My National

My National

An artist's perspective


Aya Haidar's Al Balad XX. It is printed starched linen with coloured embroidery.
Aya Haidar's Al Balad XX. It is printed starched linen with coloured embroidery.

Amid the sales and the shows, sometimes we cannot hear the voices of the artists themselves. Aya Haidar is a Lebanese multimedia artist based in London. As the doors close on the seventh annual fair, here are her thoughts on Art Dubai.

Q: Was this your first time to exhibit at Art Dubai?

No. This was my fourth year at the fair with Bischoff Weiss Gallery.

Q: How did it feel to have your work displayed there?

I really enjoy the buzz of the fair every year. It has this magnetic energy that draws people from everywhere and anywhere for a common purpose. Its a great platform to show a new body of work and receive a wide range of responses from a very diverse audience.

Al Balad XVIII, from the same series produced in Jeddah

Q: Tell us about your heritage and the inspiration behind these works?

I am Lebanese but raised in London. My work deals with the exploration of a generational narrative in relation to my heritage, yet deals with wider and more universal socio-political issues. The element of craft, or the hand made, is also very important in my practice, not only from a personal perspective having learned to sew from my grandmother as she recounted stories of Lebanon, but also from a feminist dimension being that craft was the catalyst that projected women onto the expressionist stage. The labour, repetition and imperfection behind the stitch is one that I embrace.

Q: What about the Al Balad series in particular?

This is a work produced during my time living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. They are a series of images I took of the old town in Jeddah, printed on linen and embellished using colourful thread amongst bedouin tribes in Saudi Arabia. Someone once described the embroidery as 'multi coloured bandages' which I feel is quite apt. The old town in Jeddah is one of the richest places I have ever encountered culturally, historically and architecturally and this body of work is a celebration of the true foundations of Saudi Arabia.

Q:. Do you think the work was well received in Dubai?

I can only hope so. For me, I hope that these works act as an inlet to my wider practice.

Aya Haidar. Portrait courtesy of BISCHOFF/WEISS

Q: Outside of art you also do a lot of charity work, can you tell us about that?

The balance that I manage between art and activism, is ideal for me. I did my BA in Fine arts and my Msc in NGOs and Development, which somehow have combined in perfect balance. My artwork is socially and politically engaged, and I strive to explore and expose realities that we all face, such as diaspora, displacement, humanitarianism and boundaries. I am represented by a very supportive gallery, Bischoff Weiss in London and work hard to develop work for commissions, exhibitions and fairs. On the flip side, I also work for Al Madad Foundation, a charity that sees me curate exhibitions to raise money and awareness to educate disadvantaged children across the Middle East as well as launch responsive emergency aid initiatives in the region. One day I'll be in my studio developing a body of work, and the next I will be on an immediate responsive aid mission providing food and medicine to refugees on the ground. Both worlds feed into each other and in turn I feed off them creatively, intellectually and emotionally.

Q: Finally, in three words, what are the most important things in life?

Health, Kindness, Ambition (and if i can squeeze one more in, my bicycle).