Cover Story


January 30 - February 5, 2013

Prize-winning Bahraini artist Waheeda Malullah is inspiring hope of restoration, recovery and healing in a conflicted Bahrain by getting to the core of the issue through an abstract series of photographs.

The 34-year-old artist used an apple to produce a nine-photograph collection that conveys the message of peace and re-birth of a new Bahrain.

The conceptual and experimental sequence entitled Red Apple works as flip photography, whereby the pictures vary slightly from one to the next, so that when the images are skimmed through, they appear to animate a story.

Acting as a call for love and hope, the compilation recently won her the prestigious annual Al-Dana Prize at the opening of the 39th Fine Arts Exhibition at the Bahrain National Museum, marking her work the best creative masterpiece of the year. She was presented with the accolade by His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Waheeda, from Sitra, said: “My art is about love. We need to be peaceful and think about how our ground and environment is being affected by the frequent use of tear gas and burning of tyres.

“I feel a responsibility to make peace in my country. My work is showing the birth of a baby that reflects hope and harmony in the tense situation we are undergoing in Bahrain.

“I am extremely happy that I won the Al-Dana Prize. HRH Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa himself awarded me the prize, which was very flattering.

“I think because I challenged myself to produce photography in an exhibition filled with paintings, I broke the system and it paid off. I am happy that this experience will open doors to many artists in my generation and show them that they should not be afraid to participate.”

In 2011, Waheeda created a series of work entitled Red and White where a woman was wrapped in white cloth to represent the shape of Bahrain and using her flip photography concept she painted a baby being born in red.

She used the same concept to produce Red Apple yet decided to change the object used. Waheeda explained how with every collection of work, she develops, experiments and finds herself improving and learning new things.

“I usually work with people so this time around I decided to change the object,” she said.

Waheeda continued: “I chose an apple because it is heart-shaped, reinforcing a new life for Bahrain by a peaceful birth.

In the series Red and White I used a woman to depict the shape of Bahrain but the concept is exactly the same with Red Apple.”

Waheeda studied advertising and marketing at The Regional Institute For Advertising & Marketing (RIAM) in Bahrain but explained that the lack of art studies in the kingdom has not stopped her from developing her passion.

She has taken an interest to art for as long as she remembers and as a child she experimented with different styles until she found her niche in conceptual art. She currently works as a graphic designer at the Art College, University of Bahrain.

She said: “Art is my life, passion, care and responsibility. I always want to portray hope. No one in my family was an artist but I have always been encouraged to be creative. I also love singing … you can find me singing all the time.

“I work with almost all mediums but I stick with photography.

I am glad I have experimented with art all these years. Now that I have won the Al-Dana Prize I still have to work hard and produce pieces for more upcoming exhibitions”

Waheeda will be very busy over the next couple of months preparing for a number of exhibitions including a local showing in Al Riwaq Art Space in March.

She will also be exhibiting overseas in Italy and London at the Venice Biennale 2013 Art Exhibition in May and the Edge of Arabia London Exhibition in June.

She is extremely happy with her success and hopes that one day her two-year-old daughter Farah will inherit the creative qualities from her and husband, Mohamed Sharkawy, also a visual artist working in Al Riwaq Art Space as a production manager.

In 2005 Waheeda had her first joint international exhibition in Cairo, Egypt and later started exhibiting in Spain, Greece, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stuttgart and Paris before she became resident at the Delfina Foundation, London, between 2008 and 2009. During this time Waheeda created a series of photographs entitled Black and White where a white robed female figure was slowly covered in black paint, similar to the Red Apple concept.

Waheeda also directs short films. Working on her inspiration that comes from women, she created a film entitled Play which has been exhibited internationally at the China International Gallery Exposition in 2010.

Red Apple is currently on show at the 39th Fine Arts Exhibition until February 16.

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