Artists stand up for women’s rights

In ‘Abolish Article 153’, 40 works by emerging talent from the region speak out against the discriminatory law that justifies honour killing

  • His Look by Musa Al Shadeedi, print on paper, 2016Image Credit:
  • A work by Musal Al ShadeediImage Credit:
  • Freedom by Tagreed Al Bagshi, acrylic on canvasImage Credit:
  • The Gate by Tagreed Al Bagshi, acrylic on canvas, 2016Image Credit:
Gulf News

After its inaugural exhibition in Kuwait in May 2015, Abolish 153 is hosting its second art exhibition in Dubai at JAMM gallery to raise funds for its campaign to create awareness about women’s rights.

The show, titled “Abolish Article 153”, features 40 works by emerging artists from the region, such as Musa Al Shadeedi from Iraq, Iranian Mehdi Darvishi, Bahraini Zuhair Al Saeed and Kuwaiti artists Maha Al Asaker, Farah Salem, Thuraya Lynn Al Jasem, Zahra Al Mahdi, Amani Al Thuwaini, Deena Qabazard, Tagreed Al Bagshi and Tareq Sultan. The works have been created especially for the show, and half the sale proceeds will go to the Abolish 153 campaign.

This is a cause that is close to the heart of Lulu Al Sabah, founder of JAMM gallery, and a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. “Abolish 153 is a campaign that aims to abolish Article 153 from Kuwait’s penal code, which gives men regulatory, judicial and executive power over their female kin in blatant disregard of the Constitution, international agreements on human and women’s rights and even the Islamic Sharia.

This law states that any man who surprises his mother, sister, daughter or wife in an unsavoury act with a man and kills her or him or both will be treated as committing a misdemeanour punishable by a maximum of three years’ jail time and/or a fine of Rs3,000 [currently equivalent to KD14, or Dh170]. Our aim is to also build coalitions across the GCC and the Arab world to abolish similar laws across the region.

Ultimately our aim is to create a safe environment where women are protected from all forms of violence and to raise awareness of these violent practices and the legislation that sanctions them. I know that the laws will not be abolished overnight, but we want to create as much awareness about this as possible,” she says.

The show presents various perspectives on the situation of women in the region. Farah Salem’s photographs of women trapped in boxes in various landscapes comment on the restrictions put on women by society as well as the constraints they internalise in their own minds.

Maha Al Asaker has used flowers and the female form to highlight the beauty and the fragility of a woman. Zahra Al Mahdi’s “Zouz The Bird” illustrations of “impregnation capsules” with price tags attached highlight the right of women to control their own bodies, sexuality and reproductive organs. Thuraya Lynn Al Jasem’s ink and marker pen dreamscapes are full of symbolism and metaphor about a woman’s world. Amani Al Thuwaini has created silk prints in seven layers to express her feelings about gender issues.

With her mixed media and embroidery on paper works titled, “Assisted Disappearing Act”, Deena (Machina) Qabazard makes a powerful statement on the way men see women. Tareq Sultan subverts the expression of an Arabic term of endearment (Ba3ad Chabdi), which translates as “My Liver”, using the balance held by Lady Justice — the allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems to highlight the sinister reality of honour killings.

Mehdi Darvishi has created an innovative interactive installation comprising a painting and two intaglio prints, which have to be viewed via the camera on a cellphone after activating a negative filter, commenting on the way women are viewed by society.

Musa Al Shadeedi’s photographic work references the 1814 Orientalist painting by Ingres, “La Grande Odalisque”, to speak about how modern men still view women as objects they own, that can be used for their pleasure, covered, or even killed according to their whims.

Zuhair Al Saeed affirms his support for the cause with a series of mixed media works featuring faded, disintegrated text about Article 153.

“Every artist in this show hopes that Article 153 will be abolished. And we want to thank them for their contributions and their support for our campaign,” Al Sabah says.

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

“Abolish Article 153” will run at JAMM gallery, Al Quoz, until May 8. For more information about Abolish 153 and to register your support for the cause, visit www.abolish153.org

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