Introduction to the Artists

Mariam Abdul Aleem,
(b.1930), Egypt

Mariam Abdul Aleem obtained a diploma from the Higher Institute of Art Education in Cairo (1954), M.A. in graphic art from the University of South California (1957) and Ph.D. in history of art from the University of Hilwan in Cairo. She is a professor of design and graphics at the University of Alexandria.

A prominent Arab graphic artist and engraver, Abdul Aleem stresses the aesthetic instead of the photographic awareness of her subjects.  Art for her is a kind of spiritual expression where signs make up the core of her compositions that she frames with organic naturalistic shapes. She takes up environmental topics in her work thus mixing between artistic expressionism and ecological issues in carefully balanced arrangements.

Nawal Abdallah, (b.1951), Jordan

Nawal Abdallah graduated at the Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence in 1979.

Her energetic semi-abstract compositions are full of spectacular movement where spirited forms interact and supersede the first and second dimensions and colour, light, mass and line play equal roles in forming her fragmented arrangements while her nudes that she interjects with tachisme in a an animated dramatic manner, hover between reality and dream, shadow and light, thus creating a defiant world of their own were nothing is clear or certain.

Etel Adnan, (b.1925), Lebanon

Philosopher, novelist, designer, poet, literary critic, journalist and painter, Etel Adnan is a multi-faceted woman by any standard. A graduate of philosophy from the Sorbonne University in Paris (1955), she went on to continue her studies at Berkeley and Harvard Universities in the United States. She moves between California, Paris and Lebanon.

Since 1964, Adnan has been researching the relationship between writing and image. She illustrated many poems by well-known contemporary Arab poets as well as her own, until her search led her to working with Japanese accordion-like books. They range in length between three and twelve meters, and are illustrated with her calligraphic compositions in the form of a repeated individual word such as the name of God, Allah, and in the form of varied poetry verses in color. Her pure-calligraphic works carry within them visual and spiritual joy.

Mehr Afroze, (b.1948), Pakistan

Mehr Afroze trained in art at the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Lucknow, India. After immigrating to Pakistan she has been living in Karachi where she teaches and works.

Feminist issues that she dealt with in her paintings have occupied painter and graphic artist, Afroze. Her textured monochromatic compositions are laden with symbols that represent woman in her many faces and through her various emotions. By mixing the figurative with the abstract she reaches a plateau in her work where the style ceases to be important compared to the subject matter.

Tina Ahmad, (b.1950), Bangladesh

Tina Ahmad got her B.A. and M.A. in fine arts at the University of Punjab, in Lahore, Pakistan. She has been living and working in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates since 1976.

As an artist who explores woman’s world, Ahmad finds a shared and common struggle for identity among most societies where choices can be few. She successfully captures moments, within her transparent and sensitive figurative compositions, where the lucidity of her women denote a barely perceived invisibility in their society, questioning their uncertain future with an age old wisdom written on their miens.

Tomur Atagök, (b.1939), Turkey

Tomur Atagök completed her art education at the College of Arts and Crafts at Oklahoma State University and the University of California, Berkeley, in the U.S.A. She took her Ph.D. in museology from Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul. She lives in Istanbul and is a professor at Yildiz Technical University.

In Atagök’s art, her main apprehension is the question of identity, therefore the female figure as well as other figures, are dissected, fragmented and turned into symbols that transmit a certain message. Her use of mixed media adds to the work a dynamism that is apart from the subject, yet, reinforcing it while underlying its content.

Suad Attar, (b.1939), Iraq

Suad Attar got a B.A. in fine arts from Baghdad University (1964) and a Diploma in Art from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She also attended advanced courses in printmaking at Wimbledon School of Art and the Central School of Art and Design in London.

In her dreamlike compositions, Attar delves into classical Arab myths, folk tales, and poetry, weaving a world of phantasm whereby she probes into the secret world of male/female sexuality and its complicated emotional ambiance where reality disappears and the imagination runs wild within trancelike lush monochromatic landscapes.

Samira Badran, (b.1954), Palestine

Samira Badran first attended the Faculty of Fine Arts at Cairo University graduating in 1976 before attending Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence.

