Middle Eastern artists reconnect with Reconnecting Arts despite blockade

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Written by Sarah Schroeder


Photo credits: Reconnecting Arts


Over the span of one year, Reconnecting Arts has become a platform that showcases Middle Eastern creatives. Emerging contemporary artists from Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries find a space to shine and connect, as well as reconnect with other artists.


With the aim to increase the visibility of Arab artists in the region and internationally, this project offers unique opportunities for young artists. Founded by Sara Foryame and Khalid Al Hammadi, Reconnecting Arts organizes exhibitions, online features of artists, magazine coverage and workshops. ILQ recently had the chance to speak with Khalid Al Hammadi and received insight into Reconnecting Art’s mission and vision. We also found out how the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on Qatar has affected the work and commitment of artists – a month after the blockade was announced.



A mission that reconnects


The word “reconnecting” in the project’s name has a special meaning. It actually stems from a TED talk by Sheikha Al Mayassa in 2012. As Sheikha Al Mayassa spoke about globalizing the local and localizing the global, she mentioned reconnecting instead of connecting. A concept that seeks to connect something that may have been connected in the past but lost connection. Reconnecting Arts is trying to accomplish exactly that; reconnect creatives, communities, dialogue and artists. The network of artists Reconnecting Arts envisions, will see opportunities in the United Kingdom, in Europe and elsewhere to learn and participate in activities encouraging integration and peaceful dialogue about the Arab world.



The artists that are promoted through Reconnecting Arts are as diverse as the Arab world itself. The cultural and cross-cultural dialogue that is facilitated is very important to the vision of the founders. Qatari artists can exhibit their works in the Reconnecting Arts exhibitions abroad together with other Arab contemporary artists. This sheds light on the amazing and unique talent hidden in our country and other places of the Middle East. Empowered, inspired and astonishing Arab voices can now be heard in places like the UK.


Exhibition Transition 2017


Themed exhibitions explore topics such as conflict and war, but also belonging, connectedness, heritage and personal narratives. For both Sara and Khalid, the diversity of these themes is crucial. Artists can paint a picture of how beautiful their country is or tell a story of diaspora and use art as an outlet or therapy. Reconnecting Arts offers the accessibility of a platform artists often seek and don’t normally find in places like Qatar.



This year, Reconnecting Arts called for applications again for an exhibition. This exhibition will take place in the Menier Gallery in London from August 15 until September 2. Thirty contemporary Middle Eastern creatives are invited to exhibit their works with Reconnecting Arts.  


Under the title Transition, artists contemplate and reflect on ways their lives were met with transition. Fine art, calligraphy, sculpture, video, zines and installations refresh the art scene in August! Issues that shape the lives of Middle Eastern artists locally and globally are explored. Some of these topics include the effect of urbanization or displacement, the impact of balancing East and West, embracing faith and the future, and gender relations.



Defining the narrative is one of the angles the exhibition takes. In a world where Arab artists still feel marginalized by having to “defend their self, their assumed identity, their country or assumed country of origin”, artists have the opportunity to “create works that narrate their own lived experiences”. This way, Arab artists are able to define and reclaim their narratives.


Art and a blockade


Another focus of the 2017 exhibition Transition is unity. This theme specifically stands out in light of the recently imposed blockade on Qatar. Khalid told ILQ that although the plans of the exhibition with the focus on unity began in January, with recent developments it seemed ironic to hold an exhibition with such a focus. Khalid continues to say that “at the same time it is a strong statement that we are a family and will not embrace division”.



Though the founders were initially worried about how the blockade may affect the over 30 emerging Arab artists they are hosting, Khalid reassures that it “has not affected the commitment of our artists”. Unfortunately one media platform has decided against writing about Reconnecting Arts for their next publication due to fear of it being interpreted as support for Qatar. Khalid highlights the importance to view any coverage not as support for Qatar, but as participation in the art scene. “Our platform continues to support all Middle Eastern artists regardless of their geographical background.”



Reconnecting Arts is an independent platform that continues to support all Arab creatives and showcase incredible, diverse artworks. The artists are united through art, and remain united despite the blockade. In that sense, Reconnecting Arts really serves to reconnect, when governments are tearing people, communities and families apart. Times of disconnectedness emphasize the utmost importance of platforms like Reconnecting Arts. ILQ hopes that Reconnecting Arts will have a successful and brilliant exhibition in August, and that their work for artists will continue to make emerging Arab creatives feel supported and connected!



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