Archive for November, 2014

Arwa Abouon – Honolulu


Honolulu translates as ‘Land of Pearls’ in Arabic, or literally ‘Here are Pearls’. This land that is often described as ‘Heaven on Earth’ establishes a final meeting place where we are promised a reunion with our deceased loved ones. For some, the attainment of Paradise remains a myth, but for others it instills hope and provides motivation to redress wrongs. This show represents both the coming to terms with the landscape of the unknown and embracing its faith counterpart.

Heaven cannot be attained without our time here on Earth.

‘Il est minuit à Tokyo, il est cinq heures au Mali,

Quelle heure est-il au paradis ?’ – Manu Chao

P.B.U.H. Series

“When I utter this name, I am reminded of a profound story. I must come to know and declare his name sincerely, meditatively and honorably, as this man remains the subject of poetry to hope for people finding faith once more. As he is sacred, we wish peace upon him”. The P.B.U.H. (Peace Be Upon Him) series depicts various transliterations used in North Africa, Asia, the Middle East and internationally of our Prophet Muhammad – He is to be emulated with the utmost care in order to attain our own true natures and to connect as a whole to humanity and then ultimately to God.

The Practice of Paradise

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there”. – Rumi

The Practice of Paradise studies the issue of the legalization of different modes of Islamic dress in Western society and considers the Islamic tradition of guarding outward expressions. This work presents approaches of veil vs. face coverings vs. smiling vs. laughing expressions in such practices that encourage attaining individual self-discipline.

This instillation raises a political matter but negates it and focuses on our internal state first in order to be able to further discuss the debates we confront in this world. “Improving one’s internal affairs is likely to create a more positive outlook and result in self-awareness; this then results in individual preparedness to seek harmony from difference and to be better able to dialogue comprehensively”.

“Smiling and laughing, covering and veiling, are validations for various people. As Muslims, we are encouraged to be moderate in order to prosper”.


Pathways Series 

Allah (swt) says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” Hadith Qudsi.

“Each of our life Pathways are different, but they are embedded into our experiences as important awakenings that lead us toward a path of self-knowledge. Growing up in the West, I have come to know of faith without force. This open opportunity to embrace faith has allowed me to mature alongside it. I surrendered to the heights of my faith and allowed my pathways to fall into place naturally. And this dual freedom and surrender has let me see my life as functioning within a divine dependence”.

This series of collagraphs (ink-less embossing on somerset paper) one of the various mediums used to depicts different stylized Islamic arches that symbolize an imprint made on our individual lives. The four larger arches are composed of an abstract graphic watercolor motif that represents the unknown that each of us encounter on our unique pathways. 

(video) Believers look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think. – Billy Graham

 “Angels are the guardians which facilitate one’s attainment of complete faith. Through our respective experiences, they travel alongside us on this journey of life. It is Angels that will receive us at the gates that people of faith devoutly strive to enter”.

In this video installation I allow the wind to dictate where these Angels may be. In particular, the Angel Mikaael is he who is responsible for directing the rain and winds according to the will of God. These garments symbolize the committed presence of Angels and encourages the viewer to meditate on the notion that the divine manifests around us at all times.

(photo series by my father, circa 1960’s)

Remember that this is only a temporary physical disconnect – one where he no longer has to suffer the ills of this world.  – Eiman Ahmed Zarrug

Born in Tunisia in 1940, Arwa’s father paved his way through life by way of education. From a small town in the south, her father received a scholarship to attend the most prestigious college in the capital city, Lycée Carnot. After completing his degree he received additional opportunities to continue to study abroad in Europe and in Canada. He decided  to set out for the Americas.

“Canadian society proved to be very different for him and the university was overwhelming. However, he perservered and with the support of a student affairs officer he continued to accomplish great feats in his studies and later in his career. From a young boy who fought with his older brother for candlelight in order to study to a man who brought to his children opportunities he was never given, my father strove to deliver brighter futures for us all. Canada is now his final resting place and it is fitting given that this soil has provided us with rights we would not have received in our native homeland”.

My father had an interest in documentation and performance with strong realistic storylines. In Tunisia, he collected black and white portraits and postcards of famous movie stars like Shirley Maclaine to Harry Belafonte. He would also regularly attend the cinema. The series of images in this study are self-portraits that my father took during his time at Université de Montréal. He had joined the photography club and documented his school life and he’d set up the camera with lights to reenact scenes at his host family’s home to send back to his own family. These lighthearted reenactments show my father in scenes that depict an enthusiastic young man’s journey exploring a new cultural environment and slowly building his place in the world.

This series honours her father and his inspiring life. Mustafa Muhammad Abouon, 1940-2013.