When diversity breeds creativity

Dar Al-Hekma University 1

Members of the faculty and staff of Dar Al-Hekma University’s Visual Communication Department presented a weeklong research exhibition from Nov. 8. Titled “Diversity Breeds Creativity”, the exhibition was held at the university’s atrium.

This was the first annual exhibition by Visual Communication faculty and staff at Dar Al-Hekma. The exhibitors shared with the university community the outcome of their research because in this field, artwork is the output of research.

“Dar Al-Hekma University’s faculty goes over the call of duty to educate their students. Research is one of the most educational tools that Dar Al-Hekma focuses on, and our faculty understands the importance and value of research in the educational process,” said Dr. Suhair Hassan Al-Qurashi, the university’s president.

Twenty-four members from the Visual Communications faculty and staff participated in the exhibition and showcased around 100 entries. The Visual Communications Department has at the moment 38 faculty and staff members representing 11 nationalities; hence the title of the exhibition “Diversity Breeds Creativity”.

The exhibition goes hand in hand with this year’s theme of Dar Al-Hekma University: “Fostering creativity”.

As an active group of visual artists from diverse backgrounds, the faculty and staff felt it was time to share their contributions to their field of study with the university and with their students. Although they all teach or work at the university during the day, they are all practicing artists as well, always researching and experiencing their surroundings and creating art as a result.

“This was the first time that we were asking staff members to put together an exhibition here at Dar Al-Hekma. The outcome is truly inspiring. The caliber of artistic talent that teaches and works in this department explains why our students are so successful themselves. On a daily basis our students are surrounded by a team of amazingly talented artists that made it their calling to pass on their knowledge and passion for art. There is no better way to start your own journey as an artist,” said Cordula Peters, chair for Visual Communications Department in Dar Al-Hekma.

Peters exhibited her project, titled “Why Won’t You Hear Me?”, in the exhibition along with fellow faculty members.

“My work addresses the issue of people’s inability to communicate, whether it is because of language issues, cultural differences, disabilities, or just because we don’t want to listen. The piece talks about repetitive, maybe even desperate attempts to be heard. The piece is based on research into the common issue of miscommunication or not being able to communicate. Conversations with people hard of hearing, foreigners with language difficulties, victims of bullying and physical or psychological abuse, as well as children have contributed to this piece,” she said.

In Dar Al-Hekma, Peters displayed a selection of 16 one-of-a-kind prints from a series that originally consisted of 100 individually framed unique monotypes of an ear with a question stamped beneath in red ink. The piece was created to raise money for a women’s shelter in Munich, Germany.

Another artist in the exhibition, Wed Abduljawad, a lecturer in visual communication at Dar Al-Hekma, shared her artistic statement.

“The images I exhibited are of Al-Manama, Bahrain, as part of a project titled ‘Recreational Purpose’, which was exhibited in 2014 in the National Museum of Bahrain in Manama and will tour the Middle East. What I expected to see during my visit, based on my memory of Manama, was a city competing for modernism like other major cities in the Gulf. I was surprised to find that the Kingdom of Bahrain, while advancing their architectural layout, was also maintaining its heritage by restoring and preserving Manama’s historical landmarks,” she said.

“The imagery produced for this project depicts the contrast and harmony of modern and older architecture stemming from different influences. As the city continues to grow and build, Bahrain equally invests in renovating and maintaining older parts of the city. These photos are a glimpse into the diversity of Manama’s architecture and the country’s effort to move toward a new era, while enlightening a history ingrained in its people.”

Speaking about the style she used, Abduljawad said her “The Pinhole Camera” is a way of showing how the contrast between history and modernism can coexist.

Nada Zaidan, lecturer, presented her work titled “The Arabian EVE-alution”.

Zaidan explained her piece by saying: “There are many misconceptions held by the Western world about the issues faced by women in the Arab world, especially the women of Saudi Arabia. The dominant prevailing imagery portrayed by the western media is that of veiled, homebound, uneducated women who need help to take the first steps toward emancipation. Those women undoubtedly exist, yet so do highly educated, professional women, who are liberated in their own minds and successful in their own fields.

“Through the mural timeline, this thesis project is intended to enhance the image of Saudi Arabian women through highlighting pioneer Saudi female achievers who created the Arabian EVE-alution. The thesis examined the major political, social and economic changes that led to this evolution over the past 77 years, starting with the unification of the country in 1932.”

Artist Colleen Ellis, assistance professor in the Visual Communication Department, also displayed her work in the exhibition. “This composition represents 180 photographs selected from nearly one thousand taken in Saudi Arabia and the United States from March to September, 2015. They are snapshots shot with a smart phone, representing fleeting moments of light, place and movement, reflecting another type of landscape and portraiture,” said Ellis.

“Some images were inspired by the light and texture of Al-Baha, Saudi Arabia. As the viewer goes through the rows time changes, as the images are arranged chronologically. Further the composition is set up to be read moving left-to-right on one row and right-to-left on the next. The journey of looking takes the viewer from Al-Baha to Jeddah, to Cape Cod, the Berkshires (western Massachusetts), Cambridge, New York City, New Hampshire, Boston, Rome, back to Jeddah, then to California, and concluding in Jeddah. Some moments reflect several snapshots, while others depict one,” she added.

“The images are printed in small size, and informally tacked using straight pins to suggest the preciousness and brevity of our moments,” said the artist. “They also reflect how light, color, texture, and sense of atmosphere changes as we move through space and time.”

Sara Albadi, lecturer, said, “The substance of this painting was to illustrate a twist of style found in Mughal art mixed with the style of the Safavids as described and depicted by historians and artists. Islamic manuscripts have been associated with an extraordinarily well-known religious and political monument from the time of Adam.

“However, a lack of written information from Arab, Muslim or Western writers was one of many reasons behind my interest in studying them. The painting I exhibited is titled ‘Canvascript, Folio 1, Recto’ to enforce this twist of Mughal and Safavid art with the title as well.

“The painting is based on a two dimensional representation, following the traditional Islamic manuscripts. It is a combination of vivid and warm colors, which are derived from both cultures, the Mughal and Safavid.”

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