Selected Works, 2003

Munira Aljalahma
Selected Works, 2003
Installation view


The artist was born by the sea in the 1950's, on the island of Bahrain, a country that has developed dramatically over the last 60 years. Aljalahma has strong memories of herself as a child combing the beaches by her grandmother's house for seashells, driftwood and broken pottery from ships roaming the Arabian Gulf, either for commerce or pearl-fishing, of languid days underneath the shade of long and rich date palm groves, of trips across harsh deserts. All this has left its mark on her artwork. Her passion for the natural in her environment has not diminished, in fact, it's what drives her inspiration and ideas to this day, in the face of pollution and globalism.

Aljalahma makes textile, sculpture and installation pieces. She predominantly uses environmentally generative substances such as palm trees (leaves, bark and stems), seashells and ancient desert stones, amongst other things.

In Weave, 2003 a large wall piece made of tens of bundles of dried palm stems, time and process and memory are integral parts of the piece. Aljalahma spent days on end collecting the bundles then wrapping them in thread, a repetitive process that resuscitated her personal experiences of the dates harvesting season, experiencing the colours of the sunset, the winding texture of the stems after the fruits have been picked from them and playing with them as a child.

In Kerfayia, 2003, a driftwood bed frame intertwined with woven tree bark thread, the artist reminds vividly of her maternal grandfather, an old man who was the master of the household and had the privilege of sleeping on the only grand bed in the house imported from India in the early 1900's. Again themes of time, process and memory drive the piece. The weave on the different sides is reminiscent of time lopes or chains and is a strong reminder of the artist's actual experience of making this piece. Labour is clearly evident in most of Aljalahma's work.

In Table I, II & III, all 2003, a series of individual cubes constructed of wood and plexiglas, containing colourful weaves of date palm stems on the plexiglas sides, the artist says they were inspired by her playing around the beautiful tables of her great grandfather's house, a pearl merchant. These particular tables, she says, were imported from Persia and India in the heyday of the pearl trade in the late 19th century and sadly they were sold soon after oil developments killed the pearl harvesting industry.