A painter, engraver and puppet maker, Badran portrays her people’s plight through highly expressive and volatile photographic compositions that she touches through a special technique. She brings into play a symbolic language where the hardiness of bare twisted metal against colored backgrounds stands for the Palestinians’ resilience facing occupation; they are among the most effectual Arab nationalistic art works.

Thuraya Baqsami, (b.1952), Kuwait

Journalist, illustrator, novelist, poet, painter and engraver, Thuraya Baqsami’s early art training was at the College of Fine Arts in Cairo (1972-74) followed by an M.A. in graphic design and book illustration from Surikov Arts Institute in Moscow (1981). She then went to Dakkar, Senegal and trained in silkscreen, batik, painting on silk and ceramics (1981-83) and attended several workshops in engraving techniques in London.

In flowing lines and pure colors, Baqsami builds up her uncluttered, flat, rhythmic compositions that fluctuate between a male’s reality and a female’s fantasy. A prolific artist, whose poetic talent pours onto her artwork in an elucidatory manner where her figures, although mostly imaginative, strongly allude to social and feminist issues.

Baya, (1931-1999), Algeria

A self-taught artist, Baya began painting and working with clay in 1943. Baya's style was based on infantile dreams and imagination expressed in naïve-surrealistic forms. Although she constantly used the same figures, she was unable to explain her works rationally. Orphaned at the age of five and from a poor family, she was adopted by a French couple living in Algeria. Yet she never learnt to read and write.

Baya directed her grief towards a world of birds and animals and through her sincerity, captured the attention of André Breton and Pablo Picasso when at the age of sixteen she had an exhibition at Galerie Adrien Maeght, in Paris, in 1947. Picasso took her to his country home in Vallauris and observed her while she kneaded clay into animal forms. She stopped working between 1952 and 1967 when she was busy raising a family. At the age of 36, she resumed painting in her same dreamlike colorful fashion where animals and humans exchange forms.

Karima Bin Othman, (b.1972), Jordan

Karima bin Othman is the youngest artist in the exhibition. She trained at various art institutes in Italy, including Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence (1992-94), Accademia di Belle Arte in Bologna (1994-95) and Accademia di Belle Arte (Brera) in Milan (1996-98).

Her colorful masks take up, half seriously and half mockingly, different human characters, hence exposing the superficiality of shallow social customs and behavior while transporting the viewer into a world of philosophical parody, reminiscent of the one inhabited by “Alice in Wonderland”.

Fahda Bint Saud, (b.1953), Saudi Arabia

Following her graduation from Beirut College for Women (currently Lebanese American University) in political science (1974), Fahda Bint Saud went on to the American University of Beirut for her M.A. in the same major (1976). She has trained in art at several ateliers in Paris (1978-1980).

Her unseeing, draped, faceless women, hiding behind their heavy colorless veils, wandering silently through the deserts of their lives, bespeak of what some of her sisters have to live with, shying away from life’s challenges, yet no one can foretell what they conceal within their folds.

Rana Bishara, (b.1971), Palestine

Rana Bishara graduated from the University of Haifa with a B.A. in fine arts and women studies (1994). She lives and works in Galilee, Israel.

Bishara has taken up the cactus, a common plant in her environment used to define the borders of Palestinian villages, some derelict some thriving, as a reference and witness to her country’s occupation and the pain that many of her compatriots have to endure. In her symbolic manner, dried cacti leaves make up three-dimensional abstract formations that carry aesthetic and patriotic connotations while their flat graphic interpretation in intangible calligraphic signs, complement the humane subjects of her arrangements.

Meriam Bouderbala, (b.1960), Tunisia

Meriem Bouderbala trained in painting and etching at the École des Beaux Arts in Aix-en Provence (1980-85) before going to Chelsea School of Art in London (1985) to specialize in etching. She lives and works in Paris.

Bouderbala is a painter and film set creator. In her work she mixes sand with her paints to achieve a textured organic surface that simultaneously forms the background and foreground of her composition. Coming through her deceptively simple and direct representations, are symbols of an unfathomable and secret message that baffles the spectator and prickles the imagination.

Kanak Chakma, (b.1963), Bangladesh

A winner of Mid-American Arts Alliance Fellowship to Penn State University (1994), Kanak Chakma got her M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts at University of Dhaka in Bangladesh (1986).

