Archive for January, 2020

The Cultural Identity Shop – An Installation by Nawar Al Kazemi


Nawar Al Kazemi 12th December 2019 to 9th January 2020

The Cultural Identity Shop Installation, a research-based project.

Nawar N. Al-Kazemi is a designer، a design critic, and the founder of Square One Creative Lab, 2017. She holds Master of Fine Arts in Design Criticism from The School of Visual Arts, Manhattan, NY. Her research focuses on design education and its role in bridging the growing gap between design and cultural identity, specifically in the Arabian Gulf countries. A strong believer in design possibilities, Nawar seeks to emphasize the integral role of design critique, which to her once properly applied, leads to a healthy creative eco-system that would greatly benefit the creative community in Kuwait.

This installation focuses on the notion of cultural identity in the context of the collective memory, and our relationship with our identity. 

With the rise of consumerism worldwide, particularly in Kuwait where this research is based, this project seeks to question how cultural identity is viewed as a commodity, like a brand, lacking deeper understanding of what it means to be “Kuwaiti?” The project started with interviews conducted with people who have ties with Kuwait, both locals and non-locals, asking them to share personal experiences that shape their contribution to cultural identity through visuals, colours, and other elements. Ten recurring responses were selected from the responses along with the various associated narratives, this installation was designed, mimicking a store’s experience, and referencing the increasing intertwine between consumerism and national identity today. The outcome is based on our conversation with people, they further elaborated on their responses of the surveys they completed beforehand. I created objects that represented each of the ten responses, using white gypsum, a material that communicates raw aesthetics, replacing colour with people’s narratives, which gave each object its significance as perceived by people.

‘Fareed Abdal – A solo exhibition’


12 November 2019 – 9 January 2020

Fareed Abdal, a solo exhibition brings together ten new works in a first time exploration of woven art.  

Fareed Abdal (b. 1957, Kuwait) is an artist, architect, and educator. His practice probes into the inheritance of cultural constructs and is interested in what happens away from language in the relationship between form and concept. Though noted for incorporating Arabic text in his work –rather than use writing to delineate thought– his meandering and contortionist-like strokes complicate the experience of language and living. Working against Western rationalism, his work is rooted in Asian philosophy and spiritual practices of the East.

In this new body of work, Abdal culls a cohort of characters from a number of Eastern mythologies. Ten figures are made visible through interlocking Arabic letters, sometimes revealing words and fragments of poetry. Berber-like, the pieces combine flat and raised weaving techniques, and have a palette of 5 or 6 colors at the most. The pieces are composed of repetitions of bold strokes that double as locks of hair and clothing embellishments, and reflect a strong admiration of Eastern literature. In Moons of Time I&II, for example, Princess Budour and Prince Qamar are brought together by omnipresent external forces into a staggering love relationship, akin to the invisible algorithmic mechanisms of dating apps today. In Red-Veined Darter (or Nomad) the artist pays tribute to the migrant dragonfly whose arrival from Europe indicates the start of autumn, and for many comes as a sign of relief from the scorching heat of the desert summer. In Villager of the Abandoned Paradise, the artist mourns the loss of the land worker in the era of the Anthropocene. Abdal’s study of historical texts and motifs beckons viewers to revisit the past while thinking about the present and future. His ability to connect the ancient with the modern aspects of our lives is testament to the cyclical nature of mankind and leaves viewers oscillating between feelings of reassurance and irresolution.

The pieces in this exhibition were woven in Turkey on a traditional vertical loom. They are made from wool, plant fibers, and colored with natural dyes from various plant roots, leaves and berries. The artist expresses his deep gratitude to the management team of Samovar for its guidance and support in making this work possible.

Moons of Time II (Princess Bodour)
Fortune Teller

Foreign Architecture / Domestic Policy by Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Karimi


Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Karimi –April 23rd – June 20th 2019

The Sultan Gallery is pleased to present ‘Foreign Architecture/Domestic Policy’, an exhibition by Civil Architecture/Hamed Bukhamseen & Ali Ismail Karimi. Opening 7pm the 23rd of April, the exhibition looks at the overseas architecture of Kuwait and how it embodies changing ideas of citizenship, foreign policy and the branding of the nation state.

In the context of resurgent global xenophobia, the role of the Gulf city-state in Europe and the US crops up on several occasions. Often as a wary skepticism or concern over the possibility of foreign control over national resources, many of these concerns are not new, and are repeating legacies of larger questions that were posed earlier in the 20th century, with the oil embargo, or instability in the Middle East. The questions ultimately ask what it means to imagine separate nations in a world which is increasingly interdependent.

After the 1973 OPEC crisis, the country of Kuwait began undertaking a series of efforts to secure its position as one of the world’s leading exporters of crude oil. For a country of less than a million people at the time which exported 10% of the world’s oil, the narrative of the state was inextricably tied to the projections of wealth and identity outwards. This need to constantly reinforce Kuwait’s position in the global community is part of the effort to transform oil rent to intellectual and cultural capital, but also to secure political ties abroad, creating a network of allies to support the small city-state in events of aggression or international pressure.

Among the strangest and most recognizable of these investments are the not so subtly titled Q8 gas stations. These gas stations inhabit and make up  a significant percentage of gas stations in Italy,  Belgium, Luxembourg as well as other locations in Europe, all bearing Kuwait’s abbreviated name and brandishing the twin dhow sails as a logo.

For the average passerby the inconspicuous Q8 appears to be any oil company. For Kuwait however, the creation of a second Kuwait through a network of infrastructural investments, gas stations, and branding was a way to build demand and secure a market for Kuwaiti products.

During the first Gulf War the stations were called to play a political role as well, acting as sources of funding for protests and lobbying movements after Kuwaiti assets were frozen due to the Iraqi.