberation overshadowed independence, and the collective consciousness transformed into one that was marked by the effects of war and survival. Not only that, but Kuwait lost its place as an artistic hub in the Gulf. Salam Palace and Abdullah Al Salem High School symbolise more than grandeur, they also depict the way Kuwait has stood still since 1990.
Though the structures exhibited at the pavilion symbolise independence, modernity and progress, they more importantly illustrate a country’s reclaim to power. As survivors of war, they represent the struggle for liberation, a second independence, and a reinterpretation of “national.” In the end, National Works presents audiences with Kuwait’s national narrative from the start of its modernity and up to the present, all the while trying to contend with the aftermath of a two-decade-old war.
For high resolution pic, Click on link http://kuwaitup2date.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/new-1.jpg )
Designed by Usman Choudhry
Level 1 certified cricket coach by Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and Captain of women team in Kuwait, Maryam Osama Omar. Welcome Maryam to KUWAIT UPTO DATE.
Tell me something about you/background?
I am a Palestinian girl, born and brought up in Kuwait. I can summarize who I am in 3 words; determined, hardworking and adventurous. People who know me best say that I’m daring, trouble maker and fun to be around. Ever since I was a kid I had dreams of becoming a famous sports person and I still live up to achieve this dream. In my family, due to my hyperness and naughtiness, I’m considered to be the brother to my 3 sisters. I love travelling, sports, music, art, meeting new cultures, traditions and living life to fullest.
Date of birth: 8th March 1993
Sports: Cricket, Basketball, martial arts, swimming, football, volleyball.
Education: Bachelor’s of Civil and structural engineering at Australian College of Kuwait (ACK).
Sports participated in: Cricket (National Team) Basketball, football and volley (College team).
Years in current sport: 3 years
What got you started ?
Summer of 2010 (my last year of high school), A circular was distributed inviting the International School of Pakistan girls (ISCP) to join cricket talent-hunt which was organized by Kuwait cricket. I wasn’t interested because I had no background of the game. My sports teacher Mrs. Shaista Tahir insisted that I should go and see. Being an Athlete, I was quite positive about learning something new so I decided to give it a try. However, I had never anticipated for this game to be the best part of my life.
What are the major challenges that you have encountered so far in your career?
Being an engineering student, I had to focus so much on studies. My father didn’t like the idea of having anything that could interrupt my education so I had to promise my dad that I would do my best in giving him what he wants ( good grades) and in that way I would also get what I want i.e. (sports). The major challenge was the time management. With all the things that I wish to do, a day could only hold 24 hours so I had to compromise few of my activities.
Would you like to share with us the keys of your success being captain of team?
Well, I’d like to put like this (PHD)
Passion, hard work and dedication!
What would be your ultimate achievement in life?
To be part of a test playing country (Australia) and to get the chance to participate in a world cup event, if that is to happen it would be a dream come true.
Do you always been very confident on ground?
No. Initially I wasn’t very confident. However, soon later with the help of few of my finest coaches (Coach Tariq Shah and Tahir Khan) who did not just teach me how to bowl or hold a bat but more than just cricket they taught me how to trust my ability, skills and to enjoy the game. I’ve learned to believe in myself and in what I love.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
One of the biggest challenges that I had gone through was to understand the game. It was at the beginning of my career. Although I’m a quick learner, it took me time to understand the rules of the game. Cricket is not just a physical game of quickness. It requires sharpness of thinking, tactics and techniques. I’ve managed to overcome this challenge by immersing myself into cricket whenever possible. Watching matches and noting down the points that I don’t understand so that I could refer back to my coaches for answers is something that I still do.
Being a cricket player, how your diet is different than other girls?
As a sports girl, I find it very important to have a balanced diet; it’s a key factor for a healthy mind.
Beside a normal healthy diet, my diet contains NO fast food but instead a great amount of vegetables and fruits, milk as a daily intake. Playing long hour matches need loads of energy and that’s only possible if we are physically fit. In order to avoid cramps, fatigue or muscle pulls. Water is one critical nutrient for athletes, shouldn’t be taken lightly. Proper water intake is necessary during matches to avoid dehydration.
What 1-2 things do you believe differentiates you from your fellows in team?
My fitness level and dedication towards cricket.
Do you have any recommended resources to share with your fans regarding cricket (website, face book page, books…etc)?