A member of the Chakma tribe, Kanak Chakma’s idealistic feminine image as interpreted in her paintings, is of a carefree woman living amidst nature where her emotions are expressed through her natural surroundings, yet without crippling ethnicity. Color and line share in the formation of her compositions that draw on the hilly topography of her surroundings. With her free and spontaneous lines and liberal use of color, Chakma breaks all bonds with her haunting ethnic past as well as her binding occidental training.

Umi Dachlan, (b.1942), Indonesia

Born in Cirebon (West-Java), Umi Dachlan graduated from the Faculty of Arts and Design at the Bandung Institute of Technology (1969) and the Gerrit Rietveld Kunstacademie in Amsterdam, Holland, (1977-1979).

One of the prominent abstract painters of Indonesia, Dachlan uses gold in her compositions, not as a secondary ornament but as equal to other dyes with which she builds up expanses of colored deserts, intercepting them with the addition of metal pieces such as old coins. Her expressive abstractions reveal her Oriental roots that peek through in spite of her Western training and media.

Balqees Fakhro, (b.1950), Bahrain

Balqees Fakhro graduated from Lone Mountain College in San Francisco, California, majoring in fine arts and history of art (1975).

She meticulously builds up her sensitive abstract compositions, by piling thin transparent layers, to form multiple color fields that pull the eye towards a bright and far away future, suspended within her large abstract rhythmic canvases.

Lisa Fattah, (1941-1999), Iraq

Of Swedish origin, Lisa Fattah was married to the Iraqi pioneer sculptor Ismail Fattah whom she met while studying at the Accademia de Belle Arte in Rome where she graduated in 1963. She later trained at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid (1963-64).

In her intensely expressionistic style bordering on the brute, Fattah communicates her anger and objection to the savagery shown towards her adopted people, the Iraqis, and her adopted country. Lest her message is not fully comprehended, she injects the composition with words, linear forms and signs expressing her rage and tying up her ideas to the environment, without mincing any words.

Samia Halaby, (b.1936), Palestine

Painter, art historian and art curator, Samia Halaby has a B.A. in design from the University of Cincinnati (1955) and two M.A’s from Michigan State University and Indiana University (1963). She works and lives in New York City.

Halaby explains her cerebral and serene abstract work as: “An examination of my habits as an abstract painter along with discussion with other painters and 19 years of teaching have led me to think that the creative process is like a spiral of learning. We seem to cycle through a delight in looking, intuitive response, recognition, criticism, study and back again to an enriched repetition of each. Paintings and drawings are the product of this intellectual growth that takes place within the decisive context of our social environment.”

Jumana Husseini, (b.1932), Palestine

After moving from Jerusalem to Beirut in 1948, Jumana Husseini trained in painting, ceramics and sculpture while majoring in political science at the American University of Beirut and the Beirut College for Women (later to become Lebanese American University) during the 1950s. Since the early 1990s, she has been living and working in Paris.

Husseini’s style betrays a high degree of skillful technique. Her strongly balanced abstract compositions of intense transparent multi strata, build up through numerous layers, an opaque background for her abstract linear calligraphic symbols with which she creates passionate and imaginary horizons.

Kamala Ibrahim, Sudan

A graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Khartoum University and the Royal College of Art in London, Kamala Ibrahim is one of Sudan’s most prominent women artists. She lives and works in London.

Ibrahim’s tormented and deformed persons are reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s, however, despite the muted and sombre colours, their backgrounds denote her cultural roots and the subject matter illustrates the issues that her genders have to face within their own society. In her compositions, time is motionless while emotions accelerate the depth of the subject’s anguish.

Naz Ikramullah, (b.1939), Pakistan

Artist and art teacher Naz Ikramullah initially studied fine arts in London at Bayam Shaw School of Art followed by post-graduate training in lithography at Slade School. Upon her return to Karachi, she worked with Michael Ponce de Leon who was a visiting artist from Pratt Institute of New York. She lives and works in Canada.

A versatile artist, Ikramullah employs various techniques and media. She simultaneously uses color laser prints, pastels, etching, inks, water-colors and collages on her works that are often related to the memory of a certain political event as it stands out in a particular moment, interlocked with her personal recollection of the incident and the effect it had left on her and its circumstance.

