IstanbulBahia Shehab: The Chronicles of Flowers
The Chronicles of Flowers is a personal documentation of Bahia Shehab’s long-lasting relationship with flowers.
In the spring of 2011, when Shehab broke her left knee, her mother came from Beirut to nurse her in Cairo. Every morning, she created a flower arrangement from the garden to leave next to Shehab’s bed. This process triggered a state of obsessive flower documentation for the artist that lasted for several years.
Shehab realized that flowers, just like the women surrounding her, have been important for all her life, for understanding who she was and how she related to her surroundings. She grew up in a family valuing flowers and their meanings. Flowers decorated nargilas and necklines, walking sticks and bedsides. They were cooked in special seasonal dishes; dried to drink during the winters. These flowers were the screens through which Shehab perceived the world.
This idea of flowers as screens reminded her the “mashrabiya”s, used to grace the facades of buildings, with their design inspired by the nature. They allowed the person in the house to see, and not to be seen. It shielded the residents from the inquisitive eyes of voyeurs on the street, while giving them the chance to be voyeurs themselves. It let the air and sun in, while creating playful shadows traveling around the room to indicate the time of the day.
For The Chronicles of Flowers, Shehab creates her own “mashrabiya”s, highlighting the strong relationship between the generations of women, the ephemerality of beings, and the screens shaping perception. The exhibition invites the audience to a multi-sensory experience, with plexi-glass screens, video and audio projections, and flower scents. An artist book documenting 77 flowers and their relevant memory to the artist accompanies the exhibition. The personal narrative in the book starts in the early 1980’s Civil War in Lebanon, and ends in 2017’s Post Revolution in Cairo.
Bahia Shehab (Beirut, 1977) lives and works in Cairo. Her artwork has been on display in museums, galleries and streets in Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, UAE and the US. The documentary Nefertiti’s Daughters featuring her street artwork during the Egyptian uprising was released in 2015. Her work has received a number of international recognitions and awards; TED fellowship (2012) and TED Senior fellowship (2016), BBC 100 Women list (2013, 2014), The American University in Beirut distinguished alumna (2015), Shortlist for V&A’s Jameel Prize 4 (2016), a Prince Claus Award (2016) and the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture (2017). She is associate professor of design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo where she has developed a full design curriculum mainly focused on visual culture of the Arab world. She has taught over fourteen courses on the topic. Her book “A Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif” was published in 2010.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)