Tabari Artspace presents a powerful and feminine showcase of artists at Art Dubai

Exhibition explores the connection between the body and the land through variety of mediums

Tabari Artspace's booth features works by Aya Haidar, top, and Tagreed Darghouth. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Among Art Dubai’s numerous presentations in the contemporary hall, Tabari Artspace’s booth is striking from the very first glance.

Titled Corporeal: Lands Through The Female Gaze, it features the works of seven female artists from across the region and diaspora who explore the concepts of our connection to the land through a variety of mediums, including paint, tapestry, textiles and installations.

The curated works illustrate various explorations of the theme, creating powerful and feminine narratives while giving space to consider the multifaceted relationships between the body and land.

“Over the years, we've been fortunate to collaborate with inspiring and influential women artists, a source of great fulfilment,” Maliha Tabari, founder of Tabari Artspace, tells The National. “For Art Dubai, our aim was to share the dialogue we’ve witnessed among the women artists with whom we collaborate.”

The group presentation features Emirati multidisciplinary artist Maitha Abdalla; Saudi multimedia artist and textile designer Hana Almilli; Iraqi multidisciplinary artist Miramar Al Nayyar; Lebanese artists Chafa Ghaddar and Tagreed Darghouth; Kuwaiti artist Alymamah Rashed; and Lebanese-British artist Aya Haidar.

While Tabari says the group of work explores a timely and poignant theme that reflects the complexities of a contemporary gendered, human experience through the gaze of these Arab female artists, she says it is crucial to remember that geographic and regional labels can also be restrictive.

“The artists we collaborate with possess individual merits that transcend market categorisations,” Tabari says. “Instead of pigeonholing them based on their origins, it's more compelling to consider the relevance of these categories in our contemporary context, where populations are increasingly hybrid, globalised and transnational.”

It’s a fine dichotomy that many artists – no matter their gender, origin or identity – must face. This, in particular, is what makes the collection of work at Tabari Artspace so engaging.

While each artist’s cultural heritage, origins and experiences as women can shape their work, it’s not what initially draws viewers in.

Across experiences rooted within the region, from continuing conflicts to shared cultural heritage and histories, the diverse perspectives are interwoven with each of the artists individual explorations of concept and craft.

Darghouth’s work The Tree Within; A Palestinian Olive Tree series depicts three large canvases, each with a colossal olive tree, its branches outstretched and its roots intertwined with each other and the earth. Painted in gestural, expressive brushstrokes, the trees stand against boldly coloured skies.

The paintings belong to a series of works inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s olive trees series. Through those pieces, Darghouth aims to show that Van Gogh wanted to convey an example of how people, through communion with nature, can connect with the divine.

She says Van Gogh's approach and the particular use of the olive tree resonates with its significance to the Palestinian people. “The connection goes further to become part of their own identity and resistance,” she says. “They are the olive trees.”

While art and its practice can allow for the exploration and interplay of politics and identity, the need to create is the main purpose behind it.

“I don't perceive my work as political in the direct sense of the word,” Darghouth adds. “The world we live in affects our lives and, consequently, what we do. Through symbolism, metaphor and visual storytelling I aim to engage and thoughtfully provoke the viewer.”

Meanwhile, Haidar’s work is more rooted in female experiences and identities. Al Umm shows a small inherited chair and footstool frame embroidered with Arabic text. On the chair, the word Al Umm, which means mother, is embroidered while the footstool has the words “heaven lies beneath the feet of mothers" in Arabic, a saying by the Prophet Mohammed.

With this piece, Haidar places mothers as the central focus, emphasising their importance in a culture where they are often overlooked and providing a reminder of their crucial role in society.

“The focal point of my submission for Art Dubai revolves around womanhood in all its forms, emphasising the rootedness that women provide not only to their families but also to their communities and societies,” she says.

“This rootedness extends to the land, connecting to the past and identity, forming an emblematic representation of womanhood.”

In another installation that uses neon light, red words in a cursive font read: "I Love You As Much As The Power Cuts Daily." The work is placed above Darghouth’s paintings, a charming visual contrast in style and medium.

This is a double reference in Haidar’s words – first as a line used by men attempting to flirt with women in Lebanon, but also a reference to the challenges of constant power cuts in the country.

“When considering the relationship between the body and the land, one can interpret it quite literally,” she says. “For instance, in my neon light artwork, I delve into the objectification of women and challenge the male gaze imposed on them. This work serves as a subversion of the male gaze, reclaiming power by translating it into a different language.”

Across the art space, there is a visually appealing, distinct set of voices that capture the attention with their precise aesthetics and craft, showcasing stunning works together and separately.

However, viewers are not led directly into the work through any identity markers. Tabari believes this is crucial in some respects for the growth of artists and the ecosystem that can support their work.

“Our artists are not seeking validation through geographical labels, but rather seek connection with audiences who resonate with their themes, techniques and narratives,” she says.

“Supporting these artists by engaging with and collecting their work is akin to supporting any artist's career, regardless of their background or geographic origin. Ultimately, it's about appreciating and valuing the artistic expression and contributions of individuals, irrespective of where they come from.”

Art Dubai 2024 takes place at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, from Friday to Sunday. More information is available at

Updated: February 29, 2024, 10:25 AM