A half-Syrian, half-Palestinian Refugee of the third generation, Mays Albaik was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts degree at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Her practice focuses on attempts to explore and understand the stories that have implicitly shaped her geographically-transient identity, defined by the clashes of travel documents, geopolitical alliances, and societal schemas.
Albaik is a member of The Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship, and has shown work in multiple venues in the United Arab Emirates, including Warehouse 411, Sikka Art Fair, and the Sharjah Art Foundation. Her writings were published by The National Newspaper, as well as The Outpost magazine and other independent publications.
Albaik works with installations and sculpture through time and space, using literature and prose as an important process tool and a sculptural medium, exploring the intersections of ideas of spatial instability, language, and the body.
Mouthful of Sand, 2017
"The silent footage, an unsettling series of flashes of light and dark, white, black, and red, indecipherable shapes alternating with the recognizable images of teeth and tongue, throws the space into an unstable stroboscopic state, a charged state of constant, inescapable change.
The muted speaker in the video is anonymous, confessing silently to an empty space, seen when the mouth slows down, and yet the audience is forcefully brought intimately close, occupying the space of the speaker’s mouth, the genesis of their speech, the box of secrets, the gate for communication and connection to other people, irrespective of the language that’s spoken.
The mouth is one of the body’s most charged spaces. Not a cavity, but a cauldron. The genesis of words, the gateway for revelations, the jail cell of secrets. It is a person’s first connection to the world, and the room where words are both public and private. Everything within is in a constant state of flux, of perpetual transmutation, and nothing is ever unchanging in the mouth. Not food, not words, not secrets.
Not you nor I."
Layali Alsadah is a 23-year-old Yemeni-American psychology grad currently serving as outreach advocate for the Arab/Muslim community at Washtenaw County Safe House in Ypsilanti Michigan.
“After many years of trial and conflict, I considered myself unworthy of self-expression. Afraid of failure and of judgement, I was unable to publically express my discourse with identity, culture, and intimate tribulations. Because of this, frustrations surrounding my perplexing identity exasperated my conscious; silencing a form of liberation that could serve as a tool in building myself and my community upward. Accompanying a political awakening, I developed the realization that writing our individual narratives ultimately leads to unifying our communities as a collective.“
Blood at War
"Turmoil, identity paradox, and resilience are portrayed through stitched prayers and trigger words in acrylic paint assimilated into the burned fabric of the unraveling American flag stolen from the local Walmart. As the United States government covertly supplies military funds to the conflict in Yemen, there is a continual attempt to enforce the closing of borders to fleeing civilians seeking refuge. With the current targeting of the Yemeni people, is it a matter of time before the paradoxical identity of the Yemeni-American follows the same fate of erasure as its country’s stability?"
Asiya Alsharabi is a Yemeni artist. She started as a journalist photographer then shifted to the art scene detailed and descriptive. As a middle Eastern female artist, she faced many challenges during her career as a photographer, but she has also turned her lens to art photography in an effort to capture the energy and personality of Arab women who are, through cultural strictures, not allowed to be photographed. She uses a self developed technique that expresses and focuses not only on aesthetics, but also on the underlying struggles of women surrounded the world. Her work questions the effect of culture and religion on female identity. Her work is exhibited widely both nationally and internationally.
In 2013 she moved to the USA because of the current war in her country Yemen. While waiting to go back home, she is now exhibiting her work at Art Works Gallery in Richmond. Lately during a workshop at “Anderson Ranch Art Center” Colorado, she developed a series combining a digital and handmade technique, and was selected as the first Yemeni artist to participate in their residency program in 2016.
"Self portrait in my grandmother clothes representing Yemeni immigrants in the USA. Today we are effected by president Trump targeting our basic rights, humanity, history, and the future of our children. Immigration procedures changed us into labels like “deported, rejected and denied.”
Yemeni immigrants helped built this nation of ours in many ways, steel factories, roads, cars, art, into the medical fields, and even some of them gained their Citizenship by fighting in World War I and World War II. Where to go?"
Born in Iran, a society with stringent regulatory control over all types of communication, Bahram developed a profound desire to understand how the performance of actions and the relationship between medium and message could affect the outcome of our social encounter. Bahram unpacks his installations and performances through presenting the impotent medium, such as texts that are incapable of conveying their intended message; destructed photos that are depleted from the iconic value of an image; and bodies that are unable to introduce the real identity of individuals. Within this destructive space lies an important and affirmative sentiment, which is the main objective in his relational practice: the possibility of relocating the message from within the medium into the contingency of its reception.
