Karen Dabrowska is an Arab Weekly contributor in London.

  • North Africa’s thriving pop art showcased in London, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • Rising Palestinian music stars delight London audience, On: Sun, 13 Aug 2017

  • Saudi female artists champion preservation of traditional houses, On: Sun, 09 Jul 2017

  • Syrian conflict in spotlight at London’s Imperial War Museum, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Putting on stage the ‘Occupational Hazards’ of administering Iraq, On: Sun, 28 May 2017

  • Sudanese artists showcased for first time in London, On: Sun, 09 Apr 2017

  • Multitudes portrays the experiences of Arab women through art, On: Sun, 02 Apr 2017

  • Iraqi Kurdistan then and now through photographs, On: Sun, 12 Mar 2017

  • Pattern Recognition showcases contemporary Palestinian art, On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • Jewelled Tales of Libya displayed in London, On: Sun, 29 Jan 2017

  • Zaha Hadid’s early paintings exhibited in London, On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • London exhibition showcases Qatari contemporary art, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Abdallah Khaled’s Paths of Light shine in London, On: Sun, 27 Nov 2016

  • The Writing of Art showcased in London, On: Sun, 06 Nov 2016

  • Academics fight to protect Libyan antiquities, On: Sun, 09 Oct 2016

  • London exhibition showcases language as art, On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • London gallery showcases modern Arab art, On: Sun, 25 Sep 2016

  • Conservation architect warns of imminent demise of Jerusalem’s Old City, On: Sun, 14 Aug 2016

  • When archaeology is manipulated for political ends, On: Sun, 24 Jul 2016

  • Mideast world heritage destroyed but not only by ISIS, On: Sun, 03 Jul 2016

  • Let Me Stand Alone: Tribute to slain US activist, On: Sun, 05 Jun 2016

  • The Eggsperiment: A simple painting with a powerful message for Syria , On: Sun, 15 May 2016

  • Reluctant artist highlights Palestinians’ plight , On: Sun, 01 May 2016

  • Muslim world’s Life and sole in London exhibition , On: Sun, 24 Apr 2016

  • Digital archive immortalises Mesopotamian city, On: Fri, 25 Mar 2016

  • Ark Re-Imagined to save Iraq’s cultural heritage, On: Fri, 11 Mar 2016

  • Jerusalem//Home: An artistic statement about the holy city, On: Fri, 04 Mar 2016

  • Suspended Accounts tells forgotten Palestinian history, On: Fri, 19 Feb 2016

  • Iraqis eye the future of their country in \'Whose Peace will it Be?\', On: Fri, 05 Feb 2016

  • War-torn Iraq a destination for daring travellers, On: Fri, 05 Feb 2016

  • Jumana Manna’s first solo UK exhibition, On: Fri, 29 Jan 2016

  • Egypt: Faith After the Pharaohs recalls religious coexistence, On: Fri, 22 Jan 2016

  • East London gallery offers glimpse into Arab art, On: Fri, 15 Jan 2016

  • London exhibit explores Algerian identity, On: Fri, 04 Dec 2015

  • Display of Arab modern art at British Museum, On: Fri, 27 Nov 2015

  • Kurdish art exhibition highlights art by refugee children, On: Fri, 20 Nov 2015

  • Every face tells a story in Bachi exhibition, On: Fri, 06 Nov 2015

  • Unusual art exhibit from Saudi Arabia , On: Fri, 30 Oct 2015

  • Autonomy of Self: Remembering injustices, On: Fri, 09 Oct 2015

  • North Africa’s thriving pop art showcased in London

    The exhibition showcases an unseen perspective of the North African cultural scene.

    Eclectic views. Bag installation by Walid Bouchouchi. (Najlaa El-Ageli)

    2017/10/08 Issue: 126 Page: 22

    London - In a testament to the thriving pop art scene in the Maghreb, 15 artists from the region’s five Arab countries showcased their talent in “Pop Art from North Africa” exhibition at Lon­don’s P21 Gallery.

    The exhibition is the brainchild of curators Najlaa el-Ageli, a Liby­an architect, and Algerian Toufik Douib, who met during London’s Nour Festival in 2015, where they both curated projects.

