Stills from Wa Waila (Oh Torment), 2008
Courtesy of the artist
The Tragedy of Self (series 3), 2009
Photographs with paint and gold leaf on canvas
47 ½ x 51 1/8 in. (120 x 130 cm); each 15 ¾ x 13 ¾ in. (40 x 35 cm)
Courtesy of the artist
A central theme in my work is the exploration of the dysfunctionality of gender roles within Arab society. I experienced this dysfunction personally while growing up in Kuwait. In my youth, I believed that to be someone in the public realm you had to be a man, so I toyed with this idea by repeatedly dressing up in male costumes and attire. This was not about confusion of identity, nor a narcissistic impulse, but, rather, a psychological reaction to a social reality. In my work, I continue to explore the psychological tension of being female in a male-dominated society through the use of self-portraiture and symbols of masculinity.
Another recurring motif in my artistic practice is the dissolution of cultural or religious identity in our time. The ensuing loss of a defined self-image has resulted in a sense of melancholy and an urge to escape, both on an individual and a collective level. I thereby incorporate primitive and historical references into my work to reflect on the slow disappearance of a shared culture. The hyper-communication and mass-migration taking place in today’s globalized world produce feelings of estrangement within one’s body. I feel we have to come to terms with this fluid loss of identity.
Monira Al Qadiri (born 1983, Dakar) was raised in Kuwait, and has spent most of her adult life in Japan. Her artistic perspective is a cultural hybrid. Having lived through the 1990–91 Gulf War, she became fascinated by Japanese animation as a means of escaping the harsh realities that she had experienced, and at the age of sixteen she moved to Tokyo on an art scholarship from the Kuwaiti government. As soon as she arrived, she realized that the reality of Japan was different from her fantasy of it, and began to incorporate ideas of displacement and dissonance into her work.
In 2005, she completed her first animated film, Visual Violence. Since then, she has been conducting research into the relationship between psychology and art, and on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East. In 2010, she received her PhD in intermedia art from Tokyo University of the Arts. She has since returned to Kuwait to continue her career as an artist and scholar, and currently divides her time between Kuwait and Beirut.
An emerging artist, she has shown in the following group exhibitions: Sultana’s Dream, Exit Art, New York, 2007; In Transition, National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kaliningrad, 2008; The Second Annual Gulf Film Festival (GFF), Dubai, 2009 (her film Wa Waila [Oh Torment] was screened); Human Frames, Kunst im Tunnel, Düsseldorf, 2010; and Paradisio, Watermill Center, Southampton, New York, 2010. Her first solo exhibition upon her return to Kuwait was Tragedy of Self, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, 2011. Tragedy of Self was also shown in Japan at the Tokyo Wonder Site and the Harmas De Fare Gallery, Tokyo; in addition, some pieces from the exhibition were shown at the Kleio Projects Gallery, New York, in 2011. Her animation works such as Visual Violence and The Black Moon have also been screened at such venues as the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival; Shanghai International Science and Art Fair; as well as the Gulf Film Festival, Dubai.
She was an artist in residence at the Watermill Center, Southampton, 2010.