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‘Liberty’ exhibited at Gilgamesh Art Cafe

By Artemis Sianni-Wedderburn - Aug 09,2022 - Last updated at Aug 09,2022

Sisters Isra and Islam Eid pose for a photo next to their creations at the Gilgamesh Art Cafe Exhibition last week (Photo by Artemis Sianni-Wedderburn)

AMMAN — For many Jordan-based artists, Gilgamesh Art Cafe’s “Arts and Book Exhibition” was their first art exhibition, lending an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation to the event held last Thursday. 

The event ran from August 4-6 at the Art Cafe located in Jabal Luweibdeh. 

Out of 105 applications, 18 artists were chosen for the event, and were given “liberty to show whatever they want” through the free exhibition combined with a book fair, Arwa Dejaba, the organiser of the event and owner of Gilgamesh, told The Jordan Times in a recent interview. 

The artists were chosen through a “blind committee” which anonymised the identity of the artist. Through this method, the bar for the exhibition was set, ensuring impartiality and fairness in the selection process, said Dejaba.

Gilgamesh was created with the purpose of having an “impartial space where everyone can belong and give an opinion”, said Dejaba; anybody can show up and use the Art Cafe’s materials to paint for free, taking their work home when they are done with it. 

The materials are funded partially by the collective, with exhibiting artists given the choice to contribute funds to it as well. 

If an artist sells something, they keep 100 per cent of the profits. 

However, the collective can withhold 20 per cent of the profits in order to buy materials so that the space can remain open, and anybody can come and make art free of charge, said Dejaba. 

“We accept people from all walks of life, as long as they respect the universal rights of people,” he said.

The “theme of community” runs vibrantly through the collective, with everyone cooperating in a manner that “depends on sharing, just giving and not taking something for yourself” in a space created for storytelling and the sharing of ideas, said Dejaba. 

Juman Al Omari, a second-time exhibiting artist, told The Jordan Times that it allowed her to meet people with similar interests, who are “connected through storytelling and fascinated by it”. 

She noted that it made her feel empowered, and that the “possibilities are endless” after this exhibition. 

Malk Swidan, office manager for the Gilgamesh Art Cafe, said that she felt more encouraged to paint after the exhibition, having “empowered the public and myself because art delivers ideas”. 

This concept rings true for artists Yoanna Abu Rahmah and Rahmeh Abu Irshaid, both of whom depict the story of Palestine in their work. 

Abu Irshaid exhibited a painting of the Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif at the event, prompted by the Israeli raid in April of this year. She noted that she wanted to paint something to remind her that she is Palestinian, and to reclaim her identity through this work, as “it is a piece of me”. 

Abu Rahmah, who also spotlights Palestine through her work, noted that “we, the Palestinians, have a story to tell”.  

The fluid medium of art allows for the artist to be completely in control of the piece and to reflect themselves in it. Dima Abu Sharkh, who also exhibited at the event, noted that “my identity shows in every piece of my work”.  She said that she can express herself freely, adding that “anyone in life can reclaim their value in something they excel in and love to do”. 

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