Jameel Prize 2009

Afruz Amighi: Oftentimes the way people view Islamic art is (that) it’s history. It’s something that is covered in dust, it’s quite beautiful, it’s elaborate, it’s amazing, but it’s something that happened in the past. And the thing about this exhibit is that you see actually that the dialogue with this history is alive in contemporary art. It is finally being recognised, it’s finally being acknowledged. It’s absolutely so important because there’s no break in that tradition with Islamic art, it’s a continuum and I think that it’s interrupting the monologue of western art and changing it into more of a dialogue.

Hassan Hajjaj: Although most of the artists don’t really live in the country they are from, there’s an understanding in the work that really you need to go back to tradition and come up with something unique.
I was born in Morocco. I grew up until the age of 13 in a small town called Larache, a small fishing town. My dad came here in the 60s and we followed, my mum, my sisters, in the 70s. This part of the work was really the journey of two worlds in a sense. Growing up in London and growing up in Morocco.

Susan Hafuna: My father is Egyptian, my mother is German and I was brought up between the two cultures. The cultures are very different and for me it was the only way to express myself, beyond one culture, to have my own voice or my own way of expression. If I show this work in the western world, people see it just as a pattern, they don’t see any word. If I show it in the Arab world, the work is changing totally because people are reading something and the whole work has another impact.

Seher Shah: I thought a lot about what the Jameel Prize meant in terms of contemporary art practise and I think that the most incredible thing actually has been to see the diversity of the art practise between all the artists here. And there is something very important to be said about what is happening in the contemporary world today with artists who are subverting their own cultural baggage and what they have seen. So it’s more about what each artist brings and each of the components has an Islamic, I won’t say core but that’s a fundamental part of this exhibition but there’s so much more here which is what makes it truly exciting.

Hassan Hajjaj: The good thing about The Jameel Prize is that it gives a platform in the establishment, like the Victoria and Albert Museum, to maybe have a new audience, and I think that all the art that has been chosen is great because there is a sort of harmony between the work. But I’m also really happy that it has gone away from the expectation from the west to do with the war-torn Arab past. So I think that there is a nice combination of work and I hope it opens up to people who wouldn’t normally see this work to see something more positive and another side to the so-called Arab world.

Camille Zakharia: In the last few years you can see a kind of a renaissance in the Middle East, with the number of museums that are opening, the number of art events that are happening. Many people now are encouraged to go into fine art programmes, which you wouldn’t hear much before. There are art schools opening in the Middle East and again a few years ago you wouldn’t hear of. Why it’s happening? I think that the world is opening to each other and you can’t keep isolated and it’s a very important element and what remains at the end is culture. That’s the only thing that remains.

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