Manama, Bahrain – 2012
I went to the city of Manama in Bahrain to make a mural as part of the Alwan 338 festival put together by the Al Riwaq Art Space. I was a little apprehensive because it was during the “Arab Spring” uprising but a good friend working with the gallery explained the special nature of what the Al Riwaq Art Space was doing. I met some truly extraordinary people who believe in the role of contemporary art in their country’s future. Against all odds they strive to change subdued artistic landscape that exists in Bahrain today. I saw so many layers to Bahrain. There is class division, exotic cars, omnipresent colossal images of the king, boundless hospitality, arrests, the smell of tear gas, road blocks, women who can drive and are free to dress as they wish, a graffiti war between dissidents and the police, an American naval base since 1947, Fuddruckers, Sizzlers, a clamp down on dissident areas, the legal sale of alcoholic beverages, a rich cultural history.
It is easy to resort to the didactic or aesthetically pleasing image, but it is much more difficult to create poetic and emotionally charged art that can reach you at different levels. I decided to create a mural of Yousif, a traditional Bahraini fisherman, one of a few hundred that are left.