Rym Karoui, (b.1967), Tunisia

Rym Karoui trained in sculpture at École Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris (1991) before enrolling at the École des Beaux Arts in Marseille, graduating in 1993. She then continued her training in painting at Masséna Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona (1993).

Her crowded symbolic compositions, in vivid colors, intercepted by isolated words, are highly deceptive. Through her cartoon-like naïve figures that hang around, between pre-historical cave drawings, aboriginal bark painting and childish doodles, Karoui hides a keen sense of the macabre side of man’s nature. Her artistic roots extend to her primordial past yet seen through a contemporary vision and expressed with utmost innocence.

Leila Kawash, (b.1945), Iraq

A graduate of Manchester College of Art in 1966, Leila Kawash’s interest in Arab culture and the deteriorating political situation in her country led her to experiment with calligraphic collages.

When she cannot depict a concept visually, Kawash expresses it in her sensitive and delicate manner. Including slogans, verse, prose and montage into her transparent compositions, she registers her protest and anger against the closed borders in the face of her countrymen, and the uneven handedness, and selective and partial treatment in dealing with issues pertaining to her nation.

Sohad Lachiri, (b.1946), Morocco

A self-taught painter who has trained at the modern art workshops of the Institute of Fine Arts in Madrid (1988), Sohad Lachiri lives and works in Spain.

Her flat abstract compositions, depending on direct vibrant colors and uncomplicated linear shapes, at first glance, are deceptively simplistic, however like Calder’s mobiles they carry within their simplicity an earthbound philosophy that transfers the viewer to Lachiri’s Arab origins.

Rabha Mahmoud, (b.1949), Oman

Rabha Mahmoud got her B.A. in literature yet chose painting as a career and trained at the Youth Art Studio in Muscat, in 1980.

Mahmoud crowds her canvas with wrapped up female figures in constant motion. Her vivid colors and free expressionistic strokes represent dynamism, anxiety and perpetual movement that her women exude in spite of their veiled existence.

Hana Malallah, (b.1960), Iraq

Hana Mallalah graduated from the Department of Graphics at the Institute of Fine Arts (1978), and the Painting Department at the College of Fine Arts (1989) in Baghdad where she lives and teaches at the Institute of Fine Arts. A student and protégée of the well-known Iraqi artist Shakir Hassan Al Said, she was greatly influenced by him yet succeeded in finding her own artistic personality.

Mallalah utilizes organic materials in building up her abstract compositions comprised of paper, cardboard and textiles among other substances. Her innovative organic arrangements mostly in their original forms and colors contain emblematic figures and signs that refer to humanitarian issues in an indirect and mystifying approach.

Heyi Ma’mun, (b.1952), Indonesia

Born in Bandung (West Java) Heyi Ma’mun attended the Faculty of Art at the Bandung Institute of Technology, graduating in 1981.

In her textured abstractions, Ma’mun applies her colors with a generosity befitting their position as the major component of her works. The marriage of various nuances and hues, in a well-balanced configuration on a unifying background adds a measure of enigmatic poetical touch to her abstract arrangements.

Simin Maykadeh, (b.1941), Iran

Simin Maykadeh trained in art at Torlington Park School in Sussex, England before going to the Faculty of Art at the University of Minneapolis in Minnesota, U.S.A., graduating in 1960 after which she joined Barbara Pierce‘s painting class.

Her taciturn featureless figures in large stylized shapes and subtle earthly tones that seem to silently grow right into their environment, just like boulders or trees, convey a sentiment of spatial monumentality in shape as well as in character.

Najia Mehadji, (b.1950), Morocco

Najia Mehadji studied plastic art and aesthetics at Sorbonne University in Paris and did research on contemporary theatre (Grotfskie and Live Theatre) that presented her with several opportunities for discussion of traditional drawing methods, architecture and contemporary music. She taught the relationship between movement, sound and effect at the Pantin Institute for Contemporary Music in Paris.

Mehadji interprets in her work the connections between the origins of geometric forms, mixing them to build up her constructed compositions; thus she links up art with science through her floating, cadenced, regular and irregular shapes.

