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Culture vs cultured

March 25 - 31 , 2020

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly Culture vs cultured

Award-winning artist and designer Rashed Al Araifi has been depicting some of Bahrain’s untold and lesser-known stories through visual narratives such as his recent piece showcasing the battle between traditional pearl divers and lab-developed pearls.

Rashed’s installation, called Cultured Culture, re-imagines the constant struggle between traditional pearl diving and modern-day cultured pearls as a match between two football teams on a foosball table. His creative work of art won second place at the 46th Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition.

Rashed told the GulfWeekly: “I consider my art to be a visual response as opposed to a final outcome. Coming from an artistic family, I was always encouraged to express this side of me, and over the years, my visual responses have matured with me, into well-researched pieces, bridging process with narrative.

“With this piece, I wanted to tell the story of the local pearl diving industry and the struggles they have faced in the last century. I also want to spark conversation around the social, cultural and anthropological impact of this struggle.”

Built with solid teakwood similar to that used in dhows and diving ships, Rashed’s Cultured Culture, pays particular attention to each detail of the piece. Wooden paddle-shaped handles and curved figures intended to represent the pearl divers, propel the traditional team, while the lab-team is driven by culturing scientific equipment encased in the handles and box-cutter figures, to represent the manufactured nature of the process.

The ‘ball’ being played with is made up of wood, with a cutaway showing a single natural pearl. Even though Bahrain is the only country in the world to ban the trade of cultured pearls, the global industry has affected local pearl-diving and few pearl divers remain today. Rashed’s piece as well as events like the Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Maritime Heritage season, aim to increase interest and boost national pride in the traditional practice.

Rashed added: “This piece took me two years. I wanted to bring some of the stories from that era into this one. I researched and talked to some of the well-known pearl merchant families in the kingdom and after a deep analytical study and developing a narrative around the story; the foosball table seemed like the perfect medium or playground to share it with the world.”

An architect by profession and co-founder of a multi-disciplinary design practice in the kingdom, Rashed studied interior and spatial design at The University of the Arts London and completed a Masters of Architecture from The University of the Creative Arts.

His art is intended to represent the duality of a methodical architectural approach to design and a more free-spirited look at architecture. He has exhibited his work in exhibitions around the world, including the London Design Festival and his most recent piece is on display at the National Bank of Bahrain’s Seef branch, showcasing the structures of the Bahraini archipelago utilising fluid lines.

Check out Rashed’s latest pieces @rashedalaraifi on Instagram.

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