The work of Olfet Agrama spans four decades depicting people, landscapes and still life in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. The Inside/Outside Gallery's current show (Oct-Nov 2010), "Swimming Up the Nile,) includes over 25 works from her paintings on cultures of Africa and North Africa. Click the first image below, then use the right-side arrows to scroll through.
By Aldis Browne
It's a good bet that when we look back at any country's history, the arts have gone a long way toward defining its national identity. Most politicians and statesmen are soon forgotten, wars blur into memory and inventions long outlive even the most renowned inventors. When we consider Italy aren't Dante Alighieri, Antonio Vivaldi and Leonardo da Vinci longest remembered? Who better typifies Scandinavia than Edvard Munch, Henrik Ibesn and Edvard Grieg? England reveres Shakespeare; the Netherlands-van Gogh; France-The Impressionists. Influences of art and culture are indispensible elements of historical perspective.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the U.S. in 1984. Trained as an architect at AUB and at the American University of Beirut and at Cornell University, she worked as an architect before studying photography at the New England School of Photography, and at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Mexico with Magnum photographer Constantine Manos. She currently works full-time as a photographer, and started teaching photography to teenage girls in refugee camps in Lebanon, with the assistance of non-governmental organizations, and to teenage refugees in Boston with the assistance of Children's Hospital.
Matar's work focuses mainly on women and girls. Her previous work has focused on the Middle East on women and children, and her projects—which examined the Palestinian refugee camps, the veil and its meanings, the aftermath of war, and the Forgotten Christians: the Christians of the Middle East—intend to give a voice to people who have been forgotten or misunderstood. In Boston, where she lives, she photographs her four children at all stages of their lives, and is currently working on a new body of work "A Girl and her Room," photographing teenage girls from different backgrounds.
Sama Alshaibi is a half Iraqi-half Palestinian artist and filmmaker who uses photography, video and performance to evoke the language of suffering, displacement and loss. Her auto-ethnographic approach is informed by her own history of living in war, the double negation to her familial homelands and her countless encounters with those policing borders from the undesired. Her work is an articulation of these negotiations between body, disputed land(scapes), and shifting political realities. An Assistant Professor of Photography/Video at the University of Arizona, Alshaibi received her M.F.A. in Photography & Video and Media Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
I started painting over ten years ago as a freshman in high school. I experimented with many styles until, in my last year of college, I began working almost exclusively with the inverted stamping technique that characterizes most of the pieces that I share with you here in my online gallery.
Adina Hoffman's biography of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali is a triumph of sympathetic imagination, dogged research and impassioned writing. More than the story of one man's life, it brings to light entire strata of historical and cultural experience that have been neglected or purposefully covered over. For readers of English, there is no comparable work - certainly nothing so densely detailed or eloquently argued - for understanding Palestinian intellectual life in the second half of the 20th century. And for all that, it is anything but dry or ponderous or, to invoke a cliché that no critic of biography seems able to do without, monumental. Instead, Hoffman's book is an unconventional and avowedly personal study - the record of an engagement with a man and a literary tradition that both deserve a wider audience.
My early attempts at painting started at a young age and focused on three of my favorite subjects: the human face, the still life, and landscapes. My formal training, however lead me to a degree in interior design from the Lebanese University in Beirut. After receiving my degree, I worked for four years as a designer and consultant. In 1984, I moved to the United States with my family.