Shadia is the latest body of work by Almaha Jaralla, and her first solo exhibition following her graduation from Zayed University with a BFA in Visual Arts. Here, the artist recounts her recent family history of migration in the Arabian Peninsula by observing collective memories of her maternal family members and their relocation within the region, while they sought comfort and surplus in their domestic living environments. The research spans archival family photos and documentation of recent site visits in Abu Dhabi. Jaralla’s conceptual practice is informed by recent historical events that took place across the Arabian Peninsula. She documents the shift in the surrounding territories through use of color, and architectural and familial representation. The research focuses on transformation of the constructed environment, the deconstruction of shelter-seeking modes for fast-growing nations, and the changes in housing solutions from the pre-oil era to the most recent prefabricated housing complexes.

The exhibition follows Shadia, Jaralla’s grandmother and a heroic character, who
traveled alone through the Arabian Peninsula, as a direct result of lack of access to safety, economy, and prosperity. She left and collected marks in the hopes of seeking better living conditions. Today, at three million square kilometers, the Arabian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in the world. It includes Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, as well as the southern portions of Iraq and Jordan. Though historically sparsely populated, political Arabia is noted for a high population growth rate, a direct result of a massive influx of migrant labor and sustained high birth rates. The demographics reflect a relatively young and heavily skewed gender ratio dominated by males.

The exhibition comprises paintings that range across techniques, from oil on canvas to traditional textiles and material exploration. The artist challenges her conceptual practice through these works by tying her family’s historical business to sarong making in Aden. Jaralla paints directly onto these sarongs, utilizing the patterns and their significant meanings.

Hashel Al Lamki, Exhibition Curator

Curator bio

Hashel Al Lamki is an artist and curator based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Al Lamki graduated with a BFA from the Parsons School of Design in New York in 2011. He is a co-founding member of Bait 15, an artist-run gallery space in Abu Dhabi that provided a home for local artists to engage in critical dialogue (active 2018-2021). He co-curated several exhibitions for Bait 15 and Abu Dhabi Art 2019, one of which is Bait Juma, a group show of family members “coming together to produce art.” In 2020, Al Lamki curated Almost Home, a group show that unpacks the spaces of belonging and childhood through a sense of “home,” which goes beyond the embodiment of physical space. Shadia marks the artist’s first curatorial project entailing a solo exhibition. Al Lamki’s curatorial practice centers on storytelling with a particular focus on narratives of diaspora throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

Al Lamki is an artist in his own right. His practice as an artist focuses on social innovation, sustainability, environmental, and philanthropic practices. In 2016, he was awarded the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) as a member of the fourth cohort.