Bahram has shown nationally and internationally ranging from venues such as Gowanus Loft, Brooklyn, NY; Yerba Buena Center For the Arts, San Francisco, CA; Mission Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA; Reed College, Portland, OR; Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, OR; Asian Resource Gallery, Oakland, CA; Umpqua Valley Arts Center, Roseburg, OR; Siuslaw Public Library, Florence, OR; Plâtre et Moi Gallery, Paris, France; Laatikkomo, Jyväskylä, Finland; Aaran Gallery, Tehran, Iran; Fravahr Art Gallery, Tehran, Iran; Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art, Tehran, Iran.
He received an MFA in photography and also a graduate certification degree from the New Media and Culture program at the University of Oregon in 2015. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Art at the University of Oregon.
"In response to our fragmented and multi-faceted life our identity is also more fluid and changes throughout our lifetime, insomuch that it consists of many intersecting factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental and physical differences as well as other forms of identity. This performance creates an opportunity to reveal some of the limitations of attributing fixed identity to a group of people and to show how it darkens the glass we see others through and ourselves in. The installation involves 15 Iranian individuals whose identities are often assumed by others to only comprise their nationality. Each participant has shared a list of words that represent their individual identity. While they are welcoming you into the space, their words, images and presence cannot be labeled or banned."
Carmen Daneshmandi is a photographer & visual artist based in New York by way of Seattle but also by way of Spain and Iran because that is her makeup. Driven by the texture of identity and the cultural backbone that holds you, her work spans to celebrate and carve out space and visual capital for people of color and the pulse of their evolving narratives across audio-visual vignettes, portraiture, and mixed media collage. As she questions these current representations, she uses powerful juxtapositions, identity through object, mental health, and abstractions of personal history to guide her.
"As first generation Spanish-Iranians growing up in a Catholic-Muslim household in white suburbia with our only family in Iran and Spain, my sister and I always carried potent, deeply sunken and above all intangible feelings rooted in identity and the missing sense of real community within and outside of ourselves to validate our existence.
More so we lacked the older generational hand me down of first-hand family stories and time together to shape us into that special quality of resilience vital to combat today’s darkness - while our parents were proud, it was still within the parameters of assimilation and protection, a feeling of neither here nor there yet always made intimate with the physical and emotional bounds of ignorance,”what are you?”s and Islamophobia of today’s Muslim Ban and ongoing hate crimes.
Pieced together at the intersection of personal family photographs and public political experience, these collages came together as a meditation on that limbo and I hope they act as a map to start building that feeling of family legacy, ancestral legitimacy, and identity perseverance during this heavy time.
Similarly, “Homing Devices” is the experimental stream of consciousness short film also honoring that pursuit of home - it’s title is a repurposing of the military term to better aim at a return to one’s self."
Ibi Ibrahim (b. 1987) is a Multi-media artist from Yemen. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East and is part of various public collections including the Barjeel Art Foundation and the Colorado College. Ibi Ibrahim lives and works in Berlin.
Hosam Omran (b.1991) is an audio/visual artist. His first animation film ‘The Pact’ was made in 2016 and can be found on Youtube. In 2014, he formed the musical due Share3 El Sukkar with Razan Abu Aska. Omran was raised between Yemen and Jordan, and currently works for the Royal Film Commission Jordan.
"The video piece ‘Departure’ is a short film that recounts the struggle of Yemenis stranded and displaced outside of Yemen as a result of the ongoing war. Through the usage of bird migration footage as well as animated footage of Yemen, the film aims to display the current status of the Yemeni citizen, displaced and in a constant state of waiting. Those who wait to leave, and those who wait to return.
The video is accompanied by voice conversations of Yemeni women who have been displaced since the war erupted. Like thousands of other Yemenis, they found themselves suddenly unable to return to their homes, displaced from their loved ones and faced with the obstacles of the unknown. The video piece is a collaborative work between Ibi Ibrahim and Hosam Omran."
Rhonda Khalifeh is a Syrian-American artist and designer based in New York. She received a BA from New York University in 2013 and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of art in 2017. She is currently an artist in residence at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn.
"In First Friday, I use the language of garment construction to explore the ways in which surface negotiates, protects, and betrays the human body.
I’m searching for the limitations of plurality in the sites of access and exclusion that fragment; the points where shutters are bolted, entryways erected, and borders are drawn. The insertion of such point allows space to temporarily unfold as an interruption of surface. Under these circumstances, surface, despite its infinite extension of plane, becomes site to boundary."
