Abolish 153 will host its second annual art exhibition at JAMM Art Gallery in Dubai from April 28th to May 8th to fundraise for the campaign. The exhibition will include 40 artworks in various media by 11 emerging artists from the GCC and Iran. The seven Kuwaiti artists include photographers Maha Al-Asaker and Farah Salem, as well as artists Thuraya Lynn Al Jasem, Zahra (Zouz The Bird) Al-Mahdi, Amani Althuwaini, Deena (Machina) Qabazard and Tarek Sultan. Other artists include Iranian painter Mehdi Darvishi, Bahraini multi-media artist Zuhair Alsaeed and Iraqi artist Musa Al-Shadeedi. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale will benefit the campaign.
Abolish Article 153 campaign aims to abolish article 153 from Kuwait’s penal code, which effectively gives men regulatory, judicial and executive power over their female kin in blatant disregard of the constitution, international agreements on human and women's rights and even the Islamic Sharia. This law states that any man who surprises his mother, sister, daughter or wife in an unsavory act with a man and kills her or him or both will be treated as committing a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 3 years’ jail time and/or a fine of 3000 rupees (KD 225). Our aim is to also build coalitions across the GCC and the Arab world to abolish similar laws across the region. Ultimately our aim is to create a safe environment where mothers, daughters, sisters and wives are protected from all forms of violence and to raise awareness of these violent practices and the legislation that sanctions them.
All artworks shown at the exhibition were created for the purpose of this exhibition. Farah Salem’s photographs feature women trapped in boxes in various landscapes. It speaks about being boxed in either by society or by the constraints we internalize in our own minds. Maha Al-Asaker uses flowers and the female form to highlight the beauty of female sensuality but also its fragility, how something sacred can also be violated. Zahra (Zouz The Bird) Al-Mahdi creates three impregnation capsules with price tags attached, underlining the right for women to control their own bodies, sexuality and reproductive organs. Thuraya Lynn Al Jasem creates dreamscapes full of symbolism and metaphor, leaving the interpretation up to the viewer.
Amani Althuwaini’s experimental works are also ambiguous in their subject matter. Her small-scale works are screen prints in seven layers. Her large work is acrylic on MDF. Deena (Machina) Qabazard’s Assisted Disappearing Act 1,2 and 3 are mixed media and embroidery on paper, a powerful statement on gender relations. Tarek Sultan’s piece subverts the expression of an Arabic term of endearment (Ba3ad Chabdi), which translates to ‘My Liver’ and the sinister reality of honor killings. His work also features Lady Justice, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems whose attributes include a blindfold, a balance and a sword.
Iranian painter Mehdi Darvishi made an interactive installation consisting of a painting and two intaglio prints, a triptych that requires viewers to see the work via the camera on their cellphones upon activating the negative filter.
Iraqi artist Musa Al-Shadeedi uses La Grande Odalisque, an oil painting dated 1814 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, which hangs at the Lourve in Paris, to demonstrate symbolic distortion. The painting became infamous because the female subject was drawn with two or three lumbar vertebrae too many. Recent studies have shown that her elongated spine was a deliberate distortion, a way to contrast the seductive posture of her body, meant only for the Sultan’s pleasure, and her facial expression, which is equally sad and indifferent. Al-Shadeedi uses the painting as a reference point to demonstrate how modern men still view women as bodies to be used for their own pleasure and as private property, with the right to cover them or even kill. In his photograph with the curtain, the female subject becomes a thing, no longer a human being.
Bahraini artist Zuhair Alsaeed says, “My artworks address my support towards abolishing article 153 from Kuwait’s penal code. It also supports the feminist movement in its struggle to abolish this article. My artworks express the discontent of this article, especially the monetary value on letting a man get away with killing a female relative for no more than KD 225.” The artist, along with every other artist included in this exhibition, hope that Article 153 will soon be abolished. We thank them for their contributions and support for our campaign.