Farah Al Qasimi

Arrival, 2019

Farah Al Qasimi’s work draws on her experiences of growing up in the United Arab Emirates and examines postcolonial structures of power and gender in the Gulf region. 

Arrival originally accompanied the 2019 film Um Al Naar (which translates as ‘Mother of Fire’), in which Al Qasimi uses a fictional jinn (spirit), to engage with the colonial history of the Emirates, which were occupied first by the Portuguese and later by the British. The photographs explore domestic traditions and spaces in the Gulf states. Al Qasimi depicts the remnants of colonialism that continue to influence contemporary interior decor: rooms with British-style furniture, traditional hand-carved fruits and matching curtains and upholstery – reappropriated status signifiers dating back to the British departure from the Gulf nearly five decades ago. 

Al Qasimi’s photographs also map out gendered social customs, such as placing opulent perfumes in guest bathrooms. By infusing the documentary-style images with elements of the surreal, she challenges the viewer to question what they are seeing, while also drawing attention to nuances of power and vulnerability. 

Al Qasimi was born in Abu Dhabi in 1991. She lives and works in Brooklyn. 

© Farah Al Qasimi, S Eating Melon, 2016
© Farah Al Qasimi, Orange Soap in Orange Bathroom, 2018
© Farah Al Qasimi, Bloody Palm, 2019

As part of our Photoworks Festival, Sara, Raza, curator, writer and founder of Punk Orientalism Studio, spoke with Farah Al Qasimi. You can watch the entire Instagram live below:


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