UST hosts exhibit, 'Sabeel: Artistic Journeys From Arab Lands to America,' March 8-May 24

“Sabeel: Artistic Journeys From Arab Lands to America” is the theme of a juried exhibit by Arab-American artists today, March 8, through May 24 at the University of St. Thomas. It will feature 23 mixed-media works exploring the unique experience of Arabs living in America.

“Sabeel” – an Arabic word meaning “the way” or “the path” – conveys a collective pride by these artists in their rich cultural history and a desire to share it in their new country.

Zahi Kahamis’ “Weeping Woman” (acrylic on canvas)

Zahi Kahamis’ “Weeping Woman” (acrylic on canvas)

Dr. Michelle Nordtorp-Madson, chief curator at St. Thomas, says the exhibit focuses on how these artists see themselves and their two cultures: “Some of the work draws on ancient traditions of pattern and calligraphy – often seen in new lights – as well as modern narratives that speak of literal journeys of self-discovery and movement through space.”

Nordtorp-Madson worked with the Eden-Prairie-based Arab-American Cultural Institute to present the exhibit,  installed in the Lobby Gallery of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. 

The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Mark your calendar for April 16 event: The exhibit’s opening event will feature a lecture, “The Right to ‘Be’: Arab Women Artists and Conflicts,” by Iraqi American art historian Dr. Nada Shabout, who since 2002 has been a professor of art history at the University of North Texas. She will speak at 7 p.m. Friday, April 16, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center at St. Thomas. A reception to follow will feature Middle Eastern food, music, dance and film.

Samah Fahmy’s “Cairo” (etching, aquatint, drypoint and soft ground on zinc)

Samah Fahmy’s “Cairo” (etching, aquatint, drypoint and soft ground on zinc)

The exhibit and opening event are free and open to the public.

Participating artists will include:

  • Ahmed Aldhafeeri, a Saudi Arabian musician who will perform at the exhibit’s opening. He is a student at St. Thomas.
  • Halla Ayla, a photographer and painter born in Iraq and currently living in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Haifa Bint-Kadi, an American Muslim of Palestinian heritage who studied in Italy and now lives and works in New York.
  • Samah Fahmy, a designer, painter and graphic artist born in Cairo, Egypt. She now lives in Woodbury.
  • Sam Hassan, a California-based artist whose embossed wood pieces recall ornate Middle Eastern decorative art
  • Wissam Kabbara, a Lebanese American filmmaker whose 2008 documentaries, “The Game of Dad’s Life” and “Letters From My New Home,” ponder the immigrant experience and family and country of origin. His films will be shown at the exhibit opening.
  • Saed Kakish, a Jordanian dancer who also owns Cahoots Coffee Bar, an authentic Middle Eastern cafe in St. Paul’s Merriam Park. He will dance at the exhibit’s opening event.
  • Zahi Khamis, a Palestinian painter who now lives and works in Baltimore, Md.
  • Samar Megdadi, a self-taught painter, ceramicist and calligraphy artist living in northern Indiana. She was born and raised in Jordan and moved to the United States in 1995. She also is a civil engineer whose art combines her engineering and architectural knowledge with Eastern spirituality and Western technique.
  • Ilham Badreddine Mahfouz, of West Bloomfield, Mich., who was born in Damascus, Syria, and came to the United States in 1972. She is a painter, ceramicist and teacher of art and Arabic language.

“Sabeel” is presented in collaboration with the traveling ArtReach Foundation exhibit, “Breaking the Veils: Women Artists From the Islamic World,” Feb. 6-April 1 at St. Catherine University. Both exhibits encourage a dialogue to promote a deeper understanding of the Islamic world beyond religion, ethnicity or politics.

For more information, call the St. Thomas Art History Department, (651) 962-5560.