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Home TAGPress Tunisie Art Exhibitions Challenge Conservative Kairouan

Art Exhibitions Challenge Conservative Kairouan

 KairouanCultural-complexThe mellow falling of rain on Tuesday May 29 announced the opening of two distinct art exhibits in Kairouan.

Plastic Art Mosaics, a collective show by Aymen Dridi and Mohamed Hamzaoui, and Creative Touches, a solo show of self-taught painter Henda Abdelkefi, are both being presented at Kairouan’s cultural complex in the center of the city.


Kairouan Cultural Complex

The two displays celebrate the contemporary art scene in Kairouan, a city mostly known for its Islamic art and culture. Throughout its history, Kairouan became prosperous under different civilizations such as Berbers, Romans and Arabs. It was also a center of learning for Jewish theology and is now considered to be the fourth holiest city of Islam. These two exhibitions show the city’s other side.

Creative Touches is a celebration of Kairouan identity and heritage embracing sacred mosques, marriage ceremonies. The paintings represent modern women in artistic settings, as well as more traditional women’s roles in conventional Arabic homes.

Through her paintings, Abdelkefi sways us with bold colors, charming subjects, picturesque natural scenes and monumental architecture. While welcoming her guests, Abdelkefi publicly announced that the exhibit was curated by her son as a gift for Mother’s Day, which further intensified the exhibition’s overall feeling of traditional family affection and genuine solidarity. With her images, Abdelkefi proved her great painting talent, but more importantly, the exhibition opening itself embodied the beauty and joy of the traditional, and reminded the public of Kairouan’s heartfelt festivities.

Henda-Creative-Touches"Creative Touches" Exhibition
On a similar note, Plastic Art Mosaics demonstrated the value of art exhibitions, especially in a conservative city like Kairouan, to attract people from different backgrounds and ages. They challenge them to unravel new significance in their own culture, or confront them with an aesthetic sensibility that may be missing in their everyday lives.

“The show is called ‘Mosaics’ because it brings together different waves of visual art, paintings, ceramics, and photography,” said Hamzaoui. Hope, Window From the Past, Solidarity, Revolutionary Letters, Obscurity and Regard are titles of different works that testify to the creators’ commitment to mirror their anguish and invite the viewer to reflect.

“People want to see beautiful paintings with explicit meanings, but as artists, we refrain from drawing folkloric subjects such as mosques or Medina doors. We want to portray a message and show our feelings,” said Aymen Dridi.

Dridi contested the overwhelming popularity of Orientalist paintings, asserting that they are merely pieces of lucrative artisanery and tourist art.

“The artist can only hold the brush when he feels a strong emotion and connection, which is then transferred as a reaction on canvas,” Dridi declared.

Ironically, while Dridi dismissed this genre as insignificant and vain, next-door to Dridi’s work in the exhibition Creative Touches, Abdelkefi’s paintings were applauded, and one of them was sold right away.

Kairouan-exhibition-Plastic-Art-Mosaics"Plastic Art Mosaics" Exhibition
While both Dridi and Hamzaoui have chosen to portray sentimentality, distress, chaos, confrontation, agony, or spirituality, they have painted within the frames of preconceived artistic genres that are already familiar, suggesting imitation and creative stagnation. Many of the paintings fall under romanticism, fauvism, surrealism, impressionism, and are reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, Caspar Friedrich or a Salvador Dali. These two young artists show great sensitivity and artistic talent, however, when their art lacks individuality, creative research and innovation, it loses its power.

While Kairouanese people have developed the virtues and simplicity of a small, conservative and holy city, they show no lack of bravery, reverie or a sense of melodrama. Kairouan’s unique character has fueled renowned artists such as Paul Klee and Hamadi Sekik, as well as the poet Ali Abdelghany Housari. Creation and creativity have never ceased to exist within Kairouanese society, and even the decades of dictatorship, lack of resources and the potential rise of an Islamism that opposes secular artistic expression have not fully silenced the city’s artistic community.

Both shows are located in the center of Kairouan in the Cultural Complex halls, which is opposite the municipality. They run until June 10 and are open to the public, with free entry.

Ikram Lakhdhar | 31 May 2012
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