Meet the Trailblazing Female Artists of Bahrain

female-artistsI recently wrote an article about the trailblazing female artists of Bahrain for The Establishment. The article was an absolute pleasure to write; I interviewed four of the Bahrain-based artists that most fascinate me – Ramah Al Husseini, Sarah Nabil, Frances Stafford, and Yasmin Sharabi – and tried to capture what I love about the quirky, eclectic movement they are creating.

I’m rushing down the winding alleyways of Adliya, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s funkiest district, on my way to the album launch party for the island’s only homegrown baroque’n’roll band. It’s November, but the evening is warm and jasmine-scented. Groups of people wander streets crowded with cafes, shawarma stands, and bougainvillea-draped villas that look grandiose in the moonlight.

I’m halfway through a whirlwind 24-hour exploration of Bahrain’s dynamic art scene, as seen through the eyes of some of the country’s most talked about young, female creators. Bahrain is the smallest nation in the Middle East—you’ll need to squint at the map and look for the islands off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia to find it—but its influence on history has been tremendous. As the heart of the ancient Dilmun civilization, Bahrain spent millennia as a trade hub, saturated by the ebb and flow of cultures, which left the nation with an eclectic feel unique in the Arabian Gulf.

The Gulf region has made waves in the art world recently, with Qatar building a collection of international masterpieces at such an impressive rate that it has become the world’s largest buyer of contemporary art, and Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennial making the region a key stop on the international art fair circuit. In the midst of this, Bahrain marches to the beat of its own drummer by balancing an embrace of international arts culture with a celebration of homegrown creative talent—the latter of which has made the country an epicenter of a new art movement.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Adliya // The Nest // Black Anaar

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It’s the first of December but the night is warm and almost humid. Traffic into Adliya is creeping past the Gulf Hotel and my driver suggests it would be quicker if I hop out and cross the road on foot.

I slip out of the car and into the crowds hurrying toward the distant glitter of twinkle lights coming from Al Riwaq’s The Nest. The Nest comprises a street market, live music, art installations, workshops, outdoor film screenings, and more. Designed to foster creativity, enliven Adliya’s public spaces, and bring together diverse creators and small businesses, it is an immersive, magical experience.

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Wonder Bahrain: Psychogeography in the Manama Souq

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It isn’t just humid in the Manama souq this evening; the night is saturated with the damp exhalations of the sea and we don’t walk down the streets, we swim. I’m playing tour guide for my friends who are visiting Bahrain and we have come to the souq for an experiment in the ‘undisciplined discipline’ of psychogeography. In other words, we have come to drift.

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Summer Solstice at the Saar Archeological Site

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One of my favorite parts of being a writer is doing research. To write confidently and to fully inhabit the world you are creating for your characters, you have to do the groundwork which can mean reading books, interviewing people, eating certain foods, listening to certain music, anything and everything that might help to paint a fully realized fictional world.

On the summer solstice, that meant spending a magical evening at a 4,000 year old Dilmun temple at one of the world’s largest ancient burial sites.

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Manama Souq Makeover + Feast!

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One of my favorite places in Bahrain, the Manama Souq, has gotten a makeover! The ‘Little India’ project was launched to commemorate the 4,000 year relationship enjoyed between Bahrain and India. It has added festive bursts of color throughout the area, like little jewels that hide around every corner, while preserving the beautiful, eclectic chaos that the souq is known and loved for. We decided to visit to see what we could discover…

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Bahrain: Old Bones & New BBQ

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This weekend we started bright and early for a jaunt across the causeway to one of my favorite places – The Bahrain National Museum. For such a tiny island, Bahrain has a heck of a lot of history. For 8,000 years the island has been continually inhabited and for millennia it was a major hub in ancient trade routes. Home to the legendary Dilmun civilization and thousands of burial mounds, Bahrain has layers upon layers of rich history. The Bahrain National Museum does an excellent job of presenting this history in a fascinating and thought-provoking way…

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Bahrain Definitions – Art, Music, and Culture

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To me, Bahrain means many things. It means, of course, swaying palm trees and warm sea breezes and scorching hot summer days. It also means meeting the most friendly, welcoming people you could imagine, and exploring ancient temples and crumbling forts beneath star-strewn skies. It means delicious feasts from tiny cafes deep in the winding alleys of the souq, spicy channa and crispy sambosa, all washed down with a cool, tangy lassi. Bahrain means thousands of years of history, of traditions and cultures and languages, that have all intermingled on the same tiny island for millennia. To me, Bahrain also means vivid creativity and inspiring artists that are always pushing the boundaries of their work and striving to express their most profound truth.

Malja Bahrain’s ‘Definitions’ exhibition was a perfect example, and I was honored to take part.

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Saturday at the Souq

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Some of my earliest memories are of toddling around the back alleys of Khobar, peeking into dusty shops, clambering up stacks of carpets, meeting laughing shopkeepers who always insisted on giving me little gifts, and, of course, eating all the delicious street food I could convince my parents to buy for me. Those days in the souqs and markets always felt like a grand adventure; I remember feeling that there was another surprise or treasure or tiny shop packed with magic trinkets just waiting around every corner, all I had to do was keeping walking and I would be sure to discover it.

Well, I have to admit, that feeling is still there. It’s one of the reasons why I still love to explore a good souq, especially the souqs in Bahrain. So, last Saturday, that is exactly what we did.

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From Cellar to Lagoon

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I started across the causeway late and checked into my hotel with just enough time to have a quick bite to eat and enjoy the always spectacular view from my room. I always request to stay in this same room because even on an overcast day I never get tired of the view.

Then it was time to hop in the car and head to Amwaj island…for the first time that weekend. The very lovely people at Art Rotana invited me to the opening of their new wine bar, Cellar 59. I was impressed from the start.

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