Sama Alshaibi’s (b. 1973, Basra, Iraq) epic series of photographs and videos is named for the Arabic word silsila, or “link”—a simple noun describing a point of connection. As a verb, “link” also describes the act of joining two discrete units. Silsila represents the joining of individuals to one another, humans with the natural world, and the self to the divine. Inspired by the intrepid fourteenth century-explorer and scholar Ibn Batūtah, Alshaibi retraced his journeys through the Middle East, North Africa and the Maldives—a group of Southeast Asian islands threatened by rising sea levels. Silsila’s powerful images provoke contemporary questions about borders, migration, and environmental demise in relation to the human body. Alshaibi’s Islamic heritage, her birth in Iraq to parents of Palestinian and Iraqi descent, and her transition from political refugee to American citizen inform these exquisite artworks.
Since 2009 Alshaibi has explored and documented fifteen predominantly Muslim countries. The resultant large-scale color photographs and videos record the sublime desert terrain and vast skies of countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Oman and Palestine. Isolated amongst these spare landscapes, Alshaibi presents the feminine form as a metaphor for humanity and the natural world. Visually, Alshaibi uses jewel-like colors, geometric patterning, mirroring and symmetry to reference the formal qualities of Islamic art traditions.
This spring Sama Alshaibi completed the epic series Silsila in Morocco—the country where Ibn Batūtah began his exploration. SMoCA is proud to premiere Silsila in its entirety. The artist lives and works in Tucson, Arizona and Ramallah, Palestine. This exhibition is the sixteenth in the Museum’s ongoing southwestNET series, which highlights mid-career artists living in the southwest region of the United States and Mexico.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website