For information regarding international tournaments and updates the below links should be fine.
What was the best advice you were ever given?
The best training advise:
Initially, I was frustrated when I wasn’t able to be deliver in all three aspects of the game (Batting, bowling and fielding) That’s when Tahir Khan’s (Coach) advise came in handy, he guided me along by saying “Greatness needs time and hard work” so then I realized that I had to focus on each step separately before being able to mastering all three.
The best match Advise:
“Fortunate favors the brave” by Tariq shah (Coach).
Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by? Where do you draw your inspiration?
“Rules are meant to be broken” *giggles*
There is not a specific saying or motto but I live my life drawing motivation and inspiration from the people around me. I believe that there is always something that you can learn from every person that you come across.
What has been your worst experience so far in cricket?
Losing the semi final was one of the worst experiences.
ACC U-19 Women’s Championship (2012), Kuwait performed extremely well in all the pool matches but unfortunately we weren’t able to secure a spot in the finals. If we got that win it would have been Kuwait women’s biggest achievement. However, we managed to get the 4th position which is still the best that we have reached. And by this Kuwait is the first gulf country to reach the semi.
What are your other activities in life except cricket and study?
Besides cricket and engineering, I’m devoted towards sports and art. Whenever I find a free slot in my busy schedule I either practice my other activates; martial arts, basketball and swimming or practice playing my guitar, I do sketch too but whenever in the moodJ.
I always have something to do; But Cricket is on the top of my list.
How do you manage stress on pitch?
Being an opener, there is always a big responsibility of setting a firm platform on which the rest of the team could build on. But I’m extremely lucky to have one of the best young talented openers by my side Varshini Suresh. When we go in to bat, there’s always this huge trust and confidence on each other and this helps me release most of the built in stress. We both make the best duo; we always start the inning by achieving small targets which we set for ourselves as we bat our way through.
Who one motivate you a lot at home?
At the beginning of my career, my mother was the only person who motivated me. As much as it was hard for me to adjust to my new life style being a national cricketer, it was equally hard for her to cover up for my regular missing spot at home due practice, travelling on tours and studies. I spend most of my day at college and during the night I practice cricket and other sports too. Even on weekends when I’m supposed to be chilling with my family, I’ll be going early morning to practice. My dad hates my repetitive absence but now I’m glad he understands how much it’s important to me. Now I’m glad to say I have a full force support system at home and I love it.
Do you see bright future as cricket player?
I actually do!
I’ll keep working hard for it because I have a dream and I’m on a quest to make it happen.
What game do you prefer to play other than cricket?
Basketball. Before joining cricket, I had a dream of becoming a national basketball player but I guess destiny has a different path planned for my future/life.
Being a girl, have you ever faced any trouble in sports?
No, not personally. My parents are quite supportive because they know that I love sports and it’s something that I live for. However, as a girl there are definitely some restrictions. No parent would allow their girls to be out of home so late J
Who is your favorite sportsman and why?
Wasim Akram of Pakistan. He was the first cricketer that inspired me. I loved his bowling “king of swing”!
I’d love to meet him personally.
What is your way of motivating your team?
Well, we are not just a team we are a family, we are always together boosting each other. Before the match you will always find few players under tension attack and that’s totally normal. As a team player it’s my duty to spread the positive vibes among all the players. Early morning in the hotel before going to the match they all meet up in my room and few words of encouragement are all what they need to get them motivated because deep down everyone of us is a heart eager to win, you can sense our team spirit miles away.
Anything else would you like to share?
The person who I am today is a combined effort of all people who have supported me on my journey. I’d like to seize this opportunity to thank all who were the reason to my success.
Especial thanks to my parents, friends and loved ones for their support. And off course a big thanks to Kuwait Cricket for giving me the chance to represent the country that I love. Mr. Asad Baig (Director of Kuwait Cricket), Mr. Mehboob Khan (Director of Kuwait women’s Cricket), Ms. Nida Mirza (Manager), Tariq Shah (Coach), Tahir Khan (Coach), and Ms. Sandra Almeida (Physio) their efforts are countless. Finally a big shouts for my team, “You all are the best”!
I would like to thank KUWAIT UP TO DATE for their magnificent effort in keeping up with all what’s new. I am a fan of this Page and it was a great honour for me to have them publish my interview on their page.
Thanks once again.