Tunisian-Finnish artist’s ‘Bitter Oranges’ show is anything but

The exhibition will run until March 14. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 February 2020

Tunisian-Finnish artist’s ‘Bitter Oranges’ show is anything but

DUBAI: Tunisian-Finnish multimedia artist Dora Dalila Cheffi relocated to Tunisia a little over a year ago and has already unveiled her first solo exhibition, “Bitter Oranges,” which will run until March 14.

After obtaining her BA from Finland’s Aalto University of Art, School and Design in 2018, with a minor in sculpting and painting, Cheffi went on to showcase her works in group exhibitions at institutions and fairs, including Habitare and Galerie Kajaste Helsinki.

When asked how it felt to see her first solo exhibition open, Cheffi was characteristically positive: “It feels really nice,” she shared with Arab News.

A testament to the artist’s versatility, the month-long showcase is divided into four components that highlight different mediums: Paintings, ceramic pieces, a video documentary and a sound installation that she calls her most personal work.

The auditory installation takes the Finnish National Hymn and translates it to Tunisian Arabic. (Supplied)

The auditory installation, “Finlandia,” which is inspired by Cheffi’s mixed Tunisian and Finnish roots, is a thought-provoking exploration of the complexity of dual identity, a core theme of the exhibition.

The piece takes the Finnish National Hymn, originally composed by Jean Sibelius, and translates it to Tunisian Arabic. It’s sung in a traditional “Mawwal” style, which is a popular Arabic music genre that is known for its slow and sentimental nature and is characterized by prolonging syllables.

Also on show is a series of beautifully hand-made ceramics that the artist learnt how to make while spending a week with pottery-makers from the Tunisian town of Sejnane, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Also on show is a series of beautifully hand-made ceramics and brightly-colored paintings. (Supplied)

The artist spent afternoons grinding rock into powder and kneading fresh clay with her feet before heating the ceramics on an open hearth fired with dried cow dung and decorating them with seashells collected from the shores of the Mediterranean. The Amazigh-inspired pieces are accompanied with a 10-minute documentary that details the process.

Meanwhile, a selection of brightly-colored paintings celebrate the everyday, depicting “people and things” from the artist’s “day to day life.”

For Cheffi, art doesn’t have to be constrained to one medium, in the same way the artist has the ability to embrace her dichotomous identity. “I love the fact that I don’t have to commit to one specific technique. I can explore different materials and ways of creating,” she mused, before revealing “Balancing my very different Finnish and Tunisian cultures is something that I’ve struggled with. But in my artwork, they seamlessly mesh together.”


Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners announced despite lack of ceremony

The winner of each category took home a prize of $204,192. File/Shutterstock
Updated 08 April 2020

Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners announced despite lack of ceremony

DUBAI: Today, the winners of the 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award were announced, despite the awards ceremony not going ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A record-breaking year for submissions saw seven awards go to recipients hailing from six countries: the UK, US, the Netherlands, Iraq, Tunisia and Palestine.

A total of 1,900 nominations from 49 countries - 22 Arab and 27 foreign countries - were submitted for the 14th  Sheikh Zayed Book Award across its nine categories.

Salma Khadra Al-Jayussi, 94, was awarded Cultural Personality of the Year for her contribution to Arabic literature and culture.

The prize for literature went to Tunisian poet Moncef Ouhaibi for his book “Belkas ma Qabl Al-Akheera.”

Meanwhile, The Young Author award went to Iraqi writer and academic Hayder Qasim for his book “ilm Al-Kalam Al-Islami fi Derasat Al-Mustashrikeen Al-Alman.”

Palestinian-American author Ibtisam Barakat clinched the Children’s Literature award for her book “Al-Fatah Al-Laylakeyyah.”

Other winners included Tunisian translator Mohamed Ait Mihoub, Dutch author Richard van Leeuwen and London’s Banipal Magazine.

The winner of each category took home a prize of $204,192.