Laila Muraywid, (b.1956), Syria

Painter and art jewelry creator, Laila Muraywid is a graduate of the College of Fine Arts in Damascus and École Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

Borrowing her colors from the earth and the effect of the seasonal changes, Muraywid meticulously builds her organic abstract compositions to achieve a sensitive balance between form, medium and color. Her abstractions exude earthly harmony and heavenly tranquility.

Hind Nasser, (b.1940), Jordan

Hind Nasser read history and political science at Beirut College for Women (presently the Lebanese American University). Since joining Fahrelnissa Zeid's group in the 1970s and taking up painting, she has been working studiously at her abstract and semi-abstract paintings.

Nasser cleverly works with bright colors as well as their reverse. Most of her subjects are taken from nature in all its forms. Her dexterous distribution of obscure figures and shapes over muted color areas shows a keen sense of compositional equilibrium that gives her abstract works visual depth and composure.

Houria Niati, (b.1948), Algeria

Houria Niati was born in Khemis-Miliana, Algeria. Her education included studies in visual arts and music, receiving a degree from the National School of Tixeraine in Algeria, in 1969. She studied drawing at the Camden Art Center and completed a degree in Fine Arts at Croydon College of Art in England.

Painter, singer, and poet, Niati often accompanies her painting exhibitions with Algerian songs from a classical Andalusian repertoire and reads her own poetry that she writes in French. Her highly expressive paintings, enveloped in a deceiving dreamlike quality, embody feminist issues and proclaim her objection to stereotyping Arab women by focusing on symbols of sexuality from the vocabulary of both sexes.

Rabab Nimer, (b.1940), Egypt

A graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria, Rabab Nimer continued her art studies at San Fernando Academy in Madrid where she got a Ph.D. (1977).

Enigmatic and muted forms, in limbo between humans and hand puppets, animate her expressive arrangements, in unperturbed colors. They stare with their blank faces and questioning eyes at the viewer, drawing towards an intellectual expressiveness bordering on existentialism, with imaginative sensibilities.

Amna Nusairy, (b.1967), Yemen

Amna Nusairy got her B.A. and M.A. in art criticism from the State Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow (1994) and her Ph.D in Philosophy of Art from University of Moscow (2001).

Painter, art critic, journalist and T.V. anchor, Nusairy takes up the decorative motifs in Yemeni pottery, weaving, henna body painting and textiles to compose her abstract arrangements. To her, each ornamentation stands for a segment of life that has started in primeval time yet is still part of the pervading present. The graphic form of each pattern, with its simple lines and hushed colors, carries its own meaning related to life and death, desire and aversion, man and woman. When put together the various configurations make up the overall narrative of the painting in a deceptively simplistic manner.

Mounira Nusseibeh, (b.1943), Palestine

Mounira Nusseibeh went to Paris for her art training where she first attended Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Montparnasse (1964) followed by École Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts (1966).

Painter and sculptor, Nusseibeh depicts her solid figures in monochrome, hiding their anguish behind stone-like masked faces, and treats them with a strong hand and disturbing discipline of form and emotion thus bestowing on the composition a pervading force of a silent and controlled vigor.

Maisoon Qasimi, (b.1958), United Arab Emirates

Maisoon Qasimi is a poet and a painter who received her MA in economics and political science from the University of Cairo in 1981. A self taught artist, she trained with fellow artists in their studios while simultaneously practicing on her own.

Qasimi employs abstract calligraphic signs in her work as a secondary background element whose function is to accentuate the main figures in her expressionistic compositions. The squiggle lines animate the heavy static human shapes injecting the work with certain energy.

Nahid Reza, (b.1947), Pakistan

Painter and pedagogue, Nahid Reza completed a Diploma in Fine Arts from the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts in Karachi and a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Karachi (1971). She then went to Wayne State University in the U.S.A. as a visiting artist where she also trained in printmaking. In 1994 she established “Studio Art” in Karachi, a private academy of fine arts and graphics.

Reza’s interest focuses on issues pertaining to ‘woman’ whom she uses as an analogy in an arresting style, combining a unique manner of western art techniques with eastern symbolism. Showing great economy in color, her compositions include male and female symbolic references that emanate strong messages of woman’s desires and thoughts.

Juliana Seraphime, (b.1934), Lebanon

Painter and engraver, Juliana Seraphime trained at Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence and the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid.

