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Bata than the rest!

May 4 - May 10, 2022
Gulf Weekly Bata than the rest!
Gulf Weekly Bata than the rest!
Gulf Weekly Bata than the rest!

Bahraini Dana AlAseeri’s love for card games, which are quite popular in the Middle East, inspired her to create colourful artistic decks for families and friends to enjoy.

A year ago, she began to collaborate with local artists in a bid to develop sets with beautiful artwork and called it Bata, pronounced ‘Beh-tah’.

“I can’t count how many card decks I have played with in my life,” said Dana, who graduated from Boston University with a Masters in arts administration and from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a Bachelors in museum education and community art education.

“They were all different, but also the same. I wanted a unique set of playing cards for my home, something I could cherish as a work of art in its own right. That is when the idea struck – why not have local artists illustrate the cards? Bring their figures and art into homes of people who would not typically buy art.

“My aim is to elevate the work of local artists and Bata is a fine example of this. Recognition and appreciation promotes their work to a wider audience and makes art more accessible and attainable. Not everyone is an art enthusiast and Bata adds function to art.”

Self-taught Bahraini mixed media artist Dana Jumaan, who currently has giant hand tufted rugs on display at the 48th Bahrain Annual Fine Arts Exhibition, is one of the local creatives to design a deck.

“Jumaan’s art explores themes about the human journey; issues of identity and legacy, sense of self and self-value,” said the founder of Bata and the ‘Danaseeri’ brand. “She is best known for playing with feature proportion and placement in her signature characters. For this project, inspired by mannerisms of those playing cards, her signature characters are all purposely looking away; avoiding eye contact as they are unable to keep a poker face.”

Artist Salman AlNajem illustrated every card from his ‘Hadesisgood’ collection by hand with pen on paper.

“Hadesisgood is a form of active meditation where the artist lets go of his conscious mind to allow his subconscious flow, becoming a vessel for the self-expression of the divine,” added Dana.

“The courts were divided in themes of love, gratitude, compassion and hate. Hidden in his Bata is a world of secret symbols, awaiting to be discovered.”

Meanwhile, May Hejiri, an emerging Bahraini artist who focuses on beautifying the fragilities of the human condition, reflected in her signature moon characters. These characters acted as a catalyst for speaking about topics usually sensitive in modern Middle Eastern society.

“She has experimented with multiple media before finding her place in painting,” said Dana. “For this project, the traditional court cards – the king, queen, jack and joker – are all recreated as her moon characters; each carrying the same look, showing us that the human vulnerabilities that make us feel so isolated are actually what makes us all the same.”

Card lovers across the kingdom were snapping up these cards during Ramadan, a time when many families and friends gather to play after breaking their fast or during ghabgas. However, Dana says cards are great all year round.

“Bata has always been a part of my Ramadan gatherings, family and friends huddled on the floor in my grandmother’s house,” she said. “This is our collective experience. And while Ramadan was an inspiring factor, it is for all time.”

Aside from bringing art into people’s homes, she also ‘delivers artistic projects that raise the profiles of creative souls, to reach a wider audience’.

For details, follow @danaseeri on Instagram.

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