It’s a woman’s world — at least it will be at the inaugural Rabat Biennale, which has announced that its main exhibition will only feature works by female artists and artist collectives.
Set to kick off in Morocco’s capital on Tuesday, September 24, the event is curated by Algerian art historian Abdelkader Damani, who has developed the theme An Instant Before the World, which considers art history through the perspective of the Global South, with Rabat as the axis.
A total of 64 females will participate in the biennial this year, including Palestinian artist Mouna Hatoum and Egyptian artist Ghada Amer. Hatoum is known for her multimedia installations that often deal with ideas of displacement and exile, while Amer uses embroidery to explore desire and the female body. Award-winning director Tala Hadid will unveil a new film for the event, and a tribute to the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum will also be presented.
Other highlights include an exhibition of drawings by the architect Zaha Hadid and a project on the poetry and paintings of Beirut-born artist Etel Adnan.
In his curatorial statement, Damani not only explains the reasons for the women-only move, but addresses the issue of launching “yet another biennial within the already saturated landscape of biennials worldwide”: “In order to define the urgencies of a creative moment, we must first settle our debts. Take an inventory of regrets, omissions, or better yet the inventory of what has not been said, what has not been screamed at the face of the world”.
He continues, “If a new biennial must exist, we must have the courage to address that debt; I will invite only women artists in the hope that this new institution remains faithful to its founding moment.”
Other sections of the biennial will still include male artists, specifically in Cartes Blanches, which is focused on new commissions. Moroccan artist Mohamed El Baz is putting together a collective exhibition with six visual artists, while street artist Futura will unveil work at the city's Rabat Hassan II Park.
The biennial will activate various venues around the city, including the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Morocco’s first contemporary art institution, and the historic Rottembourg Fort (Borj Lakbir), which dates back to the 1860s.
This is second biennial of its kind in the country. The Marrakech Biennale, which has had six iterations so far, was cancelled in 2018 due to lack of funding. Funded by non-profit organisation National Foundation of Museums in Morocco, the Rabat Biennale will run until Wednesday, December 18.