Kuwait’s Thuraya Al-Baqsami: Living through joy and pain through art, creativity
An exhibition that encompasses 60 years of single-minded devotion to art by one of the Gulf and Arab world’s most influential female artists opened on Wednesday at the Sharjah Art Museum.
The show presents a breath-taking and diverse collection of more than 200 paintings, posters, drawings and illustrations dating back to the 1960s, of the award award-winning Kuwaiti artist and writer Thuraya Al-Baqsami.
Titled ‘Lasting Impressions: Thuraya Al-Baqsami’ the show is guest-curated by Thuraya’s daughter, Monira Al-Qadiri, a leading contemporary artist herself, and brings together works from public and private collections around the world.
The exhibition will be open until December 16, 2017.
The show inauguration also saw the launch of a new book about Thuraya Al-Baqsami and her work, and a documentary is being screened about her career at the Museum as part of the exhibition.
Speaking to Al Arabiya English, Al-Baqsami expressed her happiness that one of her most comprehensive retrospective of the artist’s career to date is being shown in Sharjah.
She said some of her latest work is being shown publicly for the first time.
In a press statement, she had said: “It’s a great honour for me to be here in Sharjah to open this exhibition. To see my life’s work on display is an important moment for me and evokes a wide range of memories dating back to the 1960s when I began my career.
“I hope this exhibition serves to inspire the next generation of young Arab artists to have faith in their abilities, to have the determination to overcome obstacles, and to create art that reflects their experiences and emotions.”
Born in Kuwait in 1951, Thuraya Al-Baqsami was one of the first active female artists in the Gulf region when she began publishing short stories and exhibiting her art works as a teenager in the mid-1960s.
Speaking of her long journey into art which she began at the age of 13 and continuing into her 6os, she said the urge to be remembered and to leave a legacy had driven her headlong into creating art, publishing poems, children’s books, novels, art criticism, while at the same time being actively engaged in work as a journalist. “I had tremendous energy... I could do anything but fly!”
She recently retired from her professional career to focus solely on her art.
One her main passions has been depicting the world of women. This is borne out by the works on show at Sharjah. The women she depicts on canvas reflects myths, traditions, Arab history and political developments. She does not shy away from addressing cataclysmic events in her works like the Lebanon civil war, the Occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, the invasion of Iraq. The pain and tragedy is very evident but through all this, her art and written work rarely reflect bitterness.
She has assimilated elements of Arab, African and European art to create her own distinctive style, and working in diverse mediums. Her influences are many, having studied fine arts in Cairo in the 60s and later specialized in book illustration in Moscow for her Masters. She also completed technical courses in silk painting, batik and ceramics in Dakar, Senegal, in the early 1980s. She then settled in Kuwait where many of her pieces reflected the Gulf region’s early modernization and the vibrant 1980s.
In the early 1990s, Thuraya lived through the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which affected her creative output as a collective traumatic experience for her and her family. She was awarded the state prize for her book Cellar Candles (1993) in which she renders her ordeals during the war into poetic fiction. The book has since been translated into more than 10 languages.
Her own husband was a prisoner of war and one of the most striking work at the exhibition was the painting about his joyful return. “I have tried to depict a universal feeling of the precious return of someone dear to the family,” Thuraya said.
Thuraya has held 60 solo exhibitions worldwide and participated in more than 250 collective exhibitions. Her works are in the collections of the British Museum, UNESCO, the Museum of Human Rights Geneva, and the Kuwait National Museum, among others.
In a statement, Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority, said: “Thuraya is a truly pioneering modern artist who continues her practice today with as much dedication and passion as when she began it.
“This exhibition captures the evolution of the Gulf through one artist’s journey and celebrates the achievements of women cultural practitioners in the region. We are confident that it will play an important role in influencing the emerging generation of talented artists.”
This exhibition is also the eighth edition of Sharjah Art Museum’s ‘Lasting Impressions’ series that pays tribute to the region’s most important artists.