In 2003, Steven Stappleton, a British artist, joined forces with Saudi Arabian artists Ahmed Mater and Abdulnasser Gharem to create Edge of Arabia, a multi-faceted platform for presenting contemporary Arab art to Europe, America, the Middle East and Asia. Having begun in the Al-Miftaha Arts Village in Abha, Saudia Arabia, this grassroots initiative quickly spread to become a powerful voice in the international art world. Edge of Arabia’s inaugural exhibition was hosted in 2008 at the SOAS Brunei Gallery in London. In 2010, the group began a world tour, starting in Berlin at the Vinyl Factory Gallery during the 6th Berlin Biennale. This marked Germany’s first exhibition of contemporary Saudi Arabian art. They showed an increasing international presence with further exhibitions in Istanbul, as part of the European Capital of Culture, and at the U.A.E.’s 2011 Art Dubai and Sharjah Biennale.
Almagul Menlibayeva is a Kazakhstan-born artist who lives and works in Kazakhstan and Berlin. She creates a poetic blend of video and performance in a unique setting that brings together topics of Islamic cultural tradition and contemporary art, creating a language of so-called “Romantic Punk Shamanism” to present her view of her surrounding world and cultural history. Menlibayeva’s practice stems from her educational background in the Soviet Russian avant-garde school of Futurism, which she combines with a nomadic aesthetic of post-Soviet, contemporary Kazakhstan. Berlin Art Link sat down with video artist Almagul Menlibayeva (presented by Priska C. Juschka Fine Art) during the 5th Art Dubai Fair in 2011.
Sara Rahbar, a mixed media artist based in New York, hails originally from Tehran, Iran. In 1981, a 5 year-old Rahbar fled with her family, travelling for over seven days from Tehran to Turkey to Dubai and then finally to New York during the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and in the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. Her personal experience in and between these two often conflicting countries is reflected through her unique perpective on religion, nationalism, politics and war. Through installations, photographs and sculptures, each assigned a movingly poetic title, she outwardly communicates her ongoing internal dialogue about the world around her. Berlin Art Link spoke with Rahbar about her artistic practice.