Previously at the ICA - Films

Wa Waila (Oh Torment), 2008

Safar: Maverick from Kuwait: Close Encounter with Monira Al Qadiri

17 Sep 2016

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A screening of a selection of videos, followed by an extended conversation with curator Rasha Salti and Monira Al Qadiri.


  • Rumours of Affluence (2012), 4 mins

    Corruption has traditions, histories, a cultural context and a communal foundation. Rumours of Affluence is an attempt to illustrate the historical roots and mechanisms of corruption as well as the excess of affluence in Kuwait, through rumor. The only effective indicators of this sinister activity are rumors circulating the social circles of the country because those responsible for the spread of corruption are rarely prosecuted or held accountable. The rumors in the video range from stock market speculation and subsequent crash in the early 1980s, to more recent scandals involving parliament bribes and embezzlement of public funds. (Created for Creative Time Artist's Report program)

  • Soap (2014), 8 mins

    Migrant workers in the Gulf have been almost totally erased from representation in pop culture, especially in the landscape of mainstream TV series and soap operas. The main characters sit in their lavishly decorated squeaky clean villas, cook their food, eat together, drive their cars to work, and conduct other daily activities. This representation is not the reality, where most people are serviced 24/7 by house maids, cooks, drivers, public cleaners, among many others. The title of the work deliberately blends references to soap operas and the bar of soap –that object that cleans, magically creating sanitary conditions as it melts and disappears. It draws on allegorical resonance between soap’s elusive, dispensable and disregarded existence, and the precarious case of the migrant worker. (Created for Creative Time Artist's Report program)

  • Behind the Sun (2013), 10 mins

    After the first Gulf War in 1991, countless oil fields in Kuwait were set ablaze as the invading forces were retreating. The months following the war were nothing short of the classic image of a biblical apocalypse: the earth belched fire and black clouds scorched the sky drawing a portrait of what an almost romanticized vision of hell would be. Amateur VHS video footage of the oil fires is juxtaposed with audio recordings of monologues from Islamic television programs during the same period. At the time, the tools used to represent religion were geared towards visualizing god through nature. Trees, waterfalls, mountains, and animals were the visual staple of religious media, with recitals of Arabic poetry by a skilled orator with a deep voice, rather than recitals from the Koran.

  • Travel Prayer (2014), 3 mins

    A filmed sequence from a camel race is set against children music and a voice reading the traditional prayer for travel. Laws prohibit the use of children as camel jockeys, instead, Bedouin owners follow the camel around the track in their pick-up trucks, yelling at the camel to run faster. In addition, each camel is outfitted with a small remote-controlled whipping machine on their back, the pain of the majestic animal is reflected in its face and movement, running aimlessly towards oblivion.

  • Wa Waila (Oh Torment) (2008), 10 mins

    The video is presented as the music video for an old Kuwaiti folk song, the words of which have the impact of a trance, from recurring verse on tragedy and self-pity. It depicts love lost, displacement, gender identity, and death with theatricality, strong visuals using the aesthetics of kitsch. The men and women in the film are cast in opposite gendered roles, with the artist playing the part of the principal male singer.

  • Abu Athiyya (Father of Pain) (2013), 6 min

    Abu Athiyya is a music video based on a section of a traditional Iraqi saga, a mawwal (lamentation) song performed by the famous southern Iraqi singer Yas Khodhor. The artist plays the role of the singer in an almost ghost-like funerary setting, and performs the knife dancing ritual, inspired from the choreography of the legendary Iraqi gypsy dancer Malayeen. The video incarnates a eulogy for the aesthetics of sadness, a prominent form that has been popular for centuries in the region, but is rapidly dying away now. (Supported by Al-Mawred Al Thaqafy (The Culture Resource), Egypt).

Monira Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal (1983) and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts, where her research was focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle-East region stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores the relationship between narcissism and masculinity, as well as other dysfunctional gender roles, and she is currently expanding her practice towards more social and political subjects. She is also part of the artist collective GCC, who held a solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 in New York (2014). Monira is currently based in Amsterdam, undergoing a two year artist residency at the Rijksakademie until 2018.


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