I went to the city of Manama in Bahrain to make a mural as part of the Alwan 338 festival put together by the Al Riwaq Art Space. Knowing the current situation there, I was a little apprehensive but a good friend working with the gallery explained the special nature of what the Al Riwaq Art Space was doing. I met some truly extraordinary people who believe in the role of contemporary art in their country's future. Against all odds they strive to change the barren artistic landscape that exists in Bahrain today. There are so many layers to Bahrain. There is a huge class division, exotic cars, colossal images of the king everywhere, boundless hospitality, arrests, the smell of tear gas every weekend, road blocks, women who can drive and are free to dress as they wish, a graffiti war between dissidents and the police, an American naval base since 1947, Fuddruckers, Sizzlers, a clamp down on dissident areas, the legal sale of alcoholic beverages, a rich cultural history...
It is easy to resort to the didactic or aesthetically pleasing image, but it is much more difficult to create poetic and emotionaly charged art that can reach you at different levels. There are few Bahraini artists creating profound work about this multilayered place and time. Al Riwaq Art Space is trying to change that and I have nothing but admiration for their efforts. I decided to create a mural of Yousif, a traditional Bahraini fisherman, one of a few hundred that are left. My Identity Series murals fade away with the wind and rain.
artist: Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada