Sama Alshaibi Silsila Unless Weeping

Current Exhibition

Opened
September 9, 2017
Closes
December 24, 2017
Location
In the wing, Opatrny, and Picket Family VIdeo Galleries, Floor 2L, and on the east facade

Silsila consists of several photographic series and videos by artist Sama Alshaibi. Named for the Arabic word silsila, or “link,” the exhibition is meant to represent the joining of individuals to one another, humans with the natural world, and the self to the divine. 

Inspired by the fourteenth-century explorer and scholar Ibn Batūtah, Alshaibi retraced his journeys through the Middle East, North Africa, and the Maldives—a group of Southeast Asian islands threatened by rising sea levels. Recording sublime desert terrains and vast skies of countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Palestine, Alshaibi presents the feminine form—isolated among these spare landscapes—as a metaphor for humanity and the natural world in jewel-like colors, geometric patterning, mirroring, and symmetry to reference the formal qualities of Islamic art traditions. 

Informed by her own biography—from her birth in Basra, Iraq, in 1973 to parents of Palestinian and Iraqi descent to her transition from political refugee to American citizen—Alshaibi’s work provokes contemporary questions about borders, migration, and environmental demise in relation to the human body. 

Sama Alshaibi is currently chair and professor of photography and video art at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She was awarded the Fulbright Scholar Fellowship as part of a residency at the Palestine Museum in Ramallah, Palestine. 

Earlier this year, Alshaibi’s work was included in the inaugural Honolulu Biennial and in Suspended Territories: Artists from the Middle East and North Africa at MARTa Herford in Germany.

This exhibition was organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it was on view in 2016, and curated by Claire C. Carter. Its presentation at Cornell was coordinated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Johnson, and generously supported by the Jarett F. and Younghee Kim-Wait Fund for Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Arts.