Arts & Culture The Challenging Stereotypes Issue

Rising above self-stereotyping through art

An interview with self-taught Bahraini artist Lulwa Al Khalifa.

By Sekka Team

She only started painting 3 years ago, but ever since then, Bahraini artist Lulwa bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa has been very busy. The mother of 3 – an English literature graduate from Boston University – has participated in several exhibitions from Art Wynwood Miami 2015 and London’s Art BAAB in 2016 to this year’s Bahrain’s Annual Fine Arts Exhibition at The Bahrain National Museum. Her work has also been featured in books such as Thirty Three Artists…Thirty Three Islands, A Kingdom of Art by Renaud Siegmann.

The artist has explored perceptions and stereotypes in some of her work. In her latest Schism series, which she shares with Sekka in the gallery below, the artist examines stereotypes we have about ourselves as individuals and the struggle we all face with our ever-evolving beliefs.

Tell us about your ‘Schism’ series.

I always say that the message is for viewers to glean from the pieces. However, my inspiration for this series, and what motivates me to paint it, is the struggle we all face within ourselves and within our beliefs going forward in life. The older we get, the more shaken our certainty is about everything, and the more certain we are that the only certainty is that we don’t really know anything for sure – not even ourselves. Knowing oneself is one of the false stereotypes of adulthood. We correlate success with self-realization when true self-realization is impossible. We are ever-evolving and ever-changing.

What inspired you to start the series?

I feel the world is at a crossroads of sorts. People are becoming more intolerant, and the masks of civility are slipping, unfortunately. Now is the time to examine our beliefs and what we think we know and make informed decisions about the world around us. That’s where Schism comes from; it is a rudimentary form of a person split down the middle. The colours are pulled in different directions creating new textures and hues, just like our human beliefs do when we challenge them and examine them closely.

This is not the first time you refer to stereotypes and perceptions in your work. You have done so before in your ‘From the Outside’ series. Could you tell us more about that?

From the Outside is a series that deals with perceptions that create stereotypes. They are paintings of women behind white lines. The white lines that look like prison bars create a barrier between the world’s view, and the women obstruct the world’s perception of the women. The white lines also obstruct the women’s views of the world, so they see the world through the white lines, which also affects the perception of the women. We all create stereotypes and assumptions based on our own views and prejudices. The clarity of our views and of the images we put forth is blurred by many external factors. The accuracy of these views often stay unexamined, yet we as human beings continue to judge “others”and the world” through them. 

What other social issues would you like to explore in your future work?

I don’t usually paint with a social issue in mind, nor do I mean for my work to be didactic at all. A painting can be inspired by society and politics, but a song or the ocean could inspire another artwork. I paint when I’m inspired to paint. I don’t paint to further any idea or specific cause.

 You are a proud self-taught artist. How did your art journey start?

I was always a lover and collector of art, so the appreciation of art has always been a part of my life. My degree in literature has prepared me for my artistic journey because the written word is art as well, and the appreciation of literary art is like that of visual art. Both are only relevant if others appreciate them, and the validity of all art is in the eye of the beholder. No expert can tell you what is good and what is bad in art. They can only give you their opinion, and your opinion as a viewer is no less important than any expert’s opinion. This is what I love about art. There’s a one-to-one connection between the work and the viewer.

Can you name a living regional artist you look up to?

I really love the work of one of the founding fathers of art in Bahrain: Abdullah Al Muharraqi. I love the colours and bold strokes in his works, and I also love the humour that I see in his work. Now, I don’t know if he intended the things that I see in his works, but that doesn’t matter because they exist for me when I look at his work. Another artist I really like is Bahraini artist Omar Al Rashed. I love his ‘Winged Horses’ series.

What’s your favourite place to see art?

I love smaller, more intimate museums like the RA in London. I also love street art, and I get very excited when I turn a corner and see an amazing work on the side of a building. 

Do you have any recommendations of places in Bahrain where we can learn more about Bahrain’s art scene?

Albareh and Alriwaq Galleries are the oldest galleries, but we have numerous others like Gallery 21 and Hend Gallery, amongst others. There are many art events at The Bahrain Museum and the art centre at the museum, which also hold exciting art exhibitions. We have ArtBAB, which will see its third edition in 2018. The Art Fair offers an exciting platform for Bahraini artists, as well as regional and international galleries, and has been a huge success in exciting the people of Bahrain about the art scene in Bahrain.

Are there any upcoming art exhibitions you will be participating in?

I will participate in ArtBAB in Bahrain in 2018. I also plan to participate in group exhibitions in London and India towards the end of the year. There’s also a plan to have a solo exhibition in Jordan. I’m very lucky to have several options on the table, and I’m very appreciative of that.

The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees and affiliates.