About the Contemporary Ceramic Art from the Middle East display

Victoria & Albert Museum
This display brings together for the first time contemporary artists from across the Middle East and North Africa and in diaspora, who work primarily in clay. While historical ceramics from this region are widely known and celebrated, current ceramic practice across the region is still little-known. This display introduces the richness and vitality of this practice.The display features the work of 19 artists from ten countries. Some of these artists look back to the techniques and designs of their nation’s past, or seek inspiration from aspects of their culture. Others choose ceramic as a vehicle for political messages.
The display is divided into three themes:



The artists featured in Tradition seek a dialogue between the past and the present. Their work engages with the forms, designs and techniques of historical ceramics from the Middle East. The focus may be scientific enquiry into the use of materials – as with Zahed Taj-Eddin's Nu Shabtis – or an exploration of the artist's personal connection to their place of origin – as with Ibrahim Said's reference to medieval water filters recovered archaeologically from Fustat, outside Cairo, which remains the potters' quarter to today. Some artists use historical references to comment on social issues of today – such as Abbas Akbari's lustre tiles or Elif Uras's reference to Ottoman vessels – or as a way to keep traditions alive and give them a new future.
The display includes an installation of new work by Ashraf Hanna entitled Shararah, 'Spark' in Arabic. This installation began as an exploration of the techniques and designs of a collection of burnished pottery in the V&A collection, made in Asyut in Upper Egypt in the late 19th century. Hanna originally comes from the neighbouring city, El Minia, and wanted to explore this connection to his Egyptian identity. As the work evolved, it became a tribute to the youth who 'sparked' the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, as part of the Arab Spring. The installation features 25 vessels, referencing the date of 25 January when the protests began.



The works in Identity engage with cultural and national identity. Khaled Ben Slimane and Rachid Koraïchi are both followers of Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam, who use writing in symbolic ways in their pursuit of dialogue between faiths and cultures. For Koraïchi, who grew up during the final years of Algeria's colonisation by France, using the symbols of his own culture has also been an act of resistance. Ben Slimane repeats particular words across his ceramics – especially 'Allah' ('God') and 'huwa' ('he', also referring to God) – and this writing is a form of spiritual practice. Nathalie Khayat uses her own body to physically impress her identity onto her ceramics. Injured in a car bomb explosion in her native city Beirut, making became a form of therapy, and notions of violence and damage are reflected in the two vases seen here.

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Produced as part of Contemporary Ceramic Art from the Middle East at
Ran from 19 May 2021 to 17 October 2021 at

May 19, 2021
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