In her highly imaginative futuristic style, bordering on science fiction, line is a principal component of the composition followed by color. Seraphime places the female figure on center stage. Her woman is an arrogant and beautiful sovereign who reigns supreme over a world of man, fauna and flora, unabashedly flaunting her splendour and emblematic eroticism for all to see.

Nirmala Shanmughalingam, (b.1941), Malaysia

After training with the pioneer Malaysian artist Hoessein Enas in Kuala Lumpur, in 1962, Nirmala Shanmughalingam began her formal art education at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC (1966-67) followed by Harvard University Extension Course at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1970-71), before completing her B.Sc. from Oxford Polytechnic, in England, in 1978.

An artist whose occupation is humanitarian issues, Shanmughalingam has portrayed conflict and civil war in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Lebanon, in a series of large silk-screen and smaller prints. Her use of color is minimal while her black and white images intercept and overlap. To stress her condemnation of injustice, brutality and senseless killing, she superimposes upon them written captions in their original languages, taken from journalistic reportage in the international press, thus heightening the dramatic effect of images with the content of printed text.

Haideh Sharifi, (b.1963), Iran

Haideh Sharifi studied painting at Azad Art University in Iran.

Sharifi derives her inspiration from classical Islamic art utilizing architectural and decorative elements as well as ceramic forms and Arabic calligraphy. She executes her works in mixed media, including collage and engraving, and uses earth colors while applying symmetry to her arrangements, thus mixing the traditional with the contemporary in an interesting configuration.

Laila Shawa, (b.1940), Palestine

Laila Shawa first gained her art training at the School of Art Leonardo Da’Vinci in Cairo (1957-58); she then continued at the Accademia di Belle Arte and Accademia St. Giaccomo in Rome, intercepted by three summer courses with Oskar Kokoshka in his academy in Salzburg, Austria. She has been living and working in London since 1975.

Painter, designer and illustrator of children’s books, Shawa has unreservedly taken up the cause of her people, the Palestinians, as the subject of her artwork. In her series entitled “Walls of Gaza” calligraphy plays a communications role by transmitting messages of a repressed people who when not allowed freedom of expression, revert to graffiti. However, this same graffiti forms part of the composition, turning the message into an element of the plastic expression.

Naima Shishini, (b.1929), Egypt

Painter and pedagogue, Naima Shishini studied history of art at the University of Copenhagen (1970-71) and Istanbul University (1976-77). She got her M.A. in fine arts from the College of Fine Arts in Alexandria where she later joined its faculty.

Shishini’s abstractions transgress local and regional boundaries into international spheres. Although dense chains made up of abstract Arabic calligraphic signs intercept her solid compositions of strong colored spaces, the overall impression remains that of a purely abstract arrangement outside parochial boundaries yet with just a hint of the Arab in her.

Suha Shoman, (b.1944), Jordan

Although she studied law at the Sorbonne University in Paris, graduating in 1966, Suha Shoman only realized herself in art after joining Fahrelnissa Zeid’s circle of students. She has also worked with others artists in their studios.

Assiduously carrying intensive research with her technique, she is the first artist in Jordan to use sand as an equal medium to oils and acrylics. She constructs complicated abstractions of a mélange of intricate lines and shapes, reminiscent of rock carvings in Jordan’s Wadi Rum, which indicate man’s primordial nature, in a mixture of strong colors.

Rula Shukairy, (b.1957), Jordan

Rula Shukairy began as a self taught artist until 1984 when she joined Fahrelnissa Zeid’s group of students.

A certain sensibility towards the distribution of her monochromatic colors is apparent in her abstract compositions that she deftly builds up into well-balanced arrangements with sensitivity towards the employment of light and shade and parity in color.

Dodi Tabbaa, (b.1952), Jordan

Of Bangladeshi origin, Dodi Tabbaa was born in Quetta, Pakistan. She got her BFA from the College of Fine Arts at Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan, (1972) and a Post Graduate Diploma in graphic art, textile design and typography from Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, England, (1977). Since 1977 she has been living and working in Amman and is married to Jordanian sculptor Samer Tabbaa.

