Within my brush marks my relatives faces, symbolic veils, masks and patterns are often highlighted, repeated and reworked. In pursuit of a fleeting moment, I recontextualise and reframe the presence and absence of family members and belongings, my hazy memories kept close and eternally captured on canvas. Partially revealed, I attempt to collapse my present reality and bring the past to life, forever layered in washes of paint, helping me work through subconscious emotions and fears. My complex cultural identity is mulled upon frequently, through depictions of the sea- a sight of healing and trauma, Kanga cloth patterns and a full moon of hope. I search for a lost time, imagining my ancestors sailing alongside me on mysterious dhows, clay and coffee pots metaphors for family, and the colour blue symbolic to many ancient cultures, becomes my timeless symbol for life, rebirth, heaven and earth.
Born to parents from the East and the West, I have always been fascinated by cultural hybridity. When my father got cancer, I was sent to boarding school speaking basic English. They believed that by forbidding me to converse in arabic, my assimilation into a proper English girl would be complete. This and other factors, caused me to become further isolated from my Middle Eastern identity, and in my work I try to grab hold of this struggle, depicting my paternal relatives and childhood in Oman, prior to my fathers death. Tales of his family are retold to me through my Welsh mother, and this has had a big impact in the way I make my art, and the subjects that I choose to deal with. Understanding the dynamics of exile and migration, is for me, a direct consequence of my upbringing, and I realise that my mixed heritage has been a rich source of material to work with, though at times it has also created numerous questions within me about my sense of belonging and place in the world.
“Identities work only because, once they get their grip on us, they command us, speaking to us as an inner voice; and because others, seeing who they think we are, call on us, too.”
– Kwame Anthony Appiah, The lies that bind, rethinking identity
Similar to Appiah, I am part of a complex web, a mixed heritage generation that continues to give birth to a never ending layered hybrid race. The work I am compelled to make, enables and empowers me to make sense of who I am, as my identity is contoured, labelled, shaped and redrawn by society and myself.
Whole countries shut down, and this is the new normal for us all. The world as we know it, has had to rapidly adapt and evolve, as has the art that I have been making. Fake news slips into social media, and messages constantly ping on my phone, as we all attempt to stay in touch and informed. I am one of the lucky ones, safe with my family, healthy and with access to the internet and a fridge full of food.
Now I walk briskly to my local supermarket, silently standing, masked in socially distanced queues, constantly looking from new signage on floors to the distance between those in my proximity. Colourful tape a never ending reminder of how to correctly place myself within delineated territories. Accidentally at times I overstep the mark, misreading another persons stride, we all make mistakes. My paintings are now fed by the politics, domestic violence, mental health issues, and how to cope with this nightmarish reality. I reinvent reality on canvas, just as many other artists before me have done in crisis. At the click of a button, all culture past and present is fed to me digitally. I am connected to a network, up all hours, borderless, zoom calls, virtual gallery spaces, I can be anyone and anywhere in the world. My paintings proclaim this, stating I belong here, this is what I’ve seen and heard, don’t forget (me.) My way to bear witness to what it means to be human, the beautiful, the good the bad and the ugly.