Jan 29 2019

Nujoom Alghanem To Represent The UAE At The 58th Venice Biennale

by Chloe Chu

NUJOOM ALGHANEM has been named the United Arab Emirates’ representative artist for the 58th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia.

On January 29, poet and filmmaker Nujoom Alghanem was named the United Arab Emirates’ representative artist for the 58th Venice Biennale. Her presentation, comprising a site-specific video installation, will be housed in the UAE’s permanent pavilion space at the Sale d’Armi building of the Arsenale. Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath will curate the exhibition.

Born in Dubai in 1962, Alghanem is a widely recognized poet who has published eight volumes since 1989. Inspired by authors such as Mahmoud Darwish, her poems address the evolving Arab world, and themes of displacement, longing and the struggles of women. Her award-winning films and documentaries include Hamama (2010), which follows an elderly female shaman; Nearby Sky (2014), the story of the first Emirati woman to enter her camels into the UAE’s camel beauty pageants; Sounds of the Sea (2015), a portrait of a forgotten fishing community who make their living on the Um Al Quwain; Honey, Rain and Dust (2016), a piece based on the lives of beekeepers; and Sharp Tools (2017), a tribute to late Emirati artist Hassan Sharif.

“Alghanem is a driving force behind some of the most innovative literary positions and bold cinematic practices of the UAE and the Gulf,” said curators Bardaouil and Fellrath. “Her evocative work is as profoundly concerned with expanding the formal components of her practice, mainly poetry and film, as it is with capturing the complexity of the human condition through telling remarkable stories about exceptional characters.”

About her presentation, Alghanem added: “The forms and subjects of my practice have been shaped by my personal experience within the context of a rapidly-transforming society. The individual approach in which I have had to resolve the tension between tradition and modernity, has deeply impacted the content of my work as an artist, and is embedded in my writing and filmmaking. As a woman, I have found it fulfilling to focus on extraordinary female stories from our society or the Arab world that are worth being highlighted. I am excited to be working on this new commission in collaboration with the curators and the team of the National Pavilion.”

The UAE’s National Pavilion is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. The exhibition will mark the UAE’s sixth participation at the Venice Biennale. 

Chloe Chu is the associate editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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