(29 & 30.09.2013)

Ali gave us a call, I’m stuck in traffic, I’ll be fifteen minutes late, sorry guys. Didn’t I tell you everybody is always late in this part of the World? And you can also be stuck in your car for hours sweltering in a never-ending heat, sweating as a… just like the guy next to you! As your sweat pours, your rage builds, you swear like a crazy monkey, and your eyes become the reds of blood injections. You feel downhearted, abandoned, while staring at the never-ending line. You have a completely empty look that even the most talented cows would envy. You wait…and wait…and wait.

Of course we were already familiar with that feeling when we received Ali’s call. We too were stuck. We too were late. But we sure didn’t give that information to him… Melchior preferring to light another cigarette, hoping that it would cool him off (It didn’t work).

Al Riwaq gallery was launching the opening of a one-month exhibition that night. It was the perfect place to have a meeting with one of Ulafa’a street artists, aka Ali. We wanted to introduce him to our project and get a feeling for who he is. Like a lot of Ulafa’a members and many artists here, Ali is self- taught. He sat with us for an hour or so, talking about his journey but also sharing his hopes and visions for Bahraini’s art scene. It was a genial conversation. Ali is an interesting person to listen to.

He even made us try قهوة بالهيل , Arabic coffee made with cardamom, generously provided by Al Riwaq gallery. For the last sixteen years, this space has provided sanctuary for many artists, featuring countless exhibitions to promote art in Bahrain. That evening they were introducing Ammar’s photographs. Ammar Al Attar is a famous Emirati photographer from Dubai. In his “Prayer Rooms” series, Ammar aims to show the public all the unusual prayer rooms across the UAE. Surprising to look at those empty places usually filled with life.

Melchior and Ammar talked about photo stuff. The kind of stuff I’m not sure I entirely get. So I left them to it. It was time for a beer anyway!

Monday morning! If someone asks you how you feel on that particular day here, don’t answer “like a Monday”. It won’t make any sense as the working weeks start on Sundays.  The person might actually have asked you sincerely.

We had to meet Ammar so Melchior could show him La Maison Jamsheer. It’s not a language mistake; La Maison Jamsheer is the French-Bahraini cultural center. A lovely blue shuttered house located in the Muharraq district and in the heart of the old souq. This discreet little gem also welcomes art exhibitions. Ammar loved the house. Not surpising though; Ammar is a man of great taste, he also loved my green glasses.

We were pleased to also meet with other members of Ulafa’a initiative. Shahnaz came along to finally discover this place she was dying to see. She told us she grew up in one of these houses, the memory of the quaint courtyards as fresh as if it were yesterday. You can imagine her emotion. From modern ACs in high-rise buildings to traditional  windcatchers, (or Badgeers as they used to be called) – their only commonality – the towers!

We also had the opportunity of meeting Mahmood, aka Huvil. He is a famous Bahraini graffer (day job: traffic controller). Just the time for Melchior to gather all his messy stuff (a note book, a phone, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter when he doesn’t take mine, a pen and of course a pack of those minty crap) and he was off!

Again, we introduced our project to Huvil who seemed quite interested but reminded us he wasn’t the only graffer in town. Huvil has been featured quite a lot in the media, he is not keen on advertising it to everyone though (don’t worry Huvil, nobody reads the text, they only play the video 😉 )

We agreed to meet again next week.

Weather was cooling down as the Muezzins started their call to prayer from the nearby Mosques.  We were all sitting in the courtyard. I suddenly realized that the whole conversation had been guided by the women.

Hasn’t this been the case since the beginning of our journey here? Maybe this is the encounter we were heading towards – an encounter with women’s determination to change the local art scene and perhaps, the World.

To be continued…

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