Cultural Re-Expressions 101

boy eating, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 190x200 cm

In 2004, my brother Tareq and I collaborated on an exhibition of his conception and design which he used ‘Cultural Re-Expressions 101’ as a working title for. Soon, that title disappeared and it became ‘that show you did with your brother Tareq at the Life Shopping Center’. Basically, he had this idea to present a collection of paintings which depicted traditional Kuwaiti life through the eyes of a contemporary artist (me). It was very challenging for me because any time I work on something that is a ‘project’, I buckle up and I start churning up shit. So I had to be very careful not to be too literal and not to lose myself in the process. So for each painting, to keep myself sane and stay on the path which is truly Ghadah, I decided to ravel some kind of a storyline that related to me and my memories somehow. Another challenge was painting men. I can paint a man but I don’t enjoy it. It just goes against my natural flow of things.

This show consisted of twenty three large to insanely huge pieces. The ‘gallery’ itself was erected in four days in a shopping center under construction. The show was up for three days and in Brigadoon-style, gone on the fourth.

This particular painting, boy eating, captures a moment in a young Kuwaiti boy’s life, where he’s being fawned over by his overzealous mother and sisters. He’s eating with great obliviousness to their affections, and not much appreciation either. I know many boys and men like him.

The dresses were inspired by my great grandmother Aziz’s (actually her name wasn’t Aziz but it just stuck because she lived with her son Aziz. Her name was Zainab, like my daughter) hand sewn dresses. I really enjoyed these bits of the paintings: the colors and patterns. I also enjoyed working on the men’s qutras (head scarves). The boy is eating mawash (rice and lentils).

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