La Maison des artistes visuels francophones: exhibition curated by Noor Bhangu - Lines of Difference: The Art of Translating Islam - Hassaan Ashraf, Zahra Baseri, Rah Eleh, Omar Elhamy, Philippe Leonard and Hazim Ismail, April 4 - May 25
"In early 2017, when I was first researching the topic of Islamic Art in Winnipeg, my language for writing about – and defending – the arts of difference was growing. I felt, then, that there was something unique and beautiful about the ways in which artists from Islamic backgrounds translated their beliefs, grievances, and hopes to a predominantly white audience, teetering on the edge of post 9/11 Islamaphobia and a liberal desire to understand the Islamic other. Viewed from my vantage point in 2019, these audiences, in many ways, are still teetering on that edge, but I feel that contemporary art has risen to respond to these challenges. While I am still compelled by their communicative gestures, I return to the concept of translation in the work of the exhibiting artists to centralize their method of providing cover against forces of fetishization, appropriation, and indifference.
While the rich works of Omar Elhamy, Philippe Leonard, Rah Eleh, Hassaan Ashraf, Hazim Ismail, and Zahra Baseri stand on shaky, individual ground,I argue that it is because these artists share space in diaspora, a structure characterized by the movement between home and Canada, that their use of diverse media and languages speaks to a common desire to simultaneously translate and obscure cultural nuances from the controlling vision of a general public. As a Sikh woman living in a multicultural and multireligious society, I curate this exhibition as a way of building solidarity and showing support for these artists and the various communities that at first appear different than my own."