Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE

In the Heart of Another Country: The Diasporic Imagination Rises

15 July — 24 September 2023


On view as a part of In the Heart of Another Country are the works of Hassan Sharif, Mohammed Kazem, and Latif Al Ani. The most extensive presentation of works from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection to date is on view in Sharjah following its debut at Deichtorhallen Hamburg in October 2022. 

In the Heart of Another Country explores the concept of home, of longing and belonging. Drawing inspiration from the late artist and author Etel Adnan’s landmark memoir, In the Heart of Another Country (2004), the exhibition charts sentiments of longing, memorial and homecoming through a constellation of artworks that unfold across borders, both real and imagined.

The exhibition brings together more than 150 artworks by over 60 artists. Works from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection included in this choreographed scenography span from 1935 to the present and have traversed routes from Colombo to London, from Cairo to Zanzibar through to the foothills of Mount Tamalpaïs in California, and back again. What unites these myriad artworks, and their makers, is the emirate of Sharjah, which has historically served as a site of encounter and exchange amongst artists and intellectuals, fostering an ongoing space for the diasporic imagination to come to life.

Over the past three decades, Sharjah Biennial and Sharjah Art Foundation have provided an internationally recognised platform for artists underrepresented in the global art canon, while offering perspectives from across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Through these years, the Foundation has established an archive of contemporary thought and form generated by artists through commissions and exhibitions, performances and conversation and its public collection of modern and contemporary art. This exhibition identifies key themes evident throughout the Collection and brings them together.

Across all six galleries in Al Mureijah Art Spaces, migrating forms—emblems of political abstraction emerge into being as propositional architectures. Artists’ experiments in photography and painting construct distinctive and reflective portraits, creating portals into multiple seats of both individual and shared cultural memory. Elsewhere, the mutable nature of geographic borders, histories of trade and migration are examined. Collectively, these expressions of artistic imagination reflect how movement across space and time has shaped the frames of modern and contemporary art around the world today.

Tracing a travelogue through multiple sites, histories and geographies that link the Global Majority, In the Heart of Another Country displays a re-imagining of a once colonised world. Recently restored installations are displayed alongside contemporary acquisitions, narrating a communal story of kinship amongst artists.

From the tessellating architectural structures conceived by Saloua Raouda Choucair to the sensuous abstraction found in the paintings of Huguette Caland, these forms convene in space and in dialogue with the arched architectures of Sonia Balassanian, whose work is being presented at the Foundation for the first time. A significant geometric abstraction by Marcos Grigorian is shown alongside Adam Henein’s delicate drawings on papyrus. In between these visual journeys are extensive presentations of the reconfigured body, as seen in self-portraits by Rasheed Araeen and Amal Kenawy, whose evocative images reveal the possibilities of distinguishing the self and the other. 

Questions of nationalism, space and refuge emerge in an illuminating work by Halil Altindere and in the textured seascape of Minam Apang. Through the gathering of these forms and stories, a sensory choreography emerges—one that emphasises the affinity of belonging to a collective diasporic imagination. Here, home is seen as a proposition—a site of becoming, albeit one constantly subject to interpretation and interrogation.

A broad selection of public and community programmes will unfold during the course of the exhibition's run.

In the Heart of Another Country: The Diasporic Imagination Rises is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, and curated by Dr Omar Kholeif, Director of Collections and Senior Curator, Sharjah Art Foundation. 

24 July 2023
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