Soraya Majd’s work revolves around identity and memory. As an Iranian-American she uses both photography and printmaking to work against the cultural erasure that comes with growing up in the Persian diaspora. For her, the investigation and research that goes into planning a piece is just as rich a part of the process as creating the piece itself. Constantly inspired by her family’s photo albums, she weaves together portraits and Persian design elements to create space for what is lost to political division.
"I’m the daughter of an Iranian immigrant, my whole life I have been navigating and working out what it looks like to grow up in the diaspora. Not being able to go to Iran to visit our family is the heaviest thing lost to the political divorce between my two nations. This series of portraits of my family was taken in Oregon in front of a set that we built of my grandma’s living room back in Iran. This set is as close as we are able to get to her home."
Gina Malek was was born in Rochester, MN to an Iranian immigrant father and an American mother. Malek lived in Texas, Michigan, and Indiana, before moving to New York to earn an MFA in visual arts at Columbia University. Since graduating in 2015, she has exhibited work in New York, Chicago, Thessaloniki, and Berlin. Her solo show “On What Remains” opens on December 14, 2017 at E.Tay gallery in New York City.
While Malek’s paternal side of her family is Iranian, her parents separated when she was very young, and so she did not grow up with a strong Iranian presence in her life. However, a few months before the 2016 presidential election, the Iranian side of Malek’s family made contact with her for the first time. Over the past year, Malek learned about her family history, met relatives, and uncovered the politics and racial bias that prevented her from maintaining contact with this side of her family. Furthermore, Malek has become involved in local activism, and currently serves on the steering committee for the New York Immigration Coalition’s Young Professionals Leadership Council. Her interest in immigration reform was a direct result of the “Travel Ban 1.0”, the election, and the following surge of Islamophobia, racism, and ethnocentric nationalism.
"Each painting is a passage to an encounter Malek has had with someone. Materials are collected through printmaking, drawing, and writing, as well as video and audio recordings. In her studio, she extends the encounter in pursuit of creating a portrait of a feeling. To chase a moment, freeze it, and make it repeat. The works approach shared ideas of identity and the impermanence of memory."
Ifrah Mansour is a Somali refugee Muslim multimedia artist residing in Minnesota. She explores trauma through the eyes of children shedding light on the resilience of black, Muslim, refugees. She interweaves text, movement, and digital media to create a multi-sensory artwork that illuminates the invisible stories of immigrants. Upcoming works include My aqal two, Can I touch it at Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and How to Have Fun in a Civil War at Guthrie Theatre.
Media coverage of Ifrah’s work include “Minneapolis Artist Sews New Somali History that Crosses Generations” by the Star Tribune, “Ifrah Mansour Explores War from a child’s Perspective” by City Pages, “Performance and Prevention” by Minnesota Daily and “Ten Somali artists & entertainers to watch in 2015” by Okayafrica. Recent performance works include “Somalia’s Balloon”, “Corn for Ayayo”, and “A stray” indie film. Upcoming shows include “How to have fun in a civil war” at Guthrie Theatre and “Can I Touch It” in “I am Somali” exhibit at Minneapolis Institute of art.
I am a Refugee
"I am a Somali female multi-media artist residing in Minneapolis. I interweave text, movement, and digital media to create a multi-sensory artwork that illuminates the invisible stories of immigrants. My artwork takes on the form of plays, poetry, installations, puppetry, and community collaborative artworks. My artwork is informed by my lived experience, and that of my community as Muslim refugees and Somali immigrants."
Tandis Shoushtary is a German-born BFA student at the Cooper Union, who learned the culture and language of her (Iranian) familial roots in the context of migration. Her work investigates the shaping of identity and its hybrid forms resulting from relocation.
"In the wake of Trump’s muslim ban, I examined my mother’s camcorder footage taken during my visit to Iran in 2009, the first and last time I visited my parent’s home country. Presented as a series of vignettes, Mother’s Tongue is a rotoscoped animation consisting of over 800 hand painted frames, a meticulous attempt to reclaim, remember and editorialize the only connection to my Iranian passport. One does not have to understand the context or words that are spoken in the familial moments depicted— these are universal experiences. However, to a farsi-speaking audience it discloses a second meaning: the vignettes reveal instances of misunderstanding and miscommunication, emphasizing an obvious cultural barrier between the children depicted and the space they exist in.