The second annual Misk Art Grant theme, Under Construction, derives from the symbolic state of Arab society as emerging cultural hubs concerned with perspective. In particular, how identity is perceived as an emblem of growth, continuity, and endless iterations of cultural representations throughout history. Artists and designers from the Middle East and North Africa are invited to address the theme as a process of displacement, repetition, distortion, and incompleteness in a time of synthesis, understanding, and promise for the future. As we attempt to reconfigure our identity within the Arab world's diverse framework, how can you reconstruct the understanding of your identity to encompass the notion of being ongoing or ‘under construction’?
This year, the 10 grant recipients focused on the notion of Under Construction as a platform for their inventions. Reflecting on their experiences, they constructed their own understanding of the theme, harnessing the innovative and ongoing sense construction through documentary, nostalgic references, and traditional symbols and motifs.
Afra Al Dhaheri explores materiality by confronting the viewer with a volume of tangled and backcombed cotton rope that hangs down from the ceiling. She examines hair as the keeper of memories, preserving time, culture, and social norms. End of A School Braid is an end of a detangle journey, an arrival of awareness. An interval of unpacking and deconstructing. The piece brings back a specific part of Al Dhaheri's memory - a young student who hides her lusciously braided hair under her uniform. Her research and practice draws out notions of time and adaptation, rigour, and fragility. Al Dhaheri practices repetition in her works as a method of prolonging time and uses it as a tool to create new experiences with every phase of her work. End of A School Braid acknowledges shame and embarrassment of something none other than natural. Restoring confidence that never left in the first place. There is a struggle when trying to untie a knot. And a consuming energy when attempting to detangle societal conditioning. Al Dhaheri unpacks the experience of being part of a city, society, and culture that are constantly changing. The work closely examines social and cultural ideologies that exist and shift, and which impact the artist's generational upbringing, creating a hybrid of past and present. This body of work is an honoring as well of her mother's veiled labor.