Drawing on her rich native culture and her Western education, Tabbaa combines various media, including watercolor, gouache and collage, to execute her compositions. The effect of shadow theatre can be detected in her compositions where geometric shapes mix with free hand spontaneity. In her abstract works she emphasises the distribution of shapes and unadulterated colors rather than line and shading, while paying great attention to harmony and interplay of textures.

Wijdan, (b.1939), Jordan

Painter, writer and art historian Wijdan read history at Beirut College for Women (later to become Lebanese American University) graduating in 1961. She took up painting while still at college, following art courses and has worked with individual artists in their studios. In 1993 she got her Ph.D. in history of Islamic art from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

Wijdan has developed her individual style by building up her composition with thick layers of paint that she carves through to expose the various colored underlay which supersedes each other, blending and contrasting according to the desired effect. Most of her abstractions carry strong messages denouncing dictatorial rule, repression, double standards and contempt of human dignity that are common practices, in one form or another, throughout the world.

Su Yucel, (b.1961), Turkey

Su Yucel attended Academie des Beaux Arts in Strasbourg (1979-85).

An adept colorist, Yucel creates symphonic combinations of hues in audacious brush strokes where various shades of the same color form layers of abstract figurations that supercede natural structures into the realm of thoughts. Her treatment of oils is similar to that of watercolors, which gives the impression of an ethereal lightness to her surface.

Samia Zaru, (b.1938), Palestine

Samia Zaru got her Associate Degree from Beirut College for Women (presently Lebanese American University) (1955) and her B.A. in fine arts from the American University in Beirut (1958). She continued her art training in Washington at the Corcoran School of Art and the American University (1961). She was instrumental in developing an arts program for the government curricula in Jordan and is known as a prominent pedagogue in arts, crafts and history of art, training scores of students.

Zaru is a textile designer, painter, welder, weaver, graphic artist and one of the few Arab installation artists. Most of her subjects revolve around the Palestinian Problem that she deftly portrays in various media. In her powerful abstract expressionist paintings, with their strong contrasting colors and audacious lines, she inserts collages of Palestinian embroidery and printed textiles to emphasise an aesthetic point in the composition and assert her identity and that of her cause and country.

Fahrelnissa Zeid, (1901-1991), Turkey/ Jordan

Fahrelnissa Zeid studied painting at the Fine Arts Academy in Istanbul and Academie Ranson in Paris. She lived most of her married life between Berlin, London and Paris accompanying her diplomat husband, the Hashemite Prince Zeid Bin al-Hussein youngest son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca. A truly magnanimous and prolific artist of international standard and reputation she was able to establish herself in Istanbul as part of the 1930s D-Group and in Paris as a member of the École de Paris in the 1950s. After moving to Amman in the 1970s, Zeid took a small number of Jordanian ladies to instruct them in painting of whom Hind Nasser, Suha Shoman and Rula Shukairy pursued a career in the arts.

Zeid was a versatile and prolific artist who moved effortlessly between abstraction and portraiture. Her Byzentinesque portraits show deft stylisation and character accentuation of her subjects mainly through the eyes while her abstract compositions executed in her highly textured individualistic manner, betray her accomplished sense of compositional balance and color equilibrium.

Sharifah Fatimah Syed Zubir, (b.1948), Malaysia

Sharifah Fatimah Zubir studied art at MARA institute of Technology in Shah Alam, Malaysia, graduating in 1967; she then continued her art training at Reading University in England (1973) and Pratt Institute in New York, (1976).

A committed abstract painter, Zubir’s primary involvement is with form, space and color which is the principal component of her compositions. She has reached a highly refined technique whereby her dreamlike arrangements revolve around Joy as a force of life. Her slow moving forms that float in a mystical labyrinthine locale, suggest a primary universal philosophical undertone that evolves from Joy, engulfing life and the hereafter in a sufi ascendancy.

Sponsored by the ArtReach Foundation; the Royal Society of Fine Arts, Jordan; F.A.M-Femme Arts Méditerranée, Greece; Delta Air Lines; Yale Council on Middle East Studies; Yale Divinity School; Yale Institute of Sacred Music; the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale; Yale Office of International Affairs; Yale Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; Yale Women’s Faculty Forum; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Yale; Yale Council on African Studies; Yale Council on South Asian Studies; and the Stanley T. Woodward Lectureship.