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Posted On: 22 September 2016 03:29 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:16 pm

Artist makes statement on racial profiling through “Fair Skies” exhibit at Mathaf

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Title image: Mahmoud Obaidi with his piece

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha has dedicated a part of its museum to a new display of work by Iraqi-Canadian contemporary artist Mahmoud Obaidi.

Art with social commentary

Obaidi is widely known for his art exhibits around the world, which mostly offer critiques on political and social issues in subtle humorous ways. Some of his works include the “Uranium Generation,” “IT SUCKS,” and “The Imposter,” among others.

On show from 22nd September 2016 – 8th January 2017, Obaidi’s installation, titled “Fair Skies,” will be available for viewing at Mathaf’s Project Space, dedicated to emerging artists and curators’ experimentations with new ideas and forms of presentation.

Random selection, based on skin color

“These pieces are based on his personal experience with customs, especially in the United States, where he was stopped because of his color. It’s initially a project talking about racial profiling,” said Leonore-Namkha Beschi, Assistant Curator at Mathaf.

Obaidi recounted his experience of when he was in line at customs in an airport in Texas.

IMG_4664.JPGImage: Mahmoud Obaidi's "random" selection

IMG_4663.JPGImage: Mahmoud Obaidi's "random" selection

“The airport security had passed me, and everyone in line was blonde, and I knew in my head that he would come back to me,” Obaidi said. “He came back to me and asked about my passport. I have a Canadian passport. Then he asked where my stamp was and I replied page 17, then he said don’t raise your hand at me and called for back up.”

Inspiration for
Fair Skies”

This is what inspired Obaidi to create his exhibit. His art piece uses figurines with blonde and dark hair, which depict his experiences at immigration, and vending machines that provide people with beauty kits that can transform darker skinned people with dark features, into people with white skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair.

IMG_4667.JPGImage: Mahmoud Obaidi's vending machine that will provide beauty kits

“They would be in airport bathrooms in the US, before you reach customs, and for $1 you can get blue lenses, skin-whitening, and blonde hair dye for about five minutes,” Obaidi said. “Then you pass the checkpoint and in the plane you can wash your face.”

IMG_4675.JPGImage: Mahmoud Obaidi's beauty kit

New method of art

Obaidi also commented that his exhibit is meant to be funny, but it also raises awareness about racial profiling at airports. The name “Fair Skies” is a pun that implies the fairness of skin and hair, and also how it’s more fair to travel when people look a certain way.

“It’s interesting to bring awareness in this new method of producing art, which is multidisciplinary and makes references to marketing, science or technology, bringing all these fields into art, to make artwork,” said Beschi referring to the different artistic concept behind “Fair Skies”.

This installation comes ahead of another major exhibition by Obaidi opening in Doha this October.

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