'While the Coffee Grounds Settle': UAE women take centre stage in Washington exhibition

Pieces in a variety of mediums focus on spaces that build community among women

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Women from the UAE are the main focus of a new art exhibition in Washington, with more than two dozen artists displaying works that examine community, tradition — and the significance of a cup of coffee.

Presented by the UAE embassy and the Abu Dhabi-based Dirwaza Curatorial Lab, the exhibition features 26 artists of different nationalities, generations and artistic mediums who are producing work in the UAE.

“While the Coffee Grounds Settle: Stories from Women in the UAE” features pieces that focus on spaces that build community among women.

“The exhibition is really looking in at the interior and exterior spaces when understanding a home or a living room,” said curator Munira Al Sayegh.

“So you really begin to see this space of the living room as a place of coming together and exchange.”

For artist Ghada Al Sayegh, this theme is represented in her digital artwork Bait AlKhalidya, which depicts a home in the style of the mass-produced houses of the 1990s.

“It signifies simpler times, community and shared spaces,” she said.

Many of the pieces on display honour the traditions, stories or lessons passed down by the artists' mothers and grandmothers.

Other themes explored by the artists include that of individuality and self-discovery, as well as societal issues of internalised racism and the male gaze.

On its opening night, visitors were greeted by oud musicians, while a majlis on the floor allowed people to sit down.

At the cafe above the gallery, the UAE embassy sponsored free coffee all evening long.

“We were trying to find a name for the exhibition,” explained Ms Al Sayegh. “Somebody was talking about the idea of patience while you are waiting on coffee to settle.

“It gives you that feeling of making something also to extend, whether you're starting off your morning or you're having friends over, it's a universal understanding of extension, of generosity, of togetherness and community.”

When the Coffee Grounds Settle is at the Fathom Gallery Georgetown from September 23 to October 14.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 6:02 PM
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