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Group exhibition in Bahrain on the concept of "language". Artworks, statements, curator's text.
By Anas Al-Shaikh | Dec 2010

The word "alsajanjal" means mirror. It is said to be of Latin origin and has been Arabized. This word was mentioned in pre-Islamic poetry, specifically in the "Mu'allaqat" of Imru' al-Qays, among others [1].

The focus of the exhibition is on the concept of "language" as a system of conventional symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture communicate.
Through language examination, we try to find out if the language is really considered "as a great mirror of the human mind" as German Philosopher Gottfried Leibniz said, or on the contrary, it is completely independent, and as humans, we are constructed through language and are unable to think outside its sphere, thus all "facts" we believe in are relative and may be illusive and are only created by language, or as Jacques Derrida said: "There is nothing outside the text".

Derrida’s expression leads us to ask the following: was it possible to invent the concept of art and artist and find art theories and movements away from language? Or did language make the eye able to see, perceive and construct its own visual culture? Are we, after all, a simple mirror of the language and subjected to it? Are we mere tools used by language to express itself?

The exhibition also examines the impact on the Arabic language of economic and cultural globalisation, technology and communication revolution in addition to all forms of means of publication and information as well as various consumption patterns and "material" modernisation in our societies.

It examines to what extent all these factors have weakened the Arabic language and estranged the human being from his or her Arab identity, particularly in Gulf countries where citizens have become minority groups in their countries.

For political, economic, ideological and cultural purposes, these minorities have to be "subjected" and accept a new demographic fabric to suit a project aiming to turn the Gulf into a cosmopolitan region with diverse cultures, identities, languages and nationalities, where Arabic language and Arab culture are secondary and marginalized. This has created a feeling of confusion and discomfort within peoples of the region, who do not know if they have to opt for confrontation to defend their identity (language, culture, history and faith) with legal and illegal means, or accept to completely adapt and yield to these changes, or try and find a "difficult and complex" form of agreement that will inevitably cause the individual to fall into contradictions.

>> Artworks and Statements
Photo tour, including statements by the artists about their works and the concept of the exhibition


  1. Mu'allaqat: Suspended Odes or Hanging Poems on "Kaaba" in Mecca, from the pre-Islamic period. The author of one of them is Imru' al-Qays, one of the most important Arabs poets of that era.

Anas Al-Shaikh

Artist and independent curator. Founder of group projects concerned with contemporary art practices in Bahrain since 2002.

(Translation from Arabic: Abdelrrazak Sassi)


Group Exhibition 4
for Contemporary Art Practices

30 Nov. - 12 Dec. 2010

Bahrain Contemporary Art Association
Juffair- Manama

Anas Al-Shaikh

Samia Engineer
Noor Al-Bastaki
Sayed Adnan Jalal
Hassan Alhaiki
Faisal Khalaf
Zahra Khamis
Marwa Rustam
Camille Zakharia
Anas Al-Shaikh
Hanadi Al Ghanim
Mohsen Ghareeb
Ali Al-Qamish
Ali Mohammed
Hooriya Mansoor
Fatima Al Mahdi
Shatha Al-Wadi
Hussain Yousif

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