Beyond the Curtain

Beyond the Curtain was a great success. The exhibition captures Soha’s printmaking practice as it reflects her research into the visual representation of the Ka’ba and its covering the Kiswa. The Ka’ba is the most sacred site in Islam and at the centre of Islam’s most important mosque, Great Mosque of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Soha’s printmaking has used silk screen overprinting techniques and developed laser and monoprinting methods. In doing so she has not only reflected the important historical representations of the religious building and its curtain, but new visualisations that stand in their own contemporary right. The new print works draw upon the changes in representation brought forward through the introduction of Islam and their development over the centuries from 600CE. Most prints are on paper, but a most recent work is developed from digital iPad drawings and printed on fabric. This has reverberations of the Kiswa cloth covering which is handmade annually on fabrics to drape over Ka’ba.  Alongside the prints is a short film by Mohammed Alobthani and plays on a large screen. The film is beautifully composed and edited to reflect Soha’s activities in the print room. Moving images of the print, ink and paper processes are cut together to capture the materiality of Soha’s work and her use of the techniques and media of printmaking.

A short film of Soha’s Printmaking Practice by Mohammad al-obathani

Soha Alzaid’s exhibition abstract:

The research undertaken for my Master’s Degree included a brief study of the representation of Ka’ba and Kiswa throughout history. The outcome of the study was the growing awareness that a detailed understanding of the representation of this sacred building and its cover required much more thorough research than was possible in that context. Thus the current the Ph.D. project undertaken at Birmingham City University, was developed.

My initial Ph.D. research and review of the existing literature lead to the identification of a gap in the visual representation of Ka’ba and Kiswa. This visual gap was also confirmed when undertaking primary research field trips, both in museums and at the Kiswa Factory in Makkah. This gap encompasses an historical period from before Islam (before 600CE) to the beginning of Islam (from 600CE). Undertaking research abroad, in a different cultural and academic context and environment, has helped me to shed light upon the wider cultural significance of this visual gap.

I have chosen printmaking as a technique to represent the visual gap in the history of Ka’ba and Kiswa, as it links the past and the present through the historical and contemporary methods I have selected for their creation. In addition, as an artist, representing these ‘missing’ historical images in my own creative work links the history of these buildings to contemporary Saudi art culture. Furthermore, printmaking is an established part of the process of contemporary Kiswa production each year in the Kiswa Factory.

The creative process undertaken for the creation of the images included in this exhibition has taken several stages: Firstly, I read and, in some cases, translated historical documents that describe the Ka’ba and Kiswa during the time period of the visual gap I have identified. Once this information has been assimilated, the next step is to translate it into initial sketches, drawings, and digital designs. Once these designs have been worked up into more detailed images, I select the ones that I think are the most suitable and develop them further into large-scale prints. This is done by selecting the printmaking technique that I think is best, and most appropriate, to work with each individual design I have created.

The finished pieces presented here in the exhibition are just the beginning of my creative journey exploring the visual gap in the history of Ka’ba and Kiswa; ideas and creative strategies for covering this gap are limitless.

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