By Houda Mzioudet.
Tripoli, 19 June 2013:
“Art was our weapon during Qaddafi era and the Libyan Revolution. During NATO strikes in Tripoli, when we were scared, my husband would say to me ‘Keep on drawing’.” Najla Shawket Fitouri, a Libyan artist laughed while reminescing about the hard days she and her family had gone through during the Libyan Revolution.
“Art was the sole outlet for us artists to counter Qaddafi’s propaganda,” she stressed.
“An artist in Libya needed to isolate him or herself from the outside world and the harsh reality of Libya to be more creative. It was more like a way to escape reality and express it through art”, Fitouri esplained. She remembered that during the war against Qaddafi, when fear gripped her and her family because of air strikes, her husband would urge her to focus all her energy on her art and continue drawing.
“It was a way to overcome fear”, she said.
Fitouri and 12 other Libyan artists chose the Doshma Centre, in Tripoli’s Sidi Mesri district to display their latest aworks focussing on post-revolution Libya. Sponsored by the German Embassy in Tripoli and Hud Hud, Hederza Mensia (‘Forgotten Chatter’ in Libyan Arabic) is a Noon Arts exhibition. It started on 15 June and runs until 24 June.
“It is a conversation between them that reflects on the status of the country. The collection of artwork included “powerful imagery made up of photography, paintings, and sculptures.” Its purpose is to explore the hidden side of human nature and to show the worry and concern Libyan artists feel for their country’s future.”
Forgotten Chatter is about Libyan artists choosing particular subjects, using symbols and ironies throughout the exhibition to “convey the personal and collective frustrations, dreams and aspirations”. For them, the real Libya “feels as though it has been forgotten… with its vulnerable women, frustrated youth, the innocent children and the elderly”.
The exhibition drew Libyans and non-Libyans to see some of the most fascinating and creative canvasses of Libyan art for a long time.
Gabriella Wul, an art historian and curator from Hungary, came to the exhibition with her husband and children. She told the Libya Herald she wanted to support Libyan art and Libya through art. She has already organised some exhibitions outside Hungary and this is her first time in Libya.
“Libya has good but hidden artists,” she noted.
Najla Fitouri is an artist who graduated from School of Arts of Tripoli in1991 and has been a painter/artist ever since.
“Being an artist is an adventure that deserves struggle, just like in life”, Fitouri insisted. “I got the support of my husband who is an artist like me, “ she esplained. Yousef Fetis, Firouri’s husband is also exhibiting with some canvasses
“We Libyan artists always found in art an outlet to express ourselves during Qaddafi era, throughout the Libyan Revolution and since the revolution,” Fitouri went on.
Firouri has exhibited in several countries among them Malta and Turkey.
“The opening ceremony was amazing. A lot of people came to see our exhibition”, Najlaa El Ageli, the co-founder of the Noor Arts exhibition in London.
“Last November, around 1,000 people turned up to our exhibition. People from all over the world came to see Libyan art exhibited in London. It was a huge success for us, El Ageli said with evident pride.
The Sidi Mesri venue, called Doshma, is a brand new, post-modern venue in Tripoli. Looking more like a London to New York industrial building converted to an art space, it opened its doors to the public for the very first time to host the exhibition Haderza Mensia. It is was designed by two Libyan architects, Muftah Abudajaja and Walid Turki, specifically to exhibit art, encourage socialising and bring people together to discuss the future of creative art in Libya, according to El Ageli
Inspired by the Libyan revolution, the material used for the building’s construction reflects the back-to-basics approach; as during the revolution, when men and women used whatever material was at hand, El Ageli explained.
Doshma’s main space consists of a vaulted roof, within which lies a two-level exhibition space. The architects see it as a metaphor for a shipping container. Created to be the perfect metaphor to the Libyan struggle, where the container was for the transportation of goods and aid that was delivered during the revolution, its robust form also helped to block routes into the cities and towns.
With its glazed façade, the overall architecture is open and transparent.