Bahrain’s ArtBAB fair builds creative bridges across the world

Group photo with the artists.
Updated 28 October 2016
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Bahrain’s ArtBAB fair builds creative bridges across the world

Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB) will present art from across the world at its second international art fair to be held next March. At a breakfast meeting hosted by Kaneka Subberwal, co-founder of Art Bahrain, in the historic Arts Club in Mayfair, the plans were unveiled.
Subberwal, who began working in Bahrain in 2008 with her art consultancy firm, Art Select, is passionately committed to promoting contemporary artists from Bahrain and neighboring Arab states.
Speaking to Arab News she said: “Ever since arriving in Bahrain I have been fascinated by the country, its artists and their work. I now concentrate on the artists and their development with the aim of reaching a mass global platform. The fair last year under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, wife of His Majesty the King of Bahrain, was the first step and now we are looking forward to the second. The Bahraini leadership is invested in its people. They support everyone who is participating in building Bahrain.”
Tamkeen, Bahrain’s economic development agency, has appointed Art Select to organize and manage the fair to be held between March 22-26, 2017 at the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Center.
Amal Al-Kooheji, Tamkeen’s chief operating officer said: “We want to position Bahrain as a prime hub for art and education.
“Bahrain’s art sector is emerging into a viable industry with great potential to become an engine of economic growth. Until recently this sector did not receive the required attention and through initiatives such as ArtBAB we hope to steer it to new heights, inspiring entrepreneurship, art education and local skills development.”
ArtBAB will build on the momentum of last year’s international art exhibition as well as the success of the Bahraini Artists Across Borders initiative launched at the Victoria and Albert Museum and exhibited in Gallery 8 in May. Gallery director and curator, Janet Rady, a specialist in contemporary art from the Middle East and ArtBAB’s Head of Events and Educational Programming, said the 17 Bahraini artists who exhibited at the V&A launch showed the range and depth of talent in the country. She noted that one of the artists, Mayasa Al-Sowaidi, has been nominated for The Sovereign Middle East and North Africa Art Prize (MENA Prize).
David Hawkins, head of outreach and VIP relations for ArtBAB explained that the fair will include a BAAB Pavilion exclusive to 30 Bahraini artists to be selected by an international jury following submissions; a Gallery Arena to host up to 35 international and Bahraini galleries; an international Artists’ Pavilion to display the works of participating artists from around the world and an art book shop and merchandising and design section. A specially designed art and education program featuring key artists titled ‘[email protected]’ will also run parallel to the exhibition.
Subberwal was asked what criteria she used in judging the success and impact of an art fair. She replied: “I would consider the following: Did the fair connect with the people? That is an important measure for us of its success. Did artists from different communities and genres interact? Was there an interaction between the galleries and the collectors? Was there footfall — did the galleries get a return on their investment in participating in the fair? That is how I would measure success.”


‘Atlas of Beauty’: A Romanian photographer captures images of female beauty that defy every stereotype

Updated 16 July 2018
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‘Atlas of Beauty’: A Romanian photographer captures images of female beauty that defy every stereotype

  • Since 2013, Mihaela Noroc has photographed over 2,000 women in more than 50 countries, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.
  • For Noroc, beauty is diversity. She believes each one of the “shining stars” in her book radiates dignity, strength and beauty. 

JEDDAH: We live in a world where female beauty standards vary but are all socially and culturally constructed. The Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc traveled that world with her camera and backpack, photographing women in their everyday surroundings and listening to their stories. The result is the “Atlas of Beauty.”

Since 2013, Noroc has photographed over 2,000 women in more than 50 countries, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.

“I noticed that there is a lot of pressure on women to look and behave a certain way,” she told Arab News.

“In some environments, it’s the pressure to look attractive. In others, on the contrary, it’s the pressure to look modest. But every woman should be free to explore her own beauty without feeling any pressure from marketing campaigns, trends or social norms.”

For Noroc, beauty is diversity. She believes each one of the “shining stars” in her book radiates dignity, strength and beauty. 

During her five-year odyssey, there have been tremendous ups and downs. Yet, with each country, Noroc never failed to tell the story of the woman in her photographs. Some countries were deemed dangerous — but she traveled there anyway. 

“In Afghanistan, I traveled in a remote area called Wakhan Corridor. The fighting was very close, condemning this place to total isolation,” she said. “People were living like their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago, so photography was a miracle for them. They were incredibly happy to see themselves in photos and I was invited to every home to photograph each member of the family.” 

Visiting North Korea, Noroc was accompanied by local guides as she walked the streets to get a glimpse of women in their daily routines as if nothing was out of the norm. 

“There is a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way, so sometimes it’s a struggle to be yourself, to make yourself accepted as you are. But I hope this project will encourage more women and men to follow their own path, to explore their own beauty without feeling constrained.”

Traveling as a backpacker introduced Noroc to all kinds of environments. She has captured beauty in Brazilian favelas, in an Iranian mosque, on the Tibetan plateau, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the Amazon rainforest, upscale neighborhoods of Paris, downtown New York and more. 

She focuses on photographing the environment around the women, and prefers to photograph their natural faces, without a lot of makeup.

Noroc also makes sure that she chats with her subjects while the photographs are being taken — she is an excellent conversationalist. 

Woman shopping at a market in Nampan, Myanmar.

“Many of the women I photograph are in front of a professional camera for the first time. This isn’t bad at all because they are more authentic. For even more authenticity, I always use natural light. Through my camera, I try to dive into their eyes and explore what’s inside.”

Each image is raw, colorful, delicate, intimate, striking and empowering. A Jordanian Bedouin grandmother sits with her children and grandchildren in the background, the woman’s deep wrinkles revealing her desert life living off the land.

Another image shows the resilience in the striking green eyes of a Syrian refugee with her two daughters in a camp in Greece. In Jodhpur, India, a young woman heads to the market in a vibrant fuchsia outfit and silver jewelry. 

“There is much love, beauty and compassion in the world and I see it with my own eyes. Yet a few sources of hate and intolerance can ruin all this. Many times, the victims of intolerance are women, and while on the road, I hear many heartbreaking stories,” she said.

Gauri, an Indian from Kolkata, India, sells splendid flower garlands at a Hindu temple. Female “bomberas” (firewomen) in Mexico City. Sisters Olga and Anya, street performers from Odessa, Ukraine. Eleonora, a ballerina from St. Petersburg, at one of the most prestigious dance schools in the world. A Mayan descendant in Guatemala donning a colorful dress and posing in her village. These are just some of the stories in the “Atlas of Beauty,” yet the journey is continuing since there are no limits to beauty in this world. 

“For me, beauty is diversity and it can teach us to be more tolerant. We are all very different, but through this project, I want to show that we are all part of the same family. We should create paths between us, not boundaries,” said Noroc.