    “It was then that we discussed collaboration to showcase an un­seen perspective of the North Afri­can cultural scene. The project Pop Art ‘popped up’ about a year-and-a-half ago, initially grouping one artist per country (five in total), to gradually evolve and become 15,” Douib said.

    “For most of the selected artists, this is their first exhibition in the UK. Bringing young creative tal­ents from the North African land­scape to a London audience while encouraging these artists to fur­ther collaborations and initiatives beyond their home countries were at stake during our curatorial jour­ney,” Douib added.

    Exhibiting artists included Mouad Aboulhana (Morocco), Alla Abudabbus (Libya), Rasha Amin (Egypt), Dhafer Ben Khalifa (Tu­nisia), Amel Benaoudia (Algeria), Walid Bouchouchi (Algeria), El3ou (Algeria), Malak Elghuel (Libya), Sa­rah Basma Harnafi (Morocco), Sar­roura Libre (Tunisia), Meryem Meg (Algeria-Bulgaria), Ilyes Messaoudi (Tunisia), El-Moustache (Algeria), Qarm Qart (Italy-Egypt) and Sofiane Si Merabet (Algeria).

    Douib noted that in the West “pop art, which has become a cul­ture phenomenon, started from a simple logic of reappropriation and reinvention to soon grow into an industry for dreams and evasion, speaking to the mass, while engag­ing with minorities of all kinds.”

    “Similarly, pop in North Africa addresses what the people want and what the springs are but it also reflects on existential and social issues, often with the aim to de­liver, through hints of nostalgia and subtle provocation, a politically charged message,” Douib said.

    “In fact, beyond their colourful symbols and codes soaked in deri­sion and sarcasm, the pop artists that are today active in the region, from Egypt to Morocco, tackle themes inspired by history, tradi­tions and, above all, the challenges of their everyday life,” he added.

    When selecting the works the cu­rators’ wanted to showcase eclec­tic and fresh views through paint­ings, digital, installation, video and sound. “Also, and unlike Western pop, which was dominated by male artists, we wanted to show how the movement in North Africa is rep­resented by a quite strong female presence (five selected artists),” Douib said.

    The curators faced challenges in getting the art works in time. The onsite wall mural (17 x 5 me­tres) was completed by Meg in five days and the bag installation “Tra­bendo” (2.8 x 1.6 metres) by Bou­chouchi was delivered within time constraints.

    “Overall it was crucial for the exhibition to have a consistent sce­nography that draws a thread to all the artworks, in showing the simi­larities and distinctions of iden­tities, stories and issues existing within the five countries,” Douib said.

    The art works of varying sizes are colourful with a hint of exu­berance, evident from the use of embroidery and glittering beads and ornaments. The issues they address are serious. Harnafi has combined scenes from the natural beauty of Morocco with dream-like images symbolic of a fantasti­cal voyage to a world her subjects will probably never see: A world of love, optimism and freedom.

    Describing her depiction of fig­ures around a bowl of harira, tradi­tional Moroccan soup, Harnafi said: “The people are poor. They only have one bowl of soup but they share what they have with love.” For the artist, her work is a per­petual journey for a better world in which love is the operative word.

    A small room in the gallery is set aside for “The Confused Arab,” an installation depicting “Salon To­morrow” by Si Merabet. The beauty salon is a central place in Arab cit­ies and this installation combines nostalgic scenes from history with the artist’s vision of a salon of the future, forcing the visitor to reflect on questions of identity and the role of the past in influencing the future.

    The exhibition brings “forth to its audience the pure and authen­tic North African consciousness through the pop art form,” Ageli said in a release.

    “By its nature, direct and acces­sible, the group exhibition reveals the innate sense of humour that is blended with a subtle touch of cynicism and delivered with light-hearted connotations. It offers a complex, intelligent and meaning­ful picture of themes that are dear to the North African people and what occupies their minds and awareness.”

    “Pop Art from North Africa,” on exhibit through November 4, is pre­sented in partnership with P21 Gal­lery and the Arab British Centre and supported by AMAL: A Said Foun­dation Project and Darf Publishers.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

    Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

    Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

    Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

    Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Regular Columnists

    Claude Salhani

    Yavuz Baydar


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


    Ibrahim Ben Bechir

    Hanen Jebali

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262


    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved