My Fathers House: The Architecture of Cultural Heritage
Salma Samar Damluji, Tim Macintosh
23.8 x 16.4 cm
Featuring work by five emerging Middle Eastern artists and three UK photographers – including Winner of the World Press Photo of the Year 2007 Tim Hetherington – the exhibition uses large-scale photography, audio-visual media and film to examine how the built environment reflects the people, the community, society and the nations of the Gulf States and Arabian Peninsula.
Each of the artists has focused on an individual sphere of investigation and specific countries in the Gulf States and Arabian Peninsula.
Commissioned by the British Council, My Father’s Houseapproaches the subject of cultural identity from the inside out. The exhibition hopes to remind its audiences to look at the spaces they inhabit, and engage in the debate about development of their built environment, to ensure that it reflects a true sense of their personal and communal identity.
As an exhibition, initially commissioned by the British Council for a tour of the Gulf States and Arabian Peninsula, My Father’s House approaches the subject of cultural identity from the inside out. The show hopes to remind its audiences to look at the spaces they inhabit, and engage in the debate about development of their built environment, to ensure that it reflects a true sense of their personal and communal identity.
My Father’s House has been touring in the Middle East since February 2009 and has been displayed in Oman; Bahrain; Jeddah and Riyadh in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. This will be the first time the exhibition has been shown in Europe and the United Kingdom.
Architecture is the physical evidence of the narrative of a society – it both reflects and defines cultural identity – and the new cities of the Gulf region are confident and bold expressions of intent and ambition. Given the region’s nomadic and trading past, and its oral tradition of story-telling, perhaps it is inevitable that, rather than preserving structures in order to maintain a sense of continuity from past to present to future, as Gulf societies evolve they instead renew and re-invent themselves cyclically, every generation or decade, perhaps even more rapidly now.
My Father’s House contemplates, from more personal viewpoints, the representations that these societies are maintaining and constructing of, and for, themselves, exploring how they choose to imagine themselves. While their projects aren’t necessarily nostalgic for the past, the artists do, from their particular perspectives, observe how the language of architectural heritage is being used in a contemporary context. They consider the ownership of cultural identity, and show that it is located not just in the traditional tourist sites of monuments and museums, nor in those new public edifices of Gulf society – the hotels, shopping malls and residential complexes – but in the private, everyday spaces in-between.
Ultimately, whether explicitly or implicitly, the artists in My Father’s House ask of their viewer, “Where and how does a nation, a city, a community or an individual locate its sense of self? Where do we see our own sense of cultural identity in the built environment around us? What part of our heritage best conveys the memory and the story of us?”