Open Sesame

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Math book-Kindergarden, 1977 © Courtesy of Apexart
Sand from Kuwait to Amman , 1990 © Courtesy of Apexart
Utopia, 2013 © Courtesy of Apexart
Open Sesame
Curated by: Ola El-Khalidi

291 Church Street
New York, NY 10013
January 16th, 2013 - March 2nd, 2013
Opening: January 16th, 2013 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Tue-Sat 11-6


Entitled Open Sesame (Iftah Ya Simsim), this exhibition borrows from the command used to open the cave of treasures in the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves as well as the Arabic version of Sesame Street. Launched in Kuwait in 1979, the tv show shot its outdoor scenes in various Arab cities and its interior shots in Kuwaiti studios. In 1990 and 1991, after Saddam Hussein's (then president of Iraq) invasion of Kuwait on the 2nd of August 1990 and during the first Gulf War that ensued, forty four episodes of the show were aired on national Kuwaiti TV, however, the scenes which included Iraqi artists and actors were excluded. Thus, seventy six episodes were lost and never found.

This exhibition aims to highlight that specific moment when everything changed on August 2nd 1990. It is an invitation to open the caves of memory. Because of their governments' positions regarding Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, hundreds of thousands of Arabs were pushed out of Kuwait in the months that followed the invasion, or were not allowed back in after the summer holidays. For many, they were forced to leave behind unmade beds, food in the fridge, play dates, and meetings. Because of the complexity of that particular exodus, many of the displaced found little support within their new communities, with no choice but to carry on with their lives, their stories (traumas) were silenced.

Members of the Makan collective, an art space based in Amman, Jordan will collect stories narrated by people who belong to the Open Sesame generation, those born in Kuwait between the years 1970-1982, who were forced to resettle with their families in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and as far as USA and Canada. This generation includes two members of the Makan collective, namely Samah Hijawi and Ola El-Khalidi. They were born and raised in Kuwait until life as they knew it changed in the summer of 1990 when they found themselves relocating with their families in Amman, Jordan.

The exhibition will invite artists and graphic novelists to illustrate the collected stories, attempting to capture this moment of history, an event past and potentially lost. While the present tensions, uprisings, and envisaged war in the same region is being documented by all sorts of media including social networking platforms, this is a step back in time to an instant of war and dislocation that has not yet received its appropriate documentation, narrativizing, and exploration.

Ola El-Khalidi works in the arts as an organizer, curator, and collaborator. Along with Samah Hijawi and Diala Khasawnih, she is a member of Makan, an art space, ever-redefined project and a collective based in Amman, San Francisco, and anywhere in between. She received an MA in curatorial practice from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2012.